Mark Watches ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’: Episode 17

In the seventeenth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Juri’s past comes back to haunt her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.


  • Unrequited love is a hell of a thing, y’all. I do think it’s something that’s fairly universal, and I know plenty of straight folks who have dealt with the sensation. But there’s something even more brutal to the experience of being queer and dealing with unrequited love, and this episode hit SUPER CLOSE TO HOME.
  • As many queer or gay folks can attest to, there’s a particular tragedy in unrequited love with someone whose sexual orientation prevents them from ever falling in love with you. Now, I’m not sure that Shiori is actually straight at all, but this episode does establish that she did like the man she thought she was taking away from Juri. It’s possible that she feels no romantic or sexual attraction to Juri whatsoever beyond her bizarre obsession with her. (Though that is decidedly pretty queer also. OH MY GOD HOW IS THIS SHOW REAL.) Regardless, Shiori is, for whatever reasons, completely unavailable to Juri, and thus, Juri’s tragedy is two-fold: She is in unrequited love with someone, and that person purposely sabotaged a friendship, too. It’s the extra knife in the heart for her.
  • SO IMAGINE MY GODDAMN SURPRISE WHEN SHIORI SHOWED UP AT OHTORI ACADEMY. (Actually, you don’t have to imagine it, since it’s on video!) Can I propose a theory? I think that the Black Rose Seminar is purposely transferring students back to Ohtori Academy in order to exploit the emotional vulnerabilities of people. I mean, it’s so convenient that Shiori shows up and then is immediately manipulated to become a Black Rose duelist.
  • I’m probably wrong.
  • Right from the get-go, however, I sensed that I was missing something huge in Shiori’s and Juri’s backstory. Shiori seemed to want to be friends with Juri again and sought forgiveness, and Juri, understandably so, wasn’t very interested in that. To me, I saw this as Juri rejecting her own attraction to Shiori (WHICH IS NOT SUBTEXT AT ALL I LOVE THIS SO MUCH) in order to protect herself. Shiori was horrible to Juri, leaving her “unfulfilled” in the process. From Juri’s point of view, Shiori not only didn’t reciprocate any romantic feelings, but she actively took that one boy away from her, WHO SHE NEVER HAD ANY FEELINGS FOR IN THE FIRST PLACE.
  • And lord, do I understand the need to move on from an unrequited crush. For a number of reasons that are complicated and would take up a novella’s worth of space, I’ve had a ton of unrequited feelings for people. Actually, I spent months believing that the guy who is now currently my partner had no feelings for me at all, and I worried that I was setting myself up for disappointment again. (I WASN’T! :: high fives self :: ) I have a horrible track run of falling for straight men or men who have no interest beyond friendship with me, so I had to learn the hard way that you have to move on. You have to get on with your life, and that sometimes means you have to be honest with yourself and the other person and cut ties with them. It sucks! It hurts! But if you want more from a friendship than another person is willing to give, it’s not fair to either person to hang around and expect that. It has to be something that both parties want. So, I did that. I did that with a close friend who was questioning his sexuality, but ultimately decided he wanted to be in straight relationships. I did that with another guy who wasn’t straight, but only wanted me as a friend for his own benefit. Sometimes, I ended friendships because it wasn’t fair for the other person, but often, it was so that I could find peace of mind. It was so I could begin to feel better about life.
  • I wouldn’t say that Juri found that, as we saw in “Unfulfilled Juri” that she’s clearly still dealing with feelings of resentment and anger. So the sight of Shiori in this episode simply re-opens all those wounds. She cannot continue to fall for someone who doesn’t want her, so she casts the locket with Shiori’s photo in it into the river. It’s an extremely important scene for Juri’s growth!
  • WHICH IS THEN IMMEDIATELY EXPLOITED. I’m guessing that Mikage or Mamiya somehow controlled that bird so that it would bring Juri’s locket to Shiori, thereby revealing Juri’s love for her and giving Shiori the power of knowledge.
  • It wasn’t until her interrogation that I understood the latter part of that. Shiori revels in the knowledge that Juri loves her, and it’s not truly because she loves Juri back. (Though I suspect there’s some of that going on.) Shiori reveals to Mikage that she resented Juri’s popularity and perfection. Her obsession is rooted in two things: ruining Juri’s perfection and forcing Juri to think about her. (That reminding me a lot of Kozue’s motivation, by the way.) So Shiori is ecstatic that Juri is in pain over her unrequited love Shiori. But she’s also thrilled that this means in some sick way, she’s the center of Juri’s attention.
  • Whatever poison is in that black rose, it basically acted as a catalyst for Shiori’s insecurity. This is how they exploit her into becoming a Black Rose duelist.
  • I’m beginning to suspect that there will be a lot of visual metaphors on this show that won’t ever be explained. Like how the object on the desks in the Black Rose duels are always relevant to the duelist.
  • I think it is incredible – and a sign of how thrilling the writing is for Utena – that Juri occupies a space between antagonist and sympathetic protagonist. She fought Utena for Anthy once, but at this point, I now feel nothing but sympathy for her. I don’t feel like she’s an antagonistic force at all; she’s a pawn of something much larger than herself, and the show isn’t ignoring that she’s also got a story of her own to tell.

The video for “Thorns of Death” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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