Utena: Princess for a Day

[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 20: "Wakaba Flourishing"

School rumor has it that Saionji has been expelled, but they're not sure how or why. Wakaba hears the rumors but stays aloof from them, leaving school to shop for him. When she returns to her room, he is sitting on the floor waiting for her. He looks softer: casual clothes instead of the uniform, soft eyes, loose hair. He's wearing black as a social outcast and blue: he's staying with her out of logic (necessity) rather than love. The yellow sky behind him is her own adoration.

He apologizes for staying, calling her "as brave as Joan of Arc" for choosing to hide him and offering to leave before he causes her more trouble. Wakaba urges him to stay, saying they'll get him re-enrolled somehow. He's wearing the rose crest again, which is interesting given that it was missing during his last duel. There's a knock at the door and he scuttles away. [Kissmate: "Run, little cockroach, run!"]

In terms of scenery, a few things: He's hung up his dueling uniform, giving up the sport and the identity (at least for now). The walls are red and purple, the colors of manipulation and hatred. Kissmate thinks he's manipulating Wakaba in order to get closer to Utena, who he hates. I think he's manipulating Wakaba and hates himself for having to stoop so low; the only person willing to save him is the one he despised enough to humiliate (the posted love letter).

Wakaba opens the door and is sweating profusely: again, a sign of lying. Just saying. Saionji scuttles out from under the bed towards his yellow rucksack. [Kissmate: "He's carrying around his old admirations? Heh. Literal emotional baggage."] Despite everything that has happened, he has a good hair-toss and bishie-sparkle. Wakaba moves about campus, declining offers from girls to join in their sports and from boys to join in on social play. She tells herself that as long as she has this secret, she's special. A princess, a protagonist. Interesting that it's not Saionji himself who is the prize, but the secret. [Kissmate: "The sky is orange. She's hoping for a miracle."]

Saionji languishes in her room, a note nearby giving him money for lunch, while we see Wakaba thriving. Her confidence soars, she raises her hand in class, she wins at sports, she gives class presentations, she sings. Sun covers her. [Kissmate: "There's no darkness in her heart for the black rose."] She even gets her own bishie-sparkle! [Kissmate: "She's wearing a green headband, meaning he's always in her mind!"] Utena watches all this with curious pleasure. She asks if something good has happened to her lately but Wakaba laughingly dodges the question.

Utena meets with Akio again, but instead of the formal couches she's doing her stretches like she always does around her friend Wakaba. Akio is reclining on green; they both look relaxed with their growing friendship. Utena asks him why Wakaba seems different. He tells her that she wouldn't understand, that Utena was born for a special destiny and is a person who will always draw attention. We see the crown constellation, Cassiopeia, who was a vain queen renowned for her beauty. [SPOILERS] Cassiopeia drew the attention of a vain goddess and was destroyed for it. Wakaba will, if I recall correctly, soon be drawing the attention of Mikage as someone worth destroying in order to get to Utena.[/SPOILERS]

Akio says that most people feel like common NPCs but can sometimes shine when given the chance. We see Saionji having spent his lunch money on a carving kit, making a leaf hair ornament for Wakaba. Akio warns that the time during which a person can feel special doesn't last long. Wakaba cries as Saionji thanks her for her devotion and she says the leaf ornament is perfect.

Wakaba happily tells Saionji about the latest events at school and her falls when he asks how "Anthy" is doing. She holds a steak at the market and muses that when he leaves her, he won't think about her ever again. [Kissmate: "She feels like just another piece of meat."] Back in their room, Saionji paints the leaf with yellow admiration--not red manipulation or green friendship. Whatever else is happening, his appreciation has turned genuine.

Mikage appears in the room, apparently by magic. "No secret on campus, however small, escapes the notice of the Black Rose Circle." He's sitting on a red seat of power and the only color we can really see on him is red; everything else is muted. Manipulating Saionji, he taunts him for living off the good graces of a woman. Saionji tells him he plans to return to school and the council. Mikage asks him how, and offers to help when Saionji says he doesn't know. All he needs is one thing. "A trifle," and we see the leaf in Anthy's hair as she walks past Wakaba.

