You'll never see roses the same way again.
"Grant me the power to bring the world revolution!"Revolutionary Girl Utena (少女革命ウテナ, Shōjo Kakumei Utena) is a surreal shoujo work that deals with the trials of a girl named Utena Tenjou, her loss of innocence, and her struggle to bring about the world's revolution.On the day of her parents' funeral, seven-year-old Utena meets a prince on a white horse. The prince gives Utena a signet ring and says it will one day lead her back to him. Utena, overwhelmed with emotion, decides that she too will become a prince. Seven years later, Utena (who now presents with a mix of male and female gender cues) has followed his trail to Ohtori Academy. When she attempts to defend her best friend Wakaba from an upperclassman, Utena becomes enmeshed in a swordfighting tournament with members of Ohtori's Student Council. The tournament's winner receives "The Power to Revolutionize the World" — as well as the hand of the demure and obedient Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya.Utena and Anthy slowly become friends, and Utena learns that her new "bride" has a connection to "End of the World", the mysterious force behind the sword duels. In the show's second ("Black Rose") arc, acting school chairman Akio Ohtori takes an interest in Utena — and everything, including Utena's relationship with Anthy, promptly goes to hell.Utena includes, describes, averts, inverts, and subverts a wide variety of anime tropes, most notably Stock Footage (Utena's Once an EpisodeTransformation Sequence) and Clip Show episodes (two of the three such episodes contain major essential plot twists). The series has a striking visual design pieced together by director Kunihiko Ikuhara and influenced by Takurazuka, Noh theater plays, fairy tale imagery, and classic shoujo manga. It also features a lush soundtrack that mixes classical orchestral themes composed by Shinkichi Mitsumune with outré choral harmonies and surrealist rock music composed by J.A. Seazer. The show draws on a number of symbolic, philosophical and literary allusions while beautifully and aesthetically portraying its Dysfunction Junction of attractive and troubled characters. This approach helped the series win the "Best TV Animation" award at Kobe Animation '97.Underneath all the visual flair and cultural references, however, Utena tells a coming-of-age story that explores two curious notions: Can someone hold onto childish ideals to defeat an opponent who embodies adulthood? And can a pink-haired girl surrounded by frills and flowers break free of the expectation of becoming a princess to instead take on the role of a prince?In contrast to the show's subtle approach, the 1999 film Shōjo Kakumei Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku (literally Adolescence Apocalypse; known as The Adolescence of Utena or Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie to Western audiences) makes explicit the romantic nature of Utena and Anthy's relationship. The film also changes most of the show's characters in drastic ways, both in terms of appearance and characterization. The storyline receives just as many drastic alterations; fans consider it more of a recreation of the series than an adaptation. Utena: The Movie became infamous for a Gainax Ending — which comes after a Gainax Beginning and a Gainax Middle. One could see the film as an allegory on Mahayana Buddhism, a musing on Jungian philosophy, or even a look at gnostic belief. (Or it could just be about lesbians.)Central Park Media originally released both the series and the movie in the United States. When CPM snagged the show's license, it dubbed the show's first thirteen episodes, but failed to secure a license for the remaining episodes until years later. This mistake created a huge gap between the release of episodes. They did eventually dub the rest of the show and later released the series and the movie on DVD. In 2011, Nozomi Entertainment rescued the license and re-released the series across three DVD sets, using the show's remastered Region 2 DVD as the video base and retaining the CPM dub. (It included the movie in the third set.) The series also aired on Viz Media's Neon Alley streaming service. Manga Entertainment, who shares a distribution deal with Nozomi, made the whole series available in its entirety on both Hulu and YouTube; it also placed the movie on YouTube. Nozomi will re-release the series and movie, this time on Blu-ray, in late 2017.Viz Media published the entire manga series and the manga based on the movie. While those releases have fallen out of print, Viz re-released the manga in a hardcover collection format in 2017.Flowers magazine has began publishing a epilogue by the name of After The Revolution by Chiho Saitou. It began in the September 2017 issue, which sold out. No official translation, yet.
The Utena franchise consists of:
- A five-volume manga. Though chronologically the first version (serialization began in mid-to-late 1996), the manga and the anime were simultaneous projects, and the manga was based on the anime's plans rather than the other way around.
- A 39-episode anime series, which aired on TV Tokyo in 1997 from April to December. This is considered the "core" canon.
- Four Days in Ohtori: Itsuka Kakumeisareru Monogatari, a Sega SaturnVisual Novel. This game features two new characters—the New Transfer Student player character, and a villain named Chigusa Sanjouin—and is set during the anime's first arc. It was never released outside of Japan. Almost twenty years later, a fan translation was released.
- Adolescence of Utena, an original animated feature film, released in 1999. The movie is considered an alternate continuity to the original series, though is in many ways seen as a spiritual continuation/alternate ending due to its heavy use of symbolism that requires knowledge of the original show to parse.
- A single-volume manga based on the above-mentioned film. Although it follows the movie relatively closely, it diverges with its own ending.
- A pair of light novels published in 1998; one focuses on Miki, the other on Saionji. These are one of the most obscure parts of the Utena canon and are yet another alternate continuity (though they bear the closest resemblance to the original manga, and are mostly Lighter and Softer).
- After the Revolution, a 20th-anniversary 2017 epilogue-sequel manga that uses imagery from the anime and no clear-cut continuity.
Revolutionary Girl Utena contains examples of the following tropes:
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- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Almost every episode, the Council members ride in a fancy elevator to meet in a rose-decorated tower to discuss the upcoming worldwide revolution. Then they swordfight for a chance to control said revolution. That's about as absurdly powerful as you can get. Beautifully subverted when it turns out that Akio and Anthy created the Duels for for the sole purpose of benefiting Akio, and not even Utena really had a fighting chance to become the final Champion as long as Anthy remained the Rose Bride.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Anthy can power up the Sword of Dios/Utena's soul sword; included in said power-up is this property, although it's only demonstrated during Utena's duels with Touga. To put it into perspective, Utena's powered-up soul sword can easily split approaching cars without them losing velocity.
