Utena: Juri's Love

[Utena Content Note: Abuse]

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 7: "Unfulfilled Jury"

During the Covid-19 quarantine we're under, I'm showing Utena to my Kissmate for the first time. He didn't know anything about the show except that there's a school fencing team that the protagonist accidentally ends up on. (cue me cackling with evil delight) I told him I thought he'd like the series because there's a lot of symbolism and he eats that shit up. We talked about the colors and whipped through the first six episodes before I realized that I had an unfinished blog post about this show and maybe I should, you know, continue that. (sheepish)

I'm doing so now while adding Kissmate's notes in brackets and quotes. He is a delight to watch with, and picks up on so much; previously I thought the colors were only in the hair and roses, but he's pointing out the colors are everywhere and it's amazing. Like, for example, the dance in which Anthy wears the green dissolving dress? Kissmate says: "She went in wearing a green dress, confusion and doubt, but willing to be here for Utena's sake. Water hit the dress and the green doubt peeled away because she knows she doesn't want to be here. Then Utena clothes her in white: the color of social acceptance. And they dance."

So! Episode 7! We start the episode with Juri fencing and kicking ass. When she sits to rest, she cradles a golden locket and wonders if she'll smash the world's shell. I remind you that--at least to me--the shell metaphor is about social expectations and acceptance and the roles forced on us by society, and the council members seeking to break that shell are all queer folk like myself. If they don't break out of the cishetero-roles imposed on them, they'll die.

The episode cuts to Juri being praised by the vice principal. Even though she's a girl in boy's clothes, like Utena, she's accepted in a way that Utena isn't. The man asks to talk over lunch (a little sketchily) and Juri agrees; she waits patiently there for him to be ready to do and ends up overhearing a school teacher scolding Utena. [Kissmate: "To us, the teacher is the authority of the school--she's so invested in the school that even her hair buns are roses. We never see her eye color so we don't see who she is, just what she shows us: her hair color, green, lying to yourself and/or not being true to yourself.]

Juri shuts down the vice principal and teacher by throwing them at each other; now free, she arranges to have lunch with Utena. "Now that's what I call a miracle!" Utena says in her blithe innocent way, unaware that Juri is tormented in her search for one. They talk about the Rose Bride and Utena asks if she has a "miracle power" now that she's engaged to Anthy. Maybe she can ace a test without even studying! Juri, who has been seeking a miracle her entire life, flashes back to a single orange rose in a vase beside a gray girl. "There are no such things as miracles," Juri tells her. Utena runs off to class and Anthy follows, pausing to offer Juri an orange rose. Furious, Juri backhands her (oof) and tells her not to get too familiar. ["This is why Anthy has social anxiety!", Kissmate yells.]

In the council scene, the members discuss the upcoming battling schedule. Juri reiterates that she doesn't believe in miracles--while she steadfastly refuses to look at a miracle occurring right behind her: Touga is throwing knives with perfect accuracy at Miki, outlining him in deadly silver. I love this series because the first time I watched this, I felt like the council scenes were just random "this is what drugs feels like" nonsense, but now I can see that the theme is someone who doesn't believe in miracles *so hard* that she refuses to see one even as it happens under her nose.

Touga needles her about being in love and Juri admits privately that she was. We flash back to the girl in her memory, now colored with purple-pink hair and purple eyes. A beautiful boy with white roses spars nearby: the white rose of social acceptance and approval. I'm going to reiterate that Juri is queen of the lesbians, so I have a lot of feels about this man being the socially acceptable love that everyone expected her to marry. The purple girl tells Juri to "believe in miracles and they will know your feelings", offering Juri an orange rose. She confesses that she wanted to take the boy from Juri, and told him that Juri was in love with someone else. The boy and girl kiss while the girl covers Juri's eyes.

Utena and Juri meet at night and Juri conversationally asks why Utena wears a boy uniform. Utena tells how she met the prince and was impressed by him and that she wears these clothes to feel close to him. Juri, furious, orders Utena to throw away her rose seal, stating that she only has her "nobility" because of a trick. Utena yells that the seal is the only thing she has of the prince. A duel is arranged to "prove" to Utena she's a silly little girl who believes in princes and miracles. Randomly, we cut to a scene of Anthy alone in a room playing a little game with her hands. "The rabbits dance around," she sings. [SPOILERS] Given what we know of her role in manipulating events, this is delightful to me.

