Hey look! It’s me not falling behind on stuff! That’s right, we’re back with the final three episodes in the Student Council Saga for Shōjo Kakumei Utena, AKA Revolutionary Girl Utena. It’s been a wild ride of Utena fighting to protect Anthy from the school’s student council, who want Anthy for just about every wrong reason imaginable. The time has come for student council president Touga Kiryuu to make enact his plan against our hero, and oh what a plan it is.
First up this week is “Gracefully Cruel – The One Who Picks that Flower.” Helluva a title, for sure. While Utena, Anthy, and Wakaba–remember Wakaba, Utena’s friend from before all this drama?–have lunch, they’re spied on by Touga, ready to make his move. The rest of the student council correctly calls out his scheming from last episode where he pitted his own sister, Nanami, against Utena. Hell, Miki even mentions the kitten Nanami murdered ages ago, showing that’s apparently not a total secret. Touga says that feelings for someone will inevitably betray you, proving he’s even colder than ice queen Juri. Declaring his intent to duel Utena, he starts with a power play by telling Anthy that when he wins her back, he’ll keep her in her garden like keeping a pretty bird locked in a cage. Utena objects to this, but he hits her with the revelation that he’s the prince who saved her life so many years ago. Objectively not true as we saw his interactions with her 10 years ago in episode 9, and the whole fact that the prince in Utena’s memories doesn’t look like Touga at all. Utena insists she’s fighting for Anthy who is lonely and wants friends, and Anthy confirms this. We get some longing glances between the two girls, making this episode almost actually deseve the “queer coded” tag! But then the duel happens with Touga cool and calm compared to Utena’s rashness. He waits until she summons the power of Dios–who, by the way, looks exactly like her memory of the prince–and completely drops his guard as she rushes towards him. Her feelings towards the possible prince from her past has her falter in her attack, giving Touga a clear victory. Damn, Utena actually lost. It was bound to happen, but still. And to make matters worse now that the Rose Bride is with Touga, Anthy says she’s fine being alone and doesn’t want friends. Touga insists that Anthy only agreed with Utena while they were together, implying she has no agency of her own at all. And to rub salt in the wounds, as Utena cries at losing a friend and the duel, Anthy doesn’t even look back as she and Touga leave the arena. Yikes…
Episode 12 is “For Friendship, Perhaps,” an episode that sees Utena’s spirit broken and… wearing a girl’s uniform?! Sure, her boy’s uniform got ripped in the fight with Touga, but this is more a sign of soul crushing defeat. It sure seems like Touga is the only one who likes his victory, with Miki visibly upset–remember, he thinks he loves Anthy–and Juri reserved, as usual. More on her later. Touga seems to be rubbing his victory in Utena’s face, something Wakaba is furious about since she doesn’t understand why her best friend is acting this way. Wakaba tries splashing water on Touga, but gets Anthy instead which causes Utena to slap her friend. But Wakaba’s not going to take that and slaps back. At least Anthy didn’t get slapped! Small victories. Later, in a moment alone, we get an indication that Anthy actually does miss Utena but can’t say anything due to the obligations of being the Rose Bride and currently engaged to Touga. Wakaba tries to get through to Utena, reasoning that something was taken. Well then, take it back! This resonates with Utena who challenges Touga to a rematch. Juri pops back up and gives Utena her sword, showing that even she doesn’t like this new status quo. But this is no ordinary duel, as Touga commands Anthy to–and I quote the subtitles–“Abandon your body and protect the sword.” One kiss on the blade later and the Sword of Dios glows with red energy. It’s an incredibly one-sided fight with Touga toying with Utena, tearing at her clothing because he’s a total creep. Internally, Anthy pities Utena since there’s no chance that she could win, but it also reminds her of… something. We get a flash of the prince–who may be Dios?–and suddenly the sword’s power is gone as tears flood Anthy’s eyes. Utena capitalizes on Touga’s surprise by slashing the rose in his pocket, winning the duel and getting Anthy back. The submissive girl starts to go through the whole “I’m obligated to be your bride” speech from the first episode, but Utena cuts her off as she’d rather be Anthy’s friend. Yup, purely platonic friends! This seems to make Anthy happy, which makes me happy.