- Accidental Marriage: Utena and Anthy, though it's more like an "engagement".
- Action Girl: Utena, Juri, and the other female duelists.
- Adaptational Consent: The relationship between Akio and Anthy is clearly unhealthy regardless of the medium, though the movie simplifies things considerably by showing it as thoroughly nonconsensual.
- Adaptation Distillation: The movie-manga cuts out most of the actual movie's weirder symbolism (most notably the cars) in order to tell its story in a more straightfoward fashion.
- Adaptation Dye-Job:
- Utena started in the manga as a blonde, but was given pink hair in the anime and later manga volume covers and illustrations. Her eyes also varied between being brown or blue in the early colored artwork, but stuck as blue after her hair changed to pink.
- Anthy also originally had dark brown/black hair in the manga, but it was changed to violet in the anime and later colored illustrations, while her eye color changes from brown to green. Other hair color changes included Juri going from being blonde to having orange hair (while her eyes changed from brown to blue), and Touga's hair changing from black with red bangs to red with one paler forelock. Miki's hair also was originally brown in the first color illustration of him, but quickly changed to blue to fit with the anime (as did his eyes).
- Utena's uniform was also originally pink in the manga (though she receives a black uniform as a plot point in the third volume), but Ikuhara vetoed the idea of it carrying over to the anime. Chiho Saito explained in an omake that he gave her the choice of having Utena wear black or red in the anime; while she picked red, he settled on giving her black.
- Anthy's Rose Bride dress was originally white with blue trim, but changed to red in later manga illustrations to match with Ikuhara's color choice.
- Adaptational Wimp:
- Movie-Akio. Series-Akio is an inscrutable and seemingly invincible Magnificent Bastard, giving him a sizeable Draco in Leather Pants following in the fandom. Movie-Akio is presented as a much more foppish and blatantly pathetic character, and he toppled out of a window after freaking out over the fact that his sister hadn't been asleep when he was molesting her.
- Played With for movie Juri. In the anime, Juri dominated her match against Utena. Utena never out fought Juri and only won thanks to a "miracle". The movie version is still shown as a superior fighter but did lose at Utena's hand.
- Adorably Precocious Child: Mitsuru Tsuwabuki.
- Advertising by Association: The newest release announces on the box that it's from one of the creators of Sailor Moon: Kunihiko Ikuhara.
- Age-Appropriate Angst: Played with. Though most of the cast are teenagers, reasons for angsting and levels of angst will vary depending on the personality and maturity levels of different characters. Then it's played straight with Akio and Anthy, who've lived for what's implied to be centuries and have universal problems proportional to their humongous ages.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Sadly lampshaded by Juri, who remarks that people would be much happier if they could simply change the objects of their affections.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Towards a certain Mysterious Waif... Don't expect her to take everything lying down, though. And Nanami would've fared better if she'd known that Anthy has faced far, far worse than any bullying her little group of schoolgirls could've come up with.
- All Take and No Give: Akio and Anthy's relationship offers an interesting twist on this trope. Akio has the obvious position of power, not just in the relationship but throughout Ohtori Academy, while Anthy is at the bottom of the social pyramid, and often plays into her brother's schemes. However, Akio is powerless without Anthy, and she knows it. However much he may try to abuse and dominate Anthy in order to take and maintain control, it does not change the fact that all of Akio's power is derived from Anthy.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": The Movie might as well be called "That Anime Where A Girl Turns Into A Car"
- Alpha Bitch: Nanami tries to be this for most of the series. Juri in the manga.
- Alternate Continuity: Subverted with the manga and the movie. Although they do tell their own stories, they also work in a kind of symbolic sequence that seems to indicate a connection of some kind, like how Utena gets her series' outfit partway through the manga, or how the characters in the movie have kept some character development from the series. The movie-manga plays this straighter, being a more normal and rearranged version of the movie's scenes.
- Anachronism Stew: It's a fairytale story using roles like princes and witches, while taking place in a setting practically made of symbolism that roughly corresponds with a modern one, that has characters who are implied to be aliens and there's even a hint of the undead.
- And the Adventure Continues: The anime ends with Anthy departing on a quest to find the missing Utena.
- Animals Hate Her: Nanami.
- Animation Bump: The Stock Footage is stock footage, yes, but it's all very well-animated.
- Anti-Villain: Nearly every character that can be considered a villain at any point in the story is this except for Akio.
- Anything That Moves: Touga (although he's mainly into girls) and especially Akio.
- Ambiguously Brown: Anthy and Akio. Also, Dios.
- Arc Words: All over the place, to the point where the show occasionally throws in parodies of its own arc words for humorous effect.
- "Revolutionize the world!" and numerous variations. ("[Grant me] the power to bring the world revolution!", etc.)
- And also appearing in the sword-pulling sequence, "Rose of the noble castle, by the power of Dios that sleeps within me, heed your master and come forth...!"
- End of the World, used to refer both to the mysterious individual and the actual event.
- The Absolute Destiny Apocalypse, both the name of the transformation sequence's song and what Anthy repeats in every "next time" preview.
- The Shadow Play Girls have "Kashira kashira! Gozonji kashira?" and "Gogai! Gogai!", both Japanese phrases which are used in several different contexts in their plays.
- Various mentions of "endless motion" and other forms of repetition.note Or, in other words, revolution. (Which is a motif that the overuse of arc words ties into.)
- From the Student Council arc (and also somewhat the whole series): "If it cannot break out of its shell, the chick will die without ever being hatched. We are the chick, the world is our egg. If we don't crack the world's shell, we will die without ever truly being born. Smash the world's shell!note For the revolution of the world!"
