The difference in tone between the first disk of the third box set, the “Apocalypse Arc” and first disk of the “Student Council Arc” of Revolutionary Girl Utena is so profound, the gap so enormous, that I’m having trouble finding words to express my thoughts on it.
The Student Council themselves are different. They have faced their darkest thoughts and are no longer terrified by them. It almost comes as a surprise to them that still they have weak spots to be be exploited. And yet, there they are, on the dueling ground, for reasons that they themselves don’t really understand, fighting.
The End of the World shows himself to us, and in many ways, he is aptly named. Akio, the Morning Star, Lucifer, the fallen angel…the End of the World, in the sense of a border or a boundary outside which is…what?
There are significant changes in the dynamic between the characters. Everything is fraught with sexual energy, even relationships we desperately wish were not. (How many of us grit our teeth when Akio put his hand on Utena and pulls her closer?) Kozue and Shiori attempt to embrace their own sexuality, only to find themselves left as wreckage on the side of the road. Nanami is made fun of, brutally, blatantly, so we must see her as a buffoon, naive and soft. This will lead to one of the most mind blowingly profound moments in the series.
But of all the changes, the most fraught, the most profound is the change that has come over Anthy. In the beginning of the series she was (apparently) a passive player in the game. Now Utena and she share a room – to some extent, a bed – and in the transformation and subsequent duels, Anthy plays a more active role. It’s impossible to ignore her or write her off as a victim with a nasty sense of humor. There is something very important going on in regards to her, although we do not yet know the full story. Watching this disk, I am reminded of the concept of shakti and suddenly, Anthy’s physical appearance makes sense on a deeper level than it ever has before. Is she the divine feminine power, the agent of change that charges the male manifestation of divinity’s power and makes him “able to do”? I think so.
In the beginning, Utena was the Prince who longed to save Anthy, the Princess. Now Anthy appears more as a goddess, giving Utena the power to…what, revolutionize the world? Really? Does that mean anything? With each episode, the tension around that phrase and around the phrase “The End of the World” becomes thicker. To see what it all means, we must simply keep watching.
Art – 9
Story – 10
Character – 9
Yuri – 4
Service – 4
Overall – 10
I don’t want to look, but I can’t stop watching.