Personal Apocalypse in Revolutionary Girl Utena

Recently, I sat with my pastors and a few other congregants after church as we had one of many ongoing discussions about the #MeToo movement. We based our discussion on an article by Nadia Bolz-Weber called “We’re in the midst of an apocalypse. And that’s a good thing” published in The Washington Post. If you’re not already familiar with Bolz-Weber’s work, I highly recommend it. She brings an element of grace and humor to her cynicism that is difficult to find.

As my church family and I delved into discussion, we focused for several minutes on the meaning of apocalypse. The word has one meaning in mainstream culture and a more specific, nuanced meaning in Christian theology. Mainstream culture generally thinks of apocalypse as a huge, world-ending event that destroys everything we know. Books, TV shows, and films abound with these bleak images of a society attempting to carry on after this huge collapse. In some Christian theology, the meaning is a little different. I like the way Bolz-Weber articulates it: “a big, hope-filled idea that dominant powers are not ultimate powers.”

If apocalypse is an undoing of dominant powers and systems, then depending on our privileges and perspectives, we as individuals undergo apocalypse daily. When ugly mindsets and behaviors are uncovered, either personally or collectively in the public eye, then a shift occurs into a better way of being. In this sense, an apocalypse can be a very personal experience. Rather than thinking of apocalypse as the end of society as we know it, our small group discussed apocalypse as the end of our own personal ways of ordering and understanding the world.

While we did move on to other discussion points from Bolz-Weber’s article, I sat there fascinated with this particular use of apocalypse and immediately connected it with Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Of all anime I’ve seen, Revolutionary Girl Utena does one of the best jobs in making the best of needing to repeat footage episode after episode. The nature of the story and characters makes it easier to glean meaning from the ritualistic repetition. Perhaps the most memorable repeated sequence is when Utena makes her way to the dueling arena in each episode. The catchy song, “Absolute Destiny: Apocalypse,” evokes unsettling and sometimes contradictory imagery (“day and night turning back on one another,” ; “the darkness of Sodom, the darkness of light”).

Apocalypse is all over Revolutionary Girl Utena and it struck me that for most of the series, we see the characters undergo personal apocalypses. Sometimes, they’re very painful and disturbing. For most of the series, it’s Utena’s opponent whose particular way of thinking or brand of darkness rises to the surface and then, once Utena defeats that person in the duel, it marks the beginning of their change. This article gives some examples of these changes and how they at least point to a possibility of betterment even after breaking away from abuse.

Then, it’s Utena’s turn for her own apocalypse. Even though she is on one level a catalyst for apocalypse for other characters and even the system of Ohtori Academy itself, she also has certain mindsets and behaviors that play into the very cycle keeping Anthy under Akio’s abusive control. She is so determined to be a prince generally and, as the series goes on, to be Anthy’s prince and savior specifically. While this is certainly a challenge to a heteronormative way of operating in the world, it is still an attempt to fit into a role in a system that inherently continues a cycle of abuse. But this dominant power is not an ultimate power, and the way Utena understands her relationship with Anthy has to be undone. At one point in the later episodes, she does apologize to Anthy, but that can’t stop the total unraveling in the series finale. After all, the absolute destiny is apocalypse. Everything Utena believes about being a prince, finding a prince, and saving Anthy is brutally and painfully torn away. There is a very symbolic yet obvious uncovering and peeling away as the castle and dueling arena collapses into nothingness. Afterward, Utena is “dead” yet other characters talk about her as if she transferred or left school for some other reason. However, it is this very crumbling that finally gives Anthy the space to leave Ohtori and find Utena, which represents breaking out of a cycle and framework.

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Perhaps Utena “dies” because she is too determined to fit into a prince role that is about to collapse as the apocalypse occurs, and there will be no such role left after the apocalypse is finished. More optimistically, Utena is so revolutionary that she brings this last apocalypse and breaks beyond it so much that she literally cannot exist in any form of Ohtori Academy anymore, even this new one that Anthy now has the power to walk away from. Either way, all of the apocalypses in Revolutionary Girl Utena mark a change that looks forward to a bright, hopeful future, even though the collapsing of the familiar is terrifying and painful.


My blackout poetry collection, Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available as a paperback and an ebook! The poems explore faith, doubt, lament, and hope. Check it out and discover why readers have called it “pithy,” “insightful,” “visually stunning,” and “emotionally challenging.” Be sure to add the book to your Goodreads list and leave a review when you’re finished!

