In the eighteenth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Tsuwabuki discovers that his obsession with Nanami has become unfulfilling. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of manipulation, and brief references to underage sex.
- This is never going to stop being uncomfortable, is it?
- There’s a lot in this episode that ties in with ongoing themes found in Utena. Obsession. Inappropriate relationships. Consent. In exploring Tsuwabuki’s obsession with Miss Nanami, though, the show tackles the difficulty children face when they’re desperate to grow up and how easily that can go COMPLETELY IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.
- I was honestly surprised that we got an entire episode that focused on Mitsuru Tsuwabuki, though we caught a glimpse of him a few episodes ago. It made me realize how much of this specific story arc doesn’t focus on Anthy at all. In fact, aside from meeting Akio and seeing flashes of his bizarre relationship with Anthy, Anthy largely doesn’t factor into this story at all. Why is that? Is that intentional?
- Anyway, I still appreciate that Utena is developing its side characters, and given how “Cowbell of Happiness” chronicled Nanami’s need to be the center of attention, I thought this fit incredibly well after that episode. (It was nice to be proved wrong!)
- Plus, OH MY GOD FIGURING OUT ADULTHOOD IS SUCH A DIFFICULT. Which is why, by the end of “Mitsuru’s Growing Pains,” we’re shown why it’s so inappropriate for Tsuwabuki to pursue someone years older than him. I mean, the relationship was already super uncomfortable back in “Take Care, Miss Nanami.” But it’s exploited by Mikage even further here, despite that Nanami finally does start realizing that Tsuwabuki’s behavior around her is strange.
- Which doesn’t mean that she’s absolved of using him for her own good. Nanami does that with everything in her world, but it’s especially heinous when she uses a young boy to get what she wants. Because of this, Tsuwabuki is increasingly unsure what role he’s meant to play in the world. His friend Mari, while crude at times, does try to get him to see how unfair the dynamic is between Nanami and him, but he misinterprets this as cruelty for the sake of it.
- Meanwhile, the Student Council is becoming more and more aware that another force is interfering with their work for End of the World. I think it will prove significant that End of the World, whomever that is, hasn’t sent any correspondence. Which makes me wonder: Why was Touga always the recipient of all letters from End of the World? Did they stop now that Nanami has taken his place?
- Anyway, I imagine that after the events of this episode, the Student Council will have to actively try and stop this other mysterious group. All three remaining members have been exploited by them! AND I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHERE MAMIYA OR MIKAGE CAME FROM OR WHAT THAT ROOM IS. WHAT THE FUCK.
- Back to Tsuwabuki! Like I said in the video, this shit is SO UNCOMFORTABLE. The kid is in elementary at Ohtori, and without any positive force to guide him through his sexual confusion, he latches on to the horrible manipulation of the Black Rose Seminar. This is the first time we see Mikage actively engaging in the manipulation of someone. It had always happened in secret, but he courts Nanami openly and in front of Tsuwabuki, knowing how the kid feels about her. Is this an act of desperation or one of certainty?
- And really, you can’t divorce the sexual content of Tsuwabuki’s journey from this story. He increasingly equates being an adult with acts of physicality, though he initially believes it to just be kissing. I didn’t need the show to outright state that he wanted to go further than that, though, because it was clear as day. His pursuit of Mari in the theater while doing “research” was the first example of it, but after he’s interrogating, he goes after Nanami. And that moment, where he pulled his swords from her (WHAT THE HELL, HE GETS TWO OF THEM?), is when I think Nanami fully realizes the horrible obsession this kid has with her. She’s repulsed by it, and you can see it on her face. I say that because the final scene hints at this. Nanami doesn’t order the kid around, and he actually leaves her side to be with Mari. Plus, there’s that moment where Nanami actually tells Tsuwabuki that he’s fine just the way he is, that he doesn’t need to become an adult just now.
- Anyway, Utena returns to the dueling arena once more to fight a CHILD. I can’t get over this! Mikage manipulated a child into killing Anthy. WHAT THE FUCK.
- Everything about this duel is uncharacteristic. Tsuwabuki doesn’t wait for Utena to retrieve her sword before he slashes at her. Tsuwabuki has two swords. The duel itself is sloppy and urgent. And I think a lot of that reflects the fact that Tsuwabuki is a child! There’s no organization whatsover.
- Who else noticed that when Tsuwabuki sliced open one of those dolls on the desk that there was a smaller one inside it? HELLO, VISUAL METAPHOR, YOU ARE UPSETTING. I saw that as representing how Tsuwabuki let his own identity be controlled by Nanami’s. He was a part of her larger self instead of existing on his own.
- So yeah. This is super confusing and uncomfortable and I DON’T GET IT. But I kind of love it? These themes are so important to discuss!
The video for “Mitsuru’s Growing Pains” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often.Â My next Double Feature will be Farscape.
– I will be at quite a few conventions and will be hosting events throughout the US, Canada, and Europe in 2014, so check my Tour Dates / Appearances page often to see if I’m coming to your city!
– Inspired by last year’s impromptu event in London, I am taking Mark in the Park on the road! You can see all currently planned dates and pitch your own city here.