Astro-Kinetic Immor(t)al Odyssey (Utena Ep. 25)

Car → Automobile → Auto x mobile → Self x mover → Akio.


(this linguistic argument works in Japanese too, don’t worry! 車 → 自動車)

The car is not just an awesome symbol, it also looks positively cool and it sounds even cooler. I’m in awe of this show, I really am.

As a lover of philosophy, this episode makes me giddy with delight.  Akio kicks it off with the Venus talk.

Venus (Love) = Morning Star =Lucifer (Evening Star)

This isn’t only a pretty speech.  In 1892 German philosopher Gottlob Frege published a seminal paper titled Sense and Reference in which the Venus example, just as Akio lays it out, takes center stage.  Frege’s argument was that although all of these names refer to the same entity (the second planet of the Solar System) the sense of each term is different.  That is, there is a way in which Venus is the Morning Star, and yet there is also a way in which to say Venus and to say Morning Star is not to say the same but to say something totally different (this is obvious, but sometimes it takes thousands of years for philosophers to accept the obvious).  Akio might be using this to point to a problematic self-awareness, a contending multiplicity he feels within himself even as he thinks himself to be one.

I immediately thought of Frege when I heard this because Gilles Deleuze references the same example (morning star/evening star) in his Difference and Repetition (1968) which I’m reading right now.  Deleuze and Frege belonged to radically different schools, a testimony to the power and utility of this Venus problem.

So Anthy lets her hair down!!  We were wondering when this was going to happen… And she’s nude in the pre-fight scene, but then again so is Utena.  The Rose Bride and her groom are getting closer.  Things are going down, as they say.  It’d be a mistake to say the the Yuri factor has gone up.  Even if you add that Yaoi is also up with Akio and Touga in bed together.  Even if you somehow factor in Akio and Anthy.  This is not about heterosexuality or homosexuality or incest…and I think the dynamic between Utena and Anthy in the duel exploded these categories really well.  Technically two women, one crossdressing, swapping roles, BOOM.

The fact that the Sword of Dios disappeared at the same time as Anthy grew closer to Utena (thus resulting in her aid at a critical moment) is far too convenient. Let’s not trust Anthy.  Yes, we saw her with her hair down but I don’t think we can metaphorically assert she’s truly let her hair down just yet.  Anthy is supposed to get close to Utena, but of course this is dangerous.

My guess right now is that Akio’s position is like Gunther’s in the Ring legend.  Gunther wanted Brunnhilde for a bride, but she was trapped in a castle beneath a wall of flame.  The only person that could get through that sort of horrible trap was Siegfried.  So the only way for Gunther to get Brunnhilde was to send Siegfried after her, but this meant sending the coolest dude in the universe after her! The last thing you want to do if you seek a lady is to have Siegfried see her first, but if that’s the only possible chance to grab her you have then what are you to do? You let Utena and Anthy sleep in the same room… I wonder which one is Siegfried and which one is Brunnhilde [BUT I DON’T WANT TO KNOW YET, YOU SPOIL THIS YOU DIE!]

There is a parallel between Saionji’s denial of friendship and Juri’s denial of miracles.  Juri wants to believe so badly and Saionji wants to believe so badly.  Touga knows this about Saionji.  It’s a credit to the show that Touga Kiryuu is such a player and still not the greatest player in the show.

During the preview for the next episode, Anthy says of Kozue and Miki that they’re such close siblings!! This testifies to the power of Anthy’s dissembling.  Let’s not trust Anthy.  Not even Akio can afford to…

The new ending song, a variant of the duel song this episode, highlights once more the subject of philosophy, this time of the classical variety.  Here is my translation of the lyrics, with connections to Greek philosophy in parentheses.

Ancient times (Classical times)

Perfection (The Greek goal)

Solitude in the desert. (A reference to Oedipus?)

Air (Universe built from this, according to Anaximenes)

Atom (Universe built from this, according to Democritus and Leucippus)

Star of the causality principle. (Discussion of causality in the West pioneered by Aristotle)


A child of the land (= autochthon, literally sprung from the land, Athenians claimed to be this)

is conceived,

the embryo of philosophy. (Embryology pioneered by Aristotle; philosophy is of course Greek)

And then

the Lunar heaven (what follows is the standard Greek scheme of the celestial spheres)

the Mercurial heaven,

the Venerian heaven,

the Solar heaven,

the Martian heaven,

the Jovian heaven,

the Saturnian heaven,

the Stellar heaven,

the Motive heaven. (Aristotle’s Prime Mover, He who moves all others without being moved by them, God so called)

And then

a limitless and endless circle

One organic engine

One perpetual motion machine. (according to Aristotle, the universe is not born and does not die, it is eternal)

Ah, an empty motion.

