Utena: Hate and 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 17: "The Thorns of Death"

Juri looks longingly at her pendant while admiring orange roses and thinking of her lost love. We see her fencing before a gaggle of cheering girls, when suddenly the purple-haired girl walks into the room. Juri sees her and the girl smiles, causing Juri to walk suddenly away. Utena and Anthy look to the girl and she's framed in the orange roses of love. (I still believe Shiori's purple hair is because she hates herself; any hatred she has for Juri is, I think, because her self-esteem is so low that anyone who likes her *must* be fucked up in some way. But I could be projecting.)

Shiori talks about moving back to Ohtori Academy while sitting on a red suitcase: she brought her Self here, or she wants to manipulate someone. [Kissmate: "She's sitting on it, though. She's literally supported and held up by manipulation."] Shiori tells Anthy and Utena that she and Juri grew up together and Juri was her only friend, supporting her all the way. "She was the only person I could depend on with my whole heart. But now I don't deserve all that."

Back in the basement Mamiya pricks himself on an orange rose in the tank (orange!?) and Mikage kisses the blood from his finger. Mamiya says they need the thorns from a beautiful rose in order to defeat Utena; they're refining their approach.

Juri holds her heart before heading to a council meeting where they discuss what happened between Miki and Kozue. Nanami questions Miki before using his stopwatch. [Kissmate: "She's taking his role of measuring and questioning."] Juri looks out over the forest, ignoring the others. She rides the elevator down alone and runs into Shiori, who wants to talk to her. Children run by with a blue-logic ball and Juri follows them without a word, following the most logical path: to walk away from the woman who hurt her. (It's also the color most opposed to orange.)

Shiori follows Juri and spills her feelings: she and the boy have broken up but that doesn't change the fact Shiori stole him from Juri. If she sits on a throne of manipulation, and is a poison meant to de-thorn the rose, then this has to be deliberate; she's needling Juri. She's removing the protection (thorns) that Juri has built around her heart. Mikage is hoping Shiori will deepen the relationship and "power up" the resulting sword. Shiori talks about wanting to go back to the way things were.

Juri starts to stalk away but pauses when a bird smacks into the glass door. Just as the bird hits a physical barrier, Juri hits an emotional one. She says she has "no feelings for him at all. Not now or ever." Shiori demands to know whose picture rests in Juri's locket, but Juri walks away. Downstairs, Utena urges Juri to forgive Shiori and Juri softens, noting that Utena is "just like Shiori, so cruelly innocent." Utena innocently says things that hurt others where they're most vulnerable.

Utena vents to Akio and he calls her Ganymede, the boy of Aquarius. This makes me sit up and take notice because Ganymede was one of the pretty boys Zeus kidnapped. "Such innocence can hurt other people. Everyone has something they'd rather not let others touch." Juri showers in despair, clasping arms around her, while her clothes lie scattered haphazardly on the floor; in the basement, the orange rose begins to absorb the darkness and turn black.

Juri sits by the lake and throws her locket away, certain that her failure to throw it away before was her weakness. As soon as the locket is gone, Mamiya is able to pluck the now-black rose. Thorns protect a rose, but they also hurt. The locket she carried hurt her but it was also some form of protection. Shiori returns to her room to find orange roses in a vase of water, and the locket in the water. Okay, I was wrong. Shiori didn't come here knowing Juri loves her. She knows now and is going to go seek counseling over it. But then why was the suitcase red?

Right off the bat, even at the butterfly stage, Shiori confesses she hated Juri from childhood. (She hates Juri. She's spent her whole life hurting Juri. She just found out Juri loves her. Do you use that information to re-evaluate everything you think you know, or just use that information to hurt her?) She's jealous of Juri for being everything she's not, so she does still have self-hatred. [Kissmate: "She just found out that the guy she stole didn't hurt Juri the way she wanted. She hurt Juri in a *different* way."]

Shiori says Juri was always kind to her, but the kindness had to be mockery. She thought Juri's kindness came from pity. Juri's kindness made her feel pathetic, but her revenge--stealing the boy--only ended up making her feel more pathetic. [Kissmate: "The eyes are pure purple, but the hair is a reddish purple. Her hair is self-hatred, and her eyes are hatred for Juri." Me: "So she really does hate Juri *because* she hates herself."] Shiori gloats that by being in Juri's heart, she's beaten her in the Pathetic Olympics. She wants to enjoy the thought of a miserable Juri looking longingly at her, but the mental image just makes her panic--she hates herself too much to know how to cope with Juri's love.

Oh my heart, I know this too well. I've had this exact sort of panic before, when Kissmate tells me I'm wonderful and he loves me. I "know" he's wrong about me, so I'm frightened of the love he's offering because it's based on falsity. What if I start to like his love? What if I come to depend upon it? What happens when one day he wakes up and realizes the "truth" about how horrible and pathetic I am? Being offered love when you hate yourself can be so scary because you don't understand how that love can last when it seems like it *must* be a mistake. And you get this vicious cycle where Shiori hates Juri for liking Shiori because each act of kindness feels like a cruel act of pity or mockery or foolishness.

Shiori approaches Juri and offers her the locket. Juri reaches for it and Shiori hides it behind her back. Juri asks if she looked and Shiori says she would have given Juri a nicer picture if she'd only asked. Shiori strokes her chin and tells her how pretty Juri's eyes were when Shiori hurt her; she always thought Juri was so strong but love makes her seem weak. Juri seizes with pain and the lesbian sword erupts from her heart. [Kissmate: "She literally ripped her heart out."]

Utena finds another note in her locker and the Shadow Girls appear. One laments that her precious secret is known to the world and she's doomed, but the other says there's no one who would ever call it embarrassing. Nobody would consider it odd for Juri to care about her friend, but she's taken it well past "caring" and into "passionate love" which is another matter entirely. Utena's advice here, like with Miki and Kozue, is to basically walk away from the situation--easier said than done.

In the arena, the desks are festooned with the birds we've been seeing all episode. Shiori has gone completely over from self-hatred to total self-love, bragging about her brilliance. "The one who controls Juri is me!" She's drunk on being loved, but isn't giving that love back; it's just another way to manipulate and hurt Juri. Her duel song is about being opposed against oneself which feels true for all the black roses but *especially* Shiori: she's been her own worst enemy her entire life. Also, props to the reversal here because this is actually what I'm afraid I'd become if I let go of my self-hate: drunk on self-love, bereft of the important and necessary inhibitions which held me back from various bad choices.

When Dios descends (no Anthy-sword power-up this time?) all the birds look to him. Shiori screams and collapses as the birds fly away over Anthy's head. The boy in the coffin locker has a dead bird over his heart. Kissmate notes that the bird is a swallow, a symbol of fidelity. (That's an interesting choice given the cheating backstory.) Juri wakes to find her locket beside her. Utena observes that Shiori seems like a whole new person, finally joining in conversations with the other girls, but Anthy says she hasn't changed one bit. Juri and Shiori share a polite fiction as distant friends, and Juri wonders why she can't be strong enough to throw away the locket and her hopes.


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