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Gio's Note: The Central Park Media release of the last DVD (no longer available) included audio commentaries of the episodes by Ikuhara and Saito together. This is episode 37, lovingly transcribed by In the Rose Garden's very own admin, satyreyes!

Ikuhara & Saito Audio Commentary: Episode 37

The One Who Will Revolutionize The World

Interviewed by Hideki Mori, Translation by Mayumi Kobayashi, Subtitles by Justin Sevakis

HM: Hello, everyone. This is Mori, Hideki Mori, of Central Park Media. Together with me we have the director of Utena, Mr. Kunihiko Ikuhara, and the original manga artist, Chiho Saito. Thank you for joining us.

CS: Thank you.

KI: I'm Ikuhara. Pleased to be here.

HM: How did the Utena project begin? But first can you please tell us the course on how you both met, and how this project got started? It's be great if you'd tell us about that.

KI: I remember! It was about the time when I was doing Sailor Moon. I wonder how many years into Sailor Moon. Three years, I think. When I was directing Sailor Moon in my third year, I started to think I wanted to do something else. There was a period where I was thinking about my next project and during that time, I came across a magazine with a cover that Ms. Saito had drawn by chance at a bookstore. So, well, when I saw the cover of that magazine that Ms. Saito had drawn, I fell in love with it.

CS: Thank you very much.

KI: That's how it happened. And honestly I was directing Sailor Moon at the time, so I didn't want to do another series with a girl as the main character right afterwards. But after seeing Ms. Saito's artwork I had a change of heart. I really wanted to animate her artwork. That's how this project all began. I wanted to ask if she'd create the characters for the next project, so I pretty much barged into Ms. Saito's house. Right?

CS: Yes, pretty much. The first time I met Mr. Ikuhara was at a family restaurant next to my office. He was with Mr. Oguro. After hearing that he was the director of Sailor Moon, I imagined him as being a handsome middle-aged man with a lot of directing experience, but when I got there a blonde rock boy was sitting there daintily. I was so shocked because he's so young. At the time Mr. Oguro, who was a member of Be-Papas, was also there with him. So the two of them were there. Mr. Oguro is a pretty hefty guy so it was such an odd-looking duo. Visually they were fun to look at and what they were telling me was... they were telling me all these very ambitious plans they had. In the end, the conversation ended up as... So this Utena is going to revolutionize the world! But the conversation we were having was also along the lines of "Let _us_ revolutionize the world." I was thinking what an interesting person he was, and I got kind of wheedled into this... different... how do I say this?... it felt like I got dragged into this strange world, like Ohtori Academy. I was dragged into this incomprehensible world, but there's something fascinating about it at the same time. It's risqué. Do you agree it was like that?

KI: The line "let's revolutionize the world!" got all mixed up with our thoughts about this project that we were about to make to change the world when we were discussing the details of the project.

CS (aside): Oh, that's probably what happened.

KI: My motivation and the motivation of the character were getting mixed up at the time. I was really into it when we were preparing it.

CS: You were really into it.

HM: About your ambitious concept, which parts were you like, "I'm going to do this like that!" and "I'm going to do this new thing!" How were your ambitions?

KI: I absolutely had nothing planned.

CS: But in our first conversation we didn't discuss that sort of ambitiousness. It was more along the lines of "Let's make something that people will like and be profitable. Like Sailor Moon." (laughs)

KI (kidding around): Did I say that? You're making it sound like it wasn't profitable! No, this did turn out to be profitable!

CS: He said this was going to be a major mainstream project in the beginning... (more laughter)

KI (still kidding): You're making it sound like it wasn't major! This was major!

CS: Really? But it's so different from the initial concept. Initially it was meant to appeal to children... it was supposed to be a story that elementary school girls could appreciate and think was wonderful. It was supposed to be something they'd be able to say it was wonderful in a normal sense. For the first six months everyone was proposing their various ideas for it. Then one day they started to say that it wasn't supposed to be like that. I was left somewhat in the dark. Before I realized it, the story had taken a more drastic turn, and the revolution suddenly had started someplace without my knowledge. Then he comes to me saying, "Ms. Saito, I'm sorry I've been keeping this from you, and sorry for asking for your approval after the fact, but it ended up like this."