- Most of the Student Council has their own special words: Saionji's "something eternal"/"that which is eternal", Miki's "shining thing"/"that which shines", and Juri's "the power of miracles".
- From the Black Rose arc: "Deeper... go deeper..." and "The path before you has been prepared.note Your only choice is to revolutionize the world."
- From the Akio arc: "There, cant you hear it? If your soul has not truly abandoned all chance for hope, then you can hear the sound that races through the End of the World. Follow us to the world you seek!" and "I now reveal the End of the World... to you."
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Snails in her pencil box... A mongoose in her desk drawer... A giant octopus balloon in her closet! And now shaved ice for dinner?! You're making me sick!"
- Artistic Age: Type 1. It's easy to forget that Utena and Wakaba are 14 years old, and Nanami is only 13 years old, looking about the same age as their 16-18 year old upperclassmen. Makes for added Squick during Akio's seduction of Utena
- Ascended Extra: Nanami, a major secondary character in the anime, only appears in a photo in the manga, where Juri more or less takes her place.
- Ascended Fridge Horror: A good rule of thumb with this series is that if something, especially a relationship, seems a little fucked up at first glance odds are it's not only exactly as bad as you think it is, but worse.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Possibly Utena, in the end of the series and manga.
- Author Avatar: Chu-Chu. This is Ikuni.
- Autobots, Rock Out!: With Ominous Latin Chanting to boot. Try not to enjoy the Black Rose Arc songs.
- Back for the Dead: Ruka.
- Backstory: Everyone has one.
- Badass Boast: The songs during the duels sometimes contain these, like "My children, astronomical planets - five solid bodies are my descendants". Sometimes they're the namesake of the song, like "I Am All the Mysteries in Creation" or "I Am An Imaginary Living Body".
- Bastard Boyfriend: Saionji, Touga, and Akio are cold and indifferent to the Rose Bride, and to other women.
- The Beautiful Elite: Almost every major character (except, notably, Anthy) has a scene where they are being admired by a crowd of lovestruck onlookers (of bothgenders). This usually happens when they're first introduced.
- Bifauxnen: Utena, particularly in the movie.
- Big Bad: End of the World/Akio.
- Big Brother Attraction
- Big Brother Instinct: Averted. Dios ignored Anthy when he was too busy saving the rest of the world. Then he became Akio and decided that he wouldn't mind having his sister stabbed by swords for all eternity.
- Subverted with Touga, who outwardly indulges Nanami but ultimately sees her as a toy like he does with most girls.
- Played with with Miki, who wants to have a relationship with Kozue, but no longer knows how he can do that.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Between Utena and Anthy at the end of the movie.
- Big "NO!": Kanae at the moment of her defeat
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Chu-chu has them. And he's supposed to be cute.
- Bishounen: Roughly the entire male cast.
- Bittersweet Ending: Utena has disappeared and the entire campus will eventually forget about her. But the revolution did occur—Anthy is inspired to finally end her cycle of abuse, and go out into the world to find Utena again. And the rest of the Student Council seems to have, if not had their own revolution, at least resolved their issues.
- Bloodless Carnage: There aren't any injuries that would be accompanied by noticeable blood until the final episodes, but none of them feature the puddles of blood that they should.
- Bloodier and Gorier: The manga, surprisingly enough, is much more violent than the show in a couple scenes, despite the manga usually being Lighter and Softer. Utenabrutally cuts a large gash in Akio. Even the movie-manga's painting scene has the paintings melting in a bloody-looking way.
- Blood Sisters: Utena vows to protect and support Anthy no matter what the cost, but being a Mind Screw show, just getting there is half the battle...
- Book Ends: The very last episode features a montage of "everyday" scenes paralleling events that happened to Utena and the other characters throughout the last year. As Anthy points out, the ending is not as bittersweet as it initially appears — the character dynamics that Utena changed are things that can't be undone.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: More or less literally — the asparagus sandwich may never be the same.
- Break the Cutie: Everything's Better with Princesses? I don't think so. Weaklings in Utena either stay weak and get into severe trouble, or they try to seize power in incredibly unscrupulous ways.
- Break the Haughty: Everyone's haughty to some degree, but no matter how it seems from the outside, Akio does not live a happy life.
- Brick Joke:
- One of the shadow plays features a scientist and her robot, which every now and then mutters some nonsense about catching monkeys. A few episodes later, there's an entirely unrelated skit with talking animals, and it ends when a robot appears out of nowhere and kidnaps the monkey.
- In the first episode, Utena asks Saionji why there's an upside-down floating castle in the middle of the forest. He says, "It's a kind of mirage. Think of it as a trick of the light." Thirty-seven episodes later, Akio turns off the planetarium projector.
- Bright Castle
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Played with in Miki and Mikage. Neither are completely lazy, but they do not reach their full potential in the series.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Wakaba and Saionji take on this role in her Black Rose episode. It goes horribly wrong, of course.
- BrotherSister Incest: No! Don't be repulsed! Or, well, do be repulsed, because it's deliberately not played for fetish appeal. Pairings include Miki and Kozue, Nanami and Touga, Anthy and Akio. The first is implied and the second never gets explicit. Akio and Anthy, on the other hand... And all three pairings are creepy and full of insidious manipulation from one or both sides.
- Broken Bird: An overt example is Juri. She's the reason Ruka comes back for the dead. A more unconventional example is Anthy. Also, Kozue and Shiori.
- Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: They're all over the place, especially in the movie.
- Butt-Monkey: Nanami and Saionji, especially in the light-hearted Nanami episodes.
- The Casanova: Touga, Akio.
- Catchphrase: Goes with the stock footage.
- Chalk Outline: The arena during the Black Rose arc becomes filled with red silhouettes of dead bodies. Rather creepily, whenever a Black Rose duelist is defeated, they collapse perfectly into one of the silhouettes.
