In the twentieth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, NO. NOPE. HOW DARE YOU DO THIS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Utena.
I’M SO UPSET.
- I have a soft spot for Wakaba since she has played such an important role in Utena’s life. “For Friendship, Perhaps” could not have happened without her, meaning that Utena would have probably not challenged Touga without her best friend refusing to give up on her.
- So it’s especially crushing to watch Wakaba find happiness, however misguided, in her situation because it’s clear that it was inevitable that it would all fall apart.
- GODDAMN THIS EPISODE.
- Right off the bat, my brain was mush. SAIONJI HAS BEEN IN WAKABA’S ROOM THE ENTIRE TIME. HE HID THERE AFTER HE GOT EXPELLED.
- And knowing Wakaba’s giving, caring nature, it isn’t out of character to think of her keeping him a secret this whole time. “Wakaba Flourishing” also goes to great lengths to remind us that Wakaba always had a crush on Saionji and was shocked that he was so obsessed with Anthy. All of the building blocks for her breakdown here were ALWAYS THERE.
- Through her secret, though, Wakaba develops a stronger sense of self and more confidence in her abilities, and it’s the WORST PART OF THIS.Â But this episode had to show us why she viewed Saionji as her prince and why she’d keep it a secret from everyone, and I believe it succeeded.
- It was jarring, however, to initially see Saionji treat Wakaba remarkably well? Well, I suppose “well” in relation to how he’s treated literally everyone else around him. But he wasn’t the eternal jerk we’d seen in the past, and he seemed to be genuinely appreciative that she took him in after having no one and nowhere to turn to.
- But that’s the problem at the heart of this. For Saionji, this was always, always temporary. However, as Wakaba spend more and more time with him, she began investing her identity into him. It reminded me of Tsuwabuki’s story as well! (Oh my god, these stories are all so intertwined with one another and they’re mirrors of each other and IT HURTS THERE IS SO MUCH ANGST AND PAIN IN THESE PRECIOUS BABIES’ HEARTS.) Her secret is that she’s housing one of the most infamous and desired men in school, and it inflates her own confidence. I initially thought the montage with her being successful was a daydream of sorts, but NOPE. She finds a form of happiness in being friends with Saionji, albeit friends behind closed doors. And all while this is happening, she puts Saionji on a pedestal, idealizing him, believing him to be her prince.
- He even crafts a little leaf emblem for her which is then used to destroy everything forever.
- BECAUSE HOW THE FUCK DO MIKAGE AND SAIONJI KNOW ONE ANOTHER? Does that mean Saionji always knew of the existence of the Black Rose Circle? Does he know what they’re doing? SERIOUSLY, HOW DO THEY KNOW ONE ANOTHER?
- Despite that I wouldn’t have guessed that Mikage would reach out to Saionji directly, I knew that Saionji would not be a constant in Wakaba’s life. Her adoration of him relied on him being a secret! Deep down, she knew he’d leave and disappoint her, but she deluded herself into believing that this wasn’t the case. And it was so sad to watch this all crumble, yes, but it was also infuriating because both Saionji and Mikage did such a horrible thing to Wakaba. This is not like past Black Rose duelists, in the sense that the person being manipulated by Mikage in this episode is just as complicit in his destruction of another person as Mikage is. Saionji chose to give that leaf figure to Anthy and to leave Wakaba behind just a few minutes later. And he has no regret that he abandoned her by the end of this episode, either! He’s happy to have his expulsion lifted, and he still refers to Wakaba as a “thing.”
- But really, it’s the duel between Utena and Wakaba that is the most terrifying and thrilling thing I’ve seen in this show so far. It really does have a drastically different tone than previous duels, and it felt like one of the biggest scenes in the show. Note that Utena never once draws her sword from Anthy, and the fight itself is vastly different from past ones. Utena has no desire to fight, and throughout the duel, she’s just avoiding getting hit until the very end. Even then? She merely reverses one of Wakaba’s attacks to slice off her black rose.
- It’s gut-wrenching to watch. I imagine that this is going to be a very significant turning point for Utena, since she just had her best friend turned against her by the Black Rose Circle. I think she’ll begin to seek them out very soon.
- REMINDER THAT UTENA VOWED TO SAVE HER BEST FRIEND DURING THE DUEL. I LOVE YOU, UTENA.
- I still don’t understand most of what’s going on, for the record. HOW IS THIS ALL POSSIBLE?
- As if this emotionally draining journey was not enough, the final scene is the K.O. moment for our hearts. Wakaba, without Saionji, after having just fought her best friend and nearly killed her, returns to her dorm room, which is completely empty. “I’m back,” she says, and silence answers her.
- THIS SHOW IS MESSING ME UP.
The video for “Wakaba Flourishing” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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