Halfway through the Black Rose Arc of Revolutionary Girl Utena (19)

Halfway through episode 19 Arisugawa mocks Nanami and Miki for their inability to change the objects of their passion.  Having said this, she thinks a bit more, and then includes herself in the same group.  Nanami’s retort, that she has always loved the same man and precisely this is why her love is eternal, is very interesting in a Platonic sort of way.  But I’m not going to deal with that here.

Oftentimes knowing the answer is not enough to solve the problem.

Certainly, Juri has always been obsessed with her best friend.  Nanami loves her big brother.  Miki, on the other hand, has made a sweeping switch from Kozue to Anthy.  One way to look at this is to say that for him, Kozue = Anthy, and so it’s really the same person, or better, the same ideal, that he has always yearned for.  Another possible perspective is to reason that deep down Miki still loves Kozue, and Anthy is a replacement that will never truly work for him.  Or maybe he’s simply switched, end of story 🙂

Utena is obsessed with her prince and has been throughout.  Anthy’s heart is closed to us still, but can there be any doubt that whoever it is that keeps her heart holds it dictatorially and without rivals?  That’s the vibe I get from her…

Then how about Wakaba?  Very early on in the series, when her heart was broken by Saionji, she pledged herself to Utena vowing absolute fidelity.  Episode 19 worked for me because I had totally forgotten these facts.  When the Onion King showed up, I didn’t think much of it: wasn’t Wakaba one of those girls who goes from crush to crush?  I could see the series Onion to Saionji to Utena with potentially several more names to be inserted before, between and after these three.  “This is why Wakaba can’t be a duelist, she lacks the manic impulse, she is normal.”

Nanamiki, hmmm, this could work!

Toward the end of the episode, I still didn’t have a clue.  I thought, wow, here we have an episode without dueling, just a sidestory on love.  Cute.  And then when Onion King got rejected, I assumed without a doubt in the world, that Wakaba would go running straight into the arms of a nonplussed Utena.  Her prince, Utena.

So then Onion goes down the shaft, and I’m getting ready for a very short but exciting duel.  Of course, Onion’s gripe must get through to Utena, otherwise he is useless as a duelist (he can’t get his weapon from Wakaba!).  The Black Rose gropes for this, for Onion to hate Utena.  And I think there were at this point two perfectly good reasons for optimism:

1) Utena was the one who pushed Onion into confessing to Wakaba, thus triggering the rejection.  Onion could have been angry at Utena because of this.

2) I actually believe Onion lied with that whole roundabout plan to get near Wakaba.  Onion originally intended to go for Utena, and seeing himself rejected by her, he found a smooth way to get a hold of Wakaba as a consolation prize.  If my theory is right, then Utena’s rejection is indeed the main cause of all his trouble and he should be angry.

Welcome home.

But he didn’t make either of these connections, he kept it at the level of Wakaba and himself.  “Deeper, go deeper” said the voice, but he didn’t.  For the purposes of the Black Rose, this was a failure.

So Wakaba runs into Saionji’s arms, thus proving she is obsessive enough to qualify for a duel.  Awesome.

But what does Saionji do with this?  How can the one man who seems the most obsessed with Anthy qua Anthy (not as Rose Bride, not as the opressed to be pitied and liberated but with Anthy herself) hijack a mechanism whose very aim is the destruction of his beloved??  This is a dangerous game, and it keeps getting more dangerous.


If you comment, please don’t spoil past this episode!!!

~ by Haloed Bane on December 1, 2009.

20 Responses to “Halfway through the Black Rose Arc of Revolutionary Girl Utena (19)”

  1. I don’t exactly remember which episodes came before or after this one, so I’ll just speak in generalities: the Black Rose saga really struck me at how there was a little more to everyone than just the simple caricatures the series had lulled me into assuming they were. It surprised me a lot at how well the series develops these comic side-characters into nuanced individuals with meaty motives to challenge Utena, and I think you’re just arriving to that same conclusion.

    • Yeah, it’s far better (though harder) than simply coming up with brand-new antagonists. It’s really well done. Like otou-san says, it’s repetition with variation, and it works!

    • I thought the same thing right about here! It works so well. More than just developing the characters further, it puts a spin on things that gives it all a very “through the looking glass” feel. This is bizarro-world all of a sudden, and I dig it. It helps that the downward elevator scene is creepy, and so far my favorite bit of that repetition I love.

      The rejection of Onion bodes well (and by well I mean darkly) for the rest of the Black Rose story. Presumably it’s gonna take more than some petty jealousy to get to the caterpillar.

      • I agree with you that the rejection of Onion bodes well and darkly… The whole mechanism of this arc reminds me a lot of Persona 4, now that I think about it…

  2. “Fukaku… motto fukaku“. I never, ever remember my dreams, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that had turned up in a nightmare or two.

    Not a word, not a whisper about ep 17? 😦 That was always one of my favourite fights. The elevator scene, when we learn just how fucked-inna-head Shiori is… the bird symbology, which is just too damn perfect for task… and that song… there’s maybe one, maybe two songs in the entire show to rival that.

    And lesbians, of course. Lesbians are always awesome. Except when they run radical militant feminist websites that make me despise myself for being born white and male. But no, I’m getting distracted.

    And Tsuwabuki’s fight! A little clay doll… inside the greater clay doll! Hardly subtle, but oh it resonates so. And the song… on the one hand a smirking double entendre, on the other it skewers his hollow aping of “adulthood”.

    …but no. I’ll restrain myself. Enjoy episode 20.

    Seriously, you might want to make an event of it.

    • I neglected to point out why the sexual strains in Tsuwabuki’s song are so apt; those are the terms he’s framed his quest for adulthood in.

