Utena: Onion Prince

[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 19: "A Song for the Kingdom Now Lost"

Just to recap, season one had the following duel schedule: Saionji, Miki, Juri, Nanami, and Touga. So far in this season we've had Kanae (no relationship to Saionji that I can fathom), Kozue (Miki), Shiori (Juri), and Tsuwabuki (Nanami). If we follow the pattern, this could be a Touga episode--and we start with red roses. A man with a red cloak holds a girl dressed in yellow adoration. She looks like Wakaba and I'm confused because I thought her episode was the next one.

On their usual lunch-hill, Wakaba presents Utena with a beautiful lunch. Utena smiles and tells her she'll make a wonderful wife someday. A boy approaches to give Utena a love note and Wakaba snatches it from his hand before recognizing his name. White roses surround him as she calls him the Onion Prince. She's delighted to see him but when he looks at her she's framed in boring brown roses: the color of a commoner.

Wakaba and Utena walk home and Wakaba warns her that the boy is "cruel" because he transferred away without telling her. He was her prince as children, when she grabbed his hand and called him her "onion prince" after the other teased her and called her "onion head". The memory replays over and over again as it gets farther away; she's been reliving the memory even as she gets farther from it. Utena asks if fate brought them back together and a lightbulb comes on.

When Wakaba returns the love letter, Tatsuya complains that she called him that weird name, sullying the memory and demanding to be introduced to Utena properly. Wakaba agrees, though the task clearly pains her. At the council, Nanami asks Miki to play piano at her party. Juri notices that Miki always thinks about Anthy when he plays. Miki says he envies her for being able to have her desires met by a kid in elementary school. (WOW, MIKI.) Nanami turns on him and says she only loves Touga, presenting a picture of them together. Juri teases them that their lives would be so much simpler if they could just change the person they love, while Miki and Nanami give her a Look and she realizes what she just said and laughs.

Utena talks to Akio and Anthy about Tatsuya and Wakaba. Akio says a person's heart is veiled. You may think you can peer into it, but you can't really. The camera focuses on Anthy for this part, which is pretty interesting. [Kissmate: "We think we know what she wants, but we don't, do we? Utena doesn't. Does even her brother know what she wants? Oh god, if red is manipulation, is the Rose Bride manipulating everyone into doing this bullshit? Is she just playing a part as a weak little housewife?"] Akio says people often don't see the prince they have in their heart. ["This is a jab at how little Utena knows about Anthy."] He tells Anthy that he hopes she finds her own prince soon. [Kissmate: "This entire thing is a giant middle finger to Utena!" Me: "And he's saying none of the duelists have achieved Prince Status yet."]

At lunch, Wakaba begs Utena to meet Tatsuya for her. Wakaba scolds him for being lovey-dovey around girls and he demands to know why she keeps saying that about him; she's jealous of any attention he shows other girls. While they argue, Utena sips tea and looks like she'd rather be elsewhere. Utena tries to redirect Tatsuya's attention towards Wakaba, but ends up doing that thing where she innocently says the most hurtful thing possible. Wakaba tries to protest that her prince isn't Tatsuya, but she can't and she runs off.

I find this episode interesting because, for all that becoming The Prince is supposed to be a difficult task all the duelists are striving towards, Wakaba's prince never did anything to become one. She grabs his hand and declares he's her protector, and she feels safer with him there, but he's too confused to do anything more than say "huh?" at her. I feel like we're coming back to Akio's statement that princes and big brothers are like the moon: useless and doing nothing, but you feel better when you look at them. But then... what are the duelists trying to become and why have none of them succeeded?

Tatsuya tells Utena that Wakaba is happiest with her, so he wanted to be near Utena in order to be near Wakaba. [Me: "Wait, I don't believe him! Her roses were brown when he looked at her!" Kissmate: "So the bright red sky means he's manipulating Utena right now." Me: "OH MY GOD."]

Utena finds in her locker not a challenge note, but a hurt letter from Wakaba. The Shadow Girls come on to sell fresh tires to a housewife who is urged to make a nice dish of them for her husband. Utena asks if you can even eat those. Tatsuya is a con-man selling a story to an innocent (Utena) who isn't bright enough to realize the obvious sham. ("I definitely wrote you that love letter so I could get with your friend" is a difficult dish to swallow.) I remember that Wakaba did say he was a smooth-talker who always manages to talk girls into dating him. [Kissmate: "We don't see his eyes during his confession; he's hiding the window to his soul from us."]

Wakaba gazes at an orange and yellow sky of love and adoration. Tatsuya approaches her and says she likes someone and should tell her prince what she feels. He comes onto her, moving closer and closer. Wakaba agrees he's right and walks off to tell her prince, saying she knows Tatsuya will find someone too someday. Kissmate believes she's realizing she loves Utena and dear gods I would like that to be true, but I remember Saionji being part of this arc, and Wakaba's love letter in the first episode was to him. But I can't remember, and she *does* call Utena her prince and her love, so we live in hope.

[Me: "What's his endgame here? He can't date them both." Kissmate: "He's shooting fish in a barrel. Taking the consolation prize." Me: "He knows he's got no chance at Utena now, so he might as well take what's on offer."]

Tatsuya slouches off to the interview room. Everyone else had an appointment, but he has to ring the bell and call for help. Mikage didn't plan this one. Tatsuya says he's liked a girl for a long time, that she's like a princess to him but she left him to see another guy. He says he's sure the other guy is stringing her along, but that she'll come back to him in the end no matter how she's tarnished. "Love must win out in the end!" But the butterfly on the wall doesn't change, and this all feels like a lie. Maybe that's why the butterfly hasn't changed? He's sweating heavily, which is usually a sign of lying or madness.

The elevator shifts position and starts going back up. He's not going deeper, and Mikage doesn't even ask him to. This isn't his true state of mind, or... something's wrong, anyway. Mikage tells him that he's a truly good person and that's why his path isn't here. I know a lot of the fanbase takes this as the truth, but I can't help but feel Mikage is just telling him that to get rid of him.

[Me: "Oh. Oh. Oh. The swords are relationships." Kissmate: "...He has none."]

He's new to the school. Utena doesn't care about him. Wakaba only sees him as a distant memory, and even then didn't know him at all. She impulsively picked him to be her prince, but they don't have a real connection. Even his approach to relationships are based in shifting lies that mean no one can get to know him: First he loves Utena, then he loves Wakaba, then he spins a story about some guy abusing her. He's a compulsive liar, which doesn't mean he's without darkness (for the rose) but it *does* leave him without anyone ever getting close to him. He's a stranger to everyone he meets.

Also: I don't like taking the "good person" thing at face value because we've seen so many duel songs about how there's good *and* bad in everyone and everything. I don't find it plausible that we'd suddenly switch to black-and-white morality, especially with someone we *know* isn't good: he's spent the entire episode lying and manipulating people. I think it's far more plausible that he just has nothing they can use--hence his inability to go deeper. Oh god, HE HAS NO DEPTH.

Also-also: His hair is commoner-brown with a hint of green. We've been wondering what he's confused about. Now I think that he tells so many lies that even he doesn't know the truth about himself.

Wakaba runs to her dorm and says "I'm back". A body is framed by yellow adoration. Saionji turns and Kissmate literally screams in horror, so that happens.


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