Transcendence and Subtlety in Queer Ships

Queer erasure and censorship in media isn’t a new problem. Although things have certainly changed in recent years, overt representation of queer women in cartoons (and anime to a lesser extent) is still pretty sparse. Where it does occur, it’s sometimes embedded in some type of spiritual or transcendent narrative in which the transcendence of one or both partners acts as an ambiguous confirmation of their relationship. At the same time, transcendent narratives present profound themes that tie to larger ideas in the show. Korrasami and Utena x Anthy are two examples of queer lady ships in which transcendence or connection with the spiritual exists in tension with the ambiguity of their relationships.

Korrasami: Nonphysicality and the Spirit World

An image shows Korra and Asami facing each other in the glow of a spirit portal while holding hands.

Over a year ago, I joined with the rest of the Internet gushing over the Legend of Korra series finale. Subsequent Tumblr posts from Mike and Bryan confirmed Korrasami, which fueled ongoing debates about Korrasami’s value as queer representation. Did Bryke do their best in the face of network censorship, or should the queer community reject Korrasami for being barely more than breadcrumbs (as portrayed just in the series itself)? Does good queer representation mean that there cannot be any ambiguity about the relationship by the time a series ends, especially in light of people who stress that they’re just “gal pals”?

There may not be a straight answer.

Puns aside, I do think we can glean some good meaning from what we see of Korrasami’s relationship in those last moments as they hold hands and enter the portal to the Spirit World. To start, we need to compare Korra and Asami’s relationship with the relationships they have with Mako.

Because overt heterosexuality is permissible (and assumed) in children’s animation, Korra and Asami’s respective relationships with Mako contain that physical element. Both Masami and Makorra happened fast. One minute, Asami runs into Mako with her moped and does a hair flip. The next minute, they’re dating. Though Makorra happens a little slower than that, it’s still canon by the end of season one. Compare that to the three seasons it took for Katara and Aang to get together. Physical attraction or infatuation likely cause these quick hookups. Neither Korra nor Asami has much time at all to get to know Mako before dating him (and being physical with kisses and such). Mako and Korra do know each other a little bit better before they officially start dating, but Korra spends most of Book 1 with “Mako blinders” on, so to speak. He’s cool and charming and great, but Korra doesn’t actually know if they’re compatible. Both of them rush into their relationship and it’s clear by Book 2 that that they have no clue how to be with or support each other. It’s the same with Mako and Asami. In Book 3, Korra and Asami place the issue squarely on Mako’s inability to understand his own feelings or what he wants.

But during this Makorra and Masami dance, Korra and Asami begin their friendship. Korra is the reluctant one. In her brash judgments, she decides that Asami is her competition for Mako and is nothing more than a prissy heiress. Asami, however, shows nothing but respect and kindness for Korra. So as their friendship really starts to grow in Book 3, both could very well be attracted to each other in the same way that they were attracted to Mako. However, their history with him may compel them to actively and intentionally deny physicality. They both remember what happened the last time they rushed their feelings for someone they liked and they don’t want another burnout. So, they choose nonphysicality and spirituality becomes entwined with it. Asami is the one who requests the vacation to the Spirit World, of all places, so whatever is starting between her and Korra is intimately connected with the spiritual.

Now, technically speaking, holding hands is a physical act, but when we think of “physical” in terms of romantic relationships, we typically mean more than hand-holding. The absence of kissing or the types of touch one would usually have only in the context of a romantic relationship is what makes Korrasami “nonphysical.” However, their relationship is still deeply affectionate and there are plenty of examples, especially throughout Books 3 and 4, of the care they extend to each other.

Abstaining from physicality has some precedence in the Avatarverse. During Aang’s training with Guru Pathik, he’s encouraged to let all earthly attachments go when opening his chakras, which include the physical needs of his body and emotional ties, particularly his love for Katara. There’s this notion that being free of all tethers to the world will lead to a greater connection with the divine. Aang is ultimately unable to renounce his attachment to Katara and that’s the end of that.

Korra and Asami do have an attachment to each other, yet they are easily able to enter a spiritual realm. Part of this is because the plot of Legend of Korra allows for this, but I think another way to look at it is as an affirmation that earthly relationships can be windows into spirituality if they’re built on foundations other than physical gratification. This doesn’t mean physicality is bad. It just means that it isn’t a lasting foundation and Korra and Asami have learned that through their relationships with Mako.

