Utena: Not Like Other Girls

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

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 31: "Her Tragedy"

We open with the beginning of how Utena met her prince, which I find very important in light of the previous episode and Kissmate's theory of why Utena is falling for Akio. In the Kiryuu residence, Nanami answers the phone and says Touga isn't there right now. She smirks when the girl on the other line hangs up, and muses how she's not like other girls: Touga is her brother and she's not just another disposable love interest. Girls on the wall play childish games, illustrating that Nanami is just playing her own childish game.

In the rose garden (an odd place to find him--is he going to be the Rose Bride for this arc?) Touga reassures a girl on the phone that she's the only one for him while he embraces another girl. [Kissmate: "Oh god, he's tending to all the roses."] Nanami watches from the outside looking in. That evening, she is confused by an article about blood type compatibilities, since she and Touga get along so well despite having incompatible blood, but he cuts her off saying he's not interested. He says he's going to take a shower and asks if she'd like to join him. There is a very pregnant pause while Nanami blushes.

Framed by green confusion, Nanami thinks about how she and Touga used to do everything together but now he doesn't care about her at all. She sneaks downstairs to watch him through the shower curtain while a red rose (self? manipulation?) circles. She takes his phone and sneaks back out again, but he hears the door. The next day, Nanami fields phone calls for him, "breaking up" with the women who call begging for his attention. She confronts Utena and Anthy on the stairs and yells that it's their fault Touga doesn't have time for her. Anthy is eating a banana which is pretty tame for symbolism in this show; what is really fascinating to me is that the three bimbette boys are all carrying busts of what appear to be Marc Anthony up the stairs between Nanami and Utena. [Kissmate points out that Cleopatra was married to her brother, but otherwise we have no idea what to do with him here.]

Nanami grabs the busts to throw them only to slip on a banana peel. Akio swoops in to catch her and takes her back to his tower to do his foot-bandaging act. He and Anthy play at feeding each other shaved ice because they're soooo close as brother and sister while Nanami stews in jealousy. [Kissmate: "The shaved ice she was feeding him was blue. His tongue was blue. Everything he said was part of the plan. Hers was red for manipulation."] Nanami watches Utena being moony over the other two and glares at her. She confronts Utena about her being in love with Akio.

Various statues change in the foreground as Nanami and Utena argue. I'm not sure what the first statue is (it looks like two children) but the second is Apollo when Utena says only Nanami would love her brother so deeply and the third is the "Rape of Prosperina", a statue of Hades kidnapping Persephone. I think Apollo is here precisely because his sister didn't want to fuck him, and the follow-up of a familial rape is telling given what I know is coming for Nanami. When Nanami tells Utena they'll both try their best to win Akio's attention, the statue changes to the Musicians of Bremen. The Musicians is a story about age and identity, about what happens when you're too old to do something that was a core part of your identity. I think Nanami is giving up on Touga as a lost cause for someone to give her attention, and she's choosing to pursue validation from Akio instead. She despises the girls who throw themselves at Touga's feet and refuses to be one of them.

In another discussion about blood types, Nanami realizes that she and Touga aren't blood relatives. She runs home to check: not one picture of Touga as a baby. A storm brews outside as she grapples with this new doubt and fear. She goes to bed and listens to more of the girls begging on his phone, silently staring at the light on her ceiling: gold admiration framing her white prince, but the light is out. Touga checks on her, asking with yet another pregnant pause whether she'd like a goodnight kiss while the red rose of manipulation spins.

Utena discusses with Juri and Miki about Nanami, who "ran away" from home and has been spending the night with them rather than go home to Touga. Nanami asks if she can stay with Tsuwabuki for the night because she can't bear to be around her brother right now. Akio overhears them and tells them that students can't sleep outside their residences, but asks Nanami to accompany him back to his tower. He moves her into the tower and tells Utena and Anthy that he expects everyone to get along. (I do like the thing where we can tell when Utena is relaxed in a scene because she does her athletic stretches; it's a very ADHD mood. Although now that I've said that, I think I'll contradict myself here and say she's standing on her hands because Akio just flipped her world upside-down by moving Nanami into her previously safe space. Anthy, in contrast, is as calm and composed as always.)

Nanami speaks with Akio alone and he does the same thing Touga does to her: saying provocative things only to pause and do the "just kidding" backtrack. (This is a common abuse tactic.) We see a purple rose spin; Nanami hates this? Utena asks Anthy whether Akio is collecting girls and Anthy tells her he "doesn't discriminate" (isn't picky) when it comes to girl. There's a video camera on Anthy as she tries to shine light on Utena with a reflective panel: she's being watched but she's doing her best to clue Utena in? Kissmate notes that this could be Anthy watching Utena for the record. ["See, she doesn't suspect a thing, Akio. Everything is going according to plan," even if it's not.]

The Shadow Girls have a play about bird breeds who lay their eggs in other birds' nests, but the born bird is disappointed to be deemed weird and ugly rather than a beautiful swan. Touga is the child who isn't a blood-relation, but Nanami feels like the odd one out who doesn't fit in around him. (Such an interesting choice to use eggs, too. "Nanami, do you know why we've been able to live together so happily? It's because you aren't the type of girl who lays eggs.")

Anthy, Utena, and Nanami play rock-paper-scissors and Anthy loses on purpose. [Kissmate: "They have their hands open like 'gimme, gimme' and hers is closed because she already has it and doesn't need to worry; he's hers."] Nanami says she gets the bed, but they're interrupted by a visit from Touga. He says he's come to take her home but she refuses. Touga insists that they should live to help each other, but Nanami blurts out they aren't brother and sister. (I don't usually like the trope of adopted children not being "really" related to each other, but there's a subtext here of Nanami grappling with the already-unhealthy intimacy she has with Touga now being examined without that shield of "oh, well, it's normal because he's my brother." Blood or not, their relationship is deeply fucked up but she'd been able to push that aside until now.) [Kissmate: "Also, she doesn't want to end up like the other girls he uses. So needy without him. That one girl couldn't sleep without Touga and neither could she. She's afraid she's become just like them."]

Nanami announces that she doesn't know what to do. She still considers him her brother and/but loves him. (I honestly can't tell whether she means sibling-love or romantic-love, and I'm not sure *she* knows.) She tells him to go home without her. Utena and Nanami talk in Anthy's room. There's a constellation on the wall and nobody seems to know what it is, but our best guess is that it's a Gemini that has been drawn incorrectly; the stars are right, but three of the lines are wrong. This probably was an error, but we'll pretend it's an intentional representation of Nanami and Touga's broken relationship. Nanami lies with her back to Utena, instead of reaching out to her like Anthy does.

She excuses herself to go to the bathroom and accidentally walks in on Akio and Anthy in a state of sexual undress on the couch. Nanami rides in the elevator as far from them as she can flee, having a crisis of self under the red walls. The whites of her eyes are trembling in and out of existence. We see Anthy naked on the couch and Kissmate notes her Rose Bride dress is there. Also: "She's not looking at Akio here; she's focusing on Anthy. Is she afraid she's going to become that?"


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