Revolutionary Girl Utena, Volume 2, Disk 3 provides a whole lot of food for thought, doesn’t it?
So, first of all, let look at the final of the puppet duelists for the Black Rose, Nanami’s henchchick, Keiko. Like Wakaba, Keiko’s story hurts. It hurts, because she’s not one of the beautiful people and not one of the chosen. She’s a real person, with big gaping flaws, but we can’t quite hate her, or dismiss her, as we might Tsuwabuki, precisely because, like Wakaba, her dreams are so mundane. Anyone might wish for a moment alone with their idol. It’s a dream that is dull as dirt. As a result, when Nanami is horrible to Keiko, we feel it. When Yuuko and Aiko are horrible to her, it’s especially unforgivable.
And, at last, we reach the core of the Black Rose story, and the illusions with which Mikage has wrapped himself. The story, however one looks at it, is at best, creepy and self-serving. At worst, it’s possible the single most depressing illusion in the entirety of the series. There was a young, sickly boy, Mamiya and his sister Tokiko and Mikage became obsessed with their memory…but it’s not Mikage at the center of the manipulation, we learn incontrovertibly. It’s not just Akio, as we might have suspected. For whatever reason – and at this point I’m inclined to think that Anthy’s line about lying to one’s self for love is the first honest thing she’s said in this series – Anthy is involved. In the first arc, we thought to ourselves, “She is merely being used.” But when Akio tells us that Anthy does not exists at the school, we have to wonder how much of everything is her doing. Akio has social engineering skills and he apparently wields the power, but then, we have to ask ourselves now…what is Anthy?
At the end of the arc, we get a completely different kind of clip episode, highlighting Nanami’s duplicity and ego. It’s very hard to like her at the end of this arc. It’s important to remember, yet again, that Nanami is about 13. She may pretend to be grownup, but…it’s clear now and will become even clearer later, that she’s basically clueless about people. This will also become very, very important towards the end.
Here at the end of the Black Rose Arc, we’re no closer to understanding any of what’s going on, or are we? We know several things; Akio is manipulating the situation, even as far as Utena and Anthy’s relationship. We know that he has all but abandoned the Student Council, except as tools, and we know that whatever is going on, Anthy is the center of it, in one way or another.
And we know, although she truly does not yet understand this, that Utena is the only sword that can cut through this Gordian knot.
The third and final arc is on our plate and I find myself tense about watching it. In fact, I’ve been kind of avoiding it for the last few years.
In the extras Ikuhara gives us some answers as to why there is an apparent strain of lesbianism in the series. His answer is cogent – for him, making Utena and Anthy “lesbians” is a visual symbol of otherness. But that only explains some of what’s going on, really, the stories of incest and male homosexuality that are either hinted at, or explicitly stated. I’ve said for years that Utena is a series that is exactly like any other high school, on steroids, and in this case the sexuality is stand-in for all the many things that make us different. For once I think Ikuhara did a good job of answering really crappy fanboy question. Dudes, there were *way* more than just lesbians in the series.
Art – 9
Story – 10
Character – 9
Yuri – 3
Service – 3
Overall – 9