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This interview appears in the May 1997 issue of Newtype magazine. The attached images are for the entire article, but the below translation is for the last two pages, an interview with Ikuhara and Saito. The images from the magazine and the translation (originally posted here at his Patreon) are posted with permission: thank you so much, @T_Unmasked! (If you're into Sailor Moon, and you probably are, this twitter is for you.)

Whisperings of a Rose

The Exciting Encounter Between a Beautiful Shojo Manga Artist and a Blonde Director

Take a look at these two – they are the parents who gave birth to “Revolutionary Girl Utena.”

Chiho Saitoh (author) and Kunihiko Ikuhara (director) make for quite a dazzling couple – they each represent the picture of perfection. It's to the credit of these two spectacular parents that we have Utena and Anthy.

Today, we’ll have these two tell us about themselves, including how their whirlwind romance got started.

Ikuhara: It must have been over two years ago when I first saw Chiho’s work. I was simply stunned. I felt compelled to make an anime out of her art. I tried reaching out to her, and I’ll never forget the day we first met. It was in May, right? I thought she looked beautiful in photos, but I was absolutely stunned when I saw her in person.

Saitoh: It was the same for me – I was absolutely amazed to be meeting with this young, blonde-haired anime director. In the beginning, he hardly spoke much. All he could talk about was about the sensuality in my art. And he was pretty passionate about that, too. (laugh)

Ikuhara: The first picture I saw of hers was a nude of a man and a woman, outdoors. It really spoke to me. (laugh)

Saitoh: But that was just a big misunderstanding. I actually drew a couple indoors, wearing a gown. (laugh)

Ikuhara: It was the cover to a magazine, so my imagination had taken off about what was under the parts covered by the lettering.

Saitoh: The most important part. But we did share the goal of wanting to draw something sensual.

Ikuhara: That’s how she came to work with us (the Utena Planning Group: Be-Papas). We started on the character designs around fall of 1995.

Saitoh: There were countless phone calls and faxes going back and forth. Every day it was “you need to do this,” or “do it like that.”

Ikuhara: Settling on the characters is absolutely essential. If the imagery doesn’t tell a story, then I won’t be able to get any inspiration.

Saitoh: I’m interested in finding a way to use the whole body to express meaning, which probably has something to do with my love for ballet. Even the slightest adjustment to the movement of a hand or the neck, and the whole feeling can change.

Ikuhara: Exactly! There’s a whole world of meaning lying within Chiho’s pictures. I felt that if all this going back and forth could bring out just a little more of that nuance, it’d be worth it. I wanted to fight with her. Or really, maybe I just wanted to spend more time together with her. (laugh)

Saitoh: Compared with the female characters, the male characters were typically approved in the first round. I was robbed of that little pleasure…! (laugh)

Ikuhara: Not at all. I wanted to make Chiho happy, so I made sure to put a lot of male characters in, introduced her to the Takarazuka Revue (a favorite of hers), and made a shojo/opera-esque story. The main character is even a beautiful girl in men’s clothes!

Saitoh: Even still, there’s quite a bit of that “Ikuhara touch” involved. Take the battle scenes, for example, and that strange music that plays. It's like something out of an underground theater production. (laugh)

Ikuhara: I wanted to make something that had absolutely never been seen before.

Saitoh: Seeing my own work turned into an anime is a dream of mine. I was thrilled to see the characters move. And I didn’t even feel like there was anything off from the manga. (smile)

Director Ikuhara told Ms. Saitoh that he had wanted to make an anime that would make women happy when they watched it. In actuality, maybe the woman he was really talking about was Ms. Saitoh.

“[Chiho] is the most important woman to me, and truly understands me,” Director Ikuhara commented.

Perhaps what we can say is that “Revolutionary Girl Utena” is full of rich, interesting stories thanks to the trust (!) and love (?) developed between these two.

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.