Utena Dump, Episodes 31-35

Yes, two Mark Watches Utena comment dumps in a row. There was no Sailor Moon Crystal this weekend, because it’s not biweekly, it’s ever first and third Saturday of the month. In those rare (though not as rare as Tumblr would have you believe) months with five Saturdays, there is no SMC on the fifth one.


Nanami’s world comes crashing down around her as she learns she is not Touga’s sister. Anthy has tried and tried to get that tap flowing. But now that it is, can she control it?

Nanami has always been the Fool, the child, the butt of every joke, the one who brings disaster upon herself. It is the prerogative of the Fool to see the world that is hidden from others.

No one ever said it would be pleasant for the Fool.

Nanami was the innocent (painfully, cruelly innocent) princess, living comfortably in the castle with her prince/brother… but only as long as she wasn’t “the sort of girl who lays eggs.” Anthy’s revenge, ultimately, is forcing Nanami to grow up and move on. But what is she, if not her brother’s princess?

A girl who cannot be a princess…


…has no choice but to become a witch. Nanami has heavily internalized the Madonna/whore complex society thrusts upon her, and so her hatred of the “vermin” that swarm her brother turns on herself. This is inevitably blended with her discovery of Anthy and Akio’s abusive sexuality, which given her innocence is probably the first time she has ever seen sex.

So she blames Anthy, as everyone always blames Anthy, and challenges Utena to a duel. Which she loses… massively, crushingly, leaving her with nothing. She is not the princess. She is not the witch. She has no idea what she is.

But another word for “without identity” is “protean.” Now that she is no longer trapped by the princess/witch binary, Nanami can become anything. She’ll be all right. Like Juri before her, her pain at the end of the duel may well be the birth-pains of a new self, the agony of newfound freedom.

For Nanami, this is the Absolute Destiny, the Apocalypse. This is her Revolution.


Akio went out to get the flowers.

“Utena” is Japanese for “calyx,” the protective sheath around the budding flower.

Akio tells Anthy he took the flowers.

He deflowered Utena.

“Anthy” comes from the Greek for “flower.”

Anthy doesn’t seem too happy about all this.


How much truth is there in the Shadow Girls’ play? How much truth is there in any of their plays? Exactly as much as there is in anything else that we see in this show. Which is to say, none whatsoever. All fiction is equally fictional.

Which is to say, it’s all real.

There is a line missing from the speech the Student Council used to give almost every episode. After the chick breaks its shell: “The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.” Abraxas is present in the show, though; the organ piece that plays during that speech is called “That God’s Name Is Abraxas.”

He’s present in more ways than that. Abraxas is the two-faced god of the Gnostics, above both good and evil because he is the creator of both. He is the equivalent of Zurvan, the supreme creator god of the branch of Zoroastrianism named for him, who is likewise father of both good and evil, and Lord of Time. (Yes. Your suspicions were right all along. Akio is a Time Lord. Anthy is a TARDIS.)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Once upon a time there was a man and a woman and an apple, and everything was the woman’s fault. Awhile later the man got pierced and suffered and sacrificed and so he saved everyone. Except that everything was still the woman’s fault.

Or maybe it’s the one where the woman insisted on acting like she was the man’s equal, so she was driven off, tormented by angels until she became the mother of monsters, the succubus, the witch.

None of it’s true. Here’s what really happened, for certain values of “really”: The woman saved the man. Nobody was supposed to do that, so they sacrificed her instead. But that wasn’t how it was supposed to go, so humanity pierced her with a million stiff pointy hard things and made her suffer forever and take all the blame for everything. And the man, prevented from his dramatic and heroic act of self-sacrifice, who loved his sister and hurt to see her hurt, came to blame her for that pain, came to hate her, torment her, abuse her forever and ever. She trapped him in life, so he traps her in his castle, and blames her for everything.

Another girl saw them. She decided to save the woman from her pain. “But is that really a good idea?” No. No it isn’t. Saving others is about your own ego, your own desire to be the savior. Wanting to be a savior is wishing for others to suffer so that you have something to save them from, isn’t it, Homura.

Helping others is different. It’s much scarier than saving them, because it involves putting yourself out there, making yourself available, vulnerable, and letting them decide how to use your assistance. You may well end up with the hand you offer just hanging out there in space while they decide whether to take it. That’s the price of respecting the agency of others.

And now, at long last, we can talk about one last color: purple. The antithesis of yellow, which is adoration. What is adoration? It is looking up to the object of one’s love, putting them on a pedestal, worshiping them, perhaps not even noticing how that degrades yourself. It is the princess, the Nanami, the one who plays by the rules and is accepted by society as “good,” no matter what she’s really like.

Purple is hate.

Purple is the witch.

Purple is what they’ve all been fighting for all along.

It is that which dwells in the castle.

It is something shining: the morning star, the deceptive beauty, the light which casts the shadow.

It is the power of miracles: the terrible sacrifice, the dark magic of blood and death.

It is something eternal: suffering that never ends.

It is the revolution of the world: the apocalypse.

Purple is the end of innocence. It is corruption and it is maturation. It is stasis and it is change. It is Da’at, the terrible black abyss that is nonetheless the path to enlightenment.

Purple is time.

Purple is putrefaction, the endless decay that endlessly brings forth life.

At last we meet, Anthy Himemiya.


[Mark said:]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?

This got me thinking. Touga seems to be associated (in the play, mostly, but also in the egg speech from the first arc) with “the power to revolutionize the world.” Then we’ve got his homophobic comments to Nanami that sound suspiciously rehearsed and directly contradict the homoerotic nature of his relationship with Akio, the weird ways in which his relationship with Saionji mirror the Shiori-Juri dynamic…

Then remember the context of the egg speech: in Demian it was about the fact that in order to be fully, truly yourself, it is first necessary to change the world to eliminate the outmoded and unfair social norms that hold you back.

So, what I’m starting to wonder: Is Touga possibly gay or bi? Does he–possibly even without realizing it himself–want the power to revolutionize the homophobic world so that he can openly explore that side of himself?

Dunno, just thought it interesting to consider. Honestly I think Touga just wants power for its own sake, because he likes controlling and abusing people.

2 thoughts on “Utena Dump, Episodes 31-35

  1. I believe you've under-emphasized a crucial aspect of Nanami's character, and therefore also of what it means to have yellow hair. The core of Nanami's motivation is not to adore her brother, but to be adored by the students at large.

    As Princess of the school, Nanami has status over other girls, most notably her three courtiers. What does she do with that status? She obtains (demands by threat & act of violence) their adoration (performance of adoration). In the cowbell episode, Nanami complains that she “was about to become the idol of the whole school” if not for Utena's bothersome observation that she was ridiculous.

    However many lavish parties she throws, whatever jewelry she wears, Nanami's status as Princess of Ohtori depends on the fact that she is the sister of the Prince, Touga. If any other girl becomes the girlfriend of the Prince, she gains a stronger claim to be The Princess. What Nanami defends when she drives off Touga's suitors is not her Prince, but her place on the pedestal.

    That other little jerk, he's also angling to be adored. He sees how Nanami treats Touga and thinks “I want that for myself.”

    This will come up when we continue the crossover discussion from last Saturday.

  2. Excellent point. Nanami is defined by adoration in both senses; she is motivated by her adoration for her brother and her desire for others to adore her.

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