Kissmate notes from a helpful site called Project Japan: Rabbits only drive forward and don't step back, so have been considered a lucky symbol of advancement. His theory is that Utena and Juri are on the brink of character development: two hands linked together meaning two people battling and perhaps becoming different people in the process. I think it's interesting that this episode has been about Juri still being in love, and what drives her to anger at Utena is the girl's careless innocent belief in her prince. [Kissmate: "Juri believes that the only way to get love is to trick someone into it, like how the purple girl tricked the boy into falling for her. Therefore, Utena must have tricked the prince into giving her the ring."]

Shadow girls! One of them is "glad" she got a cold when she did, because vacations to the zoo are boring and a waste of time. "You really wanted to go, didn't you?" the other observes, noting the sour grapes and the insistence that she definitely is so glad she didn't get what she wanted. Juri keeps talking about how terrible miracles are and how much she hates them, but secretly she yearns for one to happen for her.

ZETTAI UNMEI! Gods, I missed this song so much. Utena ascends through the stages of life--birth records, baptismal records, records of death--after walking through the yonic rose gate and climbing the phallic pillar and I still love her goddamn death-glare of determination each time. Kissmate notes that if red is truth of the self, then Anthy's rose bride gown is her truth. Anthy hands out a white rose for Utena and orange for Juri, and Juri demands that Utena show her a miracle.

Kissmate notes that the sword reflects Anthy's face when it is pulled, and wonders if Anthy *is* the Prince's sword: a thing he requires in order to exist *as* a Prince. ["A prince without a princess is nothing."] Kissmate adds that he likes how she started with the hollow wooden kendo swords then as her need to protect others increased she graduated to the sword of Dios, a more lethal weapon.

[Other notes from Kissmate on colors from the opening credits: "The dress Anthy wears as the Rose Bride is red, meaning this is her true self. Or she thinks it is. Then the jousting scene happens. They're jousting together in the opening but then join forces, so it's like they're at odds with each other but then team up. ...Dios' eyes look green? Is that doubt in his eyes? He has the white social acceptance, but he doesn't trust people. Or he's lying to himself. No! He's judging others to see if they're worthy of him. ...WAIT, Utena's horse in the joust IS the prince! White skin, purple hair, green eyes; she's literally riding the prince! Anthy is riding a dark version of the prince? Is she supposed to be the dark side of the prince? Oh no. It's her role as the bride, goddammit. Her relationship to the prince. Somehow because of that role, the world doesn't accept her."]

Juri's duel song begins and I love it. This one is about light of all types, contrasted with darkness. Everything here is a contradiction or enemy: Lucifer and Michael, eternity and illusion, heaven and hell, death and life. "Two sexes, two poles, there are two of me." Juri flashes to the purple girl even as Utena and Dios merge into one. Two of me, two sexes, two sides of the coin. My thought here is that the song is about duality and (if I had to guess) the duality that comes with being closeted against the world. Juri has the self she shows to everyone--the perfect straight girl who is socially acceptable and dated a perfect prince--and she has the self that only she knows: the lesbian girl who longs for love from the friend-turned-rival who "stole" the boy she never really wanted.

The Dios sword is knocked out of Utena's hand but falls vertically down to slash the rose from Juri's chest, piercing it precisely in the center. This is undeniably a miracle and Juri has no idea how to accept it. ["She causes miracles!" Kissmate suggest. "But it's at her own cost and sacrifice? Not intentional sacrifice. Like the prince-boy; the purple girl would have never found a perfect prince if she hadn't stolen him from Juri. She even caused Utena to say "wow, that was a miracle" when Juri saved her from the teachers earlier."] Juri stalks off as Touga observes that she still won't accept that the miraculous event was a miracle.

We come to the reveal that Shiori (the purple haired girl) is the one Juri yearns for with her passionate orange hair, and not the prince boy. Having just re-watched episodes 1-6 last night, I have a lot of feels about Shiori and Kozue (Miki's sister) and I think they have a lot in common. In my opinion, Kozue lives her life preemptively disappointing Miki so he'll stop expecting things of her, while I think Shiori pushes away the people who love her because she feels so damaged that anyone who loves her must have something wrong with them. I'm reminded of the Groucho Marx quote that he won't want to be in any club that would accept him as a member. ["Ah, the locket is golden yellow--it represents where her affections lie!"]


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