One of the most amazing things about Revolutionary Girl Utena is that the heavy-handed symbolism, which was left without specific meaning quite on purpose, can effectively mean anything you want it to mean. As a result, whether you say the series is about adolescence and maturity, or delusion and reality, or hope and despair, or kangaroos and elephants, you are quite correct.
Disk 2 is about all those things. It’s also about one huge whopper of a lie.
This disk begins with the end of Miki’s arc, in which we learn that Kozue’s perspective on Miki’s childhood trauma is quite different – this will remain the case throughout the series. Kozue’s wounds are never Miki’s. And, for the first time, we are able to see the lie in effect…and just how much somebody else’s problem it is for everyone in the series.
This arc is followed by an episode that, based on a short conversation on Twitter, seems to have made quite an impact on fans. As I put it to my wife, in a series full of weirdness, Nanami episodes are profoundly weird. In episodes that include aggressive elephants, Touga boxing a kangaroo and exploding curry and personality switching, the thing that *I* noticed the most was that Miki and Utena have the closest thing to a “normal” conversation that we’ve seen so far in the series, as they discuss Nanami…and even then it’s not all that normal.
And then we move on to Juri. Beautiful, athletic, smart Juri. Juri the jaguar, in whose presence even the teachers quake. Juri, voiced magnificently by Mitsuishi Kotono and who was for many, the first lesbian Yuri character they ever saw in anime. Her episode still wrang me dry. It hurt to watch her so angry – eternally so, as we never really know what will become of her. Hurt, betrayed, too smart to not know what the real problem is. Too angry to not lash out at Utena who does not yet understand that kind of pain. She will, but not yet.
As I watched this disk I realized that the entire series up to this point is predicated upon a single lie. There will be more lies later, but right now – there is one. Saionji and Miki believe – or hope – that it is true. Juri presumes it is a lie, but then Utena defeats her and she will have to lie to herself to continue to presume it is a lie. Touga…well, Touga will come later.
The lie is simple and has already been repeated so many times that probably you don’t think of it as a lie by the second disk.
The lie is…
…that whomever is engaged to the Rose Bride can command her utterly.
Think for a second. When has Anthy ever done *anything* Utena wants her to? She can’t even get Anthy to stop calling her “Utena-sama.” At this point, Anthy isn’t even hiding herself in the lie, because no one around her can see the lie even exists. They all believe or pretend to believe that it is a truth. Anthy simply does whatever best suits the situation to bring about the outcome desired by the End of the World.
Utena’s one real wish for Anthy won’t be expressed for some time to come and it won’t be realized for even longer – so, then, what *does* being engaged to the Rose Bride mean? To find that out, we must keep watching.
I am reminded that Revolutionary Girl Utena did many anime-viewers a harm by being so absurd, so surreal and so amazing – practically Dada-esque in its complex simplicity – that nothing was able to come close for years to some. Maybe, nothing has really come close yet.
True story – I was watching the Utena movie for the first time with a 15 year old who knew nothing of the story. We had rented it from a Japanese video rental store. It was raw. We watched it transfixed and, when the roses began to overflow the dueling ground she turned to me with huge eyes and asked, “This is what anime is all about, isn’t it?” “Yes,” I said. “This is what it is all about.”
Art – 9
Characters – 10
Story – 10
Music – 10
Yuri – 8
Service – 3
Voice acting – 10
Overall – 10
Revolutionary Girl Utena – *this* is what it’s all about.