Yet doesn’t Korrasami’s ambiguity as shown in the series make it too easy to dismiss them as “just gal pals”? That’s the constant tension of transcendent queer relationships. Because their affections are not or cannot be explicitly shown, these relationships take on many metaphorical elements. When relationships are up for interpretation, fans tend to categorize them on one end of a binary or another. They’re either just friends or they’re dating.

I don’t think this binary is particularly helpful in talking about Korrasami because I see both strong friendship and romantic love between them, which I’ve expounded on in other pieces on this blog. Moreover, their relationship suggests more of a spectrum than a binary. This quote sums it up nicely:

“Friendships include love and power, embodiment and spirituality. . . .Women experience these dynamics to various degrees in everyday friendship. . .sexuality, as most women see it, is an integrated part of everyday human interaction–whether touch, embrace, caress, or more intimacy. The prioritization of friendship based on women’s experiences offers a different starting point for sexual choices. Friendship becomes the bedrock of all love relationships. It is a good foundation” (Hunt, “Love Your Friends: Learning from the Ethics of Relationships,” Queer Christianities, 140).

Being friends doesn’t exclude the possibility of romantic relationship. Friendship is the substance on which relationships thrive. Korra and Asami spend Books 3 and 4 making that foundation solid. Their friendship shouldn’t be used to discount or eliminate romantic attraction because doing so results in lesbian and bisexual erasure. Instead, their friendship ought to be seen as the grounding of their relationship–whatever it may be when they disappear through the spirit portal. Who knows what the comics will bring to their relationship? If we get lots of scenes of their vacation in the spirit world, there could be more to say about how their relationship connects to the divine.

Utena x Anthy: Someday, Together

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Everything about Revolutionary Girl Utena is a metaphor and that includes Utena and Anthy’s relationship. So, it makes sense that their relationship has this ambiguous, transcendent element. Utena and Anthy’s ambiguity fits with what the rest of the show presents. In a way, defining the relationship as anything would almost take away from its compelling mystery.

In the past, I’ve framed Utena as a Christ figure and the events of the last couple of episodes in the series as a salvation narrative. Utena’s death/transcendence and Anthy’s possible immortality makes their relationship go beyond the physical world, which therefore places them in a space where logic and clear definitions can’t fully grasp what’s going on. And as someone who talks about “divine illogic,” that’s totally cool with me–profound, even. Utena now exists in some intangible world outside of Ohtori Academy and Anthy, having been given a way out of the same cycle through Utena’s “death,” follows her on that journey, hoping to reunite with her someday. It’s subtly romantic in the context of other moments they have throughout the series, but it’s also quite spiritual because of this sense of passing and breaking through a seemingly unbreakable cycle. It’s not as blissful and Korra and Asami walking into the spirit portal together, both clearly alive, but it still has that element of a relationship carrying over into another world.

For me, if queer relationships must be subtle or undefined, they should be so in connection to the divine because at least it serves some greater narrative purpose and contributes to interesting themes. Many may disagree, especially those who are not particularly religious. But should ambiguous and transcendent queer relationships be the new norm? Are they merely a convenient way to avoid explicit representation so that heteronormativity can remain comfortably unchallenged?

Steven Universe, among many things, is showing both overt queerness and a connection at least to the illogical. I’d expect this given its several homages to Revolutionary Girl Utena. There isn’t yet any sort of divine realm in Steven Universe (the diamond matriarchs could be the closest the show will get to divine figures), but there’s certainly a narrative of queer love and transcendence.

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Rose Quartz and Pearl encompass several Revolutionary Girl Utena references. The most obvious is the connection between Rose and “the Rose Bride.” In this sense, Rose is more of an Anthy figure. She’s always depicted in a white gown and she’s the one Pearl is always fighting for. Pearl, then, is Utena because she fights with a sword and some of her fight scenes parallel those in Utena. On the other hand, Rose is most like Utena because she’s the one who dies/takes on another form in Steven. This makes Pearl Anthy, as she’s trying to live on in Rose’s legacy.

Either way, the show makes it very clear that Rose and Pearl had feelings for each other. Plus, Rose at least has this transcendent/illogical element to her nature. There’s still a lot we don’t know, but Rose and Pearl show that telling a transcendent story doesn’t necessarily mean that queerness must be so vague that it’s easy to dismiss.

Garnet is especially illogical. She’s a fusion of two different gems, which was unheard of before Ruby and Sapphire accidentally fused. Garnet is the result of a relationship filled with such a deep love that she’s not only stable and very powerful, but she also confounds other characters just by existing (especially Peridot). Additionally, there’s nothing hidden or censored about Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship.

