In the fourth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Miki develops an infatuation with Anthy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena.
“The Sunlit Garden – Prelude”
Trigger Warning: For discussion of bullying.Â
- So, now I know all of the Student Council’s names! Miki, Touga, Saionji, Nanami, and Miss Jury. BLESS YOU, SUBTITLES, YOU HELP SO MUCH.
- AND THEN I KNOW NOTHING ELSE.
- It’s all purpose, of course, and lord, I love how serialized Utena is already. Even though we are introduced to a new character here, it’s done in a way that relies on knowing that he was mostly in the background of the previous three episodes. But it also does something brilliantly unexpected: it messes with my theory that the Student Council is an antagonistic force.
- Which is not to suggest that they’re in the clear. The in media res opening to “The Sunlight Garden – Prelude” shows us that eventually, Miki will come to challenge Utena to a duel over Anthy.
- But over the course of this episode, we see almost none of that person on screen. Miki is kind, shy, and dedicated, allowing himself to be consumed with his passion for math and music. Given Wakaba and Utena’s conversation about the “logic” of math, I imagine that Miki’s obsession with two highly logical forms of art and learning are a suggestion that what he craves more than anything is stability.
- That’s the motif we get over “The Sunlight Garden.” Whatever that place is, it reminds Miki of his sister, whoâ€¦ we don’t know? I mean, it’s not Anthyâ€¦ right? He’s just projecting on herâ€¦ right? Wait, where’s Anthy’s family? Does she have parents? Siblings? Anything? WHERE DID SHE COME FROM?
- Regardless, Miki’s minimalistic flashbacks and his scenes with both Nanami and Touga establish that he has felt “off” since losing his sister in some way. He can’t write the perfect piece because he hasn’t found that “sunlight” place. However, he suspects that Anthy might beâ€¦ well, that’s still a bit ambiguous. His muse? His soul mate? A stand-in for his sister? It’s complicated, and I appreciate that the writers aren’t making this easy for us. But he sees Anthy’s work in the garden, and his mind goes right back to his own past, and it’s clear he equates the two in some way.
- Unfortunately, this episode also reveals that it is Nanami who is spreading rumors about Anthy. She deliberately tells other girls that it is Anthy’s fault that Miki has become reclusive and shy so that they’ll pick on her. The show doesn’t shy away from how brutal this is, but I was thankful that Miki stepped in to stop those girls from tormenting Anthy.
- And then Utena takes this a step further with that INCREDIBLE scene during the study session Utena and Anthy host. Nanami is so desperate to make everyone hate Anthy that she brings â€“ IN ORDER â€“ a snail, a garter snake, and an octopus to the study session just so she can turn everyone against Anthy. Brilliantly so, every act backfires on Anthy because MIKI AND UTENA DON’T CARE IF ANTHY IS WEIRD.
- Let’s talk about what’s at work here. Nanami is trying to police Anthy’s uniqueness, which is a theme we’ve seen before. It’s why that one teacher hated Utena’s outfit, it’s why Anthy is deliberately coded as the Other, and it’s why Nanami believes that her manipulation will work. She’s certain that Miki and Utena will fall in line with her idea of what is normal.
- (But then I think about how she basically has a magical decoder ring that allows her to fight under a floating upside-down castle mirage with other students, and I have to laugh. Nanami, YOU ARE SO FAR FROM NORMAL YOURSELF.)
- I’m just fascinated by all of this??? The show directly addresses these issues instead of making them substance-less metaphors, and it’s so fulfilling to watch.
- So how on earth does Miki get turned against Utena? Why fight her? OH GODS, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT????
- That giant inflatable octopus better make another appearance. That was one of the strangest surprises I’ve ever seen for a Mark Watches project, for the record.
The video for “The Sunlight Garden – Prelude” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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