Utena: Black Rose Boys

[Utena Content Note: Abuse, Sexual Assault]

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 14: "The Boys of the Black Rose"

We see a building against a yellow adoration sky, inside of which is a young purple-haired man in a red boy's uniform. He is leaning over the glass tank and touching the black rose, which is said to absorb darkness. A pink-haired man (Souji) stands nearby and talks to him. The purple-haired boy looks and sounds exactly like Anthy, but with shorter hair and different clothes. Souji is the first man we've seen with pink hair so far. He's happy that the school is again a place of study.

Anthy comes back to the room and mentions that she visits her brother every Saturday. Utena is surprised to learn Anthy even has a brother and they go up to the Phallic Tower to meet him. He lives on the top floor in a huge open-air room with a massive planetarium projector in the center. Kissmate notes that the elevator doors have the white rose of the prince, and the red carpet everywhere screams power, confidence, and manipulation. When they approach the projector, they see a man and a woman embracing: Akio Ohtori (yes, the name of the academy) and his fiance Kanae, daughter of the chairman. She wears an orange dress (love) with blond hair (adoration) and pink roses (princess?) surround her. Her eyes are bright green. Kanae teases that Akio likes stargazing so much that he became adopted by her family just to access this top floor.

Akio has pale purple hair with a red shirt, black pants, and dark purple tie; his armbands may be gold or yellow, and subtly clash with the purple in his outfit. Kissmate notes that the red indicates he's manipulating Kanae and I can't help but notice the body language in the scene: Akio sits straight up and looks at his visitors while Kanae leans towards him with her entire attention. On the opposite side of the white couches, Utena and Anthy sit straight while Anthy smiles straight ahead and Utena sneaks glances at her to see how she's taking all this. Utena blinks a little when Akio brags that the students at the school are all focused on learning and never, ever fight. (I want a clip-show here of every time someone slapped Anthy.)

"Nothing bad ever happens at Ohtori Academy," Kanae says, just as we see the black rose in the basement being plucked. Kanae asks Anthy to call her "sister" now since she'll marry Akio soon and Anthy pauses a looong time before saying "Sure". "SHE HATES HER," Kissmate gasps, grabbing my arm.

In other building, we return to Souji Mikage in his office. He has a picture on his desk of the purple-haired Anthy boy. This is the first time we've seen a full shot of the boy and it's clear that he's wearing a duelist's uniform; with the primary color being purple, I think it's almost a color-opposite of Nanami's yellow uniform. We hear something about "the Mikage Seminar" which is also known as the "Circle of the Black Rose". Though he's still a student, Mikage is so highly connected to high-level bureaucrats such that his college professors can't pry into his business. [Kissmate: "That's why he's wearing blue; he's the genius student on campus."]

He turns to the camera and I'm surprised to see he has pink eyes; that's a first in the series. If pink is its own color, what does it represent? It can't just mean Utena, unless Mikage is supposed to be a mirror to her here. (In which case, why pink eyes to her blue ones, though?) It usually seems to accompany a princess: the pink roses in the coffin, for example. Either there's a meaning here yet to be unlocked or we're back to pink being a red that is being diluted by white as the bearer approaches the ideal of the prince. If that's the case, Mikage would seem to be more Princely than Utena thus far.

Miki shows up in Mikage's office and we get to analyze body language again. Mikage leans confidently back in his seat with one arm over the back while Miki sits leaning forward and making himself small in his seat. Kissmate notes that the pillar between them signals a literal divide between the two, and Mikage's color scheme is both darker and more intense. Mikage asks if Miki has thought over his proposal and Miki anxiously declines the opportunity to join the Mikage seminar. Miki's voice, body language, and unopened soda can signifies just how uncomfortable he is with this meeting.

Walking home, Anthy thanks Utena for not telling her brother about her secret of being the Rose Bride. They run into Miki and he is surprised Utena hasn't heard of Nemuro Memorial Hall. A fear sting brings back the image of a group of boys staring at the viewer and Miki tells us that "100 boys were buried alive here". We see pairs of empty shoes and a single boy in a uniform: Mikage. He tells Mamiya (the one who looks like Anthy) that Mamiya deserves to be the Rose Bride. "Don't you mean Rose Groom?" Mikage tells him bride suits him better. In the first season, Utena introduced the idea that a girl can be a Prince; now we are exposed to the idea that a boy can be a Princess. To make him a true bride, Mikage says they need to defeat Utena, take Anthy, and... kill her.

Kanae enters the memorial hall for a scheduled interview. Her blond hair is green now, signifying confusion and doubt. A long hall is lined with dozens (one hundred?) empty chairs all with "Interview This Way" signs sitting in them. Kissmate counted and both the chairs and the shoes numbered in the high 30s. The shot with the boys had about 48, maybe 50, bodies. Either the shots couldn't fit a full one hundred comfortably or we're using "one hundred" in the non-literal sense of great multitudes. (As in, "It feels one hundred days since we left the house!")

