Serial Experiments Nanami (Utena Ep. 27)
Don’t think for a second I want to be posting so frequently on Revolutionary Girl Utena!!
I am so terribly busy, hopelessly so.
And don’t think I’m eager to drag in the name of Gilles Deleuze, or my half-digested interpretation of his work, either!!
But I cannot not do it.
Nanami is the philosophical guinea pig of the show, and this episode just confirms that. I guess you could call this a filler episode, but only in the literal sense (one is super full by the end of it). And though I laughed lots while watching it, I wasn’t laughing at the end…at all.
Nanami lays an egg. This implies a transformation, and indeed, there are several oviparous creatures in Himavanta Forest, including a “garuda lion” (Sanskrit: siha suparna, in the Thai: สีหสุบรรณ) with a lion’s head and a garuda’s body (and remember, in my post on Himavanta I made Nanami’s brother Touga into Garuda).
The connection with the Nanamoo incident is made explicit in Nanami’s talk with Utena. One of the gags back in the Nanamoo episode was the fact that Nanami kept saying the Japanese word “Moo” (もう) which means “already”, but can also be used to express impatience and irritation (just like we say: “I’ve had it already!” and “Eat it already!”). The funny bit is of course that that is also the sound a cow makes. Well, when Nanami is trapped between Utena and Tsuwabuki (the two witnesses of her final transformation into Nanamoo), she lets out a couple of very emphatic “Moos”. I’m sure they’d be hard to miss for Japanese audiences acquainted with the Nanamoo episode. It’s also interesting that her parting shot at Utena is to call her a “boy-girl”, thus, to accuse her of another sort of mix/transformation.
The disturbing thing about the egg is that you won’t know what’s inside until it hatches. In the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, the egg is the perfect symbol of the Body without Organs. My super compressed definition of a BwO would be: the body in all its potential (think about everything your body could do, everything it could become). Viewed one way, the egg never hatches (Nanami can keep transforming, the potential is always there); viewed another way, it’s always already hatched (Nanami is a girl, a cowgirl, a bird, a lion, anything, but always something). The Wikipedia entry on this concept is nice and short [here], and Ha Neul Seom has a a great post on it too, the last of the articles on his Deleuzian page [here].
So I guess I’m thinking of Nanami as the egg, even though the point is that she laid it. Then again, if she laid an egg, then this must mean she came from one, no? After seeing the preview for the next episode, I got the creepy thought that maybe Nanami is hatching duelists. That’d be something.
I laughed a lot when Anthy talked about her pet chicken being called Nanami. Another creepy thought!! Anthy seems to have some magical hold on the human Nanami, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a Nanami doll in her room somewhere 😉
Touga’s sermon on homosexuality is remarkable. The subs I’m using have him say something like: “Even if it feels good, you shouldn’t go against God’s plan.” This is a standard message: overcome the physical and rise to the spiritual. But this is NOT at all what Touga says. The key “even if” phrase in Japanese is:
which literally means
“Even if it fulfills you spiritually”
Wow. Isn’t that a splendidly brutal thing to say!! It’s such a striking statement (and so different from the subtitles) that I had to look up the Japanese script online to make sure I wasn’t hearing it wrong. Touga is arguing that even if Nanami is fulfilled spiritually by being with girls, she shouldn’t go against God’s plan. This is subversive because it implies that God’s plan can be in conflict with spiritual fulfillment. It also makes one wonder about Touga himself, plus just which god he is thinking about here…
Later on when Nanami thinks Saionji has gobbled up her egg, she calls him a monster. Just like she did with Utena, Nanami is here accusing someone of being an odd creature, just like she herself is. The Japanese word for monster here is “ひとでなし/hitodenashi”, which literally means “not-a-person”. I love Saionji’s apron BTW (one heart for Anthy, one for him?).
There is a song in two spots here (first, right after Nanami has dinner with Touga; then, again, starting when Nanami has recovered the egg from Saionji and going on till the egg breaks) that I knew as a Yellow Monkey track (actually, one of my favorite songs of theirs). Well, it turns out that the song I knew was a cover of a 1969 song by Saori Yuki, which served as the OP to a drama of the same name: Dawn Scat. It’s a gorgeous song, distilled nostalgia. The version we hear in Utena sounds a lot like the original. Here’s the Yellow Monkey cover that I like:
The history of Chinese thought is a series of attempts to reconstitute the old myth of Immortality on a new basis acceptable to the skeptical mind. The history of Japanese thought is a series of attempts to reconstitute the old myth of Reincarnation on a new basis acceptable to the skeptical mind. Therefore what to the Chinese is an attempt at a solution to the problem, becomes for the Japanese the problem itself. The motive force behind Japanese thought is based on a misunderstanding of Chinese thought (specifically: of the rise and role of Buddhism therein) due to the specific historical circumstances surrounding Sino-Japanese first contact.
I can’t prove any of this, but it sounds right to me 🙂 Anyway, Utena and Anthy’s conversation fits into the Japanese tradition well.
ADDED 1 HR AFTER PUBLISHING: Ohtori Academy = Phoenix Academy. The phoenix burns itself and its child (as an egg) is born from the ashes. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm………………….
I can tell you right now, I’m going to be in total despair when I finish this show.
NO SPOILERS PAST THIS EPISODE!!!