- Remember where Mikage gets his Black Rose Seals...?
- Character Development: Everyone gets some over the course of the series.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: You don't want to know what it did to Dios and Anthy...
- Cinderella: Subverted, of course. At first, Keiko seems to follow this tale straight to the point of parody, Nanami being a sorta "evil stepmother". But then her attitude to her "prince" appears to be much more "rose-bridish" than "cinderella-esque". And as she gets close to Touga at last, she switches roles with Nanami, starting to humiliate her. To crown the subversion, she ends up beaten and "princeless".
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Nanami, Kozue, Shiori, and tragically Anthy.
- Clip Show: Episodes 13 and 33 summarize the first and third arcs, respectively, while surrounding the clips with intrigue, surrealism, and plot twists. Episode 24 is a humorous version, and compiles all of Nanami's Butt-Monkey moments as diary entries written by Tsuwabuki.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Anthy sometimes appears to be one, mostly near the beginning of the series.
- Clothing Damage:
- During Utena's second duel with Touga, her uniform gets torn from the strikes. An analysis of the scene reveals that Utena is getting rid of the sense of normalcy and clear discomfort the female uniform she's was wearing gave her, in attempts to get back her princely self.
- Also happens in Utena's duel with Saionji in the movie, as an Unsettling Gender Reveal.
- Colour Coded Characters
The Adolescence of Utena Review
So, the Utena movie! Here, Ikuhara was given total free reign, so Anthy and Utena were finally allowed to be openly together and make out and be comfortably gay all they wanted. So it’s basically the best movie ever created. Seriously, if someone asked me what my favorite movie was, I’d probably reply with this. It’s about two girls destroying the patriarchy and one turns into a car and then they make out. What more can I want in life?
And obviously this movie has a lot more budget than the show, so the animation is GORGEOUS. Ohtoti has a real Hogwarts like setting here, with the moving chalkboards and staircases. It lets you know this is strange, surreal world right off the bat.
In this movie, Utena is wearing a legit boy’s uniform, like all the rest of the boys! Except a different color, so she’s still special. And she has short hair, so she looks relatively androgynous. I think Movie Utena is far more comfortable in herself and her gender identity. While show Utena gets offended by being mistaken for a boy, Movie Utena doesn’t care about that stuff because she’s more comfortable with herself.
There’s Wakaba! And Movie Utena is also more comfortable with her queerness, so she openly flrts with Wakaba. You scamp.
The shadow girls are here and they’ve upgraded to announcers that give running commentary.
Juri is the lesbian queen of the school now and every girl has a crush on her. And her hair has upgraded. Miki’s too, not quite as fabulously. She still has her locket though.
Touga plays a different role in the movie, and he’s a far more sympathetic character, and takes Dios’s place of being Utena’s “prince” she’s hung up on. Meanwhile, Akio is solely Anthy’s problem.
There’s a lot of “water” symbolism in this movie, particularly when Touga is involved, which foreshadows that he drowned. You also see crosses when he’s around, also calling back to death. Utena did follow him here, and get involved in the duels because of him, so in a way she’s chasing after “prince” like in the show and clinging to the past even though he’s long gone.
Utena sees the white rose, which symbolizes the Prince (Ikuhara confirms in the commentrary) and that it’s Utena’s feelings for Touga, her prince, that get her involved here.
Anthy’s introduced, and they seem to have decided to make her look more like what their conception of “Indian” is. I kind of wish they’d kept her wavy hair and darker skin. But she’s still recognizably the “other” on this show. What’s interesting is her bindi is more prominent now and has a tattoo like a drop of blood coming out of it, implying her suffering. When she escapes Ohtori, the drop vanishes, showing that she’s been freed from her suffering. When she exerts agency, the drop also seems to disappear.
Anyway, Anthy actually openly doesn’t want Utena to get involved in this fight and warns her not to, very different from the series. Movie Anthy overall seems to be less accepting of the Rose Bride thing and sort of attracted to Utena off the bat- I think she sensed Utena was being manipulated by Touga and didn’t want her in this dangerous game, and also didn’t want to have yet another person try to claim her.
Utena, however, is boiling over with anger and grief and confusion from the loss of Touga. She’s a very damaged person from the beginning, and she sort of lashes out at Anthy.
However, her ire is awoken when she sees Saionji is treating Anthy like an object and Anthy isn’t at all into it. She also wants to imitate her prince, Touga, and he’s involved in this fight- so she should be too.
Anthy actively doesn’t want Utena to get involved if she doesn’t know the rules of the game- otherwise she won’t be able to play it properly. She’s pretty interested in fairness.
And unlike show Utena, movie Utena does not victim blame, but instead directs her anger at the right person- Saionji. Movie Utena has more anger issues than show Utena, but she’s definitely less victim-blamey off the bat. She is simply FURIOUS at Saionji for treating a girl this way, and is asking all the questions she can from the very beginning.
Anthy IMMEDIATELY sees that Utena has the possibility of being her prince- here, Akio is dead, so while she clings to his memory, she knows she needs a new prince. So, under the guise of “we need to follow the rules of this game and I am the enforcer” she saves Utena, protects her, and gives her the power. Saionji broke the rules after all, so he can’t be permitted to play.
The duel song talks about a history of decadence and violence,starting with the brutality of the Middle Ages, which the Rose Bride system recreates- this is a system that keeps in place the eternally cycle of misogyny and violence, that recreates that Middle Ages brutality. All for the “eternal miracle” and deity.
The whole prince and princess dynamic of the middle ages is being recreated in Anthy because she cannot let go of her past, which is still the central theme of Ohtori in this movie. So the lyrics say “be reborn” as the prince’s power is reborn in her.
And we get our first Anthy x Utena onscreen KISS! Go get it, Anthy.
(This seriously happened when I was watching an AMV I made on youtube. I think Anthy knows the answer).
