Utena: Color Keys

[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 13: "Tracing a Path"

Season Two! (Or, well, I call it "Season Two". I don't actually know if the arcs were separated by seasons, but they feel like different seasons to me, so that's what I'm going to call it. Because I can.) We have a clip show to bring us up to speed on what happened in season one, plus a key for all the colors.

The Shadow Girls open to tell us that the meddlesome winner won again, but that more fights may be coming. Touga is wounded and listening to his old recordings about the world's shell. In the arena, a purple haired man looks up at the castle and asks if Dios is still sleeping. He notes that the student president failed and Utena won the duel named Self: the Red duel. Interestingly, the red stained glass window has notes of yellow in it, while the green window ("Friendship") has either purple or pink highlights. The man (Akio) wonders if Dios and the Rose Bride were moved upon seeing Utena's willingness to defend Anthy even while badly wounded. Akio's hair and silhouette are both purple through this.

[Kissmate notes that the accent colors make sense if they are being used to modify the concept; one's "self" (red) is influenced by who or what someone admires (yellow). The green window could be capturing Utena's motives in the duel: she fought Saionji in the duel of friendship because of her friendship with Wakaba and her disdain for Saionji. He points out the sword of Dios has a green hilt, which suggests that using the sword means drawing on your relationship with the bride.]

We see green pulling double-duty in the third duel, Choice. It's an interesting decision, I think, to have green represent both friendship and choice; we end with its opposing color, red, representing self and manipulation. We have an arena ascension and chat about how much this all feels like sex, both the noun and the verb. To enter the arena, you grasp a rod which opens a yonic rose gate in a flood of wetness; then you climb a phallic tower while Anthy forms her hands in a gesture and location which is again strongly yonic. I still think that climbing the tower is a metaphor for aging (birth, baptism, death) which makes me think a lot of the sex imagery is as much about puberty and the associated changes of the body as it is about sex *with* someone as a verb. "Ever since that day, the seal on the power of Dios began to break," Akio notes.

The next duels are outlined one after another. [Kissmate: "The accent color seems to be *why* the fight was initiated."] Blue is Reason with a yellow accent (Miki's adoration of Anthy?). Orange is Love with a purple accent (Juri's disdain for Utena?). Yellow is Adoration with a red accent (Touga's manipulation of the duel?). Red is Self with a yellow accent (Utena's adoration of Anthy?). We flashback through the blue duel with Miki and suddenly I realize that the colored roses Anthy has been putting on the duelists may be less about *them* and more about the duel's color--although this is a bit of a "tomAto, tomAHto" situation since the duelists themselves are color-coded for convenience (Saionji for the green duels, Touga for red, etc.).

Miki's song was about the theater of the illusory mind, and I'm reminded that Miki's problem was self-delusion in that he was determined to believe his sister felt the same about piano as he did: he has been pitting an illusory Kozue against the real one. The duel song is also about the spira mirabilis which Froborr defines as "The perfect mathematical spiral that keeps returning to where it started instead of striking out into the world." It's a perfect metaphor for Miki, who is a prodigy genius who keeps returning to his childhood rather than growing past that. Kissmate also notes that the spira is very much about math and measuring, which fits the logical Miki well. He notices that Anthy interfered in the outcome by cheering on Utena and wonders how many fights were won because of the Rose Bride.

Orange duel and I think Juri is fighting with the sword she loaned to Utena. I still think her fight song is about the duality of her self and love: the socially acceptable straight girl mask who is mourning her lost boyfriend versus the inner closeted queer who longs to tell her old girlfriend how she felt. "And inside I'm hollow" is a hell of a line in this context. Ouch. Then we're at the yellow duel and Nanami's song. (It's nice to have all the duel songs in one episode for convenience!)

I was just about to say that if there are two green duels then there ought to be two red ones and lo and behold there are: the duel Utena lost to Touga was Conviction. It's interesting that her loss of the duel Conviction actually resulted in her losing her conviction in real life; either this is more metaphor (which I love) or the magic of Ohtori academy is making the duel outcomes have real-life consequences. I suspect metaphor, but now I want to crawl down the rabbit hole of examining whether the losing duelists lost anything real in the wake of their duels with Utena: has Touga lost his self? is Saionji bereft of friends and choice? (Well, he actually was expelled and is currently entirely alone, so...) Nanami doesn't seem to adore Touga any less (yet) and I don't think Miki or Juri have lost their reason and love, so those don't work.

[Kissmate has been wanting pink to be its own color and not just a mixture of red and white; if I were going that route here, I think I would give that to the Self duel and leave Conviction as red. Leaving that here because I'm not sure what else to do with it yet, except that the rose Akio holds up now to Dios as he speaks of Utena is... pink.]

Anthy comes back to the room and Utena asks where she's been; it seems Anthy was with Akio. We get a series of quick glances at several apparently unrelated objects: a red glass box with blue water and a black rose inside, a framed green butterfly, a blue-and-purple rose window, the Shadow Girl's UFO vehicle, a black rose ring, and dozens of boy students turned to stare at the viewer. The end! [Kissmate's theory: a red box of power containing blue science and the black rose is... an adversary? an anti-prince? The green butterfly is framed in a case... locked away, not by choice. The blue window with the black/purple roses is a callback to the black rose in the case. The black rose stands on logic and reason and science, even when it's locked away by the red power.]


Post a Comment