Adolescence Apocalypse: Utena Tenjou Character Analysis

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NOTE: This is a rewrite of two pieces I wrote last year for Funcurve. You can find links to the original posts here and here

At the very beginning of Revolutionary Girl Utena we’re given a fable-like tale of a girl whose parents have died. She meets a prince in a fateful encounter, and that prince empowers her with the will to keep pushing forward. And so she decides from then on that her dream is to become a prince herself. That girl in question is Utena Tenjou. “Is that really such a good idea?”, says the narrator. After all we surely understand that princes are men and princesses are women. But that doesn’t really mean a whole lot to Utena. Utena is willing to dream, and even if she doesn’t yet fully understand the weight of her own convictions they’re still a defiant gesture — defiant of all our entrenched social norms. Utena’s one hope of making her dream a reality is to bring revolution to the world. It’s a tall order for a 14 year old but she’s giving it a shot. Her dreams will be challenged, they’ll be crushed, they’ll be rebuilt, and they’ll be re-evaluated. This is Utena’s quest for revolution.

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Madoka, Mysteries & Plot Twists

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I think Puella Magi Madoka Magica is pretty neat. I wrote about it not too long ago but it’s a series I frequently feel compelled to write about. I probably consider it my all time favourite anime series, whatever the heck that’s worth. It’s a series of great craft and empathy.

One of its biggest achievements is how it pulls off its core mystery elements, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Make no mistake, there are a ton of stories that handle mystery really badly. They can be hollow or even downright deceptive. Some would even accuse Madoka Magica of this, but I’m going to make the case that it’s quite the opposite. Madoka Magica is a series that gets mystery.

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Evangelion Episode 1 and Framing

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One of the reasons Neon Genesis Evangelion stands as one of anime’s biggest cultural icons is the boldness of its framing and shot composition. Nothing that came before it and very little that came after conveys quite as many things as Evangelion does in the dynamic composition of its space. Most vividly this is seen in the construction of Shinji’s space, cold and distant by default but veering on tense and claustrophobic in moments of conflict. In the first episode of Evangelion alone there’s a lot to pick at in the way Shinji is framed, and we’re going to do just that.

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The Beauty and Sadness of Bojack Horseman’s ‘Fish Out of Water’

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I have no hesitation when saying there has never been a better time to be a fan of western animated television. More things have grown on me, blown my expectations away, touched me and brought me to tears from this medium than ever before. But none with the sheer emotional gravitas of Bojack Horseman. That a sneering pop culture satire built around so many unlikeable individuals could carry this much sincerity and vulnerability itself is a feat well beyond many of its peers, but that it never lets go of that dignified seriousness and takes it into so many dark and extraordinary places is what puts it at the apex of its craft. ‘Fish Out of Water’ is at once one of the most ambitious and most tragic episodes of the series. It’s wonderful, it’s funny, it’s experimental, it’s deeply painful, it’s Bojack Horseman.

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What happened to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?

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Let’s talk about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Yes, that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The once revered and controversial show about cartoon horses learning the magic of friendship is still going strong with a seventh season and a feature film on their way later this year, but it seems to have more years behind it than ahead of it at this point. The viewer base and the overall enthusiasm towards the series has seen a significant drop-off, and most notable fandom personalities have moved on to other things (sometimes as in the case of Digibro much bigger things). There’s been a lot of reasons for this, both specific personal reasons and reasons that broadly reflect the current state of the series. Putting aside fandom drama I want to talk about the direction the show has gone in and how that’s sparked disinterest.

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On Representation

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Broadly speaking we tend to see society become a little more open towards different groups over time, and with that comes slowly but surely increasing media representation of them. A cynical way to look at this is that it’s simply because their existence has become profitable, and that’s certainly a very valid way to look at it given the slew of middlebrow oscar bait exploiting historical prejudice and hamfisted tokenism. A more positive way to see it is that media representation gives us a platform to humanise different groups, to become aware of their existence and their validity as individuals. I believe both perspectives can be true at once, and in that sense there needs to be conscious thought about how representation is implemented.

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“But it does get easier” – Bojack Horseman and Happiness

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The second season of Bojack Horseman ends quietly with titular character Bojack going on a jog up a hill. His life, for lack of a better term, seems like an inescapable dumpster fire; and this early step in trying once more to turn it around seems physically impossible. He proclaims running to be terrible and everything to be the worst, and then he drops to the ground in exhaustion. A stranger approaches him and gives him a piece of advice:

“It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier”

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Recent Funcurve Content Roundup

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As you may have noticed, this blog has been pretty dead over the last few months. Meanwhile, my content stream for Funcurve has continued and I’ve just neglected posting any of it here. So in the interest of consistency I’ve decided I’ll just post everything I’ve done since then right here. Links to it all can be found after the break.

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“You’re Overanalysing It”

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As it has been known for quite some time, and as has grown tenfold with the expansion of net culture and the agency it gives people to yell at one another more easily than ever before, there’s a very clear subset of people who cringe at the simple idea of “art”, of interpretation. You really can’t get too invested in any media analysis or criticism without being called a pretentious blowhard at some point or another. It’s a basic inevitability. Maybe they didn’t like doing English in High School, maybe they had a bad personal experience with an snooty elitist or two; but I’m not here to assume why they might feel annoyed or even threatened by the notion of “art”. What I want to discuss is specifically the mindset itself. I want to discuss the relationship this thought process has to how people consume and discuss media. It’s a subject that’s come up many times in many circles, but I think it’s still a subject as pertinent as ever.

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