In the twenty-third episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mikage lashes out at Utena in desperation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.
Trigger Warning: For talk of abusive manipulation.
- I can’t even believe how quickly this show pulled the rug out from under me, and now I have to question PRETTY MUCH EVERY SINGLE THING I’VE EVER SAID.
- BECAUSE WHAT THE FUCK, HOW COMPLICIT IS ANTHY IN ALL OF THIS
- I am awash in confusion and shock.
- The clue was RIGHT THERE IN THE BEGINNING OF THIS EPISODE. MIKAGE WASN’T TALKING TO ANYONE. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IT. NO ONE EVER SAW MAMIYA EVER ASIDE FROM MIKAGE.
- THE LAST EPISODE EVEN OUTRIGHT STATED THAT MIKAGE’S EXPERIMENTS WOULDN’T SAVE MAMIYA
- AND I STILL DIDN’T FIGURE IT OUT.
- OH MY GOD.
- But lord, this episode is rewarding because as Utena grows closer to joining Mikage, she eventually calls him out – point-blank – for what he’s done. It’s not lost on me, though, that after Mikage offers to help one of Utena’s friends through his seminar, Utena immediately thinks of Anthy. She thinks about Anthy’s struggle with being the Rose Bride, and she cares so much about Anthy that she almost agrees to Mikage’s offer. ALMOST.
- THEY HELD HANDS, EVERYONE. THEY HELD HANDS AND IT WAS SO CUTE.
- I’M EXPLODING.
- And yet… what does it mean? I have to start questioning this, don’t I? If Anthy is not who she seems to be, is Utena being manipulated by her, too?
- Anyway, I really didn’t expect Utena to discover Mikage’s true intentions for a whole. One of the fascinating things about how Utena is framed is that the titular character is largely as ignorant as we are. In the Black Rose Saga, the show pulls the curtain back, we see a lot more of what’s going on from other perspectives, and Utena is still only barely knowledgeable about everything. And you know, it works. It works to keep her ignorant in this sense because it allows us to see how her moral fiber is entirely real and credible. She’s not participating in these duels for any manipulative reasons. She’s fought the Student Council and the Black Rose Duelists because of her abiding belief in being a good person and being a good friend. Of course, now I can’t deny that it’s because of her interaction with her prince all those years ago that she developed this dedication to being good.
- And that’s an important part of what “Qualifications of a Duelist” tells us: people can be defined by their past. They can’t escape it. That’s not necessarily a negative thing, and I think that Utena is a great example of how one’s past can positively influence them. But on the opposite end of this, we’ve got Mikage, whose intense attachment to the past (and to Tokiko and Mamiya) had left him delusional. When Utena discovers what he’s done to all the people he’s manipulated in order to become duelists, she’s furious. She feels betrayed. AND SHE CALLS HIM A MANIPULATOR. Which I love! I love that she refuses to let him escape that. She tells him he manipulated people, and when he tries to justify it using that bullshit free will argument, SHE WON’T LET HIM.
- TEAM UTENA. I LOVE HER. And I think it’s important that this show calls Mikage what he actually is.
- Oh god, but WHO IS MIKAGE? Even his very identity has to be called into question here. He’s as much a victim of Akio’s manipulation as he was a manipulator himself. When he challenges Utena to a duel, he’s still conflating her with Tokiko, as well as insisting that he is the same as Utena because they’re both defined by people in their lives.
- But as Mikage’s dueling becomes more and more fierce, he unfortunately realizes that his own manipulation at the hands of Akio is far more intense than he ever knew. Y’all, that moment where he looks over at one of the portraits to see that Mamiya’s face has changed was just… UNFAIR. WHAT THE FUCK. But it happens right as Anthy helps Utena dodge one of Mikage’s attacks, one that would have definitely caused her to lose the duel.
- WHICH… THAT HAD TO BE A PURPOSEFUL THING BECAUSE ANTHY IS PART OF AKIO’S MANIPULATION, ISN’T SHE?
- I mean, the timing is too suspicious. Right when Anthy helps Utena, Mikage’s entire delusion falls apart. He realizes Mamiya died long ago, and the person whom he has imagined as Mamiya isn’t real. MIKAGE BURNED DOWN THE MEMORIAL HALL AND MERELY IMAGINED THAT MAMIYA DID IT.
- And now we know why Akio manipulated Mikage: He used him for his intellect. HE REALLY WAS A HUMAN COMPUTER, BUT FOR AKIO. So Mikage was the one who figured out how to open a way to the castle where End of the World is. Is that how Akio is able to travel there?
- What sort of power does Akio have??? Because he literally wipes Mikage FROM TIME. He never existed, Utena doesn’t remember him or the duels, the hall where he conducted his experiments/seminars is still in ruins, and NONE OF IT HAPPENED.
- Except even that isn’t true. It really did happen, since we see at the end that Akio is certainly aware of it. Even worse, Mamiya is standing by his side
- And is revealed to be Anthy.
- that was Anthy the whole time.
- I’m so fucking done with this show.
- I AM DONE
- HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE
- ANTHY HAS TO BE IN ON THIS.
- WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING.
- I am so lost, and it never seems like this is going to end. CONFUSED FOREVER.
The video for “Qualifications of a Duelist” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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