Water imagery again, and we see the red shoe of the drowning girl floating away- again foreshadowing Ohtori as the world of the dead and Touga as drowned to save that little girl.
We see that Touga and Utena were childhood friends and Utena is still fixated on that. The star frame indicated his soul has already departed “to the stars”.
Unlike in the show, Anthy’s duties as a Rose Bride explicitly include sexually servicing whoever she’s with. Aside from the whole “sexual object” deal that comes with being the Rose Bride, Anthy’s promiscuous behavior is very reminiscent of the behavior of someone who has been repeatedly sexually abused can exhibit- they can begin to get the idea that people only want to use them for sex and that’s the only way to interact with people, they can get the idea that their only worth is through sex. That’s very much what Anthy seems like here. And Touga also exhibits this behavior in the movie and show.
Utena seems willing to be intimate with Anthy until she finds out Anthy does this as part of the Rose Bride package. She’s not interested in having someone service her because they have to, so she gets angry and tells Anthy to leave.
Touga’s entire room is shrouded,including him, like funeral shroud showing that he’s dead.
Shiori is quite a different character in the movie. Unlike in the show, there’s not much sympathetic about her. It’s implied in this discussion that Juri was the girl Touga tried to save, and Shiori blames the victim in this situation, blaming Juri for Touga’s death. So she wants to torment Juri and make her do her bidding.
Not sure what her cleaning Touga’s ears mean- maybe that she’s messing with his senses? Trying to get him to hear only her? At any rate, Juri is Shiori’s rose bride.
More water imagery for a scene with Touga- the princes have all drowned, and the girls are left with no water, but forced to clean up the mess.
Utena is jealous thinking Anthy might have had sex with Touga, and she begins to subconsciously blame Anthy for how her relationship with Touga has changed. She wants desperately for things to be the same with Touga, so she begins to think Anthy must be the one who “corrupted him” and changed their relationship.
More metaphor time with Akio and Touga- in this version of the story, Akio was never a prince, Anthy just used her magic to make him so. He was the devil all along. This is sort of the show writ large- Anthy is the real source of Akio’s power, SHE is what made him a prince, without her, his true nature is revealed. The idea is men can only feel powerful because they exploit the power of women to do so. They use women to feel “princely”, step on women to feel good about themselves, when actually all along their actions that oppress women make them devilish. Once women don’t play along, their true ugly nature is revealed. And when that ugly nature is revealed, the women are blamed for it. True princes don’t exist, just men who exploit women to seem like princes.
Touga paints Shiori’s nails red and I saw it theorized that since red is Touga’s color, this might symbolize submissiveness and that he is in Shiori’s possession. Later, Shiori paints her own nails red too (maybe the fact she has to do it herself was symbolizing her starting to lose control).
Kozue and Miki have a weird relationship like in the show, both still clinging to the garden- but Miki may want to move on, but Kozue won’t let him. The shroud imagery and the water shows that however much they may fight it though, their old selves have died.
Believe it or not, the rape backstory for Touga in the movie is true for his show self too. According an interview in the “Revolutionary Girl Utena Privacy Files” that were published in a magazine called “Shousetsu June” in 1999, a writer said the following:
“Although the TV series touched upon Touga’s younger days, the film goes into more details – the wound of Touga that was never directly depicted. In his younger days, Touga was a normal kid who enjoyed happy times with his friend Saionji Kyouichi and his younger sister Nanami. However, he came to know his unfortunate fate from the time he was ordered by his parents to wear his hair long. His parents sold him to the Kiryuu family. Although he was an adopted son on the surface, the instinctive Touga knew what that meant. And in order to protect his younger sister, he accepted his lot. Being sold. We did not go into depicting what Touga’s parents obtained by going as far as selling their son. We would like you to think of it as a kind of metaphor.
And Touga accepted in silence the sexual abuse from his new parents. His personality changed while he made a magnanimous show of enjoying the abuses in order to prevent his personality from splitting. The change took place in a spot so deep in his mind, that even those closest to him did not notice. Saionji and Nanami never noticed out of their innocence. And Touga never told his secret to anyone. It is said that a human being gains whatever he lost in exchange. So what did Touga gain in exchange at that point in time? It was the sense of alienation from being abused every night and seeing his innocent friend and sister during the day. The alienated self.
And it is out of this awareness of alienation that you come to obtain a higher human and sexual self-awareness. In the TV series, Saionji always felt that he was one step behind Touga. Although the two are more or less equal in terms of ability, what Saionji lacked was that sense of alienation.”
So yeah, that actually explains a lot about his actions in the show, including how he probably resented Nanami for not being abused and being accepted into the family, and probably went along with the idea only HE was adopted because of that- after all, he was not accepted into the family, she was. Also, it explains why he was much more cynical than Saionji was when he saw Utena in her coffin, and his obsession with her hair- her long hair for him meant loss of innocence.
And, in both the show and the movie, Touga engages in a lot of sex with people who he knows just want to exploit him because he had to fool himself into believing he enjoyed that stuff to survive. He can’t let go of his trauma and break the cycle of abuse he’s caught in, and as he said, that’s why he’s a duelist and trapped in Ohtori.
Shiori turning into a butterfly shows that he recognizSe that like his foster father, she’s just exploiting him, using him as she has sex with him. She doesn’t care about him. He’s just a tool so she can use to continue to exploit Juri and continue her obsession there.
Of course, if Movie Shiori is like Show Shiori and has feelings for Juri, the fact she frames Juri’s feelings as “disgusting” means she feels the same way about herself, and that’s why she’s doing this- she can’t acknowledge her feelings, so she’s punishing Juri for awakening those feelings.
Shiori draws the creature we see devour Chu-Chu later on Touga’s back- she wants to exploit and devour him.
Miki doesn’t tell Juri the truth, that he wants to regain his childhood with Kozue- Kozue being a car here might just be to indicate that or it might just be there to show they’ll be able to leave Ohtori together someday. Or maybe Kozue’s decided to leave Miki and move on.