      Which is obvious, of course. But it was such an gaping hole in my post. 😦

      • Thank you for restraining yourself, as always. Shiori’s and Tsuwabuki’s were both great episodes, but I just didn’t think there was an angle for me to deal with them. I’m not at all a musical person so this has a lot to do with it.

        You mentioned lesbians. Is this really lesbianism? It seems so ethereal and platonic that I just can’t tell..

        • In what sense? Utena x Anthy is an object lesson in ambiguity. Not so much in the movie, but the movie’s an alternate continuity.

          Juri is most certainly in love with Shiori. Shiori doesn’t seem to reciprocate, although I imagine she’d be more than willing to yield if it gave her power over her sempai.

          Well, that’s a bit unfair to Shiori. She seems to be hated in the fanbase, perhaps moreso than TEH EVOLZ Nanami. I’m of the opinion that Shiori genuinely cares for Juri (whether philia or eros is rather irrelevant), but so twisted up inside with self-loathing and jealousy she can’t draw that out.

          …nothing between Utena and Wakaba. And nothing between Nanami and her cohorts, unless they take turns dressing up as Touga (O_o) That’s all the female-female relationships I can think of. I mean, I used to this Miki was a girl for the longest time, but… nah.

          • Nothing in Anthy or Utena’s behavior, besides the battle scenes, smacks me of erotic love of any kind, but maybe I’m just thick. Juri is totally in love with Shiori, true, but as she’s the only person she’s ever been in love with, I don’t see her as a lesbian per se, but as a Shioriphile…

            Miki is kinda girlish, yeah…but why on earth would anyone hate Nanami…unless something happens later on…but then don’t tell me!!

            • Without rewatching the show, I can’t rightly answer Utena/Anthy. Can’t honestly remember the subtleties there and even if I could, it’d all run together in one great continuity-less blob.

              The worst thing about Miki was that, at the time, my ear was sharp enough to discern that his voice actor was female. In a language I didn’t speak. I was well chuffed with myself.

              Nanami… well, she’s a selfish, whiny cow (pun intended). And pretty much no positives. There are cases to be made in her favour, but some are unwilling to make them. Possibly the same people that dislike Haruhi the series because they dislike Haruhi the character, but I daren’t speculate. :p

              Personally I have an entire list of characters I’d take a swing at before either of them. Can’t really say which though, on account of spoilers.

              Labelling Juri a Shiorisexual is interesting, because it’s crossed my mind more than once that Utena has a “CLAMP” style approach to sexuality- you love who you love and gender doesn’t really enter into it. It is a show, I like to say, where every character appears to be fucking every other character.

              But. In the real world, if I met a girl who was in love with another girl, I would take this to be indicative of a trend in that general direction, rather than a one-off thing. So I’m happy to label Juri a lesbian until we have evidence to suggest otherwise.

              • I’m just getting used to this “let’s use female voice actresses for male roles” phenomenon. It is confusing indeed.

                What you say about Juri makes perfect sense to me. And what you call CLAMP style sexuality definitely seems to apply here.

                Nanami has a cool yellow suit, surely, that’s a positive!

  3. This scene was pretty much the most memorable moment of the arc for me, although I have succeeded in forgetting exactly what the fellow in the lift said to Onionboy once the conclusion became apparent. In any case that moment definitely made me curious about the motivations of the tempter (…) and curious about how the show defines normality/mental balance. I mainly loved how after episode after episode of repeated case studies in neurosis the writers threw this regular nice guy into the mix – wasn’t sure if he was pathetic or heroic.

    • I would say it’s neither pathetic nor heroic, just normal. And not fit for a duelist! I think Onionboy’s placement is strategic right in the middle of the arc, I guess things are gonna get nastier from here on out.

  4. >>Anthy’s heart is closed to us still, but can there be any doubt that whoever it is that keeps her heart holds it dictatorially and without rivals?


    Anyway, very nice post, once again.

  5. Ugh too late for the discussion, but I’ve seen past this ep already and my goodness there’s a lot to take in. I’ll reserve most of my thinking in my own post on the arc (in its entirety). Instead…


    Also, somewhere along the way Nanami became my favorite character:

    I don’t know when exactly it started, but by episode 18 I was certain that Nanami is my favorite character in Revolutionary Girl Utena. She’s often the butt of jokes, and is decidedly unsympathetic (spoiled, greedy, obsessive, abusive, delusional, you name it). However, the kind of indignities she suffers in the show makes her endearing to me.


    She doesn’t show any particular strength or grit that makes her admirable perhaps. She is leveled these at times massive indignities as deserved comeuppances in the story. I suspect that somehow, I feel moe for her. Not like Tsuwabuki, and most certainly not like her brother Toga, but maybe the show just has me where it wants me.

    And yes, I rather like that epic yellow forehead.

    • This show is awesome. Nanami is totally awesome, and I think I came to that conclusion awhile back but let me tell ya…

      I just finished the Black Rose Arc and I’m starting to get a sense for why people who’ve seen the whole show have been sniggling at every other sentence I type about the series. Especially regarding Anthy. I honestly feel like going out and buying the whole manga series just because I know I’m gonna want more when I’m done with the anime, even if it’s a slightly different and not as good alternate take on the whole thing…anything. oh, and i guess there’s the movie too.

      • Almost finished with the arc myself… will finish tonight. I will wait for you to write your post first…

        Ancient creatures died and became the fuels we mine… like oil and coal.

        Without a sacrifice like that… our current energy-based civilization would have been impossible. Such sacrifices are always necessary.

        — Mikage

        Yeah I have the movie. Damn this is already becoming a favorite!

  6. […] exciting look at a high-point of the arc: the seduction and corruption of Wakaba Shinohara (animekritik […]

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