Utena: Every Girl a Princess...or Witch

[Utena Content Note: Abuse, Sexual Assault, Stalking, Self-Harm]

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 37: "The One Who Brings The World Revolution"

We open with Utena looking at Anthy in the morning sunlight. Slowly, she takes her ring off and lets it drop. At breakfast, Akio notices that Utena's ring is gone. Utena asks him if he can meet with her after school. She seems chipper than usual.

At the council balcony, Saionji and Touga are on a bicycle together like they were as children. They've received farewell letters from the End of the World. Touga points out that Utena doesn't want to revolutionize the world and Saionji asks if that means Dios' power will remain sealed and the revolution won't happen.

Utena thanks Akio for their date and he asks why she's not wearing her ring anymore. She says she doesn't believe it suits her. Does she feel like she's lost her nobility, especially now that she knows about Anthy and Akio? She isn't angry enough to lash out at him, she just seems defeated--like she's accepted that they've dirtied her somehow by association. Akio pushes her chair down and covers her, offering her a ring that would suit her "new look" better. Looking up at the stars, she sees the big dipper and says Akio hasn't mentioned the stars tonight. He tells her that stars don't actually interest him.

Going upstairs, the girls stand on opposite sides of the wall with a galaxy between them. Utena asks Anthy if she's mad, and Anthy asks "about what?" Utena asks about what Akio said--that she seemed "very girlish" tonight. Anthy says that in the end all girls are like the Rose Bride. She takes Utena's hand with hers and tells her that if she goes to the castle, she'll find her prince.

Saionji and Touga pose on the hood of the adult car and ask Akio's plans for Utena. Touga says Utena won't pass through the Rose Gate, since she has no reason to. She never wanted to bring about world revolution, and now she's chosen a real man over her fantasy prince. Akio says she has to make a choice.

Utena plays basketball and thinks about Anthy telling her Akio loves her, and that she wishes they could all stay "like this forever". Utena ripped the letter up in a fit of passion before going to her game. After the game, Juri and Miki approach her. They tell her she's been chosen to bring about the world revolution. Utena says she's only been "playing Prince", but Juri points out that none of them could beat her. The two girls talk about Juri's love for Shiori, and she asks what Utena plans to do with Anthy. (Ha, now it's Juri's turn to ask the hurtful innocent question.) Utena admits that she loves Anthy but stammers that it's not the same.

Nanami catches the shuttlecock they've been batting around. She's wearing her girls' uniform, not her duelist outfit, and demands to know if Utena is really so stupid that she hasn't figured out she's being tricked. (We stan a legend.) Nanami tells her that she should stay away from Akio and Anthy for her own good. They both admit they're stubborn blood type-Bs, and Nanami smiles. Utena's been feeling so isolated and dirty, but now Juri and Miki talk about how much they admire her while Kozue and Shiori look on from the sidelines and smile. The friends laugh and it's just so needed and wholesome after all the awful Akio machinations.

Shadow Girls! They want to break up the drama club. One of them plans become an actress, but she's afraid to try out for the part. Luckily, she's dating the judge of the audition--he reminds her that only one girl can get the part. Utena has been playing prince, she's tried playing princess, and now she's been chosen to be the World Revolutionizer. But what does any of that mean and what does it mean to be chosen when the judge is choosing people based on his own selfish unknown criteria?

Moreover, let's talk about the Rose Bride. She's the witch the world hates because she keeps the prince from going out and saving all the princesses, yes, but what makes a witch or a princess? The Shadow Girls said all girls were princesses, and now in this episode Anthy has said all girls are witches. We've seen Akio define princess-ness as innocence, naivety, purity, and even youth. The witch, as her opposite, as Anthy, is what Utena saw last night: age, cynicism, and experience. Girls who live long enough survive to become witches. [Kissmate: "You die the hero or live long enough to become the villain."] The world turns on them, making them social outcasts for the crime of disrupting the Prince's life. How many times have we seen Anthy slapped by others for upsetting Saionji, Miki, and Touga? If Anthy hadn't been there to take the blame, someone else would've: like the many girls Touga has thrown aside, or like Nanami when he turned on her.

Akio's car rides without the sexy music this time. Anthy sits beside him in her Rose Bride gown, hair streaming behind her as she gasps. We see the swords piercing her. He asks if it hurts her, but says that it's not him causing the pain; it's the world. Can I just say as someone who lives with chronic pain, this is a very familiar conversation? He's not giving her empathy or sympathy or any meaningful aid; he just wants to blame someone or something that isn't him. And he *is* responsible for her pain, both in the sense of the fairytale (he could've just not gone out to the mob, or confronted them) and in the sense of his machinations at Ohtori with Utena and the other children. Kissmate notes that there's no sexy music here because this isn't sex, it's pain; adulthood is pain, most of all for Anthy.

Utena asks Anthy what she plans to do in the future after the year is over and they all graduate. Anthy says she's happy as long as she can raise her roses, then asks Utena if she knows what cantarella is--it's the poison the Borgias are supposed to have used. She acts like she put poison in the cookie, and Utena pauses before remarking that *she* poisoned Anthy's tea. They both eat and drink, then admit that it's delicious. The red rose swirls over them and I think they're talking about themselves: that each feels toxic for the other, but when they try to be friends it somehow works out as wholesome.

Anthy asks where Utena will be in ten years, and Utena says she hopes they can drink tea together like they are now. They promise to do this and hold hands as the red rose spins again. [Kissmate: "Are they lying to themselves?" Me: "The only other thing I can think is that there's some manipulation going on here, perhaps in the sense of each of them talking around the truth and not sharing what's really on their minds."] We slam to a rooftop overlooking the city where Anthy stands on a ledge. [Me: "She was promising to meet with her in ten years while planning her own death." Kissmate: "So, yup, dancing around the subjects they need to be talking about."] She begs Utena to forgive her and falls, but Utena grabs her and holds on.

Utena meets Touga and Saionji under an orange sky, she says she's going to revolutionize the world. Touga asks if she really wants to see her prince that badly, but she says no; Touga realizes she's doing it for Anthy. He says that whoever believes in true friendship is a fool and Utena laughs. "I am a fool." [Kissmate: "Does he even really still believe that? Saionji has stuck with him through all of this. What the fuck are you guys if you're not friends, Touga?"]

We get to hear Anthy read the letter Utena tore us earlier. "The time has come. When you pass through the Rose Gate, the path to the castle will open. There, you will gain the power to bring the world revolution. And there we will meet once more. Signed, Your Prince." Utena walks up to her and Anthy says she can still turn back, but Utena holds up her rose crest ring on her finger and tells her "let's go".

P.S. We had a conversation over dinner on Anthy's "suicide" scene and what her motives were there, given that she can't die. Either this was all to manipulate Utena in order to get her to accept the letter from the End of the World, or she wanted Utena to see her "die" so she would graduate and move on without her rather than choosing to stay and fight for her. I don't know which way Anthy was motivated and I think the fact we can't know is... almost a poetic reflection on love. Part of love is the fact that you can't really know if this person loves you or if it's all a long-con to hurt you. The Tougas of the world think trust is foolish, while the Utenas embrace being a fool.

Kissmate also notes that Utena told Anthy after the last duel that, essentially, Anthy isn't in danger anymore. That, as much as anything else, could've been why Utena felt comfortable putting down the ring and the role of the prince: Anthy doesn't need her anymore. This scene could have been Anthy's way of pointing out to Utena that she still needs protection even if Utena can't see the danger: the world needs revolution because it's hurting her friend to the point of suicide.


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