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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 38, lovingly transcribed by In the Rose Garden's very own admin, satyreyes!


Ikuhara & Saito Audio Commentary: Episode 38

The Ends of the World

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


HM: Last episode we listened as they told us about how they met, the beginning stages of the project and interesting inside stories. For this episode we'd appreciate it if you could elaborate on the symbolism and what your intentions were and also tell us about the things that the fans look at and marvel. For example, what was your intention behind Chuu Chuu?

CS: Chu? Chuu Chuu and not Chu Chu?

KI: It doesn't matter, whichever.

CS: Isn't there supposed to be a difference between Chu Chu and Chuu Chuu?

KI: It's Chu Chu.

CS: Chu Chu? Are we talking about Chu Chu?

KI (deadpan): Was there a character named Chu Chu?

CS: Wasn't there a line that said "chuu chuu" somewhere?

KI: There was. "Chuu chuu, it's a mouse!" or something like that.

CS: Really?

KI: Wasn't that one of the Shadow Girls' lines?

CS: It might be. Pertaining to symbolism, Mr. Ikuhara was the one in charge of all that. All I could do was to keep up and watch what happened.

KI: Basically, I wanted to do that stuff back then. I don't have that kind of urge now, but at the time that's what I really wanted to do.

HM: Are you being playful with the visuals using Chu Chu? He seems like a relaxing distraction.

KI: I didn't put much thought into it. I figured it's an anime so there'd be a mascot.

HM [as ZUM begins]: As for the spiral staircase, you use that a lot. What is the meaning behind it?

KI: There's not much meaning. I'm sure there was a meaning but I forgot. I wonder what it was? ... It looks good, doesn't it?

HM: Oh, here it is. It's the spiral staircase.

CS: There it is. This wasn't in the beginning, right?

KI: No, it was there.

CS: It was?

KI: We're just showing it at a different angle because she's on an elevator. She didn't use the elevator in the beginning.

CS: Right, she used the stairs.

KI: She was going up the stairs. She got on the elevator midway through the series.

CS: Is that because using the stairs was tiring for her?

KI: No, I thought it was about time that we changed the animation sequence. (laughter) I figured people would get bored seeing her use the stairs all the time so we changed it to an elevator sequence.

HM: Do these cool imagery ideas just pop up in your head?

KI: Umm... yeah, I guess it's like that.

HM: You use a lot of roses. What was your intention behind the roses?

KI: I wasn't thinking much. I wonder what it was?

CS: Roses... did the rose idea come from Rose of Versailles?

KI: Sure, why not!

CS: (laughs)

KI: I shouldn't say things so irresponsibly! What do you mean, "did it come from Rose of Versailles?"

CS: I don't know.

KI: Of course it wasn't!

CS: Basically we chose roses as the symbol. I forget when we decided that, though.

KI: Maybe because there was a rose garden?

CS: I wonder what made us decide that. But anyway we decided to focus on roses.

KI: Hmm... did we?

CS: If we didn't, why would there be roses turning in every corner?

KI: Hmm, I guess that's true.

CS [as Dios appears atop the arena]: We've come to a very important part. ... I really like this imagery.

KI: Of this episode?

CS: Here, where Dios looks like he's going to slide off [from his Christmas ornament].

KI: Yes, it's nice.

HM: How did you conceptualize the uniforms here?

KI: I think I left Ms. Saito in charge of that.

CS: No, I wasn't left in charge.

KI: Really?

CS: He was so persistent about making me redo the designs over and over. In the beginning I was apparently drawing these peculiar outfits... (laughs)

KI: Peculiar? Did I say that?

CS: Apparently the designs I drew were too sci-fi. Every time I'd draw them I'd get criticized that they resembled sci-fi outfits too much. He kept telling me to draw something more standardized. He kept badgering me, telling me not to draw sci-fi and fantasy genre-like outfits.

KI: No sci-fi, no fantasy.

CS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So I ended up using normal military uniforms as reference when I created the outfits. Then there was the breast positioning...

KI: Oh, don't go there. (laughter from both)

HM: What was that?

CS (deadpan throughout): He'd say, "Make sure you design it so you can tell where the breast is positioned." He'd also say, "Make sure you design it so you can see the outline of the butt." And "Design it so the armpits are visible." He made a lot of various, very typically boyish requests, but I learned a lot from it. He repeatedly bothered me about where the buttons should be. He instructed me that "The buttons have to be positioned exactly at the top of the breasts!" (laughter)

KI: Makes sense. Learned a lot, right?