It’s an empty motion.

That’s what it is.

The message of the song is “It’s lonely at the top” or more precisely in this case “It’s lonely at the outer rim of the universe” or let’s just drop all the pretenses and say it “It’s lonely at the end of the world”, which is to say, “It sucks to be Akio”. And this is what he himself was getting at with the Venus talk at the beginning of the episode.  Automobile.


~ by Haloed Bane on April 12, 2011.

17 Responses to “Astro-Kinetic Immor(t)al Odyssey (Utena Ep. 25)”

  1. Brilliant post. I am so happy to see some heavy lifting that’s beyond most people’s abilities applied onto this show. This isn’t me belittling others or making too much of your abilities, but rather how interesting it gets when our diverse talents are fully applied onto something we enjoy.

    While I will always prefer the Black Rose arc as the most perfect set of episodes in RGU from the point of view of symmetry, the car arc leaves us with episode after episode of plot detonations. We know RGU will be provocative and salacious coming in, but when they do come eventually, they still have to power to shock, the ability to stupefy us with their execution.

    I too, am in awe of this show and it easily slashed its way into my personal pantheon of favorites (top 5).

    It sucks to be Akio! Brilliant. I can still hear it!

  2. On one hand I want to say Yes, Utena is just oozing with these philosophical metaphors and insinuations.

    On the other, I’m an objectivist and empiricist, and just think one can cut to the chase of the truly valuable themes contained in this show rather quickly. I always find myself somewhat irked when I watched the show, and others like it, how no themes are ever spelled out straightforwardly.

    I guess there is some entertainment value to unraveling these mysteries, but on the other hand, philosophy is nothing if its not concrete. A work shouldn’t leave the viewer guessing about mystical interpretations if it really wanted to solidify its message. No?

    • As an objectivist and empiricist, I’m sure you realize that analytic philosophers in general would agree with your way of looking at things (Russell, Carnap).

      Most Continental philosophers would disagree, however, and I guess I’m much more in the Continental tradition. Deleuze, for example, would argue that real problems don’t have solutions!!

      Let’s take a real problem: gender. Now, the show could have the characters discuss gender issues explicitly, but then the viewer might be tempted to take whatever is said as a solution, as an answer. I think the writers of the show would rather use signs (songs, imagery) not because they’re lazy, not because they’re not serious, but because the idea is to prompt a response from the reader, an engagement with the issue of gender, in short, a transformative experience that cannot be a reduced to a “Oh, I agree” or “I totally disagree”.

      Again, paraphrasing from Deleuze (my mind is full of Deleuze), the best teacher doesn’t spell things out for you, but forces you to experience things yourself.

      That makes sense in a new-agey kind of way, right? 😀

  3. สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์! 🙂

  4. I don’t think the 2nd ed has anything to do with Akio. It’s about the afterlife. The perpetual motion machine was Nemuro’s project, but he failed to make it happen because there is no eternity. This is the theme of Saionji’s 3rd duel with Utena. She finally accepts that the eternal, or her ideal, is an illusion.

    • Well, if you’re not convinced, there’s another case for Akio as the Prime Mover here:

      i found this after writing my own post 🙂

      • I agree that Akio is the prime mover; he represents the monotheistic God in Revolutionary Girl Utena. Ikuhara has a low opinion of God, for manipulating everyone to fight, and for sacrificing Anthy to achieve his goal. But I think the ED song is about a different subject, about eternity. When Mamiya said that he wanted life to continue indefinitely, for millions of years, that’s the kind of eternity the song is saying doesn’t exist.

        • I didn’t think of Mamiya or the Black Rose at all when listening to this song, so both of the comments relating the song to this are very interesting.

          I’m still unclear how deep Akio’s involvement in the Black Rose was. If he was ultimately the promoter or puppet master behind Nemuro, then once again if the song is focusing on Nemuro’s project of eternity it means ultimately it deals with Akio as its Prime Mover 😉

  5. […] Astro-Kinetic Immor(t)al Odyssey […]

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