Juri wants to be free of her feelings for Shiori as in the show and I think the reason she hits on Miki here is to further try to distance herself from being a lesbian and reject her feelings for Shiori. She’s trying to free herself and forget them. Some see it as proof Juri is bi and basis to ship Juri/Miki at least in the movie, and that’s their prerogative, it’s not like bi people are overrepresented in media (though pretty much everyone in Utena BUT Juri is confirmed bi in this case…) but I don’t see it that way.
And of course, here Shiori is to glory in the control she has over Juri and exploit her.
Shiori exploits Juri’s internalized misogyny. Juri doesn’t like the idea of a girl centering her entire life around a guy (reminds her too much of herself probably) so Shiori easily sets her against Utena.
Utena decides to blame Anthy for Touga’s distance from her, even lashing out and attacking her- like everyone else does towards Anthy, she engages in a bit of “Anthy is responsible for how the boys act” style thinking. Fortunately, Utena quickly realizes it can’t be Anthy’s fault and just breaks down completely, crying.
It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it at least does take place before Anthy and Utena know each other well at all, much less enter a relationship, and it’s basically to show Utena has reached her greatest breaking point and lowest depths, and is just losing it completely.
It basically shows that like everyone else at Ohtori, Utena is so broken and childish and lost and weighed down by clinging to her past and her emotional issues she’s unable to have a healthy relationship with anyone at this moment. Realizing her prince was never there is hugely traumatizing for Utena. It’s only when she finally lets go of Touga and her anger she’ll be able to be a healthy person and enter a healthy relationship.
And we get a super romantic dance sequence where Anthy and Utena see both sides of each other and accept each other and truly bond. It sort of calls back to the time they danced in the series, only this time, Anthy is the one saving Utena, showing her she can heal. The fact that Anthy unleashes the water and forces Utena to be comfortable with it is helping Utena be comfortable with her past trauma. And also, it’s not a matter of sexual service or anything, it’s bonding on a pure emotional level, and that makes Utena comfortable.
“Don’t forget the promise. Now it’s time you and I once again come together. No matter how much time passes, don’t forget that promise, I’ve come all this way at last”. These lyrics are kind of the best evidence for the theory this might be a “sequel” to the original series, with Anthy making good on her promise and rescuing Utena from the her own coffin and the Ohtori she’s created for herself, hence why Anthy is so intent on pursuing Utena here.
I’m not sure if that’s really the case (I go back and forth on whether I think it is or not), I think the movie’s really open to interpretation though, and definitely draws on understanding of the previous series, so on a meta level, Anthy and Utena are meeting again- just in a different world, a different story.
To her credit, Utena sincerely apologizes for lashing out and thanks Anthy for helping her, acknowledging they are friends now and may be on their way to having a relationship. And unlike an abuser, she never goes back on her word to lash out at Anthy again, so no worries there.But Utena wants a real relationship with Anthy if they might end up being in one. She really needs someone to talk to and she thinks Anthy does too.
It’s clear that Anthy isn’t used to people apologizing sincerely to her, and takes people lashing out at her for granted, so she brushes her apology and thanks off.
Utena wants them to be open with each other and for Anthy, that means “naked!” Sexy symbolism to show them being vulnerable with each other! But actually, Anthy opening up to Utena does require her showing her body, because it shows the stab wound that symbolizes her abuse and marks her as a sacrifice. It’s an emotional wound as well, though.
We get a short gag sequence with Nanamicow and ChuChu. This is Nanami’s only appearance in the movie poor thing. I think it’s really just in there to amuse, so no analysis.
Akio’s as flamboyant as ever- and we see the truth of his relationship with Anthy in the movie. As in the show, he was abusing her, but in the movie this abuse takes the form of him drugging her to rape her. He kept up a façade of prince, but in reality he exploited women as was corrupt as hell. It’s the whole “she made him a prince but he was the devil” only in a more grounded context.
The “Shura” in the Juri vs Uten duel song could be referring to the Arabic word for “consultation” but it more like refers to the Buhddist “Asuras”. Asuras are addicted to passions. According to Wikipedia “The state of an Asura reflects the mental state of a human being obsessed with ego, force and violence, always looking for an excuse to get into a fight, angry with everyone and unable to maintain calm or solve problems peacefully.” That easily calls up the image of the duelists.
As does “bowing to wild darkness”. But it could also refer to Anthy who is ancient, but beginning to change, as the song implies. She was in empty solitude all her life, and she stands watching silent. As we talk about the powe of eternity, the luyrics shift to being about glory and power, and Shura transforming. And “finding a mate” when we see Antyh and Utena holding hands, ohohoho. As Utena becomes the prince, there’s a reference to being a living star and the source of power, touching the mystic sstar and the ages continuing. The prince lives on through Utena, it seems, now that she’s touched Anthy’s power, she’s free to exploit it too. Anthy believes she’s found her new prince and partner.
Though Utena refused at first, she can’t resist the idea of having the power to do anything, even bring Touga back to life. In that way she is acting as Anthy’s “prince” and exploiting her.
Also, Miki not seeng Touga also foreshadows that he’s dead and exists as a ghost.
And we find out Akio has died, and Anthy buried him. Poor Kanae. Cheer up girl, you could be getting poisoned.
We find out the end result of Akio’s rape. He finds out Anthy was awake as he raped her, and thus has always known what he was doing. Of course, Anthy has accepted his sexual abuse, and believes that as a man, he has the right to do whatever he wants with her. As a prince, his actions must be right. But Anthy being awake means that Akio can’t pretend he’s a good guy, can’t keep his actions secret, and actually has to face them. And he cannot handle that. He wanted to have sex with Anthy without her knowing about it so he could keep up his princely façade, the idea that she always knew about the ugliness and accepted it, maybe even made herself enjoy it- well, the façade is over now.
