Mark Watches ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’: Episode 36

In the thirty-sixth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, I finally understand what Touga was trying to do. Literally in the last minute. LORD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.

Trigger Warning: For mention of incest

  • You know, I went into this episode thinking that all of Touga’s talk of “saving” Utena was misguided at best, and now I realize I was utterly wrong. He was trying to save her: FROM AKIO. As Akio said earlier, this was going to be the the final duel, but not ever. It would determine who would fight him for the Bride and the power to revolutionize the world. And realizing how wrong I’d gotten this, I know am aware of the fact that this probably means something truly terrible could happen to the person who duels Akio. Right??? Because why else would Touga want to “save” her?
  • “And Thus Opens the Doorway of Night” is about the journey to the final stage of Utena, and there are a ton of moments that outright tell us that the end is here. Miki and Juri sense it, and they see it in Utena herself. They have a conversation about Utena looking “like a girl,” which I took to be a commentary on a number of things. There’s been the pervasive gender-flip in having Utena be the “prince” who saves the Bride, and we see how some of that manifests in the clothing Utena wears. She wears clothes that belong to the traditional uniform of the men at her school. (And she does so flawlessly, for the record.)
  • So why would Juri observe Utena as appearing more like a girl? I think that was the show’s way of suggesting that Akio’s influence was moving Utena away from her goal of being the noble prince. Had his manipulation of her worked completely?
  • There are moments here where Utena wonders if she’s losing her friendship with Anthy in the process, but like the ones in past episodes, they’re remarkably subtle. Mostly, she’s wondering whether Akio is her prince or whether he’s worthy of being her prince. WELL, AND SHE’S WORRIED THAT SHE SLEPT WITH AN ENGAGED MAN, THERE’S THAT, TOO.
  • But it’s Touga who comes clean in this episode. This might be the only time we get a scene in the dueling arena where there isn’t a duel, and I felt the same way Utena did. It was kind of exciting in this specific context! But Touga has an ulterior motive for taking her there, one that’s both sad and touching. Again, he’s not a character I find all that sympathetic. Still, he takes Utena up to the arena at night (where she sees glimpses of the castle in the sky what the fuck was that) so that he can confess his love for her. Unsurprisingly, Utena really has no interest in this. And I’m glad that the show respected this. Even if she does ultimately trust Touga for a moment, and even though she allows him to sit next to her and imagine what life would be like if they were together, the writers don’t force them together. To me, it speaks volumes to Utena’s character, you know? She recognized that Touga was being serious about his affection for her, so she gave him that moment of peace. I think she accepted it because she knew it couldn’t last, and he knew that, too.
  • I do find it amusing that I picked up on the fact that Saionji was opposed to Akio and the duels, that he was aware of what was happening with them, but then I completely missed the fact that he was slowly convincing Touga to his side. I MISSED IT, IT HAPPENS, I GET IT NOW.
  • Because honestly, let the video show that I was so confused by all this talk of saving Utena. Shit, they really were trying to spare her from Akio’s duel. But… they kind of weren’t all that clear on things? But this show is so awash with metaphor and ambiguity that I’m actually not surprised things weren’t more overt. It makes me wonder how long they’ve been a part of all this. When did Akio first recruit them? Is there some reality to these duels that I still don’t understand?
  • To say that Utena’s final duel with Touga is violent is an understatement. Right from the get-go, it’s so much more brutal than anything we’d seen before this. Their swords clash furiously from the moment it starts right through the end. The cars that litter the arena – which now, more than ever, seem to represent the aggressive sexuality of Akio – become tangled within the duel itself, flying towards Utena in an attempt to distract her or destroy her. And when Utena finds the strength within her and Anthy (and the strength between them) she begins to destroy the cars in an absurd display of power. (Is this meant as a sign that she can ultimately reject and destroy Akio? I hope so.)
  • So what will all the past duelist do now? Utena has defeated all of them, even if it may have helped save her own life if she’d lost to Touga this time. Saionji asks if they’re done now that Utena will face Akio, but he denies it. What part are they all going to play in the final battle?
  • Utena is as close as ever to remembering the truth, too, and I am worried she won’t realize it in time. OH GOD, what if she has to hear the truth from Akio???
  • BUT
  • OKAY
  • And what does the title really refer to? What doorway did Utena open???

The video for “And Thus Opens the Doorway of Night” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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