CS: Yes, I did.

HM: Are you always trying to work in this type of erotic undertone?

KI: Yes, well... if it doesn't have that kind of stuff... it's not very interesting! Either I'm doing it to make it interesting or maybe I just wanted to see that.

CS: Yes...

HM: Is there a meaning behind the duels?

KI: Meaning? The meaning is, uh... because it's for TV? What I mean by that is, there's ten more minutes before it's off the air so it's time to show the exciting part! Make 'em duel! Kind of like that.

CS: But in the beginning we were talking about the Three Musketeers and that's what led to it, right?

KI: Oh yeah! We did talk about that.

CS: I used to be a huge fan of the Three Musketeers. I was trying to explain to everyone about the Three Musketeers, and the part where Dartagnan, the main character, goes to Paris and fights the Three Musketeers. It's the most well-known chapter at the beginning of the Three Musketeers. I think that's where it came from. You don't remember, do you? You were rolling around --

KI: Was I asleep?

CS: Mr. Enokido and I were talking about it. The idea got approved at some point. ... I think that's how we went ahead with the dueling idea.

KI: The dueling scenes were such a pain.

CS: Yeah.

KI: With the dueling scenes there's a limit to the visual variations. Every episode they would either be fighting with their swords or trying to strike at each other. The same goes for guns also, but... those were my only options. That was really difficult.

HM: Making the action sequences more interesting was difficult?

KI: There was an idea to use guns in the beginning. There were talks about using guns in the duels, but we decided not to. We were saying that would be bad. The reason why we said it'd be bad is because at the time, American gun incidents were frequently being reported on the Japanese news. I think maybe that was on my mind. I thought the idea of the main character using a gun and pointing that gun at someone would be bad. That's why we decided not to go with the gun. Mr. Enokido in the beginning was adamant about using guns.

CS: I think you're right. I vaguely remember doing a lot of designs with guns.

KI: In the beginning he kept saying "Guns!" and I kept saying "No guns!" But in the end we went with swords. Actually, I think it would have been easier if we used guns. (increasingly excited) We might have been able to come up with more visual variations if we used a gun. It was such a pain to come up with variations with swords. If I had to do it again I'd go with guns. Swords were such a pain! You have to swing the sword around!

CS: True! (laughing)

KI (laughing): It's a pain to draw! You have to be a good animator to draw it. All you have to do with a gun is hold it, so you'd think you'd be able to draw it. On the other hand, with swords, I don't think I'd be able to draw it. I'd never go with swords now. Definitely guns. Maybe in the next project I'll use guns.

HM: This world has this Takarazuka Revue overtone to it. Are there any influences?

CS: There are, aren't there?

KI: There are? There aren't to me.

CS: Well, it was originally derived from Rose of Versailles.

KI: No, I didn't derive from it!

CS: Really?!

KI: Yes, that's just you.

CS: But we went to go see Takarazuka together.

KI: But we didn't see Rose of Versailles!

CS: We didn't see Rose of Versailles, but Takarazuka is a part of the foundation of Japanese shoujo manga culture. The manga culture itself came from Mr. Tezuka Osamu. When Mr. Tezuka Osamu was drawing shoujo manga, his influences came from the Takarazuka Revue. So I think there might be a connection from there, all the way to Utena.

KI: I wonder if it does.

CS: To say that this anime gets characterized as a girls' show.

KI: The thing is when I was making it, the thing that bothered me most was, when you make something like this, the most well-known anime that're similar to this is, in Japan, Mr. Osamu Tezuka's Ribon no Kishi [Princess Knight] and Rose of Versailles. I think these two are the ones that come to mind. They both have a girl dressing as a boy and using swords. I figured I wouldn't be able to avoid it being said that it was taken from Ribon no Kishi or Rose of Versailles. What was bothering me the most at the time was it being called a parody. I had this immense fear about that. I kept thinking that it mustn't be called a parody. The thing was, the more I kept thinking about it and the more I kept concentrating on the story, the more it ended up being like a parody. How do I explain this... for example, in Rose of Versailles, they used the French Revolution that actually happened as a factor. It's not about whether or not we used a factor from reality in Utena. It's that in a genre like shoujo manga... in Japan there's a manga genre known as shoujo manga. I don't know if Americans would know, but shoujo manga is a story where a girl is the main character. How do I explain this part... when you make something where the plot is about a girl that fights like a boy and with a sword, in Japan everyone would say, "It's like Rose of Versailles." Or "It's like Ribon no Kishi." There's no doubt that's what they'd say. I was really struggling with that. I kept thinking that i have to make it so no one would be able to call it a parody, but I got a lot of requests from the people around me. "Why don't you make it more like Rose of Versailles?" or "Why don't you make it more like Ribon no Kishi?" I was told that numerous times. I had to keep telling them, "No, I don't want to do that." A lot of people around me never understood that. They'd just say there are other storylines I could do. It doesn't have to be like Rose of Versailles. Just make it more normal, is what they said. But in my mind if I made this anime a normal anime, it'd become a parody. I had this enormous negative reaction to it being a parody. I'm often told that there are a lot of parts where expressionism is used. I think the reason why it ended up being like that is because I strongly felt that I wanted to avoid it being called a parody.

