Utena: Enter Nanami

[Utena Content Note: Abuse, Animal Cruelty]

Links: Froborr's excellent posts and color symbolism guide are here. I'm watching the subtitled episodes contained in the blu-ray collection here.

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Episode 10: "Nanami's Precious Thing"

We open with Saionji being kicked out of school. He's wearing blue, and I'm not sure yet what to make of that. A wounded Touga tells him he'll work to reverse Saionji's expulsion. Saionji gives Touga his exchange diary (the one he keeps with Anthy) and Touga promises to take care of it before burning it. [Kissmate: "He was the vice president of the council and outside of the first episode when he appeared with Anthy, we never once saw him in those scenes." Me: "He always felt like an outsider, even though he was supposed the reigning duelist until Utena showed up."]

A new letter has arrived from the End of the World; it's Touga's turn to fight Utena. Juri and Miki offer to duel in his place since he's wounded and Touga tells them not to worry because there's a new duelist. We cut to Nanami slapping Utena and accusing her of being responsible for Touga getting hurt. Utena is uncharacteristically passive, apologizing meekly to the other girl. Touga appears and rescues her, telling Nanami to stand down and helping Utena up; again, she passively accepts his help and looks up at him in a very submissive manner that is at odds with how she's behaved up until now. The slap on her cheek looks like a blush, making her seem like a princess rather than a prince. [Kissmate: "This feels like a mirror of the times Saionji slapped Anthy and Utena saved her." Me: "In the greenhouse, like this scene." Kissmate: "It's a shock to see Utena here because you expect to see Anthy here getting abused and instead it's her." Me: "And she's not fighting back."] Utena muses in their room that maybe a girl can't become a prince, her legs tucked up to hide her face from Anthy.

We flash to an incident from Touga and Nanami's childhood, when a young Nanami brings a kitten to her big brother on his birthday. Her parents try to take the kitten from her because it's dirty, but Touga saves her and tells her she brought him the best present of all. He kisses her and yellow roses of adoration frame him. [Kissmate notes that his throne-chair is as tall as the adults, imposing and large, and upholstered in rich purple. He's haloed in purple, receiving gifts from people he doesn't care about. "He sits on a throne, despising everyone around him." Blue and red are his normal colors, but the yellow pants are a new addition. "He does have some adoration for someone other than himself." Me: "Or, because the flashbacks can be colored by a person's perceptions--like Miki believing his sister was a prodigy--the yellow may mean Nanami *thinks* he adores her." Kissmate: "Nanami is wearing pink and white, the same as the princess in coffin. The kitten is red and blue like him, but has the brown commoner colors. She got him a stray kitten and not a fancy one."]

Outside the flashback, Nanami wakes in her bedroom. [Pink comforter, purple sheets. Me: "They're rich, so they're raising their children to disdain everyone who isn't a one-percenter to them." Kissmate: "If I can go ridiculously dark and deep, his purple is in a throne: he's sitting on his source of power. Her source of power is her sheets: on her back when she's lying down. Also: You only see the purple when the pink princess sheets are pulled away. Her power is on her back but covered over in the ideal of being a princess. Also: She only wore the red bow when she was a child; that was when she felt the most confident. That confidence has been stripped away and now she's only confident when she puts others down."]

Outside, Touga practices by moonlight despite his wounds. Nanami comes down to fret over him and he reassures her while blowing her concerns off. "Nothing is going to happen to your big brother," he promises while brushing a blush over her cheeks--the same kind of blush Utena had earlier when Nanami slapped her. Nanami asks him for a kiss and he says they're not children anymore. Later, Anthy and Utena try to visit Touga to thank him for what happened in the arena but he's at another birthday party. In... yet again... another purple throne. Holy shit.

Utena approaches him with a bouquet and a thank you. Nanami stalks up in yellow and black ["She's outcast-ing herself."] and slaps the flowers from Utena's hands--the roses fall apart the way they do in the arena, signaling the upcoming duel. Nanami yells that she won't let Utena have her brother and Touga looks on smugly while the school gossips. Later, he tells Utena alone that Nanami has a big brother complex. Utena points out that it must be hard to like other boys when your big brother is perfect. Touga talks about a kitten he received as a child, which then disappeared, and Anthy gives him a kitten. [Kissmate: "The ribbon and kitten are yellow, Nanami's color. Admiration? Does Anthy like him?" Me: "He did save her when Saionji tried to hurt her." Kissmate: "True. It doesn't have to be romantic. Couple that with the green ribbon and I think it's a gift from a friend, from the heart."]

