These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
This wiki used to have this series listed as Anime First because Chiho Saito was the last member to join Be-PaPas — which may be true, but the manga was being published several months before the anime started airing, which is referenced by Saito-sensei in the early volumes. It's also worth noting that many tropes that are deconstructed in the anime series are played much straighter in the manga.
Many people have only seen the (very wildly alternate universe) film version, partly because it's easier to find on torrent sites and partly because it was the only version released in places like the UK. (And, okay, it's known for its Fanservice as well.)
The movie has also been shown at some gay & lesbian film festivals, giving it exposure outside the anime fandom.
The series was partly based on the novel Demian by Hermann Hesse, which most anime fans wouldn't know because it's never mentioned ANYWHERE EVER.
The different versions themselves have been claimed to be alternate interpretations of Utena, with the manga as Chiho Saito's vision, the movie as Kunihiko Ikuhara's vision, and the TV series as a compromise between the two; there's also the manga adaptation of the movie, which is Saito's own spin on it, and the light novels, which were written by someone else entirely (specifically, Ichirou Ookouchi). Characterisation varies wildly between all these versions, to the point where the differences between portrayals of any given character can be quite jarring.
And just to prove once again how flexible the fourth wall is in Utena, the Akio that wants to keep Anthy in the academy's world in the movie is Anthy's own Alternative Character Interpretation (of sorts) of the real guy that died ages ago. Something similar seems to be the case with Touga; compare his scenes with Utena to his scenes with Shiori, for example.
Depending on what part of the fandom you're looking at, Touga can be anything from an over-princified Draco in Leather Pants (particularly on older fansites) to a much-loathed Scrappy (particularly on Tumblr, though the DILP crowd shows up on there as well).
Akio, Akio, Akio. A flawless Magnificent Bastard who controls everyone and everything via Anthy so he can re-shape the world to his liking? A horrid person who toys with everyone solely for his own gratification and power? A Tragic Hero who got way too broken in the past and reacted to the trauma by becoming a massive ass even to the persons he should protect? A pathetic manchild who has no intention of changing or taking responsibility and just wants to feel powerful by lording over a bunch of insecure teenagers? Can it be ALL of the above?
Crack Pairing: Miki/Juri has some vocal fan support. As far as crack pairings go, this is a fairly reasonable one; the characters interact on a regular basis, move in the same social/extracurricular circles, and get along the best out of all the Student Council members. What makes it crack is Juri's canonical lesbianism.
Akio and Touga are givens here, since they're assholes but also very handsome and stylish.
Yes, Saionji has his pitiable moments (mainly due to Touga's REALLY sucky treatment of him) but he's still a massive Jerk Ass and Domestic Abuser who slapped Anthy around while acting possessive of her, decked Miki as well at one point, and threw Wakaba under the bus to return to the Council and Ohtori.
Mikage's past was very tragic, to be sure, but the fact remains that he's a Manipulative Bastard who effectively brainwashes four teenage girls (Keiko, Wakaba, Kozue and Shiori), a young woman who's barely out of teenage-hood herself (Kanae) and a prepubescent boy (Mitsuru) - all of whom were troubled kids to begin with - into becoming would-be murderers; plus, fans like to conveniently forget that the hairclip incident that broke Wakaba so hard was just as much his fault as it was Saionji's, as he was the one who made the fateful offer to Saionji in the first place.
Ruka Tsuchiya. Apparently, some fans believe that using different kinds of sexual abuse/manipulations on two really screwed-up young girls is a valid way to help one of these girls. No, sexual assault should never be used like that, and Shiori did not deserve the total humiliation Ruka pulled on her no matter how much the fandom hates her.
Ear Worm: The opening song "Rinbu Revolution," along with many BGM tracks (especially "Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku").
Fan Wank: There's a small group of people who think every single thing that Anthy does in the series is manipulative and for ulterior motives. Yes, even getting (re-)stabbed with a million swords in the last episode. Yes, even when Anthy disappears behind the coffin and reaches out for Utena's hand. All this is supposed to be an act to make Utena feel sorry for her so Anthy can have a prince to manipulate forever so the Rose Bride can finally leave Ohtori.While Anthy is very manipulative and much of her actions in the series are malicious, the above interpretation contains several logic bombs: 1.) If Anthy wants a prince to save her from Ohtori, she could've refused to betray Utena in the penultimate episode, because Utena was already doing everything in her power to help Anthy get out of Ohtori. Anthy's actions make no sense unless you interpret Anthy as being hesitant about leaving. 2.) As the series points out, it's not a lack of a prince or any inherent magic which prevents the Rose Bride from leaving Ohtori; it's the Rose Bride's own personal choice to stay. Utena's feelings for Anthy, or Anthy's lack of a prince, have nothing to do with magically binding her to the duels.