Steven Universe is breaking many molds while maintaining its popularity. It just may set a precedent for future stories that explore themes of transcendence and queerness. They do not have to be so subtle that they leave room for dismissal, but we can still find things worth analyzing in those subtle stories.

Loving Anthy and Loving the Other

In my last post about Revolutionary Girl Utena, I compared Utena to Jesus Christ on the basis of her being an unexpected revolutionary who does, in a sense, break the system she challenges, but not in the way that the other characters (or the audience) expects.

After reflecting on the series a bit more, I realized that there’s a much more obvious parallel: Utena loves Anthy the way Christ loves the Other.

What is Love?

Aside from a plea to hurt me no more, love in Revolutionary Girl Utena is both the romantic kind (subtly between Utena and Anthy specifically) and a much broader kind in which Utena genuinely strives for Anthy’s wellbeing. In other words, Utena loves by acting, although feelings may certainly be involved as well. One of her first acts of love is to challenge the people and the system that treat Anthy as an object, even though Utena doesn’t fully understand what she’s getting herself into. Utena attempts to humanize Anthy again by repeatedly telling her that she doesn’t have to accept being the Rose Bride or being traded around like an object. Anthy, having been so abused and dehumanized, doesn’t seem to get the message until the very end of the series.

What is Other?

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But we need to unpack just how otherized Anthy is. For those unfamiliar with the concept of “Other,” it basically describes any individual or groups of people that have been historically and systematically oppressed and marginalized. Its roots are in post-colonial theory and it works on the premise that those who do not fit into the dominant, ruling group are “other” by virtue of “they are not us” or perhaps “they are not human.” This is used in the context of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity, mental and physical ability and a host of other intersecting identities and realities. Who are the outcasts? Who are pushed to the fringes of society physically, culturally, and spiritually? Who is despised? These are all Other, people whom Jesus made a point to associate with and call his beloved disciples.

Anthy is clearly despised and subjected to constant abuse, both verbal and physical. She is slapped in the face at least once per episode for several episodes in a row, sometimes in Utena’s presence. Her race makes this disproportionate abuse especially obvious. Anthy is the only dark-skinned student at Ohtori Academy and that, whether or not the characters openly acknowledge it, makes her an easy target. The Nanami Squad™ invents plenty of reasons why they have every right to bully Anthy. She allegedly thinks she’s better than everyone because she’s dating Saionji. She thinks she’s so special because she’s the Rose Bride. Yet it’s that very status as Rose Bride that others Anthy from a different angle: the female one, with “bride” displayed in the series as a traditional, subservient role.

However, the tides begin to shift once Anthy becomes Utena’s bride. Utena resists the idea that she owns Anthy in any way despite Anthy’s contentedness with her situation. The more she learns about Anthy’s condition, the more she realizes that Anthy is safest with her. Utena works within the structure she steps into, but changes the implications of the roles she and Anthy fill. She stubbornly insists that Anthy has a will of her own despite Anthy’s unreadable, gentle smile.

Pale Savior Narrative

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Utena’s conception of herself as a prince and her role as the dualist engaged to the Rose Bride feeds her ego a little too much, which she does admit toward the end of the series. Even so, her relationship with Anthy still has the markings of a pale savior narrative. She doesn’t see a chance of Anthy saving herself and becomes Anthy’s prince or savior in her own mind. What makes this more complicated is Anthy’s distinct lack of interest in changing her own situation, but that lack of interest comes from simply not having the option ever presented to her. I don’t think Utena means to treat Anthy as a helpless, unfortunate princess who she must valiantly save, but it ends up happening anyway. Even though her ego does bust in the series, she still attempts to be a prince–to be that savior–in the end.

Utena may be a pale savior, but she’s unsuccessful. She doesn’t actually save Anthy, at least not in the way she expects to, not in a way that most people would consider successful (similar to Christ). She doesn’t get the gratification of seeing Anthy to safety and, in turn, making Anthy dependent on her. She tastes failure and so perhaps the series finale breaks the pale savior narrative.

In the movie, Anthy has a more active role in her and Utena’s escape from Ohtori, but this is marred by how dramatically lighter her skin is. Darker-skinned series!Anthy mostly receives while lighter-skinned movie!Anthy gets more of a balance between acting and receiving.