Kanae sits in the small interview room and we see the framed green butterfly on the wall. Her hair turns green when the lights flicker. The room starts moving, like an elevator, as Kanae talks about her fiance who she loves. She wants to do something for him, except... except... On the wall the butterfly has regressed to a chrysalis. Blue roses of science decorate the walls outside. Kanae frets that Akio's sister doesn't like her as the chrysalis turns to a caterpillar. Kanae is so unsettled by Anthy that she accuses her of witchcraft, saying she thinks her father turned ill because of Anthy's visits. The elevator moves faster and there's a leaf on the wall, either as a food source for the caterpillar or with an invisible egg on it.

["I'm on her side," I tell Kissmate. "Anthy's definitely a witch and she's doing this on purpose."]

At the bottom of the shaft, the roses on the wall are black rather than blue, which is a fascinating descent from Kanae's logical reasons for seeking counseling spiraling out of control to her wild, emotional disdain. The empty pairs of shoes line the walls. The entire elevator room is now blue but Kanae is entirely green, confused and upset. Mikage tells her that her only choice is to revolutionize the world and I'm reminded that green is the color of choice too. She still has a choice? She's being guided to this but still has free will?

In the Shoe Room, there's a glowing plaque on the wall: black and yellow, the color of Kanae's hair. Mikage tells her that this is a hallowed ground where one-hundred Duelists now sleep. [Kissmate: "This is a graveyard!"] Oh shit, the plaques on the wall aren't plaques; they're- you pull them out and bodies are in there, like the lockers in a morgue. Mikage opens one and takes a rose crest ring which has turned black from the death of the bearer. Kanae tries to back away and Mamiya is there behind her telling her that she doesn't have a choice, she was chosen by the black rose. [Kissmate: "The green was not that she has a choice, it's that she was chosen by them."]

"This is your new heart," Mamiya tells her as she turns blue and purple. ["The color of the stained glass we saw."] He pierces the black rose into Kanae's heart as she screams and Mikage places the crest ring on her finger. "Doesn't anything interesting ever happen around here?" Wakaba asks (OH MY GOD) while Utena finds a dueling notice pinned inside her locker. The Shadow Girl play surrounds the extraction of a wisdom tooth and they ask "what should I do?" "Pull it out," Utena advises as she closes the locker. If something is hurting you, remove it? [Kissmate: "Kanae. Anthy has been hurting her and her family; it's time to remove her."]

The zettai chorus now has a primary masculine voices instead of feminine ones, and there seems to be more. The dead duelists? In the arena, Utena finds herself facing dozens of empty desks (the duelists?) each containing a single standing vase of white flowers (death?). Kissmate dutifully counts 100 desks, so we're back to 100 being a literal number (how silly of me to think Miki would be anything less than precise). These are memorials to the dead duelists, and their bodies are silhouetted in red on the floor.

Kanae is here with green hair and a purple duelist uniform, doubt and hatred. She swears to win the duel and kill the Rose Bride. "This is the real me," she tells Utena. "The other me I buried within myself." I'm having weird flashback feels to Juri having two selves. [Kissmate: "The fact that she's saying all this while surrounded by icons of death suggests that she 'killed' her other self."] Duel song! There's good in hell and evil in heaven, and even doubt speaks profoundly. Kanae can't be boiled down to a good side and a bad side; she's a whole person who is complicated. What I find interesting is the implication that even her doubts contain a kernel of truth, and she's not wrong Anthy doesn't like her. "Though it's false I want to keep my treasure close" feels a reference to Akio. Kanae recognizes he doesn't love her but she wants him anyway?

Dios inhabits Utena and she strikes the rose and the crest crumbles from her finger. All the desks slam together into four quadrants and I'm reminded of how desks are stored when they're not needed anymore. You can't keep a memorial around forever; eventually those duelists' desks would have been put in storage. Maybe they're being put into storage because Kanae doesn't need them anymore now that she's lost? And she falls directly into the silhouette of one of the dead boys. [Kissmate: "What if that's the silhouette of the ring she got? The D-13 guy. Her defeat is mirroring his death."]

Kissmate also notes that "4" is an unlucky number because it sounds like "death" in Japanese, which might explain the four groupings of desks. Interestingly enough, "D" is the fourth letter in the alphabet and 13 is the English unlucky number. I'm trying to remember if we get the other number designations of the later duelists.

Back in the tomb, the associated body locker falls into a furnace. [Kissmate: "That's why the interview is necessary! To see if any of the dead duelists respond to her particular plight. The same motivations, fears, doubts, inner turmoil. They didn't pick D-13 at random."] Mikage muses that Utena is stronger than expected and that just creating new duelists at random won't be enough to stop her, suggesting a more targeted approach.

Anthy leaves to go visit her brother, saying that Kanae is well but can't remember anything that happened. Chu-Chu stays behind with Utena and she's surprised; I note that Chu-Chu never seems to go with Anthy on her visits to Akio. Anthy sets her glasses down on the table and moves to Akio as the tower shutters closed. [Kissmate: "Is this incest- Oh my god, is that why Anthy hates Kanae?"]


Post a Comment