Utena: Drama Club

[Utena Content Note: Abuse, Sexual Assault, Stalking]

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 34: "The Rose Crest"

Akio tells Anthy as she dresses that he discovered a comet but that he doesn't plan to tell anyone else about it. He won't even name it. [Kissmate: "Didn't he promise to name one after Kanae?"] He says the feeling of discovery is amazing, like he owns it, but that stars belong to no one. [Kissmate: "He's Lucifer, the morning star, so that means *he* belongs to no one and everyone."] Anthy tells him goodnight and he asks if she has to keep torturing him. [Kissmate: "We're only getting slices here because there's things we don't know."] Utena, in bed, promises herself again she's going to become a prince.

The Shadow Girls, in the flesh!, try to convince Utena to join the drama club, promising that all she has to do is show up and people will throw flowers at her. (What was it Akio said about Big Brothers and Princes? They're useless with nothing to do but people feel better when they look at them.) They leave behind a ticket for Utena to attend The Tale of the Rose. Wakaba tells Utena to mark the pictures she likes for the yearbook photos, and Utena points out that Anthy isn't in any of the pictures. Seeing the ticket, Wakaba asks when the school got a drama club.

Utena takes Anthy back to the tower for a sudden keepsake photo of herself and Anthy together. When Akio steps into the photo and tries to put his arm around Utena's shoulder, Anthy uses Chu-Chu as an excuse to get between them. [Kissmate: "Anthy is showing her true colors and- oh my god, Nanami was right."] Akio notes that Utena treasures memories and that her rose ring has memories. Utena invites them to the play that evening. Akio says he likes plays because they're like life: you're either an actor or a spectator. [Kissmate: "That's wrong and I like that they showed Anthy while he said that. There's a third option: the backstage personnel who wear the black shirts and make the magic happen, organize everything, tell the actors when they're up. That's what Anthy does."]

Shadow Girls! This story takes place when all the girls of the world were princesses. The world hadn't fallen into darkness yet because there was a Rose Prince. (The camera zooms in on Utena.) Problems arise for the 'princess' on stage and the Rose Prince arrives each time to save her. All the girls of the world were princesses *because* of the Prince's protection. But a witch dwelt in a castle in the sky, planning to steal the light of the world. Don't you know what the light is? Something eternal (Saionji), that which shines (Miki), the power of miracles (Juri), the power to bring the world revolution (Touga). (No Nanami?) The Prince flew to the castle to defeat the witch, but it was a trap to seal him in the castle. The Prince is the light.

Who is the witch? The Prince's little sister. He is the Rose Prince (a spotlight bathes Akio in light) who makes all girls princesses "but all I am is your little sister" (the spotlight bathes Anthy). She's the only one he can't make a princess. A girl who cannot become a princess is doomed to become a witch. The witch imprisoned the prince and the world was bathed in darkness. She walks the world searching for noble souls to prevent the freeing of the prince. [Kissmate: "...If Anthy is supposed to be a witch, that's why she acts so submissive. She gives other people power to see how they use that power. Saionji and Nanami treated her poorly, and even Miki had ulterior motives- he wanted her to be a certain way. Utena was the only one who wanted her to live how she wants, do what she wants."]

Touga and Saionji spar in the kendo room, with Touga mentioning he has a match upcoming. The fact that Utena continues to win with her own sword, without the sword of Dios, is concerning "someone". Touga says she's no ordinary girl because, as a child, she was shown something eternal. Shadow Girls bathe together while they reminisce about the play. If there's a meaning to this one, I can't fathom it; I think it's just them being themselves.

Akio and Utena relax on the sofa while Anthy withdraws in the rose elevator. Akio tells Utena it must he difficult being friends with her for so long. Utena disagrees, saying that having Anthy as a friend has been good for her. Akio asks what a friend is to Utena and she says it's someone important to her. He asks if that makes him a friend, and takes her hand with the rose crest ring. He says she never takes it off, not even the night they spent at the hotel; she says the prince gave it to her. He tries to kiss her but Utena pulls away, saying the ring reminds her never to lose her nobility.

Utena can't remember much from when her parents died. We see her lying in roses after Touga and Saionji left. Dios approaches her and she asks if he's the angel of death. She tells him he's pretty and he walks away with her following, under a white rose. [Kissmate: "That's not the usual stylized rose, that's an actual rose. The real thing."] He walks under a white haze tinged with purple (or pink? hard to say) while Utena is bathed in yellow admiration.

