Utena: Paths to Adulthood

[Utena Content Note: 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 18: "Mitsuri's Impatience"

We start in a council scene where rain drenches the balcony and the members wonder if they've been abandoned. The enormous stained glass rose on the wall has changed colors: everything is darker and the yellows have turned to green. The mood is gloomy and doubtful. Nanami doesn't understand who the End of the World is and why he has any say in how the school is run. For the second time, Nanami asks a blushing council member whether the en-swordening hurt and they decline to answer; the question always reminds me of a virgin asking someone whether their first time hurt.

Tsuwabuki runs up to the tower in an orange raincoat (love) to inform Nanami that Phys Ed class will be in the gym because of all the rain. Juri says only council members are allowed up here and Nanami tells him it's "adult talk", implying he's just a child. Later, Utena observes how much Tsuwabuki does and hopes Nanami appreciates him; a miserable Tsuwabuki clutches at his knees while a tiny not-Shiori girl (Mari) scolds him and tells him he can't make a girl like him just by being nice. (He's a Nice Guy! I keep saying!) Tsuwabuki insists he's just happy to be near Nanami.

Nanami sees him talking to the girl and quizzes him on whether he has any friends or girlfriends. I can't quite tell if she's jealous of sharing his attention (Kozue towards Miki) or if she's trying to get him to socialize (like Utena with Anthy). Maybe even she isn't sure. In the elementary dorms, Mari warns him that Nanami will use him up and leave him no matter how much he does; the camera pans over her yellow slippers of adoration--she has a crush on Tsuwabuki. When Mari blushes over a banana joke and Tsuwabuki doesn't understand why, she dismisses him saying he'll understand when he's older.

Tsuwabuki makes Nanami a pretty lunch but she turns him away because Mikage has come to ask her to join his seminar. This the first we've seen proof that Mikage is directly approaching and grooming the duelists. Mikage tells Tsuwabuki he can visit the seminar if he wants and there's a poignant pause while Tsuwabuki compares himself to the grown man. Mikage leads Nanami off with an arm around her and she tells him not to mind Tsuwabuki since he's "just a child".

In the library, Tsuwabuki reads a stack of books by green light (doubt? confusion?) and asks Utena what it means to *be* an adult. Unsure, Utena replies that being an adult requires experience in "certain things". The three boybimbettes blush bright red, blue, and yellow in the background. Tsuwabuki asks if he'll be an adult if he gets experience in certain things. [Kissmate: "The cushion of his chair is red. He's trying to find his Self, but it's behind him where he can't reach it."] He asks Utena if she's done adult things and Utena stammers to answer until Anthy cheerfully agrees there's "a lot of adult things about us." This is especially hilarious to me given that we know Anthy and Akio are having sex; Anthy is trolling Utena?

Utena visits Akio and confesses she's unsure whether she's a child or an adult; is it weird that she dreams of her Prince? Akio muses that stars lose their brilliance with each year and people are the same. In the basement, Mikage asks Mamiya why he never goes out and they discuss Nanami and Tsuwabuki. Mikage confirms that he's manipulating Tsuwabuki in order to make him receptive to their black rose tactics. Mamiya says he's a terrible man but Mikage believes there's no other way.

In a blue theater, Tsuwabuki watches chaste love scenes between various couples, still trying to learn what makes an adult. Mari tells him he needs actual experience, not just observation, and slaps him when he puts his hand over hers and puckers up to kiss her. He goes back to his room and stews while we see the yellow lunch box in a blue trash can: he threw his admiration away because it was the most logical step? He considers Utena with yellow roses (he admires her as a prince he wants to be like?) and Anthy with pink roses (he sees Anthy as Utena's princess?). He still hesitates at the indirect kiss of the chocolate bar before throwing it in the trash too.

Nanami visits him and he cries at the fact that he isn't as old as her; he wants to be an adult now! Nanami softens and pets his hair, telling him he doesn't have to be an adult, that he's fine the way he is now. [Kissmate: "The wall is physically obscuring him from the shot. She's literally talking to a wall as far as we can see." Me: "He's not listening to her."] In the basement, the black rose is plucked--absorbing darkness even as we see Tsuwabuki in shadow.