CS [during the planetarium discussion between Utena and Akio]: But the visuals totally look like a parody to me...

KI (laughing): Yes, the visuals are a parody. I figured there's no way around that.

CS: So on the surface it's supposed to look like a parody. The visuals may remind you of something like Rose of Versailles, but what you actually intended was that if you paid attention, you'd realize it's nothing like it, right?

KI: It's not that I was intending it. In the beginning I was trying to avoid it. I was trying to avoid the visuals looking like parody too. I told Ms. Saito this and she talked about this earlier, but I told her not to give it a sci-fi look. "Don't make it look like it's sci-fi," and "don't make it look like a fantasy genre." The reason why I kept badgering her about that is because... how do I say this?... I think it's because I realized you can't draw something you've never seen before. How do I explain this? Something you've never seen is... what do you call it? Hmm, I don't know how to explain this.

CS: Are you saying, in your mind?

KI: In my mind...

CS: Because there're a lot of authors and manga artists who write fantasy and science fiction all the time, even in the anime industry.

KI: Yes, there are.

CS: So are you saying it was different for you?

KI: For me it was different.

CS: Was creating an entirely fictitious world kind of...

KI: It's not that. In the beginning I was planning to do it all in a fictitious world.

CS: Yes! that was the initial concept.

KI: Was it? --

CS: It was when you first explained it.

KI: Right, right, right. But as I was doing it, I realized it wasn't the same as what I envisioned, so...

CS (seriously): You wanted to make it yours, didn't you? The anime, I mean...

KI: No, not exactly... that's not exactly what it was...

CS: I had the impression that you were forcibly trying to make Utena your own while you were making it. (laughs)

KI: Well, yeah, that's true -- no, that's not what it was! I'm fluffing this up a bit, but I wanted to make it into an anime that rounded up all the shoujo manga into one ["soukatsu shite"]. Can you translate "soukatsu" into English?

HM: Collecting it all into one?

KI: Yes, like it was all included. And then... how do I explain this?

CS: So you... go ahead.

KI: A shoujo manga is a story where a girl is the main character. I wanted to define the meaning of shoujo manga. Do you understand? Can you translate that into English? (laughs)

CS: You wanted to define a girl's dreams and admiration and such?

KI [over various black-on-red scenes of Anthy and swords]: I wanted to round up all the animated stories made with girls as the main characters up till then into one story. Meaning, make it a story where all those themes were included. I wanted to express everything that they were trying to express in all those shoujo manga and animations that had a girl as the main character, in this one story. That was the type of anime I was trying to make. I had this radical turning point inside my head. Now that the channels had turned in my head, I thought that I could allow the visuals to be parodies. Or rather, the visuals must be parodies. If this was going to be a round-up of everything up until now, the visuals should be parodies. That's why it suddenly went the Rose of Versailles sort of route.

CS: I see.

KI: Up until that point I had a huge adverse reaction towards Rose of Versailles. I was absolutely against that idea. The reason why is because at the time... how do I say this... I was thinking of doing a story that was more sci-fi or fantasy, but that didn't sit with me too well. As I was doing it I realized what I actually wanted was to do a project where I could compile the shoujo manga or animations with a girl as a main character into one. What they're trying to express in animations where a girl is the main character is, and this is my personal opinion, I'm not just talking about Ribon no Kishi and Rose of Versailles -- there are tons of other animations where a girl is the main character -- how do I say this? -- the core of the basic theme is generally self-revelation.

CS: (Surprised, agreeing noise.)

