First Impressions from the Black Rose Arc of Revolutionary Girl Utena (14-16)
At the end of the (first) Student Council Arc, Anthy sums up the seven duels fought by Utena so far with these seven words:
1. friendship 2. choice 3. reason 4. love 5. adoration 6. belief 7. self
While these notions are all over the map, they are all positive, constructive feelings. The duelists themselves are driven by an ambition to have these notions come to fruition in their lives. And the key to this ambition is the Rose Bride, Anthy.
The Black Rose breaks with this scheme. What was the key becomes an obstacle to be eliminated. And the overarching drive for the duelists is not ambition but hatred. We’re still fighting duels, but these changes are enough to entertain us and complicate matters further. Is Thanatos stronger than Eros? Is Kozue stronger than Saionji? This is the question of the arc.
“Wait a minute!” I hear you say, “Kozue is in love with her brother, she wants to consumate this love…surely this is what truly drives her.” I accept that point, but may I suggest that the death drive lurks beneath this layer? What really lies at the bottom of that shaft: is it love or is it death?? Freud wrestled with this for years until he…well…until he died.
Utena’s enemies, we must keep in mind, are triple now. In episode 15 she fights Kozue, but this means she also fights Miki and a nameless Black Rose combatant from long ago. Is the One stronger [or more primary] than the Many? And isn’t Utena’s ultimate reliance on Anthy and the power of Dios a sort of trinity in itself, so that the One is in fact never one, but Many?? In which case then, Utena’s last victory over Tohga, her quest for the Self, is rendered useless and illusory???
In any case, as otou-san says, this is repetition with variation, and IMHO it works. The structure is the same, but the function is totally different. The members of the Black Rose wish to substitute the Rose Bride, but this means keeping the position of Rose Bride in place. For the moment, thus, the structure looks to be as solid as that castle in the sky.
NOTE ON NANAMI:
Previously I called her “the pessimist of the show”. Now I’ll add the epithet of “Everyman” to that. And of course Everyman is always but one step away from becoming Everycow, especially when handed the opportunity on a platter.