More Apocalyptic Talk (Revolutionary Girl Utena 02-05)

Anthy

Last week otou-san over at Shameful Otaku Secret! wrote up a post concerning our chats on Revolutionary Girl Utena, prompted by digitalboy’s invitation.  Neither of us have seen this series before, and so along with a warning for spoilers in this post I’d like to include a plea against spoiling events beyond episode 5 for us!!!

Now, initially our idea was to watch one episode a week, chat about it, and trade posts between the two blogs.  However someone couldn’t restrain themselves (I’m not saying who) and watched all the way to episode 5.  So then the other one of us (which I admit is myself) was forced to watch up to 5 as well.

So we had a pretty epically rambling chat on these 4 episodes.

***

On Episode 02

We agreed that this episode, where Saionji gets an immediate rematch (WHY?  YOU SHOULD NEVER DO THIS!!) and loses to Utena again, was relatively unremarkable.

otou-san: I’m finding it hard to remember something truly standout about it other than the fact that it’s the first time she used the sword and played for the defensive team

animekritik: Yeah…same here.

[“Great chat, you guys,” I hear you say.  But wait!!  There’s more!!!]

***

On Episode 03

Touga’s younger sister, who seems to love her oniisama a bit too much, is upset at his interest for Anthy, so she sets up a ball, sends Anthy a funky green dress [which is shohjo murder in the first degree considering Anthy’s dark complexion and purplish hair].  The dress disappears when you spill liquid on it [I bet you a certain former President wishes he…]

animekritik: I had this issue with the ball re: anthy’s disappearing dress: my shoujo side was saying “How horrible!!” and the rest of me was going: “Yeah, yeah” a la Beavis & Butthead.

otou-san:  Haha too true.  They’ve created a paradox.

[OK, that’s pretty much all we talked about that.  But hold on, the best is yet to come!!!!!]

the ball

***

On Episodes 04-05

The great Mickey story, super-compressed style, went something like this: Mickey and his sister played piano, Mickey loved his sister, got sick, sister dropped out, Mickey is looking for someone to replace her, finds Anthy, Nanami is still trying to get Anthy back for “stealing” her own brother, brings snail, snake, octopus to Utena’s, fails to humiliate anyone, Touga does Mickey’s sister, teaches him a lesson, Mickey tries to break up the council, fails, challenges Utena, fails, but promises he’ll be back.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way.  Here’s what our discussion yielded.

[otou-san was a big fan of these episodes:]

otou-san:  I liked the Mickey arc a lot, because the first episode was very light hearted with the mongoose and such, but got pretty dark with Touga’s “teaching” and the duel.  I’m surprised at how seamlessly it’s been able to move between moods and styles so far

animekritik:  Just like a young lady can switch moods….with ease.

otou-san:  So true. You see what I mean about how it got really crazy with the backbiting and whatnot really fast?

animekritik:  Very shohjo, yeah.  meow grrrrrr!  What’s up with the octopus?  Is that scary?  snail -> snake -> octopus..

otou-sanGL said he kept thinking about dream of the fisherman’s wife.  In seriousness, I dunno.  I mean, it’s definitely one notch up in bizarre you could explain away a snake in your house, they could certianly get there, but an octopus, well that would definitely indicate a weirdo…  Of course, it wouldn’t live for very long…

octopus

[moving on to Touga:]

otou-san: I think what raised my eyebrows the most was Mickey walking in the music room as his sister’s leaving.

animekritik:  That was excellent…  Touga is gold.

otou-san:  with solid brass testicles.

[otou-san brought up the comments from our first chat post:]

otou-san: I’m going into the comments here and I see two things crop up:

1. is the assertion that the duels are going to get repetitive

which I believe, since it’s kinda got the vibe of a magical girl transformation sequence, the animation itself is repeated but the commenter said that some people say it’s intentional because it’s meant to be seen as ritualistic, which, ok I can get behind to a degree as well.

animekritik:  Yeah.  Like watching sumo..it’s the same darn thing for the first 5 minutes: salt here salt there, crouch..no. get up again…  If you’re a sumo fan that’s just time for you to get excited about the match.

otou-san:  Makes sense comparing it to sumo: both are a one on one match rooted in ritual.