Anthy’s belief that because Akio was the “prince” he could do whatever he wanted shows her own internalized misogyny and also extends to the metaphor of even though he was the devil, her belief he was a prince is what made him one. As long as women and other people excuse men of their actions, they will be able to be able to keep up that idea they’re still “good” and “manly”.
Akio wants to escape his actions and run away, but he can’t because he’s unable to face the real world (“find the key to free himself”), and wants to remain in the world where he’s a prince. But he can’t be a prince now that Anthy knows about his actions. So he lashes out at Anthy, both blaming her for his abusive behavior and sacrificing her so nobody will know about his”unprincely” actions and so she’ll be silenced. And since he can’t run away and he can’t face himself, his only option is to die.
Once again, Anthy is sacrificed so men can feel good about themselves, once again she is the victim so they can pretend to be in the right, and she is blamed for their wrong actions. Again, a metaphor for misogyny.
We’re back in the Black Rose room! Time for Utena to face her fears.
Ikuhara says in his commentary that the conceit of this movie is all the princes are dead or possibly never existed in the first place, so Utena and Anthy have to save themselves. With the power of GAY.
Princes don’t exist, the ideal is impossible, and this patriarchial system is a game to hide that- the patriarchy centers around this ideal of masculinity that actually doesn’t exist, and exploits people to hide the fact it doesn’t. It makes them believe they have to chase the ideal, but the real truth is that ideal is unreachable.
The point of Touga’s story is a callback to the themes of the show- he rushed into save the girl and got in over his head, so he ended up dying. That’s what being a prince is- it can only end in tragedy. You have to reach out to people, not recklessly rush in against the advice of your friends and play hero, or you’ll end up destroying yourself. And considering Touga’s backstory, it’s not impossible he did this because a part of him WANTED to die. (I also saw a theory that the reason movie!Touga does not do bad things like show!Touga is because he DID die before he reached puberty and his trauma combined with the changes that brings caused him to retreat into himself. The only reason he was allowed to fulfill the ideal and remain a prince is because he never got the chance to grow up and become corrupt like Akio or his show self. An interesting thought).
Touga is a MUCH more sympathetic character than in the show, but he does try to drag Utena into the world of the dead with him. But Utena knows she has to move forward and keep living. She can no longer cling to her past and her idealized memories of Touga, she has to let go of them and get on with her life. Anthy needs her. And she’s ready to move on and start a relationship with Anthy. So this is the part where Utena lets go of her emotional issues and becomes a healthy human being who can be in a healthy relationship with Anthy. She’s ready to grow up.
There are no princes in the world. Women cannot depend on fairy tale princes to rescue them- they will either disappear, or exploit them. Women cannot be saved by a prince. As in the show, women have to make the decision to save themselves.
Utena’s let go of Touga and rejects the sword Anthy offers her because she’s no longer going to use Anthy as a tool. She’s finally faced all her issues, and she’s realized that it’s wrong, and she loves Anthy and won’t do that to her. Even with Anthy offering all the power in the world as long as she stays, Utena refuses to treat Anthy as an object and exploit her. She’s given up on being a prince. She has no reason to cling to that hollow ideal and cling to the past- she wants to leave this patriarchal system that exploits them behind, she thinks they have the strength to grow up and face the real world. They don’t need to cling to systems of power, or ideals, or cling to the dead world of their pasts.
And so the thing that happens at the end of show happens VERY LITERALLY- Utena becomes the vehicle that helps Anthy leave Ohtori, but it’s Anthy who has to make the decision to take the wheel and drive out of her. Utena can only support her, she had to make the decision to leave the cycle she’s trapped in and face the world herself.
But unlike Akio, Anthy has the strength to face reality of the the world and no desire to stay closed off from it. So she has the key that allows her to leave.
There’s also the whole “ride your girlfriend” bit which Ikuhara admits in the commentary was on purpose. It’s to show they have become one!
I don’t have much to say about the car chase, it’s obviously a metaphor for Anthy having to face all these people who are trying to keep her in this abusive, patriarchial system, so they can exploit her. This includes Shiori, whose need to be the most powerful because of her insecurity is her undoing, so she crashes and burns.
Juri, Miki and Saionji arrive to help Anthy! After all, they are all fighting to leave this system, and they plan dead world where they cling to their pasts behind. They want Anthy to make it and they want to make it. But seriously, fuck off Saionji.
One great thing to notice though- Wakaba is the car that the three are driving! She came to help Utena too. Finally, Wakaba got to be involved in major climactic events with everyone else and unlocked a special “main character-ish” power (since Utena can also turn into a car, it must be special). Way to go! Also, yay friendship.
The castle of Eternity is a lie of course, just a cover for the manipulations of the system, an illusion like in the show that keeps people trapped in the system hoping for an ideal that doesn’t exist. In this case, it literally keeps people in by blocking the exit to the world, but Anthy sees through the lie and recognizes it’s an illusion designed to trap her.
Refusing to run anymore, Anthy is going to break the cycle she’s caught in and face the outside world. And so she and Utena blossom, and she drives right through this illusion. I LOVE the triumphant reprise of Rinbu Revolution as Anthy kicks ass. Perfect. Anthy is such a badass.
But Akio is of course there as the final obstacle Anthy must conquer, as her abuser. He’s the last thing she has to face and let go of. He tries to draw her back into the abusive cycle with him. Akio can only imagine himself as important and powerful in a closed-off, dead world where nobody everyone refuses to see reality for what it is and instead chooses to believe in illusions and be exploited so they can continue clinging to the past. Akio only has power as long as he has an oppressive system to support him and keep up his illusion of princeliness, even though this system is left over from a past that’s dead and gone and keeping it up means he’s essentially a living corpse.
