Continued from Absolute Destiny Apocalypse Take 1.
Thanks to of the Prince she met in her youth while mourning the death of her parents, Utena decides to become a prince herself. Though earlier in the show, we do not know the full details behind her meeting with the Prince and her subsequent decision to become a prince herself, we know that Utena is a kind-hearted girl who is reminded by the Prince to always remain noble. As Utena want so be a prince, she dresses in the male uniform and she talks in male speech when referring to herself using ‘boku’** when referring to herself. All the girls in school love Utena calling her ‘Utena-sama’ (meaning Lady Utena, sama is a way of showing a lot of respect in Japanese) even her good friend Wakaba insists that Utena is her boyfriend.
One day, Utena (see left) witnesses Saionji a member of the student council hitting Anthy and ultimately challenges him to an after-school fight when a love letter sent by her friend to him [Saionji] is posted publicly causing her friend Wakabe to be humiliated. Saionji tells her to meet him at the arena behind the school that are usually off limits to other students. Nevertheless, Utena goes ready to fight with her wooden sword and she discovers that the ring the Prince from her youth gave her is able to open this large door that leads to the battle ground. There she duels with Saionji who uses a real sword and even with her wooden sword, Utena is able to win the duel.
And this is how Utena’s world is turned upside down. Anthy becomes her fiancee because she is the Rose Bride and is given to the winner of each duel. At first Utena thinks they are all crazy but slowly she warms up to Anthy. As the anime progresses Utena must fight in a series of sword duels with the members of the Student Council and other villains in other to both protect Anthy and ultimately to guard the ‘power that will bring revolution to the world’. Anthy is thought to be the key to this revolution thus whoever is in possession of her (a.k.a her fiance) has special access to this power.
Utena represents innocence and naivety that cannot survive in the world. Utena wears boy’s uniform yet she insists that she is a girl not a guy AND at the same time she wants to be the prince who saves princesses. Utena wants to be the Prince’s lover and the Prince all at once. It is easy to love Utena due to her openness and her innocence. She is very straightforward and honest. When she sees something that is wrong, she will let everyone know that it is wrong. Utena is also willing to save other people even at the expense of herself.
I believe Utena’s character is contrasted by Anthy, the ‘Rose Bride’. At first I thought she was the weakling as she occupies the ‘damsel in distress’ archetype. Anthy is also very timid and lets Saionji physically abuse her. She will let anyone who possesses her (a.k.a her fiance who has won a duel) to treat her in any manner they wish without even complaining. Anthy seems like a doormat, someone who is nothing compared to Utena however towards the end it is revealed that she is not really in distress and is in fact far from it. Anthy may be actually more complicated and sinister than previously thought.
While at first, it seems as though Anthy (image right) occupies the role of the domestic, homely woman who cooks, cleans, is always happy and cheerful being the bride that is passed around from man to man (and the occasional woman in Utena’s case); there is more to her than meets the eye. Anthy is also always isolated, her life revolves around the duels and the rose garden she tends. At school (Ohtori academy) other student hate Anthy (compared to Utena’s popularity) and do no want to associate with her. When Utena asks Anthy if she has any friends, Anthy affirms that Chu Chu who is her only friend. Chu Chu is her pet, a marmoset that goes ‘chuu chuu’ hence his name. Anthy acts as though she doesn’t have any feelings and only exists to please her ‘master’ or ‘fiance’ but ultimately there is a possibility that there are actually two parts to her and that she is very aware what she is doing.
In the end we discover that Anthy is closer to the ‘witch’ in the fairy tale as opposed to the ‘damsel’. Anthy seems to be a pushover, she is constantly physically abused by Saionji and Nanami (she is the student council president, Touga’s little sister) without ever trying to stand up for herself. I think she lets this happen to her because she believes that she is under a curse and that she deserves it. That’s the big spoiler, that Anthy who tries to save her brother the Prince from the selfish demands of villagers/people and is put under a curse of eternal agony. I say ‘selfish demands of people’ because the people always relied on the Prince to save them and he was willing to save them despite this being detrimental to his health. I mean, you cannot expect ONE person to save the whole world but that was what the people wanted and the Prince would always oblige. Anthy is the ‘witch’ because she tried to (selfishly) save the Prince by preventing him from going out to save the world. By doing this, she was lynched by the people, I think the wording used was ‘pierced by a 1000 swords’, and placed under a curse of eternal agony. The agony is eternal because she is still alive despite having all those swords in her.
It was Anthy’s story that affected me the most. I watched this anime years ago and the effect still lingers. I question why she is labelled a witch in the first place and the fact is that she is labelled a witch for trying to save her brother the Prince. The sacrifice theme comes up because she is in eternal pain for trying to save him. The villagers thought she had kidnapped the Prince and thus imprisoned her though she is the Prince’s sister. It is interesting that even as Anthy is in eternal agony, she is also to occupy the role of the ‘bride’ for eternity. And the confusing part is trying to decipher what Anthy really wants. It seems that Anthy is sadistic actually wants to be the ‘bride’ and that she enjoys her imprisonment. However, in the final episode, the ending credits depict her carrying a suitcase and leaving her brother, the Prince (who actually turns out to be the Devil) behind.
I feel another important message in Revolutionary Girl Utena is that of fairy tales. That which we have accepted as being ‘normal’ archetypes are turned on their heads. It seems to say that when we grow up, we need to leave these fairy tales behind. I can say that Revolutionary Girl Utena forever altered my perception fairy tales especially my perception of witches. These days I just cannot help but feel sorry for the witches. In fact, I started writing this post at least 5 months ago, it was one of the first posts I wanted to publish on this blog but I held it back. Now, I have discovered that my problem with the ‘bad, evil women’ in fairy tales actually dates back to my childhood! I am currently writing another post on that topic so stay tuned please. Anyway, I have come to the realisation that witches are more complicated than what we’ve been shown in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Cinderella’s evil step-mother. Witches are more that just evil unthinking minions and it was this anime that unlocked the door with Anthy, Anthy who is very good at covering up and hiding the pain that she has gone through.
**In Japanese, ‘boku’ is used by men to say ‘I’, women usually use ‘watashi’ so by using ‘boku’ Utena is expressing her inner prince.