Salvation and Agency

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What Utena does offer Anthy, however, is encouragement and devotion that ultimately makes Anthy realize her own agency. Utena does not actively save Anthy and Anthy is not passively saved. Instead, Utena’s actions are a catalyst that enables Anthy to finally leave Ohtori Academy. Anthy becomes an active participant in her own salvation or liberation.

So, too, is it with Christians. On one level, we do passively receive our salvation, as it’s freely given to us, yet at the same time we actively participate in it not because we save ourselves but because we choose daily to pursue a Christ who has granted us a revolutionary grace. This means stepping out of illusions and realizing that we now have the agency to walk away from toxic circumstances, just as Anthy leaves Ohtori on her own to pursue Utena. When Akio tries to keep Anthy in the same othering position, Anthy now confidently says no.

Part of this world’s fallenness is the reality of othering, systematically and individually. From an intersectional perspective, we all have ways in which we other and are othered. Jesus Christ relentlessly tells us that we are more than how we’ve been othered because he so freely extends his grace and love. When we accept that grace, we become strengthened to extend that same grace and love to the Other. We are not anyone’s saviors, but we do repeat that message. We are called to, like Utena, see who is Other and say, “You don’t have to accept being treated that way. You don’t have to accept being in this situation.”

Someday, Together: Revolutionary Girl Utena’s Already/Not Yet

I don’t know what it is with me and all these eschatological/shifting eras themes I keep running into, but they come at me harder than Nanami at Touga.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a classic anime series for a reason–actually many reasons because it’s so layered in symbolism that it swings the door wide open for numerous in-depth interpretations. At the same time, gleaning any sort of understanding from the series is almost a miracle in itself. Not even the plot is entirely clear until about five episodes from the end. If the basic story is that blurred, its meaning is even murkier. However, this vagueness and murkiness is an asset rather than a detraction. For a series that’s often limited to stock footage, Revolutionary Girl Utena actually does make every second and every repetition count. Or at the very least, the series tries to make all that repeated stock footage part of the symbolism.

Like Kill la Kill, this is a series that I will probably find myself coming back to simply because it throws so much out there to the audience. Today, though, I’m going to lay out my understanding of it–how the heck did I make sense of this bleak, existential series?

Ohtori Academy is a Lie

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Late in the series, Akio reveals that the upside down castle in the sky that hovers over the dueling arena is merely an illusion that he projects from his giant telescope. What’s to say that he doesn’t also project an entire illusory world in the form of Ohtori Academy? It’s a world in which he has total control because he reigns over it and maintains the illusions. He gives these illusions to all the students, including the student council and Utena, and that is how he keeps them from freedom or revolution. He’s the one who sets up the dueling system in the first place and can change the rules at any time.

He also suggests a connection between himself and Lucifer, the morning star. So this devil/fallen angel figure is the prince of this “world” he has created, but it’s a world where everyone is stuck and/or subjected to his sexual abuse. The fairytale princes in all their nobility (such as Utena’s prince) are illusions he creates to maintain this system and make people trust him.

Anthy remaining the sacrificial Rose Bride and the entire dueling system are the key pillars that keep this illusion running. Akio needs this illusion to revolutionize the world, but his idea of revolution is very different from the revolution that actually occurs at the end of the series. I don’t know what, exactly, his ideal is, but it’s certainly not a girl-prince coming in to break Anthy’s chains and then transcend into another world/transfer out of Ohtori Academy. Part of his revolution is “revealing the end of the world” to select people, which most strongly suggests that he has sex with them, but running with the interpretation that he’s the devil or a master of illusions, it might also be likened to revealing the knowledge of good and evil–or giving his chosen ones access to that knowledge.

The latter interpretation gets a little weird in that it almost equates sex with original sin (when that isn’t the case), but that’s what happens with very layered series like this. You find some uncomfortable stuff when you try to unpack it.

That Revolutionary Girl-Prince

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So, who comes along to break this illusion and bring an actual revolution? Tenjou Utena, who stretches the rules and boundaries of this illusory world by proclaiming herself as a prince and wearing a boy’s uniform. This queering in an otherwise heteronormative world isn’t enough to break the illusion on its own (since small amounts of queerness do exist elsewhere in the illusion, e.g., Juri and later Touga); however, it places her in a role that she’s told she can’t fulfill. Akio tells her several times during their battle that Utena can’t be the prince to save Anthy because she’s a girl and girls can’t be princes. That is reality. But Utena brings revolution precisely because she is not at all the expected or anticipated prince figure. By existing outside of these norms, she’s able to navigate the duels and being engaged to the Rose Bride much differently than everyone else.

