In the thirty-eighth and penultimate episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, I imagine that each one of you were waiting for me to watch that scene, and you’ll be rewarded with my UTTER DEVASTATION AND SHOCK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.
Trigger Warning: For talk of emotional manipulation on a grand scale, suicide, and consent.
- This is a tangled web, y’all, and as many answers as I got about the nature of the duels and about the nature of Akio and Anthy, I’m still left confused about… well, a lot of things.
- I can’t deny what an incredible episode this is, and the reveals that I did understand? THERE WERE HINTS TO THEM THE ENTIRE TIME.
- When Anthy and Utena entered that arena, I was nervous. I was excited. I WAS UNPREPARED. This is the only episode that opens with the arena, and it felt special. And every goddamn new scene and segue was thrilling and shocking, and I was simply on the edge of my seat. (I almost fell off the chair, whoops.)
- This show relies on surreal imagery to convey messages and themes, so the image of a gigantic sphere with the Prince resting impossibly on the side was both awe-inspiring and unsettling. What was that? Where were they? Why was the arena so empty?
- Was I shocked that Akio was the prince? No. Sure, the show played with that idea for the most recent batch of episodes, so I definitely teetered between certainty and confusion. I liked that Akio told Utena that she must have known it all along because that felt like a quiet nod to the audience.
- Which is not to say that this episode isn’t shocking, because HOLY SHIT. Akio continues to pursue Utena, and he feeds right into the fairy tale motif that’s framed the entire show. He promises a future of happiness, of Utena fulfilling a role that makes her more “girly,” of an eternity where she has her prince and she is a princess. And while it was happening, all I could think was… wait. Is this what she wants? I even commented on that!
- So Utena interrupts this fairy tale to draw attention to her bride, the Rose Bride, who had disappeared and now lay in pain and exhaustion at the foot of stairs. She draws the narrative away from the fairy tale, and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. It’s an incredible moment because in another context, Akio’s fantasy world would be appealing to anyone, but she refuses to accept a perfect fairy tale that doesn’t involve Anthy.
- This is sort of where I get a bit confused because, as I stated at the beginning, this shit is tangled and complex. I love that we get to see that Anthy confessed everything to Utena after Utena saved her. It’s important because this episode really is about doing your best even if you aren’t the best. Anthy confesses to using Utena for her own gain; Utena confesses to being selfish and fighting for Anthy in order to boost her own ego; and even Akio points out that Utena broke her own moral code when she slept with Akio. (IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: FUCK YOU, AKIO, FOR BRINGING THIS UP THOUGH. YOU MANIPULATED HER INTO IT. I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU.) And even if these two failed each other in some way, even if they weren’t always their best, the choice Utena makes is to save her friend regardless. Utena knows she is flawed, and she doesn’t let that break her moral fiber.
- Which is why it’s so jarring and upsetting that Akio reveals that the dueling arena itself is an illusion. Akio eats away at the certainty of others, and he’s been doing this since the first episode by using his “planetarium” to physically create illusions for these people. In one move, this not only demonstrates how truly evil he is, but it also explains how weird the arena has always been. I think it’s very easy for me to see how this show has documented the surreal lengths that Akio has gone to in order to emotionally manipulate the people around him. Is this what he did when he showed the duelist the End of the World? How much of his interactions with others were an illusion?
- It’s a terrible thought, isn’t it??? This man has sustained an elaborate and invasive alternate reality in his own bedroom. He has manipulated so many people, he’s used them, and he did it all in order to steal the sword from Utena so that he could essentially steal her, right?
- My earlier-referenced confusion starts here. What happened between Anthy and Akio that led them to this point? If Akio is the spirit of the original prince (or actually him), then how did he turn into the person he is today? What happened over the course of all these years? What happened to Anthy that she would believe that she was a witch, or at least accepted that her destiny was true?
- I suppose Akio simply grew up. He became an adult, and in the process, he lost whatever it was that made him the Prince in Utena’s past.
- I think that might be the key to understanding this because he so quickly makes this final duel a real one. There are no illusions of risk. The duel is for life, and y’all, when I realized that they weren’t going to merely fence one another, I was terrified.
- I HAD NO IDEA
- NO IDEA AT ALL
- There is no power of Dios here. There is no magic. Utena refuses to accept the very idea that Akio owns Anthy, that Anthy is destined to be the witch in this story, and she refuses to accept a world where friendship is meaningless. The barrage she unleashes on Akio is spellbinding, y’all. I COULDN’T LOOK AWAY.
- Which is one of a number of reasons the final image of this episode is so devastating. I went into this believing that Anthy wanted Utena to fight for her. I went into this believing that somehow, Utena could save Anthy if only she defeated Akio and tore apart his world and his standards and his control.
- And Anthy stabs Utena in the back.
- I realized after stopping my video that I was shouting, “Why? WHY???” over Utena doing the same. Because I don’t understand. Why??? Why would Anthy do that? Why would she betray her best friend like that??? I DON’T GET IT. Is Anthy in control of her body or is Akio? I AM TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THIS AND IT’S NOT FITTING TOGETHER.
- I AM SO FUCKED UP. ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS IS HOW IT’S GOING TO END?
- WHAT THE FUCK, UTENA FANDOM. WHAT THE FUCK.
The video for “The End of the World” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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