Well done, Mr. S. (Utena Ep. 36)
Everything after this picture will be spoilers. That’s obvious of course, but I really, really would like people who haven’t watched the show yet not to read this stuff. I don’t want the crime of ruining Revolutionary Girl Utena for someone to be on my conscience.
Look, one of the wonderful things about this show is how it is so satisfying for the fan. It even satisfies desires the fan didn’t even know they had. For example, the whole concept of Anthy pulling a sword out of Utena. That’s totally awesome, and I would have loved to have wanted to see it if it had ever crossed my mind, but it didn’t. And now we come to this episode and we’re given something that not in my wildest dreams I could have thought possible, and yet it makes sense as an analogy to Utena-Anthy and it’s so satisfying: Saionji pulling a sword out of Touga!
And it gets better. Think about it: you’ve got four people at the combat arena whose lives are completely enmeshed together. Three of these people are currently being ravished and exploited by chairman Lucifer himself. All but one, and it turns out to be Saionji!! Isn’t that just spectacularly satisfying?! The one guy who we started to hate from the very beginning turns out to be the least compromised, the one who tries his hardest to hold on to some sort of purity. A round of applause for Saionji please. He deserves it, and if Akio gets his hands on him in the next few episodes I shall die.
As far as the duel itself goes, I was wondering why Touga didn’t just snatch that rose and throw it to the ground when he had Utena in his grip. I almost thought the loss here was deliberate because of the way it went. I mean, first Utena complains to him for fighting after an evening date where he declared his love. He says she shouldn’t mix business with pleasure and immediately proceeds to grab her and pledge his devotion once more! He’s establishing a Kodak moment. My point is not that Touga could have beaten Utena easily and chose not to, but that he had the feeling that he was going to lose and had the presence of mind to make the loss as memorable as possible for “use” later on. As he told Saionji, it ain’t over till it’s over.
The little telepathic dialogue about their series of fights gave me a total Reincarnation vibe. There’s this trope in reincarnation stories where two rivals will fight over several lifetimes and I just had that feeling from hearing Utena and Touga. Utena’s line: “I get the feeling we’ve fought many times” is such a classic. And the fact that they seem to just read each other’s minds may signal a bond across lifetimes.
DON’T SPOIL THIS FOR ME!!!