The Black Rose on the Piano (Utena Ep. 15)

Halfway through this episode Miki finds Kozue playing his favorite melody on the piano.   To our ears, her playing sounds as lovely as Miki’s or Anthy’s.  This is supposed to shock us.  There are three possibilities:

1) Miki was right all along.  Kozue owns that tune and if she thinks she’s unable to play the piano well then she’s simply misleading herself.

2) Kozue was right all along.  She’s never played the piano well, but Miki is so surprised at seeing her sitting there that his mind transforms her awful playing into his own ideal.

3) Kozue was right all along.  She’s never played the piano well, but the Black Rose ring has given her the power to play the melody just the way Miki likes it.

Maybe the duel itself supports option (3) over (2).  Utena is stunned by Kozue’s fighting prowess and says so.  Kozue is quick to say that this is Miki’s brilliance and not hers (and we know she got it through joining the Black Rose).  So there could be a parallel between her temporary swordfighting skills and a temporary piano-playing ability, both the result of the Black Rose.  After all, regardless of the cause, it was Kozue that was fighting Utena and not Miki.  Miki might have imagined her sister playing the piano well, but Utena certainly didn’t imagine Kozue trying to win that duel and doing a darn good job of it.

The duel song is so appropriate!!  I wrote before about how the pre-duel song deals with a Paradise Lost, and that IMHO the lyrics imply that one can turn back time and retrieve that idyllic state.  I think the Kaoru twins are seeking precisely this, and so all of the singing in this episode about time machines and going back in time fits their motif perfectly.  But of course this anime never lets out have our peace, and so the fact that during the course of the song the Time Machine becomes a Dream Machine clues us in that this past may be  fake, which possibility would fit option (3) over option (1).  Kozue likely was an awful piano player as a child, and I imagine the twins didn’t love each other back then nearly as much as they do know.


Just wanted to point the song out for those who don’t know about it:

etc.  This episode is suspended over a sea of despair.  It’s funny, though.

~ by Haloed Bane on April 2, 2011.

6 Responses to “The Black Rose on the Piano (Utena Ep. 15)”

  1. Wow. I never thought of exploring the song, beyond liking it’s melody back when I watched it.

    I’m in awe.

    I don’t have much to say except how I agree with the aptness of the song… which could apply to all these poor fools being led to the Dragon’s Cave with the Black Rose signet acting like a leash.

    • I’m in awe of that guitar.

      So many sad things. Sparrows might be relatively safe these days, but if humanity got it into their heads to catch them for some reason, I don’t think that freedom would last long. Also, a cow can’t just sprout wings and fly away, so is it better if it remains ignorant of the coming doom, or is awareness to be preferred even though it remain powerless to change that doom?

      • Richard Frankl, an existentialist Jewish psychologist spouted wings in his mind as he wrote about his term in the concentration camps.

        This perhaps is an apt reference to this discussion of the song.

        Calves are easily bound and slaughtered
        Never knowing the reason why.
        But whoever treasures freedom,
        Like the swallow has learned to fly.

        If the calf learned to treasure freedom, this conscience perhaps enabled her to fly, even if only in some Franklian existential reverie.

        I discovered something interesting in the Wikipedia article.

        I tried to check out the supposed use in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex ep 16. Apparently a different song is sung in the BD release, even though I used the Japanese track.

        It’s a shame though. I would argue that Dona Dona is BY FAR more fitting song for that scene than it was in Utena. Plus, the characters were singing the song, and not just part of the score. It would’ve been brilliant.

        • Yes, this song seems to have become part of the general Japanese consciousness, along with the Beatles, Frank Sinatra and the Carpenters.

  2. I appreciate your making a post on Kozue! The girl comes up just twice so far, but she is one of my favorites.

    One more version is Miki was right all along. Kozue owns that tune but won’t admit it to her brother, the same way she finds boyfriends that will certainly annoy him. Thus she is sure her brother’s attention is chained to her. Like Nanami, Kozue doesn’t want to be a moon one glances at now and then.

    If I’m not mistaken, Kozue is the only girl around who wears earrnings and uses lipstick. That’s interesting. In the comments to your earlier posts on Utena somebody said how feminine Miki looked. I too took him for a girl at first (he reminded me of Maya from the Nerv team, who, by the way, I initially took to be a boy :D), and it must be intentional. So I guess if Kozue has to look at this mirror of her twin brother, she might want to make herself more distinguishable. In Kaoru species, the female has a brighter plumage.

    • Excellent. I like your version. For one thing, it goes along really well with my image of Miki and Kozue as kinnara and kinnaree, who are both superbly musical creatures.

      That’d be very twisted of Kozue to do, and that itself makes it an appealing interpretation as well!!

      Miki and Maya, yeah, I see a resemblance. Kozue and Ritsuko too…

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