And this is the part where I bring up Jesus. Jesus was revolutionary because he was not the expected savior who would valiantly lead the Jewish people in a political uprising against Roman rule, yet he is the actual savior because his ministry upturned social norms and his death and resurrection showed that oppressive systems do not ultimately triumph.

So is Utena a Christ figure? Sort of. She’s the one who brings revolution and creates a path for Anthy to break the illusion, but she loses sight of herself several times throughout the series. She does seem more flawed and susceptible to temptation than Jesus does, but you could say that’s to parallel how Christ has to suffer as humanity does. Of course, Utena is never presented as a divine figure of any sort, much less a Christ figure, so the parallels aren’t perfect (as is the case any time I find Christian theology in anime).

She gets much closer to that savior figure when she raises the “dead,” suffering Anthy from her coffin (literally and metaphorically) at her own expense. The coffin is opened. Utena reaches for Anthy to pull her out of the darkness and Anthy hesitates, but then reaches back. Both keep calling for each other and Anthy is especially doubtful that she can ever truly leave. Their hands finally graze for a moment and then the coffin structure holding Anthy in place falls into the abyss. Utena, dejected, laments that she couldn’t be a prince after all and the entire castle falls apart. That’s the last we see of Utena. So, it seems that death wins.

Ohtori Academy is not significantly changed in the aftermath of this supposed revolution. The student council is still there. Wakaba is still there. Anthy and Akio are still there. Now, Tenjou Utena is a distant memory in most of the students’ minds. They swap stories of the different rumors they’ve heard about why she left Ohtori Academy–she transferred, she got seriously injured and had to leave, she got in a fight with her friend or her lover or something. All of these are, in a sense, true. Though the details differ, the fact is that Utena is no longer at Ohtori. She has “transferred” out of the illusion–maybe she died, maybe she transcended, maybe she became something eternal. What she leaves behind isn’t an entirely new system at the school, but a pathway for Anthy to walk away from her bondage. Utena prepares the way and then Anthy has to choose to take it. She responds to Utena’s sacrifice by leaving the illusion of Ohtori Academy behind and promising to again be united with Utena. Has the reunification happened? Well, it has by Utena remembering everything and finding Anthy again, but it also has not yet happened because Anthy is just beginning her journey.

This, in my view, is the strongest and most compelling parallel to how Christians understand our faith and our salvation. It’s a two-way street between Christ and us. The sacrifice tears the curtain–or destroys the castle so to speak–and we either respond to the path Christ has given us or not. That response is a daily choice as well, a constant journey of leaving behind toxic illusions and accepting the grace of God.

The Adolescence of Utena

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After witnessing such a heartbreaking series finale, I was very pleased to remember that I owned the movie on DVD. Although I didn’t understand this movie at all when I first watched it back in high school, it makes much more sense to me now as a sequel to the anime series.

For one thing, the film is much more straightforward in its presentation of Utena and Anthy’s relationship and how it breaks the illusion of Ohtori Academy. It also makes this idea of a prince not existing at all more obvious (reminds me a bit of Waiting For Godot). It’s not that the prince just doesn’t exist now; it’s that there never was a prince to begin with and there won’t ever be a prince. Everything is an illusion. This is one reason why Touga appears in the movie. He represents that ideal prince for Utena, the one who left her but maybe wasn’t there at all. I interpreted that scene in the elevator as Utena letting him go and thereby letting that illusion go.

So, Utena and Anthy further break that illusion when Utena turns into a car and Anthy drives them both out of this illusory world. The whole thing is a very strange metaphor and does not make sense without the context of the anime series. Cars and driving=sex. Therefore, one way to understand the last 20 minutes or so of the movie is that it’s a sex scene, but it’s also much more than that. Utena and Anthy are trying to escape from an illusory world where their relationship doesn’t fit. There are no princes for either of them because they’re hella gay and in love with each other. This final scene solidifies the movie as a coming out metaphor because Utena and Anthy realize that heteronormativity and falling in love with princes is just not their reality. Even though they do escape from the academy, they do say that “there are no roads in the outside world.” In other words, existing outside of heteronormativity is uncharted territory for them, but at least they’ve left one world and begun their journey in another.

All of this, though it barely scratches the surface, is how I’ve made sense of what is certainly one of the most symbolic anime series of all time. I have more notes about gender breaking and Anthy and race that I will likely explore in later posts, but Revolutionary Girl Utena is one of those series that you have to think about for a long time to articulate any interpretation of it.