The ridiculous speculation that young Anthy rapes young Dios in flashblack, just because the two of them take shelter in a barn (as per the English double-entendre "rolling in the hay"). Supporters of this particular Tree insist that Anthy was waiting for the "perfect moment" to "taint" her brother and "claim him for herself", forgetting that this is the same Anthy who took thousands of stab wounds to keep him, and neglecting to explain at all why anyone (much less a small girl) would stop to rape their older brother when being chased by a sword-wielding mob.
Faux Symbolism: Various weird visual cues, the most common being rotating stylized roses, which don't appear to have any particular meaning. Ikuhara doesn't help either — he gives vague, non sequitur comments like saying the Shadow Girls are aliens (which would explain the repeated flying saucer imagery in their performances...). On the other hand, the pointing fingers in episode 22 seem to stand for Ship Tease.
Freud Was Right: Lots. Take Akio's car for example. Or his tower, or his projector, or... let's just say Akio provides the majority of this.
Growing the Beard: The first arc is fairly generic and lighthearted (barring episode 9) and despite common mentions of End of the World, it hardly feels like a massive shadow is looming in the background. In the Black Rose arc, however, things get a lot more sinister and weird.
Harsher in Hindsight: Anthy's discomfort around crowds of people is so much more affecting when we learn what the angry mob did to her.
Hilarious in Hindsight: The scene in the movie where Anthy convinces Utena to let her sketch her in the nude actually came out the same year as Titanic, which had the same infamous scene ("Draw me like one of your French girls").
Say that you do NOT necessarily think Utena is the most important, groundbreaking, perfect, complex and uniqueshoujo series ever. Prepare to be slain by the Utena fandom.
Try bringing up the five different Utena canons: the TV series, the manga by Chiho Saitou, the Adolescence Mokushiroku movie, the manga based on The Movie that's also by Saitou, and the virtually unknownLight Novels. Within seconds, fans that support one of these media will try to murder the fans who prefer the others. In particular, liking the movie better than the series will get you clobbered, and may God help you if you happen to prefer the first manga over the series; in fact, having a positive opinion of Saitou at all can get you slapped by those who think she's a homophobic so-and-so.
We also dare you to ever insinuate you don't ship Utena/Anthy romantically. The Utena/Anthy rabid fans will tear you alive and accuse you of being an homophobe, regardless of your stance on LGBT rights on Real Life. On the other hand, refering to Utena as a yuri series can be controversial in itself, depending on which corner of the fandom you're looking at.
Speaking of LGBT matters, discussing the characters' sexual orientations can be a messy affair. (Is Utena straight, bisexual or lesbian? Is Touga straight or bi? Could Shiori ever reciprocate Juri's feelings for her? And so on.) Wherever you stand, blood is gonna fly.
Anthy Himemiya herself is the biggest Base Breaker in the fandom. There's no middle ground on a character as complex as she is, specially on her relationship with Akio and her stabbing Utena at the end. Is she the ultimate example of The Woobie who is broken beyond belief after a millenia of pain and abuse, or an evil Manipulative Bitch who played everyone as fools as either her revenge for said millenia of pain and abuse, or as her way to grasp power for herself and torture everyone (Akio included) Either way, don't ask: the mere mention of Anthy can send everyone into hategasms or lovegasms.
Mikage cruelly used the Black Rose Duelists — listening to their problems before manipulating their feelings to recruit them, and having a more direct hand in some of their breakdowns — but his past was really heartbreaking.
Nanami qualifies big time by episodes 31 and 32. She's such a terrible, obsessive, yet ultimately pitiful little bitch.
Shiori, what with her whole inferiority complex and crushingly low self-esteem driving her to lash out at Juri because not only does she think no one could possibly genuinely like her, but she hates being treated with pity, which she believes is the only reason Juri was friends with her in the first place. Then she's humiliated by Ruka, the first person to make her feel, for once, good about herself.
Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Name one major character who is not. (Example: Touga. There's Touga/Utena, Touga/Saionji, Touga/Nanami, Touga/Akio, Touga/Miki, Touga/Juri... Touga/Anthy is a bit of a stretch, but it still exists.)
If you see Touga Kiryuu shirtless, ladies, GET AWAY. You too, Miki.