They stop at a precipice and see what Kissmate describes as a broken rose mosaic in which a body dangles in agony like a pinned bug, with the veins of the rose petals stabbing through the person. Utena asks who that is and he tells her it's a witch, the Rose Bride. (He's changed in size and age, closer to her now than he was a moment ago.) [Kissmate: "Show me something eternal. Okay, here's the Rose Bride!"] The Prince says that those who can die are lucky, but that the witch cannot die so she lives on in agony. It is her punishment for taking the prince away from the girls of the world. "Anthy."

[Kissmate: "Can I just say that her being a witch totally makes her hair work? There is no way all that long hair rolls up into those little curls." Me: "You thought Kanae was crazy when she called Anthy a witch..." Kissmate: "OH MY GOD, I forgot she said that, I didn't- she was ranting, we weren't supposed to- oh my god. She's a witch and Akio is the prince of the school."]

We flash to a medieval hayloft in a log cabin, while a fax machine spools paper in the corner. A princely figure rests on the hay while a girl in red kneels beside him. Outside, a mob gathers and begs the prince to fight for them. Their daughters are waiting and need saving. Anthy pleads with him not to go, he's wounded, but he says they're calling for help and he needs to go. Anthy lays him back on the hay and says if he fights, he'll die. She goes out to the others and tells them Dios is no longer there. He belongs to her and she's sealed him away where they can never touch him again. The furious mob stabs her with hundreds of blades. [Kissmate: "Oh! This is the stabbed-apple-with-forks."]

[Kissmate suggests the strange anachronisms in the scene--the suits and ties, the fax machine, etc.--indicate that this tale is timeless and happens again and again. It doesn't matter what the people wear, because it's the same outcome each time.]

The Prince tells Utena that Anthy sacrificed herself to save the prince even though she was the only one who truly loved him. He couldn't keep up with saving every princess from every problem, so the witch told everyone he wasn't available anymore. Utena jumps the precipice and runs to Anthy as the prince tells her that the prince she loved isn't the same person she once knew. He is now End of the World and all she has left is her suffering. Utena reaches for her only to be shocked bodily back. "Help her, please!" she cries. He kisses her tears and tells her she's beyond his help. The only one who can help her is a prince she believes in. "But you're a prince, right?" Utena asks.

[Kissmate: "Miki has idealized versions of Anthy and Kozue, right? Anthy has an idealized prince. Akio isn't the same guy anymore, he's fundamentally changed, but she still believes he'll come back to being good again. Now he's telling Utena that he can't be Anthy's ideal anymore. But... if Utena could be her prince then she could help Anthy?"]

The Prince thanks Utena for crying over Anthy and walks away. Utena calls after him that *she'll* become a prince, if that's what Anthy needs. "I'll become her prince and save her!" The Prince tells her that if she never loses her nobility then she may be able to save her from her eternal torment. He then places a ring on her finger and says she'll forget about what she's seen. [Kissmate: "I love that the eternal thing he showed her was... suffering. Not memories or love." Me: "Although, for someone motivated by protectiveness--like her hair suggests--seeing eternal suffering *is* very motivating."]

So I want to pause here to highlight the differences between the truth and the fairy tale opening we've seen. About the only thing that was true is that he kissed away her tears. In the opening, he says if she keeps her nobility, she'll see him again; here he tells her she might have a chance at saving Anthy from eternal torment. Those are very different stakes! Also: She didn't decide to become a prince because she was impressed by him; she decided to become a prince because he flatly said he can't be one anymore but that someone needs to. It's not just that the truth is "darker", it's that the focus of Utena's attention is completely different: Anthy, not the Prince.

The Prince questions whether she'll be able to stick with this, as she's a girl and soon to become a woman. Utena glares and announces she'll become a prince. He says if she does, the ring will lead her back here. Anthy gives her a single long look before they fade away. Utena wakes in bed with Anthy and says she can't remember what she dreamed. Anthy asks her (wonderingly?) who she is, I think in that sort of love-struck "how did you come into my life" kind of way? I'm just happy because Anthy must know that Akio struck out, since Utena came right back down and didn't stay on the Couch of Regret with him.


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