2. The other thing mentioned in the comments was a heavy use of symbolism which is already starting to crop up

animekritik:  Example?

otou-san:  Well there’s the apple, which usually is a pretty obvious symbol, but it was there, cut away, cut back and it’s sliced.  I’m not a real student of symbolism, but I’m not sure how I’d interpret a sliced apple

animekritik:  Wait, wait, wait.  I can’t even remember an apple.

otou-san:  It’s a rooftop scene where the council is talking [episode 05].  They meet on the roof, it even has its own chair… Mickey talks about dissolving the council and stopping the duels for Anthy…exactly one minute later, shot of the apple and it’s creatively sliced.

animekritik:  Ok, then it might be Eris’ Apple, Goddess of discord.  Mickey is trying to break Olympus up.

otou-san:  Ah, yeah that makes sense.

me:  But it was sliced, which means the council overcame the difficulty.

otou-san:  Well Touga pretty much shut him down, so yeah…

apple

[Eventually we got down to Anthy, her mysteries, and our uncontrollable speculations:]

animekritik: Anthy is an airhead.  T or F?

otou-san:  Gonna bet on F.  That smile has the “I know something” quality to it.

animekritik:  hmmm. so it’s all a charade, huh..

otou-san:  What’s your answer to that question then? Undecided?

animekritik:  I’d like her to be a klutz.  Bbut she looks a lot like….Utena’s prince in the OP, I think!!!

otou-san:  I had the thought about how she looked like the prince but wouldn’t she have to be older?  Dunno.

animekritik:  Nah, her older brother.. oniisama!

[Enter Utena:]

animekritik: Anthy wants Utena to win..always.  That should mean something.

otou-san:  But doesn’t she want whoever has her at the moment to win?

animekritik:  I got the impression she wanted Utena to win when fighting Saionji..and this made him angry.  Same against Mickey.. she cheered.

otou-san:  That certainly bothered Mickey a lot.

animekritik:  no kidding!!

[We turn to evangelion philosophy:]

otou-san:  Mickey was an interesting case.  He claimed he was fighting for her free will, but two things about that: 1. he was just aping what he heard Utena say, when he thought that was a good idea; 2. he was still using the duel process, which shows he really wasn’t that serious or maybe he didn’t know what giving her her freedom actually meant.

animekritik:  After his attempt to break the council up..

otou-san:  Well yes, but it was too easy to shoot him down, could he really have thought that’d work?

animekritik: But there’s also this to consider: if Anthy’s will is to obey her master, then isn’t this an exercise of her free will?

otou-san: Yeah, I tossed that around in my head a couple times.  She always frames it in such a way that you can’t be sure.  Since she’s cheerfully smiling, saying “if that’s what Utena wants”.

animekritik:  Ambiguous, yes..  What do you think this “world revolution” actually entails??  Coz i don’t have a clue.

otou-san:  I don’t either and who might the End of the World be?  At this point I actually have Gendo Ikari in my head.

animekritik:  Gah..  Seele.

otou-san:  Yeah I dunno… really haven’t been doing too much speculating yet.  I’m still a bit overcome by the atmosphere and style and confusion.

***

My apologies to Chu Chu!!!  I just realized we didn’t even mention him/her/it.  Here’s a bone Chu, now go and chu on it.

chu

Anyway, I hope this wasn’t too long of a post.  Comments will be appreciated, but please do not spoil past episode 5!!!

~ by Haloed Bane on September 21, 2009.

11 Responses to “More Apocalyptic Talk (Revolutionary Girl Utena 02-05)”

  1. Having seen all of this show, and having read so much theory about it, reading ya;;’s’ post was… somewhat painful. I feel like you accomplished nothing :p I kind of wish you’d just do your usual wacky theories about this show, because they’d be more true than ever before.

  2. Reading the reactions of Utena noobs is pretty fun. At this point in the series, you can only take things at face value and learn how the series works (while hanging on for dear life). Actually, I wasn’t very impressed with the series after finishing the first arc. The symbols, interpretations, etc., they only really make sense in retrospect, so just file away the important bits so you can recall them later.

    I stand by my statement that the duels were the dullest parts of the series. Otou-san mentioned the magical girl transformation vibe, but when you consider Utena’s mastermind Kunihiko Ikuhara cut his teeth directing odd episodes of Sailor Moon, the remark hits closer to the target than you may want. Maybe dull is a harsh word; I think they never really delivered as satisfying a resolution or development I wanted that the events pre-duel/post-duel built up to. It felt like just going through the motions and killing time.

  3. I had a grand time watching up to episode 5. Mickey is deliciously interesting. I think I shall write a post on the 5th episode in particular. Otherwise, tentacles are naughty, swords are phallic, this show is sex.

  4. @digiboy

    In a way I’m delighted by your comment, because it means that I have a treasureload of goodies in store for me with the episodes to come. Thus far, though, the playful side of things is coming out most strongly, and I think our chat reflects that.

    @kadian

    Filing away, yup, hopefully these posts are a way to do that. I guess I said I didn’t want any spoilers, but you mean to tell me that the fight sequence will remain exactly the same throughout the 39 episodes?! That’d be something..