KI: A story where a girl is the main character is about self-revelation. By putting the theme of self-revelation at the core and by wondering why you have to have this self-revelation... how do I say this... I think the meaning of your relationship to the world is always made apparent, per se?

CS: (Surprised, agreeing noise.)

KI: They express that indirectly, by using "love," for example, as a theme. In this series, love I guess also plays a big part, but, how do I say this, I thought I should express that in a more grandiose scale. No, rather, that's what I wanted to do.

CS: I see. I never knew there was such a significant meaning behind it.

KI: Why, yes, it's a significant piece. I started to --

CS: I had no idea you meant to compile all of shoujo culture when you made this.

KI: I didn't know that at the start either! (laughter) While in the making I was like, "That's it! I got it!" At this point in the story it's obvious I had complete certainty.

CS: Definitely.

HM: At what point were you like, "I got it!"?

KI: That was... I thought that was when the first film was done. I had no idea during the planning stage. I started to think that when we were making it, which was around the time the film was almost finished. The thing is, it took a while until the first film was made. It took almost a year from planning to until the first film was made. We kept bickering and arguing during that time, but when the first film was made -- I'm referring to when the film for the first episode was made -- I thought, this is it.

CS: There're a lot of people who don't like Utena, and...

KI: Bold people like that exist? (laughter)

CS: And I think the reason why they don't like it is because --

KI: There's not a lot! It's only a few! There are only a few people who are like that!

CS: -- I think it's that they're immersed in the Japanese shoujo culture. But in Utena there's this feeling of rejecting that. I think by watching this anime they can sense Mr. Ikuhara's intentions that he wanted to compile all of that.

KI: That's exactly it.

CS: I think their dislike comes from them not wanting it to be summed up into one.

KI: I'm sure that's true.

CS: "This is what we like! Don't burst our bubble! Don't try to sum it up like that!" is maybe how they're feeling.

KI: Yes, exactly. There are parts in this anime where nuances like that are expressed.

CS: Yes, and there's also this message saying, "That's not a place where you should be putting yourself, so hurry up and have a self-revelation and get the hell out of there!" at the end. (laughter) So some girls were like, "It's none of your business!" Remember they used to have this adverse reaction to it? There were quite a few of them! People who do accept it... hm... I wonder! There are a lot of anime fans, of course, and devout fans who really liked this anime, but I think if normal people watched this they'd have a better understanding of it.

KI: There's a lot of people who like theater that like Utena, too.

CS: Yes, there is.

KI: That's probably because there're a lot of parts where I got my inspiration from theater.

HM: Were you influenced by Shuji Terayama?

KI: Yes, Shuji Terayama. In America he's comparable to someone who represents Off Broadway. He was a very charismatic icon that directed thater. Shuji Terayama's really famous in Europe. I don't think he's a famous theater director in the States, but in Europe, such as France and England, he's a very famous theater director. I consider him my inspirational master. [over Tainai Tokei Toshi Orrery] In Utena there's a lot of songs being played in the background. A person named J. A. Seazer is the one who composed and performed these songs. He's Mr. Terayama's number one protege. He was the one who was in charge of Mr. Terayama's theatrical music all those years. He and Mr. Terayama were in a theater group called Tenjo Sajiki together. He co-directed and was in charge of the music. He's the one who composed the music to Utena. That's what sealed the fate of this project. They were so against it --

CS (laughing): Yes, me too!

KI -- They were like, "Please don't do it!"

HM: J. A. Seazer, the music composer was?

KI: No. Using Mr. J. A. Seazer was fine because I'm the one who asked him. It was the sponsors around me who said, "Don't do it!" They'd say, "It's impossible. It won't work!" and I had to reassure them that it would work.

CS: When I saw the duel sequence for the first time and when that song came on, even I was shocked. I thought it was cool, though. I was thinking that this is an anime that no one has ever seen or heard of as I was watching it. With that on my mind, I really wondered if it was going to be well received. That thought just kept circling in my head.

KI: Aren't we glad people liked it? (laughter) Back then I put everything I had into it, so I kept thinking, "You better be well received!" Now, looking back, I was so damn brave! Don't you think?

CS (laughing): If anything, [seriously] that's what I'm really amazed about. Mr. Ikuhara was so brave. ... I'm so amazed how a project like this got approved. (laughter)

KI: The people involved were pretty admirable too!

CS: Yes!

KI: Except for a small number of people, everyone else was speechless!

HM: I'd like to move on to the final episode. Let's take a break.



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.