Utena: Every Boy a Prince

[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 36: "And Thus Opens The Doorway Of Night "

We recap the Saionji and Touga conversation from last time and how they're all trapped in their coffins. I'm a little sad that Touga didn't tie this back into the baby bird's shell (that it dies in if it doesn't break) but here we are.

Utena and Akio are out riding again. Kissmate notes the body language: Utena is riding side-saddle in Akio's arms, sheltered like a princess but huddled in on herself. She looks smaller and more helpless. He's boxing her in. He says she looks like a princess and pulls her in for a kiss; this time she doesn't resist him the way she did before.

Juri and Miki watch Utena walking across campus and note how she looks like a girl now, the way she walks: small, hesitant steps instead of her usual confident stride. Miki asks if this is a good thing, and Juri asks if he really believes that. She thinks the school is changing and the day of revolution coming, but wonders why she has a vague awful feeling.

The Adult Car Music begins, but it's a motorcycle with Touga at the helm and Saionji riding in the side car. If Akio is the adult saying, hey, get into my car and I will teach you the ways of adulthood, my first thought is that Touga's and Saionji's little one-on-one sessions talking about coffins and Akio are them trying to get to adulthood their way, rather than following the guide. Or, I mean, this is another metaphor for sex. There's only so many ways I can interpret Touga suggesting that Saionji only doesn't like it because Touga is the one driving, and Saionji saying he doesn't like not being in control "or letting anyone get too deep into my heart!" Once again Saionji asks if he's just going to do what the End of the World wants.

Touga flashes to a moment with Akio where the man reminisces that Utena is beautiful now, an unmatched princess, because of her innocence and sweetness. That's an interesting criteria, given the existence of Anthy: a tortured woman who hasn't been innocent for an eternity's age and had all sweetness wrung out of her. But she acts innocent and sweet, the perfect image of what Akio thinks a princess should be. He wants Utena to become what Anthy's been pretending to be, and all that stuff about him admiring her strength, nobility, and dressing like a boy? That was all just a lie.

He tells Saionji that he hears him, and that they're going to rise from their coffins: "the coffins End of the World has prepared for us!" They're planning to stage a little revolution of their own? I'm impressed that they've figured out Akio is the one keeping them in stasis at Ohtori, and that his little car game is just one more way to control them.

Utena wakes to find Chu-Chu with her and Anthy gone; she asks the little creature if he's always left alone when Anthy goes to visit her brother. Touga rings the doorbell and tells her they need to talk about the End of the World. They ride the gondola together and he tries to hit on her--he's still trying to shove her into the princess role, just for his ends instead of for Akio's. They look up at the night stars and the castle slowly appears, along with a borealis. Touga tells her she's lovely and asks if she loves Akio. Utena hesitates and says he's engaged, then demands to hear about the End of the World. Touga refuses to tell her yet and asks if he could be her prince, saying he loves her.

I do think Touga isn't in love with Utena so much as he is with the idea of being a better person, and he thinks she'll make him that person. I think this touches on the flip side of the Prince and Princess. If the prince makes every girl a princess, then it stands to reason that a princess can make every boy a prince. Touga is falling into that toxic masculinity trap of believing that being a good person isn't about doing the right thing, but rather about finding an innocent pure woman who makes you be a better man for her. In reality, this only ends up hurting everyone involved: the boy isn't magically cured of whatever ails him, and the girl is blamed for not being pure enough when the boy fails.

The next morning, Utena recalls that she once thought Touga was her prince. At the council meeting grounds, pink roses sit by Saionji while white roses are beside Touga. He insists that he cares about Utena, and we focus on green roses of confusion as Saionji asks, well, now what. Touga announces that he will fight her again (red roses, self) and must win (blue, logic), because it's the only way he can save her (orange, a miracle). Saionji points out that if Utena wins the next duel, she gains the power to revolutionize the world--but if she does that, she'll fall into the End of the World's hands (a single white rose remains).