    @ghostlightning

    I see the title now: “Mickey…Mouse? Walt Disney and Revolutionary Girl Utena episode 05”. No, maybe that wouldn’t be that cool, huh.. Alright, carry on🙂

  5. One episode a week? We’d’ve been here until Easter -____-

    Poor Saionji. He never shows up except to serve as an object lesson and summarily get raped by Utena. Even in the movie he exists solely to introduce Utena to the duelling system.

    Miki. I honestly though he was female until ep 5 and even then I found it difficult to take the concept seriously. He’s voived by Sailor Mercury, fer Chrissakes!

    Talking of Kozue (Miki’s sister) and her… “exploits”… how old are these characters supposed to be? Utena, IIRC, is 14 (lolwhut?), and I don’t think Miki/Kozue are more than a year or two older. Kinda squicky…

    The duels… ZUM gets repetitive, yeah. But the fight scenes themselves? Naaah.

    I was planning to expand on that, but I’ve been sitting here for a quarter hour and still can’t think of a good way to phrase it. Suffice it to say this- I have the opposite view to Kadian. All else is auxillary to the duel; everything tends to that point.

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my love for the Black Rose arc showing- I’ll admit that the fight scenes are less critical in other places than they are there.

    One thing I will mention though is that this is one of the few animes I’ve seen where people actually fight during the fight scenes. They don’t stop every other blow to exchange ideologies, or stand around flashbacking for half an hour. They are always slashing and thrusting and parrying and leaping around like angry bunnies on speed.

    Symbolism; it gets more pronounced the further you get. The third arc is pretty much all metaphor all the time (CAR). I think you must be the first people to watch this show and not get hung up on Miki’s stopwatch, though :p

    Anthy. Nothing can really be said about her without spoiling things.😦

    Revolution; it’s that which is eternal and that which shines, obviously. Oh, and the power of miracles. :p

  6. I agree with kadian that, as a three-time Utena Tour veteran, it is rather fun watching you, otou-san, and ghostlightning (I presume?) work your way through the series the first time; sadly I wasn’t able to give many people this unique pleasure of life.

    All I can really add here is that in some places your speculation is eerily close to what happens later. I think you’d do well to bear in mind the utter frustration that Kunihiko Ikuhara drove con-goers to before he was kicked out of AX for womanizing: people would come up to him and ask him “so what does mean in Utena?” and he’d reply “I dunno, I just put it there because I felt like it” and the poor fan would walk away no more the wiser and significantly more confused than before.

    Those who are overly semiotically-inclined (I’m looking at you ghostlightning) are going to have a ball.

  7. @autonomous

    Kozue is probably 12-13. They grow up quick in animeland. In our chat we did touch on the Mickey stopwatch, but it was brief and we didn’t get anywhere so I didn’t put it in the post!

    I’m enjoying the fights so far, definitely. Well, everything you say makes me wanna watch more!!

    @OGT

    I’m actually pretty dumb when it comes to symbolism, like i totally didn’t notice the apple until otou-san mentioned it, but i’ll be looking forward to more speculation.

    Re: Anthy, well, as long as she doesn’t die halfway through the show or something i’ll be satisfied. i find her quite unique.

  8. I really liked episodes 4-5, especially the little twist it throws out at the end. Miki is a really likable character, earnest and nice compared to the rest of the student council.

    I also felt sorry for Nanami during her animal prank failure, despite being the bully herself.

  9. Oh Nanami! I enjoyed her episodes the most. Akin to knuckle ball pitches amidst the usual curve balls thrown from the pitcher known as Utena.

    Again about the duels, they have little quirks unique for each challenger, sure, but they stick to the same formula that only changes like once per arc. After you’ve seen the first two in an arc, you get the idea of how each one after will play out. Maybe it’ll be something you guys can enjoy, but the predictability struck a bad note to me in a show that’s otherwise so visually inventive and unpredictable. Well, maybe we can all debate this when you guys finish the series.

  10. @animekritik: I sometimes think that half the “symbolism” is thrown into Utena to cloud the waters just enough to blur the lines between what’s there and what’s not; I would say something like “Umberto Eco would really like Utena” but that might be saying a bit too much.

    And if you like Anthy, well, you just hold on to your hat.🙂

  11. @schneider

    Yup, I felt sorry for Nanami either. honestly though, i think if she just asked her brother nicely he’d give it to her…end of story.

    @kadian

    We’ll see, we’ll see. I’ll be paying closer attention to the battles from now on.

    @OGT

    Ohhhooooh, I like that. I have much sympanthy.. On Umberto Eco, a long long time ago someone said to me (with a nasty grin) “Eco is right up your alley, you’d love him” and it upset me so much I’ve never read him. So I wouldn’t know.

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