Wrapping up this first arc–it’s 13 episodes of an anime from the 90’s, so is it the first season?–is “Tracing a Path.” It’s a recap episode, but avoids being totally filler by adding a new character and recontextualizing what’s come before. A mysterious stranger with lavender hair and dark skin somehow enters the upside down castle above the dueling arena and talks to Dios, who is apparently trapped there. They have similar features, but the stranger has a ponytail while Dios has short hair. The stranger is impressed with Utena having won seven fights so far; and not just any seven, but seven very specific duels, as follows:
- FRIENDSHIP: Utena defeated Saionji in episode 1 after his callousness hurt Wakaba’s feelings.
- CHOICE: Utena was planning on losing Saoinji’s rematch in episode 2, but chose to win in order to protect Anthy.
- REASON: Miki’s blind devotion–bordering on obsession–to Anthy in episode 5 leads to his defeat.
- LOVE: Juri’s old love turned to hate that clouded her judgment in episode 7, but also a miracle helps.
- ADORATION: Nanami’s unhealthy obsession with her brother does her no favors in her duel in episode 10.
- CONVICTION: Utena’s resolve wavered in episode 11, giving Touga a win.
- SELF: And episode 12 sees Utena fighting for Anthy, but her desire to get her old self back–one that happens to be with Anthy–sees her win in the rematch against Touga.
The stranger is impressed with Utena, saying she might even one day reach the duel symbolizing revolution, something this show is obsessed with. Dios seems to dislike this guy but part of that may be that he apparently sees something in Utena and is rooting for the girl. The episode ends with the stranger walking away with what looks Anthy on his arm. Then the “next time” preview reveals that the stranger is actually Anthy’s older brother! Maybe the weird flashes we got at the end of the episode–a black rose submerged in a glass case, an UFO of some kind, a black duelist ring, and a crowd of people staring–will make sense in the next arc, Black Rose Saga.
Touga is absolutely a douchebag of the highest order. He got close to Utena all as part of an elaborate mind game to force her off her guard, which is a lot for someone who’s supposed to be the better duelist. He schemed to have his sister fight Utena so he could work up a strategy, he was making out with some random chick in front of Anthy, and episode 13 sees him in his room listening to a recording of the speech he gives every time we see the student council, over and over again. I can’t imagine he’s going to take his loss well, although I don’t know if he’ll become as unhinged as Saionji was. Is he actually worse than Saionji? I shudder at the thought.
So the duels were secretly symbolic? Interesting idea, although it does feel a bit like a retcon (a retroactive change to continuity). But what exactly are the rules here? Every member of the council has lost once, with Saionji and Touga getting a second fight because possession of Anthy had changed hands. But episode 10 had Miki offering to take Touga’s spot to fight, suggesting that he can call a rematch at some point. If that’s not the case, then I suppose some of the interesting looking characters we saw in the preview of the Black Rose Saga may be Utena’s next rivals. But if that’s true, what happens to the student council when they’re no longer active duelists? Miki is already fairly friendly with Utena and Juri is a tsundere (cold exterior eventually melts to reveal a caring heart) who offered up her sword to the pink haired girl, but Nanami absolutely loathes Utena and Touga is a wildcard in terms of what he’ll do next. I’m super curious to see where this show goes next!
Which I suppose is a weird way of saying I’m going to take a break from Revolutionary Girl Utena. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the show or anything, but there’s another television show I’d like to revisit before continuing to the next arc. Basically, out of all the TV shows I’ve covered, one seems to have people liking the posts (by the way you can like individual posts if you feel like it, no pressure) weeks and months after they were uploaded, so it’s probably a good idea to touch on the second season of that sooner rather than later. What show in particular am I talking about? Find out next week!
Hint: It’s not My Life Me. I covered that series all in one go and don’t ever need to go back.
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