Anthy and Utena sit together while Saionji and Touga muscle their way into their physical space, Saionji laying his head on Anthy's lap while Touga pushes Utena against a tree. Touga insists Utena needs to duel him again in order to protect the Rose Bride. Like Juri and Ruka before, Touga proposes a winner-take-all match: if Utena wins, the council will never again try to take Anthy, but if Touga wins then Utena will become "his woman". Utena angrily says she misjudged him, never thinking he'd say something like that.

Shadow Girls! A princess falls for the white horse of the prince, rather than the prince himself. People are falling for the trappings of the prince, for their idealized image, rather than the person himself. People fall for Akio because he's beautiful, because of his horse, his manners, his act, but his actual personality is shitty. Even if we just look at only what Utena knows, he's sleeping with a high school girl--someone under his roof and protection, no less--while engaged to another woman.

Our last (I think) zettai. Anthy's disappearing act in the gondola feels so different once you know she's not really there at all: she's stabbed with swords somewhere in a magical basement, and this is just a projection. And, of course, it's how she was able to play Mamiya for Mikage during the Black Rose saga. Anthy can be anywhere she needs to be.

Touga and Saionji meet Utena at the top of the arena and announce this is for the world revolution; Utena angrily shuts them down and says she only cares about protecting Anthy. Saionji embraces Touga from behind and pulls their sword out of his heart. Utena goes on the attack while Saionji rides by in the car and doesn't look at the fighters--he can't bear to look at the outcome. Either Touga wins and gets Utena, or Touga loses and the world doesn't revolutionize the way Saionji wants; either way, he loses. (And yet he came here anyway to help Touga.)

[We pause here for Kissmate to realize that all the weird magical elements in this series--like the animals going after Nanami or the body-changing--really did happen and weren't weird filler episodes. Anthy is an actual magical witch.]

Utena calls Touga out for last night and he tells her personal feelings are forbidden in combat before pulling her close and promising to protect her. She wonders how many times they've dueled here. The cars begin to whiz through the arena, forcing Utena to leap around them while Touga holds still. We can't decide if it's a metaphor for personal feelings (Utena is dancing around them while Touga holds his ground) or whether this is Anthy's magic ("She doesn't want him anywhere near her Utena!"). Anthy calls out to Utena and they do their leap-onto-the-shoulder power-up as Anthy remembers Utena swearing to: "Trust me. I swear I'll protect you."

Utena slices an entire car open, then SLICES ALL THE CARS OPEN, suggesting she's defeating her emotional confusion. And she's holding Anthy the entire time while she's doing this. We stan a legend. Saionji comes in from left field driving the motorcycle FROM THE SIDE CAR while Touga stands on the seat with sword drawn. We're laughing and crying, oh my god. The white rose spins and Touga and Saionji lie beaten on the ground. Utena, in her hurtful innocence, says "Let's go. Akio is waiting." Touga tells her to wait. She's the one to bring about the world revolution but she shouldn't let her guard down around the End of the World or the Rose Bride. Saionji asks if it's "over for us" and Touga says no, not until the end.

Before we leave the arena, the duel song: "Dream of the end of the world, selfishly enjoy yourself." The song is about various ends of the world, whether in the "everyone dies" sense or in the "nothing will ever be the same again" sense. I think this is a big clue that Akio's name "End of the World" doesn't mean everyone dies but can mean the end of what you know or thought was true. The "end" of the world can also be a beginning of a new one. It's also worth noting that the cars didn't point up so Dios could come down; they pointed at the duelists before trying to run them over.

In bed, Anthy tells Utena to rests. Utena is tired, but says that no one will come after Anthy anymore. Utena murmurs Akio's name in her sleep, causing Anthy to feel the swords anew. She wakes to find Anthy gone and we see her naked on the couch, her expression empty and sorrowful. Utena visits the tower top looking for Anthy and sees her naked, standing before Akio. She looks up to Utena and their eyes meet. (It's subtle, but I love how they've managed to make Anthy look so much older in this form.)


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