And if Souji Mikage says you should "go deeper"? REFUSE. In fact, his body language and facial expressions towards characters like Miki and Tsuwabuki make him come off as a paedophile to some viewers — which isn't helped by his relationship with Mamiya, who appears to be about fourteen years old at most.
Misaimed Fandom: Those who think Anthy is nothing but a Damsel in Distress forget her convoluted machinations and deep resentment of humans in general. Those who think Anthy is nothing but a Wicked Witch forget that fear and anger is likely going to be the typical reaction of a person stabbed by a million swords and faced with eternal torture. Both of these viewpoints are also represented in-universe as well by different characters, indicating that Be-PaPas knew full well how people were probably going to react to her.
Older Than They Think: Utena makes heavy use of tropes and visual elements from classic shoujo series such as Rose of Versailles, most of which were not familiar to American audiences before the popularity of this series.
Some Utena fans hate Anthy because she's a "weak", outwardly emotionless doll who claims to have no opinions outside of the Victor's whims. Others hate Anthy because they think she's too powerful and manipulative and "evil". Some just hate her because she gets to sleep with Akio and they don't (often disregrading the consentissues in their relationship).
Interestingly, all the kinds of Anthy-haters in the fandom are present in the story: Saionji batters her when she doesn't act as obedient as he wants her to, despite his claims that he loves her; Juri attacks her at one point because she reminds her of Shiori; Kanae feels threatened by her Extreme Doormat persona and the fear that she may be more sinister, which isn't helped by Anthy's passive-aggressive slights against her; and several of the Black Rose Duelists envy her for "being loved" and "stealing their love interests", with Wakaba going as far as seriously trying to kill her. Then there's Akio, who needs to keep "his woman" under his control in order to keep playing the Big Bad of the show... Ikuhara really knows how society views feminine archetypes, and those views are reflected in the Utena fandom.
It's not just the haters; it's her fans too. Some fans, like the characters Miki or (at first) Utena, see her as a classic Damsel in Distress archetype for them to rescue/defend on forums and blogs in order to boost their own egos. However, people who view Anthy as such are rarer than the "Anthy is Satan" types, in great part because the series does eventually make it clear that Anthy is most definitely not an emotionless doll.
The Scrappy: Shiori is easily one of the most hated characters in the fandom, with Nanami also being rather unpopular in her own right. Ironically, they're two of Ikuhara's personal favourites.
Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Strictly defined gender roles are crap. If you believe you can do something, don't let societal norms stop you. Also, you don't have to be imprisoned by your family; if they bring you down and you can't help them, well, better save yourself.
Don't hate on women, and double if you're a woman yourself. Because a woman who hates other women will never be able to love herself. The fact that the much loathed for "being weak" Anthy says this in the manga speaks LOTS about how misogyny is a problem even in THIS supposedly "progressive" fandom, as seen in Real Women Never Wear Dresses.
Infamously, Saito has stated in an episode commentry that she initially objected to the idea of Anthy and Utena having a romantic relationship, claiming that Ikuhara's plans would make for a "joyless" story for the young female target audience. Couple that with the fact that Saito portrays Juri as heterosexual in her manga, and it's easy to see why the fandom hates her. (On the other hand, the fact she later drew the movie-manga, kissing scenes and all, suggests that she got over her misgivings; however, despite Anthy/Utena still being the endgame couple, the movie-manga's increased emphasis on the Utena/Touga relationship still leaves many fans unhappy.)
While the series deserves every bit of praise it gets for its portrayal of lesbians, there's something unfortunate about the fact that the Mikage/Mamiya relationship, the only positive portrayal of queer males in the text (as opposed to, say, Touga and Akio) turns out to be such a huge bait-and-switch. Not only was Mikage (or better said, Professor Nemuro) actually in love with Mamiya's older sister Tokiko, with his wanting to help Mamiya being for Tokiko's sake, but the Mamiya we've been seeing throughout the Black Rose arc turns out to have been an illusion acted out by Anthy; the entire "relationship" was a ploy by Akio to manipulate Mikage. Bear in mind that Ikuhara was the one who decided on this part of the story.
Villain Decay: In spite of most of its members being manipulative and abusive, the Student Council become more benign and sympathetic as the series progresses. Though they're still all pretty Royally Screwed Up.
Meta example: series-Akio versus movie-Akio. The former is an inscrutable and seemingly invincible Magnificent Bastard. The latter falls out a window after trying to rape a seemingly asleep Anthy.
Visual Effects of Awesome: The movie in general is gorgeous, but this trope is why everyone remembers the dancing scene (besides the yuri).