But Anthy no longer needs the illusion. She can face the unknown and face a world that isn’t controlled by a system because she believes in her own will and power now. She no longer needs to cling to what’s dead and gone.
Basically, you can think of Anthy and Utena’s exit as a destruction of the oppressive systems that control their world and keept hem stuck in place as “living corpses” willing to be exploited, clinging to dead ideals. It may be scary to imagine a world without those roads and systems in place, and many lead us to believe that without these systems, everything will fall apart. But clinging to these systems just because they’ve always been in place is the same as clinging to the past, and clinging to the same thing leads to stagnation, and eventually death. It may be scary and risky, but we’re working to destroy these systems because it’s better than being the living dead.
As Anthy said, whatever happens to us when these systems are gone, at least we’ll be free and doing things of our own will. It’s better than being in a system that makes us helpless princesses, eternally stuck in stasis and therefore essentially dead because we can’t move forward!
So, Anthy stops clinging to the dead past and she and Utena band together and DESTROY HER BROTHER AND THE OPPRESSIVE SYSTEM THAT BINDS THEM! Anthy and Utena were dead in this world, but now they’re alive in the outside one.
The world outside looks rough and twisted, untamed. It doesn’t have that system supporting it like the world of Ohtori does, and there are no rules or roads. But Utena and Anthy can build “new roads”- they can make their own path.
I should note while Utena and Anthy’s journey is definitely partly about challenging oppression and throwing off an oppressive system, it’s also an intimate story about growing up. Again, as a child, we often cling to the rules and systems and LIES that we’re told protect us (but which actually limit us), and part of growing up can be realizing we can reject those rules, we can pierce through the lies and see everything for what it is, even if it means having to fend for ourselves in the wilderness of the adult world.
A big reason the outside world is so twisted, according to Ikuhara, is because represents adulthood, and all the danger and terror and uncharted territory that comes with that. You can’t remain innocent in a world like this. He said in the commentary
The wilderness is a large, expansive place, but a complicated one. I wanted to show how they would dare to enter this world with nothing. Wearing nothing. Many ask why I made the last scene like this. As for why, I myself don’t really know. But, I suppose it has to do with how I used to look at the world and society when I was a teenager. And that’s reflected here. These are probably the sort of visual images I had in my teens. That is, the adult world is not pure. And anyone with a pure heart would not be able to live in an adult world. So, if that’s the case, I felt that I didn’t want to become an adult. But then I wondered if it was okay, taking it to that degree. Not sure. In that sense, the last scene was meant to honestly reflect the true feelings I had when I was in my teens. So, that’s the kind of scene I want young teenagers to see before they head off into society. There’s a part of me that still thinks that I’m living here in a desolate, adult wilderness.
Anthy and Utena had been stuck in a sort of eternal childhood/fairytale, desperately trying to maintain their “purity” and clinging to their fantasies and narrow prince/princess archetypes and limiting roles. They sacrificed their freedom for “innocence”, for the comfort of childhood and the comfort of being controlled. But their feigned innocence was actually willful ignorance, and they can no longer cling to fantasies and stay stuck in the same place like the living dead. They allow themselves to face the twisted, unknown wilderness of adulthood, and they leave everything from their past behind.
They come in, completely vulnerable, wearing nothing, facing this world with a (literally) naked honesty. They won’t shield themselves from the truth anymore. They bare their whole selves. No pretenses, no shame. A pure heart can’t live in the adult world? It’s inherently a bad, corrupting place? They’ll see about that. They’d rather be their whole,free, true selves in this corrupt world than stay stuck in some nostalgic lie for the sake of some false purity. They have to trust that they have the strength and power to take responsibility for themselves and determine the course of their own lives, to face down corruption head and find a way though it, maybe even a way to destroy it, instead of pretending it’s not there.
I really like how Anthy hesitates slightly, checking if it’s okay with Utena and if she wants to kiss, and Utena smiles and gives the signal it is and she kisses. It’s a nice little touch that indicates that they have healed enough to have a healthy relationship where there is respect, that theirs is a relationship that will respect consent, unlike all the other unhealthy relationships they’ve been exposed to.
AND THEY KISS! THE GREATEST KISS IN ANY MOVIE EVER.
The nudity of Anthy and Utena also symbolizes a kind of rebirth and the vulnerability of that- they’ve left everything from their old world behind, even their clothing, to be born into a new one and start fresh.
In a way, this is what happened to them at the end of the series in much broader strokes- they left the dead world of Ohtori to enter the outside world and start fresh there.
Seriously, this is not only the rare movie with openly queer female heroes and the rare movie focused around queer women where they triumph and thrive.
So this is a movie where the love between two queer women destroys an oppressive system, where they conquer their abuser, defy the idea that they need to remain stuck in childhood to maintain their pure hearts. They face adulthood, and all its scary challenged, with honesty and open hearts and determination to create a better world, leaving the lies they were fed behind. Their love frees them, empowers them, and destroys that which holds them back. Two women kiss, and it is treated as the ultimate triumph. The signal of the start of a new life, a new world. Their happiness, their freedom, their story.
Women loving each other can save them. It can change their worlds and change THE world, it lead to the possible salvation of the world. That’s what I personally take away from this and I believe it’s a very strong message. It fills me with such joy. It’s so rare to see a movie so completely celebrating the power and ability of queer women to thrive in their adult lives and determine their fates, that shouts they can conquer those who would hold everyone down and destroy all limiting roles and systems of subjugation. Where their love is framed as a beautiful thing that strengthens these women, as something that can cut through a corrupt world and even save it. But this movie goes all out. We can bring the world revolution.
I love this movie.
Tags: Anthy Himemiyautena tenjouthe adolescence of utenaadolescence of utenaRevolutionary GIrl Utenarevolutionary girl utena reviewsrape cwincest cwdrugs cwpedophilia cwsexual assault cwchild rape cwabuse cwdeath cwsuicide cwgifsotp: together we'll shine