KI: (laughing throughout)

CS: Mr. Ikuhara kept doing this to me over and over. Every time this happened I was like "Huh? What is this? How did it end up like this?" This kept happening over and over! When I finally saw the finished anime I was like, "Huh? What? What? This? Are we really going with this?" It ended up being this crazy thing where it really made me wonder if it was going to be well received and also be profitable. I think the reason why it ended up like this is, well, I was taking part in this project as a member of Be-Papas, and I supposedly took part, deep into the creative process, but the direction of the project went in an entirely different direction without my knowledge. (laughs) Maybe the revolution had already completed itself inside Mr. Ikuhara's head, and maybe that's why it ended up like this? That's how I think of it now.

KI?: That's the first time I ever heard that!

CS: Really?

KI?: You thought you were tricked into it.

CS: No, I don't think of it as I was tricked, but I watched in amazement how you went ahead with it without ever turning back. I was wondering if it was really going to be all right, and really, if you were always profit-minded. That's what was amazing to me. I was...

KI: But because we changed its direction and made it into a different series...

CS: True... yes... (laughter)

KI: That's why we have a lot of fans that still say they absolutely love this series, right?

CS: Yes, in the end I think it turned out well. I had a lot of concerns that you weren't too business-minded, but I figured that you would make the right decisions. There was this part of me that blindly believed him. Now, looking back, I'm glad I believed in him. I've had a long career as a professional manga artist, so I wondered if it was all right to create a story like this as a pro. Things like that have been on my mind this entire time.

KI: Do you really think you were tricked?

CS: Tricked... the higher-up editors around me were saying that, but... (laughs)

KI: (laughs) They'd say things like "Ms. Saito! You need to calm down because you're being tricked by Ikuhara!" They were so terrible!

CS: They said that, but... all in all, I think it turned out fine. Right?

KI: Yes, it turned out fine.

CS: Every single time it was a struggle to convince my editor. Actually I had five editors while I was taking part in this anime and drawing the Utena manga. My editor changed five times in the span of a year and a half.

KI: That, that was...!

CS: For me that was unheard of.

KI: Was that my fault?

CS: And every time that happened, I was asked, "What is Utena?" I always got a ton of basic questions from the start and I was put in this position where I didn't know how to explain it. That was very difficult.

KI: So it was my fault that your editors changed so much? ... There are so many stories that I'm hearing for the first time today.

CS (more seriously): Well, I'm able to laugh and tell you about it now because I can let it roll of my shoulder.

KI: So that's what happened...

HM: The parts that you were going to do differently, like the "revolutionary" segments or the parts where you were going to revolutionize and change the world... Can you give us an example of those parts? Do you remember?

KI: Huh? Revolution?

HM: Are there parts where you feel that you pioneered a new visual method?

CS: It's ambitiousness all over the place.

KI: Well, this project was basically an incarnation of ambitions.

CS: When I first saw the Akio car come out... with Akio sort of...

KI: Riding the hood?

CS: Yes, the part where he gets on the hood. I seriously asked Mr. Ikuhara to explain what it was about. He said, "I wanted to express that he was an adult." (laughter from everyone) I was like, "What?"

KI: I explained to her that an adult rides the hood of a car with his top-half naked.

CS: Yes, and he continued to tell me that he's very rich so he owns a red car. I was like, "What?"

KI: I'm impressed you remember all that.

CS: I remember it quite well because it was such a shocker.

KI: I don't remember it at all. I really said that, didn't I?

CS: Every time these strange symbolisms would come out I would ask for an explanation, and each time I'd ask, he'd answer it with an interesting reply.

KI: Aaa...

CS: I basically thought, someone who's doing something revolutionary is different. (laughs)

KI: But if someone asked me to do it all over again I probably won't be able to.

CS: I'm sure. [Transcriber's note: What

CS says is "Sou desu ne," which in this context is probably better translated as "that's as may be."] It's not shown here, but in the Black Rose Saga or somewhere in the midle, there are pointy finger marks. (laughter)

KI: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CS: I don't get it at all.

KI: Yeah, they did pop up, come to think of it.

CS: He told me that it's doing something revolutionary and no one has ever used this kind of technique.

KI?: (laughs)

KI: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

CS: That's what he told me.

KI: Um, every time when someone enters the room the pointy finger marks show up. The reason why the pointy finger marks pop up is to show the viewers that someone has come in. It serves a purpose to tell the viewers, so the pointy finger marks popped up...

CS: It gets even more confusing by doing that. ... There's also a time when one cat suddenly turns into two cats...

KI: Yeah, yeah, that's also --

CS: He explained that as, it expresses the passage of time.

KI: Yes, then the pointy finger mark would come up again and it'd tell the viewers to turn their attention over here.

CS: I read it in an anime magazine or something where Mr. Ikuhara was explaining it as such.

