Utena - epilog

In progress. Just started.

After we see the projector and dueling arena destroyed, the first shot of the epilog is blue sky with white clouds. It is blue for illusion and white for the prince—the world of the Academy has no visible change, at least for now. Anthy has not left yet, and Akio’s power is not affected. Neither he nor others of the Academy, except for Anthy who must be searching her soul, notices any difference. And the vanished Utena believes that she failed, and does not expect any difference.

shadow play

We hear the voices of the shadow girls. The first segment is essentially the shadow play of the final episode, though (as in the First Seduction) the players appear only as voices. See shadow plays - episode 39 for a brief discussion. The shadow plays are stories that help us see through illusions to reality. You might say that, having seen Utena, the audience can start to look at reality directly and see through its illusions. In any case, the stories of the shadow play are now equated with the perceived real world—what we see as everyday life is a story or an illusion.

More to come. I will analyze this in more detail.

Utena is being forgotten

At the end of the Black Rose, Mikage disappears from the Academy and the events of the Black Rose are forgotten, though their effects remain. It’s parallel to Utena leaving and being forgotten, though the effects of her revolution remain.

The voices continue. They discuss Utena and trade rumors of why she left the Academy. The rumors sound incompatible with each other, but each is based on truth. Possibly each is entirely true. We can’t trust rumors, but we don’t have information to contradict any of the claims. It is Utena-like for the statements that sound the least reliable to be true.

We don’t know how much time has passed. One of the rumors comes with a vague time: Last month or some recent month. After Utena’s serious injury, I expect she would have been in the hospital for a month or more, and if we accept the rumors then she has recovered by now. Based on the symbolism of the Rose Gate, I conclude that Anthy leaves nine months after Utena. But are those Academy months, or real world months? Time passes differently in the Academy’s fairyland.

Anthy walking. As they discuss, we see Anthy walking. The segment overlaps with Anthy leaving, which is presented partly here and partly later. Anthy walking is meaningful in itself: Walking is transportation; freedom of movement stands for freedom in general. See other symbols - transportation. Now, at the very end, is the first time we have seen Anthy walk by herself from one area of the school to another; in the past, she appeared in different places, and walked with Utena, and was dragged to the dance floor by Nanami, and rode in Akio’s car, but did not exercise her own freedom of movement. In contrast, Utena is introduced in episode 1 walking to school, and disappears at the end of the series unable to move—leaving school without taking a step.

There is one exception, which only sharpens the point: In episode 14, there is a brief shot of Anthy walking in the rain, with a red umbrella, to visit Akio for their weekly sex session. She freely chooses to be with Akio, and that is the extent of her freedom.

The discussion of Utena is overlaid on the view of Anthy walking and tells us why Anthy is walking: Because Utena set her free. More precisely, Utena’s princely actions made it possible for Anthy to see through the illusions that bind her to Akio and set herself free.

Why is Utena being forgotten? I think it is because the local culture (the system of control) does not support people of her description. The system of control protects itself against change by rejecting its own breakdowns. That is why the accomplishments of great women like Emmy Noether (Wikipedia) and Rosalind Franklin (Wikipedia) have historically been assigned to men or otherwise disassociated from their true source, sometimes in the woman’s lifetime and sometimes after. And often still are. Or have been simply discounted, like the verse novel Aurora Leigh (Wikipedia) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Wikipedia), or the poems of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (Wikipedia; see my translation of “On the Tower”). I chose the literary examples for their thematic ties to Utena.

If this theory is correct, then possibly Utena and Anthy forgot about each other in the prince story for the same reason. The system of control does not admit that it has victims. In the cultural narrative, anything bad that the culture brings about is either justified (“women have weak understanding and need male guidance”) or unavoidable (“boys will be boys”); nothing is intentionally bad.

Second theory: Memory fades because time is passing. Individual memory of Utena in the Academy represents cultural memory in the outside world of the social change that Utena brought. Outside the stasis of the Academy, time passes more quickly.

Third theory: Following the symbolism of Castor and Pollux, forgetting represents that Utena is dead until Anthy finds her, or until the next hero arises, when she is alive and will be remembered again. See afterstories - Utena’s fate - Castor and Pollux.

All theories can be true.

More to come.

other characters

Good characters have made progress in their personal journeys. Bad characters have made little or no progress. Metaphorically, good advances with time while evil is static or slow-moving, gradually reformed in the direction of good. In Utena’s view, the good learn to correct their mistakes, and evil is redeemed bit by bit.

Miki teaches Mitsuru his stopwatch skill as Kozue in the background watches.

Juri loses her obsession with Shiori (though not her love) and comes to treat others with respect rather than condescension (Miki) or antagonism (Utena). Shiori apparently counts as good and joins the fencing club, where she shows new self-confidence. Miki overcomes his unthinking lust for power over Anthy, learns some of Juri’s insight, and becomes a mentor to Mitsuru. Mitsuru is learning rather than fumbling blindly for maturity. Wakaba moves toward realizing her goal of becoming special. Tokiko (though corrupt) leaves the Academy and leads a normal life. Utena and Anthy leave the Academy and become adult. Anthy counts as good: Corrupting Dios was not a choice she made, it was an accidental outcome, and the great evil she has done since was at Akio’s orders or due to Akio’s corruption of her. All the characters have done bad things: Evil can be redeemed.

Nanami makes tea using the kappa-shaped hot water dispenser, Saionji and Touga sparring in the background.

Mikage, who seeks an eternity of stasis, represents standing still. Of course he does, he is dead. I think it doesn’t matter whether he is at the Academy or gone from it, because he is always the same and always there; he found the only real eternity. Touga and Saionji are sparring the same as ever, with the same results. Saionji expresses a desire to move forward, but hasn’t gotten anywhere yet. Nanami making tea matches Nanami at her lowest in the cowbell episode, with Wakaba’s kappa hot water dispenser the only sign that she has changed (which she has). Kozue (in the background in the left image) is seated at the piano, watching; she’s at least not openly hostile. Akio is at his desk revising the rules of the dueling rings, the same as ever. Saionji, Nanami, and Kozue show small signs of progress; Mikage, Touga, and Akio do not.

We’re not given new information about Nanami’s minions. The nerd trio Suzuki, Yamada, Tanaka has given up on chasing Nanami, who looks down on them. They chase Nanami’s minions instead. The ordinary boys should realistically have a chance to couple up with ordinary girls, and I have to count it as progress. But it’s not much progress. Nanami’s minions may be ordinary, but they want Touga who is special.

Anthy leaves

Mostly unfinished.

Anthy walking away. After Anthy leaves the academy, the ending credits show her walking away. The scenery is shown as backdrops with Anthy’s shadow falling on them, not as real places that she walks through: They are metaphors for where she is going, not a literal depiction. The technique is the same as in the original prince story in episode 1, and reminds me of the Swiss landscape in episode 16. The backdrops are sky at first, then bare trees, then a path through the countryside. The bare trees and the path were backgrounds in the prince story. She is symbolically following the path that the prince followed, seeking her own prince, who is no longer Dios but Utena.

Anthy’s hair is no longer rolled up tightly, but free for her new freedom. But seeking her prince implies that she still lives in the storybook world. On the other hand, nothing says that she won’t find the real world at the end of her journey.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 17 March 2024
updated 2 May 2024