In the thirty-seventh episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Utena considers whether or not to finally seek out her prince, given the shocking discovery she made at the end of the last episode. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of emotional manipulation and suicide.
Oh my god, this episode is SO IMPORTANT.
- All the reminders we’ve gotten lately of Utena’s motivational core – her desire to stay noble so she can be a prince – have a particular relevance to Utena’s journey in “The One to Revolutionize the World.” It’s here that Utena has to question whether her life’s goal is worth it. She has to choose between the prince from her past or the prince in the present time. But… oh god, aren’t they technically the same person?
- And what does each choice mean?
- Initially, Utena ponders whether or not she’s “noble” anymore. After catching Anthy and Akio together, she’s distraught. She’s lost her center of gravity. I find it fascinating that so much of Utena’s struggle is unsaid. There are no violent confrontations, and when pressed on the issue, Utena makes a vague reference to people having secrets that they need to keep. She clearly doesn’t feel comfortable bringing it up to Anthy or Akio. But after taking off her Rose Crest ring, she asks Akio on a date.
- Yet it’s not a definitive decision. I think that’s why Akio was so intent on learning why Utena took off her wrong. She didn’t give him an answer that felt certain, you know? And my guess is that if he can woo her completely to his side, then he can defeat her for…. something. I don’t know that part, y’all, oh god. What happens if he defeats Utena? Does he get Anthy? And what does that mean? If Akio really is the Prince trapped in the castle, then don’t we ideally want both Anthy and Akio freed from this cycle/system?
- Here’s your most recent reminder that one of my favorite themes in the universe is FRIENDSHIP. So you better fucking believe that I am a huge fan of the scene where Juri and Miki come to Utena to ask her what she’s going to do. (Well, Nanami butts in, too, and while I wouldn’t call her Utena’s friend, it’s still an important part of Utena’s decision.) The whole scene has visual reminders of each of their stories. We see Kozue and Shiori in the background. And the characters talk openly about what they struggled with: acceptance, desire, unrequited love, loneliness. Ultimately, though, they all want to remain friends with Utena, and I think that’s the key to understanding why Utena chooses what she chooses. Even Nanami – who claims that Utena is too meddlesome – helps sway her towards her ultimate end.
- I got the sense that Akio was fairly confident that Utena would choose him over her prince. He’s so brash in his treatment of Utena in this episode. He’s quick to accept a date; he’s eager to offer her a ring to replace the Rose Crest; and he’s super physical with her, though she ultimately rebuffs his advances. But what about the moment where he admits that he doesn’t really like the stars? Was he being cocky? Was he teasing her with the fact that everything in his life was part of an elaborate act?
- (I swear, this show must be so rewarding to watch again and again.)
- But the single act that has the biggest affect on Utena is Anthy’s suicide attempt. I was completely perplexed by the conversation about poison that they had prior to the attempt, but now I think I understand it better. I think Anthy was testing the waters a bit. I typed that, and now I’m not sure at all. Like, in the midst of this adorable conversation about the future, Anthy casually brings up a poison. The scene has this weird repetition to it, with the skipping record and the odd camera panning, and THEN UTENA SAYS SHE PUT POISON IN ANTHY’S TEA?
- All the stuff about the future, though? I thought it fit as really ironic foreshadowing. Utena and Anthy promise to be together ten years in the future, but Anthy was probably already planning to commit suicide.
- Thankfully, Utena saves her. It’s a shocking sequence because it happens so quickly after the last one. There’s no dramatic set up at all, and I actually wondered if it had truly happened.
- BUT IT DID. And it’s the reason that Utena decides that she has to face her Prince, that she has to try and pass through the Rose Gate, all because her friendship with Anthy is more important than anything else. I imagine that Anthy is a lot more aware of the endless suffering she’s going through than I thought. Is she always conscious of it? Because I’m guessing that Utena’s rejection of her past Prince / the ring is what made Anthy feel like there was no hope for her to be freed.
- I love everything about the line where Utena confirms to Touga that she is a fool. It’s such a beautiful confirmation of Utena’s characterization. I’d spoken about this in an earlier review, but the framing of Utena as the most ignorant character (in terms of knowing what’s actually going on) works incredibly well to demonstrate her moral core. And this is a verbal example of that! She accepts Touga’s claim that whomever believes in true friendship is a fool because of her friendship with Anthy.
- JESUS, THIS IS IT. It’s happening in the next episode, isn’t it? MY BODY IS NOT READY FOR THIS.
The video for “The One to Revolutionize the World” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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