In the twelfth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Utena slips into a depression over Anthy, but Wakaba refuses to give up on her friend. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.
Trigger Warning: For talk of depression.
- As huge as this episode was, I definitely feel like I still don’t quite understand what’s going on. Which is intentional! There’s a huge hint towards Anthy’s background at the end of this episode, but the serialization of Utena is a subtle, slow thing.
- Still, HOLY SHIT.
- THIS EPISODE!!!
- This is a very difficult and challenging story because Utena spends most of “For Friendship, Perhaps” in a depressive state. While I cannot ignore the unreal queer subtext to all of this (IT’S LIKE A HORRIFIC BREAK-UP EPISODE OH MY GOD), it’s still possible to read all of this as the loss of friendship and the power of platonic love. Which is also very important, and ALL OF YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE FRIENDSHIP.
- Still. Look at how Utena and Anthy look at one another at the end of this episode.
- I AM NOT IMAGINING THIS
- THIS IS BARELY SUBTEXT ANYMORE.
- Let’s talk about everything that happens prior to this, though. It’s hard to watch, and as someone who slipped into a 6-month depressive period after being dumped many years ago, I felt Utena’s pain. And the show portrays this brutally because it feels brutal. Utena doesn’t show up to class, Wakaba finds her sitting motionless in her room, her boy’s uniform damaged, and nothing can get through to her.
- And bless Wakaba for trying. She spends this entire episode refusing to give up on her best friend. At times, she’s a bit pushy and even misguided, and I don’t think the writers wanted to avoid showing us that she’s flawed, too. At the same time, Wakaba was frustrated that Utena was essentially giving her the silent treatment while changing her entire identity in the process. I understood that for Wakaba, it was distressing to see Utena act so completely different than usual. A lot of this episode centers around the idea of normalcy, and for Utena, what’s “normal” is actually not normal to others.
- And yet, she purposely tries to be “normal.” She wears the uniform she’s supposed to. She doesn’t express the same desire and affection towards Anthy when she happens to see her. (HOW UNFAIR ARE THOSE SCENES? My god, Anthy looks so happy and unaware of Utena’s emotional struggle. GAH, I HURT.)
- All the while, Wakaba tries to reach through to her friend. Oh god, she tries so hard! She initially assumes that Utena and Anthy had a fight and she’s technically right and I was destroyed RIGHT THEN AND THERE.
- But it’s not until Utena and Anthy come across one another a second time that Wakaba (justifiably) flips the fuck out. I mean, look, it’s become a thing that I just yell at Touga whenever he’s on the screen because I dislike him so much. So it was incredibly validating that Wakaba recognized that Touga’s treatment of Utena was a problem. She could tell that Touga was being massively inappropriate! Well, not just that, but she also realized that Touga was the source of Utena’s depression, not Anthy.
- Granted, the whole confrontation doesn’t happen easily. Utena finally reacts to Wakaba’s prying and anger by slapping her. I did notice that it was only after Wakaba threw water on Anthy that this happened. Perhaps Utena still unconsciously wanted to protect her. Regardless, the entire fight wakes Utena up somewhat, and that’s when she tries to apologize to Wakaba.
- I thought it was pretty neat that Wakaba made sure to tell Utena that just apologizing to her? That wouldn’t work. She needed more than that.
- I JUST LOVE WAKABA’S CONVERSATION WITH UTENA. I love that Wakaba’s friendship is the central element of the plot. I love that Wakaba is the catalyzing agent that helps Utena realize that she isn’t being herself, and that by losing Anthy, she lost a part of herself, too.
- So the duel between Touga and Anthy becomes about gaining Utena’s sense of self as well!
- WHICH I LOVE.
- And then Touga has to go and reveal that he can command Anthy to give up her body to protect the sword.
- WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???
- Seriously, I know so little about this show’s mythology. I’m so lost!
- And yet, I understood that even with Anthy’s power in his sword, Touga was fighting more than just a young girl. That’s an important aspect of Utena’s characterization: she is more than a simple idea. She came to that arena to fight for her friend. She came to fight for Anthy’s independence. She came to fight for herself. And even when she was facing impossible odds, she refused to back down from Touga and his gross entitlement. ALSO, I’M PRETTY SURE THAT SWORD COULD HAVE KILLED HER???
- Y’all, what the hell is Anthy talking about? What does she remember??? Why does Utena’s struggle with Touga remind her of something? WHY MUST THIS SHOW TEASE ME SO???
- I NEED SO MUCH MORE.
- I suppose this marks the end of the Student Council Saga, since I’m moving on to the next boxset. This really did feel like a huge chapter closing in the show, but now I just want more. What was Anthy referring to when she willingly chose to stop protecting Touga’s sword? HOW WAS SHE ABLE TO DEFY TOUGA?
- Oh my god F R I E N D S H I P. I was going to love this episode just by default.
The video for “For Friendship, Perhaps” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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