KI: (laughs)

CS: I was like, "So that's what it was!" This used to happen a lot.

KI: Ms. Saito, why do you have so many interesting things to talk about?

CS (overlapping): Why?

KI: Did you stock up on material to talk about today?

CS: I didn't!

KI: I've been surprised so many times today.

CS: Really?

KI: That really did happen, didn't it?

CS: It did.

KI: I've forgotten all about it.

HM: But as for symbolism, you always seem to have a meaning behind your actions.

KI: You have to or else it's something you can't do.

HM: So how did the idea of an adult riding a car hood pop up?

KI: You know when you're looking through a magazine or a photo magazine... how do I say this? The majority of people in photo spreads in magazines are people who you'd consider successful. For example, a famous star or a successful sports player. Currently it'd be people like... oh, but Americans might not know who he is because he's a soccer player. Like Nakata or... even Ichiro. These type of people usually ride red Jaguars and take pictures with their Jaguars. Every now and then there'd be someone overdoing it by putting their leg up on the hood. They emanate, "This is success!" or "This is what being an adult is!" There's this image where the ultimate adult would ride one!

CS: Really?

KI: Yeah, yeah! "The red Jaguar and I shall unite!" So he'd probably take his clothes off too!

CS: And how do you conclude taking his clothes off is uniting?

KI: Well, they're going to love one another... (laughter)

KI: With the red car.

CS: I see. So the red car and him are going to love each other?

KI: They're going to be in love.

CS: Do you mean he's going to become one with the car?

KI: Perhaps he is.

CS (more seriously): Do you mean that the symbol of success and him are going to become one?

KI: Yes, yes, yes! Yes, exactly.

CS: By the way, when you were in Los Angeles -- you were living in Los Angeles until recently, right?

KI: Yes, I was. Yes, just until recently.

CS: Didn't you buy a red sports car while you were there?

KI: I did. I bought a red sports car. My dream finally came true.

CS: So you became an adult when you went to the U.S.?

KI: Yes, I did. I rode around Hollywood with my red car?

CS: Did you get naked?

KI: No, I didn't. If I did I'd get arrested. It's too risky to do it.

CS: Oh really?

HM: Did you get on the hood?

KI: Eh?

HM: Did you get on the hood?

KI: I did it in stealth when no one was looking.

HM: I knew it!

KI: Might as well, you got to do it!

CS: But doesn't the hood get scratched when you do that?

KI: I made sure and wiped it later!

CS: Ah!

CS (re: Shadow Girls sketch): There were a lot of things I didn't understand about this part, too. This A-ko and B-ko...

KI: A-ko and B-ko... but this was...

CS: How did A-ko and B-ko get translated in the U.S. version?

KI: It's A-ko, B-ko.

CS (laughing): It's A-ko, B-ko?

KI: Yes, it's A-ko, B-ko.

KI: There's no way to translate that.

CS: Really?

KI: Because the letter A is the letter A in English.

CS: That's true.

CS: Who comes up with the skit for this part mostly?

KI: A lot of people. Usually it's the scriptwriter, but... there're times when we change the script a little and also a lot of times it was changed on the spot.

HM: The shadow puppets were used rather repetitively, right?

KI: Yes, they're sort of a symbol of the series.

HM: What is this symbol? What does this symbol represent?

KI: For example, the story that's told in the series... the drama that's told in one episode gets condensed into this shadow puppet girl scene.

CS: Huh? But that doesn't always happen...

KI (immediately): And there are time when that doesn't happen! That's a feint! Sporadically we don't do it.

CS: Like there're episodes where they're saying something deep...

KI: Yes, something deep... and there are episodes where they say absolutely nothing deep! Now looking back, this part [still talking about the SPG] was fun.

CS: It was.

KI: I can make a habit of this. No? It wouldn't become habit forming?

CS: It could. Were you also trying to cut production costs here?

KI: No, that wasn't it.

CS: Really?

KI: Yes.

CS: But did this animation reduce production costs?

KI: Not necessarily, but it was...

CS: Was there a lot of work involved?

KI: It wasn't a lot of work but there were a lot of people who wanted to do it.

CS: (laughs)

KI: There were a lot of people who were like, "Let me draw that!" or "I love it!"

CS: Really?

KI: There were a bunch of people who came to do Utena just because they wanted to animate that.

CS: That happened?

KI: I used to think, "There're other parts that you can do too!"

CS: I wonder what it was? Maybe they had fun making people laugh through the action?

KI: I think it's because they liked those characters!