[SPOILERS] I'm trying so hard not to drop the fact that Anthy is deliberately egging the duelists on, and I had completely forgotten that Anthy gives Touga the *one gift* that Nanami will find triggering. [/SPOILERS]

In flashback again, Touga ignores Nanami in favor of the cat. When the kitten bites Touga, she slaps the kitten without understanding that the bite wasn't malice. Touga scolds her angrily and Nanami diagnoses that the kitten has come between her brother and her. [Kissmate: "The apples in the gray flashback are red. She can't reach confidence without him. Her red bow is gone. And red is the color of her brother. It's not just her confidence, although that's gone too, she's trying to reach her brother. She's saying 'help me reach you' and he's pushing her away."]

A thought of my own: We know Touga manipulates people; he sent the letter to Saionji pretending to be the End of the World so that Saionji could attack Utena and Touga could rescue her, attempting again to force her into the role of the princess. Who else have we seen setting up disasters in order to be the prince for his princess? Tsuwabuki, the one trying to be Touga because he was so impressed by him. Knowing Touga to be a manipulator, I maintain that his actions in this scene are deliberate: he's using the kitten to make her jealous and insecure. Later, he'll use other girls at school the same way: the women he surrounds himself with at school are tools to increase his sister's dependency on him. [Kissmate: "Notice he has his back to Nanami, ignoring her emotional needs in favor of the kitten? It's a direct callback to the earlier scene where Anthy was ignoring Utena's emotional needs in order to talk to the kitten."]

Nanami challenges Utena with a rose. Touga, who knew she would become a duelist ("the stage has been set") gives her the rose engagement ring, telling her that only the bearers of the ring can duel at the school. In the Shadow Girls' play, they try to come up with a nice, uncommon, cute name for kitty but all their ideas miss the point. ("If you want a cuter name, how about Cuter Kitty!") By the time they decide on a name, the kitten refuses to come to them and his shadow is huge. It grew up without interaction and is now feral? Kissmate suggests the girls are Nanami's parents who are more worried about status ("Cuter Kitty!") and neglect her to the point of being feral and violent.

I love Nanami's dueling outfit so much. Her epaulettes are maroon, a blend of purple and red, like she's added a touch of confidence to her usual disdain. The duel starts, as does Nanami's song, and there's a couple things to note here.

One, she's an amazing sword-fighter and chalks this up to "knowing everything about my brother" so of course she would have followed his hobbies. I find that interesting because it's not a traditionally princess-y sort of thing to do. Do we have another "she/he was so impressed by the prince that she/he decided to become a prince her/himself?" Is she yet one more prince-wannabe like Utena and Tsuwabuki?

Two: Like Utena, her engagement ring was given to her "by my prince" but in this case that's Touga. [Kissmate: "He didn't just 'give' it to her, he put it on her finger himself. That's very engagement ring!" Me: "And I'm pretty sure that's what happens in the Utena flashbacks." Kissmate: "It does."] This is also interesting because it means the ring-giver doesn't have to be Dios in the flesh. (Regarding our earlier theory on whether Utena's childhood prince was Dios or Touga.)

Three: I'm struggling with the song here, but there are references to stages, watching from afar, two relationships, and two births. The best I can do with this one is that Nanami orbits her brother from a distance, always struggling to draw closer and always being pushed away as part of his ongoing manipulation. Though they are two different people she *feels* like they ought to be of one mind and one heart, and it hurts her when she's reminded that he's at the center stage and she's forever on the outskirts of his life. She's dependent on him and he keeps her there on purpose.

Nanami says her prince will lead her to victory, but it's Utena's ring that glows. Dios descends as he is wont to do, but he seems more red to me this time? I'm wondering if this is meant to represent Utena's growing confidence; she's always been sure of herself, but this duel feels different--when Nanami issued the challenge, Utena's response was coolly confident instead of her usual hot anger or baffled confusion. With Dios' help, Utena cuts the rose and it seems like the fight is over pretty quickly... then Nanami pulls out a fucking dagger, grabs her fallen sword, and keeps fighting.

I'm screaming because I forgot this part. Anthy is anxiously yelling the rules at the fighter--you have to stop when the rose is cut!--and Nanami is basically all "fuck the rules, I'm not here to play your game, I'm here to cut Utena up" and I love her determination even if she's, you know, a terrible person. Even the duel song climaxes with a reference to revolution and I can't help but feel that Nanami was the best "close second" to real revolution, after Utena.

Touga stops the fight and tells Nanami she doesn't need to fight anymore and she buries herself in his chest, sobbing. Utena, who is a sweet fighter with intelligence as her dump stat, notes that he's a good brother but Touga just says it's in the nature of a prince to help damsels in need. He leads Nanami off, her eyes shadowed and empty to us.


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