Mark Watches ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’: Episode 35

In the thirty-fifth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Akio involves Touga in his final plan to defeat Utena, but Touga is surprised by what happens to him in the process. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.

Trigger Warning: For talk of emotional manipulation and misogyny.

  • I really think it was a good choice to open this episode with Utena’s fairy tale, except to replace everything with what actually happened. Not that I needed to be reminded of how EVERYTHING HURTS FOREVER. I ALREADY KNEW THIS. But to frame this episode way, we now have a better context for the story as a whole. Still, I can’t deny that I haven’t put everything together. I mentioned this in a video last week, but I actually expect that the show isn’t going to give me the answers for everything. I think that the show’s surrealism and ambiguous nature is part of its charm. There are tons of puzzle pieces that are left to our own explanation, you know?
  • Here’s a good example: I don’t think the show is ever going to tell us what Miki’s stopwatch obsession is about. I don’t think we’ll find out why Saionji and Tougas conversation up where the student council meets is covered in microphones and cameras. Like the Shadow Play Girls’ sketches, these details accent the narrative, they give us a chance to delve deeper into the story, but they are often metaphorical in nature.
  • Still, there are some things I need to know. This episode is clearly setting up whatever this final battle is going to be, and I imagine that we’re only going to see one – maybe two – duels in the remainder of this show. Akio is organizing the final duel against Utena, and while I’m unsure who is going to duel her, it’s clear that Akio’s romantic pursuit of Utena is part of it. Is it to distract her? Is he trying to pull her away from Anthy in order to weaken their attachment? That seems to be the case.
  • I’m also curious what it is that Akio has promised Touga. There’s that hint in the previous episode when the Shadow Play Girls portray each of the duelists that each of them want something – the power to make miracles happen, the end to loneliness, the existence of something eternal – and I’m guessing this is how Akio has been able to manipulate them all through his End of the World identity. So what does Touga get? Why are all their scenes together so blatantly homoerotic???
  • That’s a separate issue, as the end of this episode led in a completely different direction than I anticipated. I admit this is because of my massively queer brain couldn’t turn off all the queer readings I kept seeing in this show. Touga and Akio hang out shirtless so much, and in this episode, Touga is literally photographing Akio while he sensually caresses all his muscles. GAYYYYYY GAYYYYYY. So I thought the big reveal at the end of this would be that Touga had fallen for Akio, giving us yet another example of unrequited love.
  • Oh, I was so close, yet so far.
  • As Touga helps bring Utena closer and closer to Akio, he begins to question his own affections. Now I understand why this show has gone to great lengths to portray Touga as a misogynist womanizer. He’s viewed all of the women he’s been with as pawns. Actually, let’s just borrow the imagery from the Shadow Play Girls’ sketch: He believes he can “catch” anyone he pursues. And his own experience validates this! he gets whomever he wants whenever he wants!
  • So what happens when he suddenly develops romantic feelings for someone he absolutely cannot have? Because HOLY FEELINGS, it’s Utena. UTENA.
  • Which I get because it’s Utena. I’m probably in love with her and I don’t even know.
  • I confess I’m not ready to feel all that sorry for Touga because he’s gross, he’s complicit in Akio’s manipulation of Utena, and because of all the garbage he put Nanami through. (Where is she?) That doesn’t mean this development isn’t an important part of the story. Again, I need to know: What did Akio do to convince Touga that he should help manipulate everyone? Touga is the only person here who hasn’t been manipulated by Akio. Why is that? Why are they partners in crime?
  • I’m also completely fascinated by all the stuff between Saionji and Touga. They’re now openly aware of their history with Utena, but Saionji in particular is a step ahead of Touga. Is it because he was a victim of Akio’s manipulation? He makes that comment that they’re all still in their coffins, and I am SO INTRIGUED by this! Are all of these characters stuck? Are they held back by their pasts and Akio’s manipulations? Has Akio prevented everyone from growing or progressing? Is this why Utena is such a threat? She is helping Anthy grow and she is growing as a person herself.
  • The title of this episode – “The Love That Blossomed in Wintertime” – hints at the unlikely development of Touga’s desire for actual love, not something temporary or sensual or solely physical. It’s blossomed in the worst moment possible, and now he is stuck.
  • This might be the most labyrinthine story I’ve ever experienced, and I haven’t said this in a long time (maybe ever?), but it’s a real treat. I love this, and I’m so thrilled that I might soon understand what the fuck is going on.

The video for “The Love That Blossomed in Wintertime” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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