Interview time. Tsuwabuki talks about how he's always looked up to Nanami as he holds a picture in which he would need to literally look up to see her--so great are their height differences. He used to be happy around her, but it's not enough for him anymore. He wants to be an adult and wreck the world for laughing at him. [Kissmate: "Yeah, that's puberty for you."] Back in the theater, Nanami enters and asks why Tsuwabuki called her here. He tells her to sit down and places a rose crest-d hand over hers. She reels back and screams as her two weapons erupt from her heart. These sequences have always been very rape metaphor but this one dialed up to eleven. Nanami falls to the ground and Tsuwabuki announces "and with this, I will be an adult." He's taking his adultness by force.

Utena finds the challenge note in a pink umbrella and the Shadow Girls dance on. A girl "did it" for the first time and her parents relentlessly quiz her on this new choice to step into a adulthood, before the reveal that she's talking about blood donation and not sex. "You can give blood when you're 16," Utena announces. "Proof of adulthood!"

Arena! The desks hold little Animal Crossing gyroids clutching chocolate bars. Kissmate notes that the gyroids were actually based on haniwa figures and are ritual guardians of grave sites. Tsuwabuki is wearing green, which seems like a strange choice for someone with no friends. Either this is his choice (more so than the other Black Rose duelists?) or this is meant to symbolize just how confused he is about the nature of adulthood. Tsuwabuki goes straight for Utena before a song can start or the Dios sword can be pulled and Kissmate excitedly notes that he's fighting like Nanami did: going ruthlessly for the win with a total disregard for the traditional rules.

After about twenty minutes of feverish discussion with Kissmate, I think the things on the desk symbolize the person the swords came from. Kozue's trial had the M mugs for Miki; that one feels easy. Shiori had the birds on her desk. I still feel like the bird has to be Juri; in the first scene with the bird it mirrored her movements (rushing inside only to hit a barrier) and in the second scene it appears in Shiori's room when a piece of Juri (the locket) is present. That would mean that the haniwa are Nanami. Haniwa are traditionally armed with weapons, but these have a childish chocolate bar. They look adult but are fundamentally childish, just like Nanami--who tries so hard to be an adult, but keeps asking things like "did it hurt?" when hearing about traumatic "adult" experiences. Kanae is the tricky one because the flowers work equally well as (a) just a memorial for the duelists, (b) Kanae ("fragrant seedling"), and (c) Anthy ("flower").

We unpause and immediately Kissmate asks where his rose is; there's no rose on his chest! I'm not sure if this is an art goof or on purpose, because he has one after the Dios sword is drawn. His song is about sighs and a lack of energy in all things, making me think of depression and the earlier rain. He's stuck feeling like there's nothing he can do to become an adult faster. He tells Utena he *will* be an adult, and that "a child must defeat an adult to become one himself!" Dios descends and Utena strikes Tsuwabuki's larger sword away, sending it cutting through a haniwa to be caught by a smaller haniwa inside. [Me: "Is *that* Tsuwabuki?" Kissmate: "Either way, that guardian statue protected a memorial desk from being cut."]


Me: "What do we make of the bells? There's a lot of musical stings-"

Kissmate: "Wedding bells. An engagement occurs when the duel is won."

Me: "Okay, yeah, an engagement has been arranged between Anthy and someone else, even if it's usually Utena. But what about when the Dios sword is drawn at the beginning each time?"

Kissmate: "An engagement of battle."

Me: "Oh my GOD."


Tsuwabuki falls when the black rose is destroyed, curling up in the semblance of a child's nap. The ejected duelist is shorter than the others and his schoolbag is tucked away at his head, showing us how young he was. Tsuwabuki runs up to Nanami and she looks at him with a yellow rose frame, appreciating him (for the first time?). She blushes and looks away, and I'm reminded of the fact that the victims remember what happened to them even if the black rose duelists don't. Mari runs by and Tsuwabuki follows at her call, pausing to give Nanami a polite goodbye. [Kissmate: "He's literally moving on from her." Me: "Which honestly *is* a valid path to adulthood: moving on from childish crushes."]


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