Under normal circumstances I generally don’t lean towards the uber edition releases of games or movies because it’s generally been my experience that they usually aren’t worth the extra dough. For nearly double the cover price you usually only get a fancy cardboard box, some postcards and maybe a 20-page booklet that ten years ago would have just been considered the default liner notes.
But I decided to splurge on Revolutionary Girl Utena Ultra Edition for two reasons. The first is that I’ve never actually seen the series all the way through. Many, many moons ago I had a VHS volume of some episodes from the first Student Counsel Arc. I always thought the series was cool, but was never able to get the rest of the episodes at a price point I felt comfortable with, considering that back in the day, I pretty much got all my anime either from Goodwill or second-hand movie stores.
I was sorely tempted to get the special edition DVD sets released a few years ago, but again, aside from a fancy box, it was a little painful to spend close to 200 dollars for a 39 episode series. And I wasn’t even sure I was going to go for this set either, but when I broke it down, I realized it was actually pretty reasonably priced for what you were getting. The normal edition sets of Blu-Rays were going for around a hundred bucks when you got all three together, even on sale, and unlike most releases, the ultra set actually had some pretty snazzy goodies.
First up is the box itself. Rather than just a pretty slipcover with some production art on it, it’s made of three parts: an outer cover of black card stock with cut windows and gold foil, a primary chipboard box of Utena in her dueling uniform and Anthy in her Rose Bride dress, and a secondary chipboard box again with Utena and Anthy enveloped in a cloak. The art is really pretty and well printed, and it looks really, really nice. I’m always a big admirer of packaging design, and you can see that there was a lot of thought put into this. It’s something that looks good alone on a shelf. It also nicely goes with the special edition Utena manga that came out last year. A box alone isn’t worth the extra pricepoint, however, but the additional stuff does push it over the edge. Included in the box set are the three Blu-Ray sets that were sold individually, a hard-cover art book and the Rose Seal rings.
Interestingly enough, the discs weren’t also wrapped in cellophane. This means even though they’re the same discs available separately, these ones weren’t just pulled from the prepackaged sets and stuffed in the box, and were destined for the box set from the get go. The art on the discs separately is kinda ‘meh’. It has art of the characters and the Utena logo, but isn’t any better or worse than the original VHS or DVD cover art. The flip side, however, has the art used from the DVD box sets, the shadow silhouettes representing the three story arcs, and is much, much nicer.
The quality of the Blu-Rays themselves is mixed. The show looks utterly amazing on screen, and kept in the original aspect ratio instead of cropped to look like it’s widescreen (personal rant, I think it’s stupid to crop the show in any circumstance. The reason widescreen TVs were even invented was so movies from theaters no longer had to be edited to fit! Now they’re starting to crop older shows, thus defeating the purpose!) The look is perfect, but the subtitles sometimes cut out, particularly in the first episode, and the original Central Park Media dub, while beloved, isn’t actually all that ‘good’, still done in the era where anime voice acting wasn’t taken as seriously in English like it is largely today. For people with nostalgia for the original, it’s a great thing to have, but for people just trying out this series, most of the actors sound half asleep for most of the series. The discs also come with cool features like commentary and karaoke tracks of some of the songs, as well as the standard clean openings and closings.
Next up is the art book. Remember how I said I don’t like spending extra just to get a booklet of pictures? Not the case with this set. This is a fully fledged art book, with almost three hundred pages of content. There’s concept art, background paintings, animatics, interviews, promotional materials—the works. It’s also incredibly well bound, with foil stamping. The book easily on its own could have gone for 30 dollars and still be a good value, but included in the set makes the whole thing worth the price of the Ultra set.
Finally is the coolest part of the set: the Rose Seal rings. Included are the both the Red Rose ring the student counsel uses as well the Black Rose ring from the second story arc. They’re kept in a box with more foil printing, though the box itself is simply black cardstock instead of anything sturdier. The rings are also mounted in sponge that makes the rings a little hard to take out or put back. It’s not bad, I think actual jewelry level velvet could probably push the price point too far, but it does stand out in quality and heft compared to the content of the rest of the set. The rings themselves are actually extremely high quality. They easily could have been light foil like the kind you get from vending machines, but these are solidly cast with a good, smooth weight to them, with high polish, and largely well done enameling. Instead of black, the Black Rose ring has an interesting gun metal finish, and at first in not very good light I was worried I may have gotten two Red Rose rings. They aren’t adjustable, so if you have especially thick fingers they probably won’t fit you, but for other people they fit just fine, and look really gorgeous.
While definitely a splurge, and more than I would normally pay for a set of anime, especially a series that isn’t super long, I’d say the Revolutionary Girl Utena set is well worth the money. The discs themselves are fine but the extras really go above and beyond the usual ‘special editions’ you see most companies produce. Instead of stickers and postcards that maybe cost the company a few pennies a piece, you’re getting real, tangible collectibles that I could easily see myself paying for on their own.