CS [as Akio drives angrily with Anthy tumbling around the front seat]: Oh! Here he comes!

KI: This is a great part. See, his chest is showing too. (laughter)

HM: Putting the bare chest topic aside... this series is very popular among people who are gay. What's your opinion towards that?

KI: Gay people around the world like this series.

CS: (laughs) Really? You want to say that so definitively?

KI: I mean when I say around the world --

CS: It's true that there're various types of couple pairings... but you can also say that there aren't any, really. I guess there're many different ways to read between the lines.

KI [cantarella scene]: And this series is the only series of its kind. How do I explain what I'm trying to say? ... There're tons of anime with eroticism, but I'm pretty sure there isn't another anime that tells the story of two girls so innocently. In that respect I think it's popular because this is the only one that does that.

HM: Was that your intention from the beginning?

KI: Yes. I didn't tell Ms. Saito, but I was planning on it.

CS: (laughs) Initially I wasn't told anything about that. He asked me to draw something where the two were close, so I drew a piece where the two were next to each other looking rather friendly. He was extremely happy. I had no idea in the beginning what he was thinking, (laughs) but I figured it out at the end that his goal was to make me draw the two girls looking friendly.

KI: In the beginning, I brought it up lightheartedly during a meeting. She got really angry and said, "If that's the case, I'm out!"

CS: (laughs)

KI (bubbling with laughter): I realized it was something I wasn't supposed to say and I decided to keep it to myself.

CS (more seriously): No, that wasn't it. If I remember correctly, we started a debate about how we should make it more entertaining for girls. We were on a workshop trip and the debate turned into a fight. Mr. Ikuhara wouldn't give any consideration about enjoyment for girls. As a professional manga artist I couldn't offer such a joyless story to the target audience. We had this huge clash (_baaan!_) of opinions, which created a lot of friction between us.

KI: When that happened, the entire Utena project was almost scrapped.

CS: (laughs)

KI: It was such a big fight, the entire project was in jeopardy. It was such a painful fight I got carried into the hospital the day after!

CS: You did?!

KI: Yeah! It was New Year's and I had... it was New Year's and I had acute... what was it again?...

CS: An acute infection?

KI: All of a sudden I...

CS: Was that after the fight? Are you sure you didn't come down with it before the fight?

KI: No, it was after.

CS: Are you sure? It was before.

KI: No, after.

CS: You fainted the second we started the workshop, so we didn't know what to do.

KI: No, you're wrong. It happened on New Year's.

CS: You're right.

KI (very likely not serious): It happened after. You put me in such a such a tight spot and from the immense pressure...

HM: Your stomach?

KI: I came down with acute gastroenteritis or something. On New Year's... on New Year's Day I was taken to the emergency room.

CS: Mr. Enokido the scriptwriter and I went with him. We were discussing, "If this is how the year is starting, then what's in store for us?"

KI: Then I came out of the hospital room riding in a wheelchair! (laughter) Ms. Saito was so flabbergasted.

CS: It's because I didn't know how serious it was.

KI: At the time I was extremely nervous, so...

CS: Were you?

KI: I was!

CS: The thing is, the staff went on a workshop trip for the first time and we locked ourselves in the hotel. We barely got started and all Mr. Ikuhara could do was sleep! (laughter) I really wondered if he was going to do any work. I was continuously glaring at him.

KI: That's because Ms. Saito vetoed my idea from the beginning about Anthy and Utena being lovey-dovey. I was too shocked to do work! She said, "I quit if you're taking that route!"

CS: (laughs)

KI: I figured I'd have to hide it from her because I was gonna do it anyway. (laughs)

CS: Really? You decided after such an internal struggle?

KI: It was such a struggle.

CS: I was finally able to clear those three days after I somehow managed to rearrange my busy schedule. Then Mr. Ikuhara would be sleeping the entire time so it was infuriating! I couldn't do anything about it so I kept glaring at him where he'd be rolling around and I'd work on other parts with the other staff members. It was quite an upsetting workshop trip.

KI (agreeing): I was dealing with my own issues.

HM: This concludes the story of how the project began.

CS: Oh, it's over already?

KI: It's over already.

Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) is © Kunihiko Ikuhara, Chiho Saito, Shogakukan and bePapas/TV Tokyo and/or their respective copyright holders. The US release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series and movie was © Central Park Media and now belongs to Right Stuf. The US release of the Utena manga is © VIZ. The various sources used in this site are noted where their content is presented. Don't sue us, seriously. Blood. Stone.