We're in the elevator, already at the caterpillar, while Wakaba cries that Anthy was all Saionji ever wanted--even having the sort of special face that steals everything away, like Akio said. Let's talk about the butterfly for a second. The first several interviewees started at butterfly and had to be coaxed to peel away layers. Then we got to Tatsuya who couldn't peel away layers because he had none. Now we have Wakaba, who almost always says what she's thinking and feeling--who wears her heart on her sleeve--starting deeper down than the others. She hasn't built up layers over her soul. I don't know if this is a good thing (she gets straight to the point) or a bad thing (she's still young and immature--or vulnerable?).

Wakaba feels that she'll always be just another face in a crowd. Kissmate notes that the leaf on her was unfinished and brown, common; the leaf on Anthy was refined and painted with yellow adoration. Wakaba thinks even the love she'll find in life will be common and shabby in comparison to what Anthy is gifted. Back in the room, Saionji marvels that Mikage helped him in exchange for such a little thing. He has no idea what he's thrown away. He's taken his uniform down and is wearing it again, ready to go. (I do think it's important that the leaf he painted for Wakaba was yellow and not orange; he respect and admires her but doesn't love her. This matters to me in light of Nanami; she admires her brother but doesn't feel passionate romantic love for him. Ditto her yellow roses for Tsuwabuki.)

"Going somewhere?" Wakaba asks. She asks about the leaf, and Saionji airily promises to buy and mail her a gift. She leaps for him and grabs the sword from his chest, physically wresting it out rather than waiting for it to erupt. Kissmate notes that this physical manifestation of their relationship isn't something he was willing to give; she has to take. Everyone else was willing to give something to their duelist--maybe not what they wanted, but yes, to give. Saionji has been almost innocently selfish in this scene, blissfully unaware of how much he's taken without giving in return.

Shadow Girls! Kissmate informs me that rain on a sunny day is a fox's wedding. A rabbit-girl says the fox-girls are lucky; they have to wait for it to snow on a sunny day. "What's wrong with being single?" Utena asks. [Kissmate: "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride."] Wakaba fears that, because she's common and not special, she'll never find true love. [Me: "Oh! You keep wondering if pink means the Princess: the flowers at the arena bottom are white and pink only. The prince and the princess?"]

The desks all hold leaf barrettes of different colors. [Kissmate: "There's a pink one!" Me: "That's red, isn't it? ...This show much be hell for color-blind people."] The closest leaf to Utena is orange (Wakaba's love) and the one closest to Anthy is purple (Wakaba's hate). Utena is frozen with shock and an anxious Anthy has to prompt her to take the sword. [Wakaba looks amazing in the uniform, and I have to pause and imagine a school where all the girls dress like this and Saionji and Touga wear the little skirts.]

Kissmate notes that Wakaba is holding the sword Saionji brought to his second duel. Her fighting style doesn't match his though. She lunges for Anthy, who looks genuinely scared, and Utena has to dive in front of her bride. Utena still refuses to take the Dios sword; she's not dueling, just trying to stop the fight. [Me: "This also shows that she's not thinking clearly, because the logical thing would be to cut the black rose and save her friend." Kissmate: "The silhouette shot of the lunge made the sword seem to pierce Utena's head: Wakaba's gotten inside her head so she can't think straight."]

The song talks about a man going back to his old familiar sword but his arms feel pity and he can't land a blow. Utena can't do this; she knows how to draw the Dios sword and fight, but her arms won't cooperate. Wakaba berates her for being born special, her hate now extended to include both Anthy and Utena. This is like Shiori again, but instead of hating herself for not measuring up to Juri, Wakaba hates Utena for outshining her.

Utena holds Wakaba close and tells her she's one of her closest friends and she'll save her. She dances with her and grabs the Saionji sword, using it to cut the rose. I'm sobbing because Utena didn't use her relationship with Anthy to beat Wakaba, she used her relationship with Wakaba to beat her--almost the same way Touga did, but without the manipulation. Even in that cut, Utena holds onto Wakaba so she doesn't fall.

In the basement, Mikage drops an *orange* leaf into another morgue locker and a brown haired boy is consigned to the flames. Saionji returns to school, waving and smiling to the cheering girls, but his eyes are always closed to us. Wakaba returns to an empty room and softly announces she's back.


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