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.


~ by Haloed Bane on April 16, 2011.

20 Responses to “Serial Experiments Nanami (Utena Ep. 27)”

  1. Don’t worry, Kunihiko Ikuhara is working on a new anime series that’s supposed to air this year. So you’ll have something else to look forward to after you finish Utena ^_^

  2. New anime from Ikuhara? Lets pray it salvages this industry…

    • It’d have to be one amazing show to do that!!

      The problem with Utena is that it was very much of a collaboration, as far as I can remember. So unless they can put at least 3 of the creators together, the new project is just going to be as good.

  3. 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…

    This is incredible.

    This makes Touga the super-villain of the show. Whether or not he is the most malicious, or even the most powerful, he represents a subversion of the overt subversion that is apparent in RGU.

    He’s a representative of a status quo that isn’t boorish or unintelligent. It is powerful and uses it. That is all.

    I can’t even start on your take on Utena & Anthy as Chinese and Japanese spirtitual/religious projects.

    You’ll survive finishing this show. You should watch the film. It is OUTRAGEOUS.

    • Ah, that’s right. There’s a film. That means I’ll get to live a little longer and then die of sadness. Oh well 🙂

      Touga’s statement is pretty incredible. What a religion!

  4. yes you must watch the movie!

    i never knew what ohtori meant in japanese but now i do…interesting, phoenix academy. my memory of tv series is hazy, but i can clearly remember the movie ending, and yes i can see this phoenix burning and laying egg working very well…

    • Yeah, I really should have written about this being Phoenix Academy at the very beginning, but it sounded like such a generic (oh look, high-class shojo high school) name that I thought nothing of it, till now 🙂

  5. So you think Nanami did lay that egg? Yeah, if she can transform into cow, then she can lay an egg too. Though I’ve got an impression the egg wasn’t her offspring after all. My arguments are Nanami’s dream – where the egg is shown as an alien object; the shadow girls – “I don’t think it is an egg”; Chu-Chu, the innocence himself, who reappears at the end of the episode.

    Who is Chu-Chu supposed to be? A little monkey? Any hatching monkeys in Himavanta forest?

    • I don’t know if Nanami lay an egg, but she accepted responsibility for it and became its mom, and that is quite remarkable in itself.

      Chu-Chu…hmmm…hmmm….do we ever get to see Akio and Chu-Chu together? I can’t remember now.

      Yes, there is a monkey bird in Himavanta: the Thai call it kabil paksa (I don’t know the Sanskrit). The top two pics on this page are modern representations of the kabil paksa:

      Gah, now you’ve got me wondering about Chu-Chu….:D

      • Ha, I started wondering myself! Though I didn’t connect him to Akio. But I remember now, when Anthy and Utena were discussing someone not being around for a while at the end of the episode, i thought they were talking about Akio… then Chu-Chu enters. And wait, OMG, they both wear a necktie and an earring!

        • OMG Man-akio is the morning star and Chu-Akio is the evening star, that might be what he was referring to!!!

          • oh the association between Akio and Chu chu is very certain. Just compare Chiho Saito’s artworks that have Anthy-Utena-Akio and Mamiya-Mikage-Chu Chu

            • I’ll look at all of that after I’ve finished the show. I’m so ultra paranoid about spoilers right now that I just can’t surf the net for Utena at all 😀

  6. That song is beautiful… and now I’m always going to remember it as the song I was listening to when I found out that the greatest anime director of all time, Dezaki Osamu, died.

    • I’m sorry to hear it. I didn’t know who he was, looked him up, and was amazed by all the stuff he did. It is a good song to listen to in such times I think.

  7. Thank you for clarifying the “even if” line. That changes the meaning drastically.

  8. It’s a month later and I’m still thinking about this episode =) I think what’s also striking about Touga’s comment is how he relates to Akio. He acts like Akio’s sex slave, which comes out after Saionji’s and Nanami’s duels, and the way he says “welcome home” in the horse riding episode. Touga also had no inner doubts about choosing Saionji as his bride. Maybe this is meant to point out that homophobes are okay with gay relationships as long as they’re not literally in bed with someone of the same sex. They’re okay with everything else in the relationship being explicitly sexual. They’re good lawyers.

    • Homophobes in this series, maybe. Out there in the world they tend to panic at any sign of homosexuality..

      I also think sometimes that maybe what Touga is concerned about is procreation. Maybe he is telling Nanami that spiritual fulfillment (in the form of lesbianism) won’t get her pregnant, and that might be something he values greatly..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: