Plot: What’s it about?
Utena might be a junior high school student, but she is by no means the typical teen female, to say the least. Even as a young child, she has dreamed of bold adventures and dangerous missions, all of which she masters with ease. Utena has always wanted to be a hero, she has just been waiting for the right time to shine. The wait has ended however, as she is thrown in a realm of mystery, danger, and adventure, all the elements she has dreamed of, but the real things prove to be more difficult than she expected. Her close friend Anthy has always been shy, which attracted the attention of bullies and other troublemakers. While Anthy lacked the drive and strength to defend herself, Utena was always there to take control. While bullies and the like were never a problem for Utena, now more powerful forces have aligned against her friend. These forces are clouded in mystery and darkness, but Utena has to uncover the truth soon. Even with the help of a magical sword and a collection of strange, but often helpful characters, Utena’s mission is a harsh and next to impossible one. As she and her friends continue through their normal lives, the battle with the evil forces continues, even grows with each passing hour. Can Utena somehow unmask these forces, or her chance for heroics go unfulfilled?
I own a good deal of anime releases, I am quite selective in which shows and films I will rewatch. I’ve seen countless series that were fun the first time, but left me with no desire to revisit them at some point. But I have rewatched the Revolutionary Girl Utena series a few times, as it is just a terrific show. I know some find it to be thin and repetitive, which is true, but the elements just fall into place, even with the inherent flaws. This series has action, romance, drama, and emotional roller coasters, all the things we want in mainstream anime. This release of The Black Rose Saga includes four volumes of the series, with volumes three through six included. The Black Rose Blooms, Impatience and Longing, Darkness Beckons, and The Beginning of the End are the volumes housed here, all packed within a well designed and sturdy cardboard case. Each disc houses three episodes, save for The Black Rose Blooms, which contains four total episodes. So in the scope of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series, these are episodes fourteen through twenty-six. As I said before, the show itself is fun, but repetitive at times, which might not sit well with some viewers. But the show is still a well made and fun to watch series, so I am giving Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Black Rose Saga a solid recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. The earlier volumes of this series were loaded, a little too much so, which resulted in some image flaws. But with these editions, Central Park has put fewer episodes on each disc and thanks to the dual layered discs, none of the previous defects return. The show’s vivid color scheme is well handled, so we have lush and rich hues throughout. I was sure some oversaturation would surface, but the colors never ventured into error, which is impressive. I found black levels to be good also, so blacks have a stark texture, instead of an overly bright appearance. The animation isn’t always that detailed, so some scenes have a soft visual presence, but that is not due to this presentation. So all in all, these episodes look terrific and should more than please fans.
Audio: How does it sound?
As usual, Central Park has included dual language tracks here, so you can choose between the original Japanese soundtrack and an English dub version. Of course, I recommend the original language track, but it is nice to have additional options. I found both tracks to be basic, but solid and without serious flaws. Both are stereo soundtracks, so don’t expect too much, but each one has a good overall sound. The audio is clean and crisp throughout, with no pops or distortion to mention, so all the elements come through well. The music has a little more presence than expected, while sound effects make good use of the limited directional resources. So not all that memorable, but well crafted and more than effective soundtracks. The episodes also offer optional English subtitles, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main extras here are interviews, which are with Kunihiko Ikuhara, as well as assorted voice talent from the English language version. I always like to hear behind the scenes information on anime releases, as you don’t find material like this on DVDs. But these interviews are quite good, with a lot of great data to be found in each one. This release also includes bonus artwork, scripts, and a special karaoke style sing-a-long supplement.