In Utena, the moon appears only at night, when Akio’s power is greater. It is a full moon (or consistent with being a full moon if we only see part of it), except for the crescent moon in Keiko’s episode 21. The moon is depicted as opposed to the sun—literally opposed, 180 degrees apart in the sky so that the moon is full. That makes it like Venus which is tied to Akio—the moon is tied to Akio. Like Venus, the moon is a female symbol that Akio has taken control of, a metaphor for his control over women in general. Venus and the moon together seem to give Akio all-around power: Venus is near the sun in the sky, the moon is as far from the sun as it can be.
Akio is the moon of night and Dios is the sun of day. Akio is tied to the moon by a central organizing fairy tale reference: He is the moon princess Kaguya. Akio’s power of illusion is no more than the reflection of Dios’s power of miracles. A number of characters, including Akio, Anthy, and Utena, are tied to the moon via The Rabbit in the Moon. More characters yet are tied to the moon via Sailor Moon (who is also the rabbit in the moon). Shiori is tied to the moon by her name.
The moon is given specific meanings too. The moon usually stands for siblings. It can stand for romance. In Nanami’s cowbell episode and Keiko’s episode, it shows illusions. The meanings all link to Akio, so that the moon is a sign of Akio’s influence operating: In addition to other meanings, it always refers to Akio’s power. Akio likes Greek myth, but the only connection I found with moon goddess Artemis (Wikipedia) is indirect via Callisto. (Unsurprising. Artemis is a goddess of chastity.)
Two Miki and Kozue episodes. The moon stands over the Kaoru family house—which is enclosed by a fence that metaphorically imprisons the siblings with each other. In episode 15, when Kozue fought a duel to kill Miki’s love Anthy, the moon’s face resembles a skull (compare it to other moons on the page).
Nanami’s bed at night. Nanami is about to wake up and stop Touga from practicing sword swings. White sunbeams stand for the prince. These moonbeams must stand for Akio.
The image is used in two widely separated episodes. Both are Nanami and Touga episodes. In episode 10, the moon appears immediately after the party scene where Nanami blames Utena for Touga’s injury and slaps Anthy, and before the scene where Anthy provokes her with the gift of the kitten. In episode 31, it is after Nanami sees Touga in the greenhouse with a girl, taking a cell phone call from yet another girl. A little later, when Touga is going to take a shower and asks if Nanami wants to come in too, the moon image repeats with added clouds for the approaching storm. In both episodes, Nanami feels her relationship with her brother under strain and overreacts. In both, Touga was the underlying cause of the strain.
The recap episode that names the Student Council arc’s duels and introduces the Black Rose arc. The moon here seems to represent Akio’s power. It’s also a sibling moon, because the two bright stars together at frame right look like Castor and Pollux. Akio compares Utena and Anthy to the twins Castor and Pollux in episode 21. See celestial bodies.
The clouds move to partially cover the moon. It may be a reference to a line from The Rose of Versailles episode 14: “When the full moon hides behind clouds, somewhere a girl is crying.”
When Utena visits Akio and asks about siblings, he gives her a 35mm film slide of the moon. He claims that a sibling is like the moon, and “doesn’t serve any purpose.” Akio doesn’t serve any purpose.
Utena that day fights a duel whose circumstances disprove Akio’s claim. At home afterward, she looks out the window and accepts it regardless. Chu-Chu is there and Anthy is not, because it’s a Saturday night and Anthy is with Akio. Utena is surrounded by blackness. It is an image of Utena’s loneliness, and possibly her ignorance.
Akio is exploiting her loneliness to draw her in. It’s a sibling moon with Miki and Kozue and a romance moon. See meaningful images - moon for more.
Nanami’s cowbell. Nanami is grazing in a grassy area at night, a giant moon behind her. The moon is oversized, mirror-reversed, and somewhat distorted compared to the real moon, and the prominent rayed craters do not correspond to real rayed craters. It is an illusory moon. You mean Nanami didn’t really turn into a cow? How disappointing!
Compare the giant sun also in this episode. Mirror reversal is a theme, but I’m not sure what it means here.
Wakaba’s fantasy castle with the moon behind it, with Wakaba’s brown roses. It is a moon of fantasy romance.
On the castle, note the stained glass window, like the stained glass of the church and the Academy itself. And the row of arched windows under a round cupola, like Akio’s tower. The design is similar in feeling to the inverted castle in the sky, with a lot of towers. The blue-green across the top is the bottom of the theater curtain that lifts at the beginning of the prince story, still lifting. The camera pans down from the silhouetted castle to a dark place below where Wakaba’s prince is, the same way it pans down from Nemuro Memorial Hall to the black rose below. Wakaba’s fantasy prince lives in the underworld; he’s metaphorically dead.
Keiko’s episode. Keiko sees herself as cheating on Nanami by pursuing Touga. The horns of the moon stand for cuckolding somebody, as any Shakespeare reader knows. They could also be the devil’s horns. It’s a moon of romance with cheating.
It is also an astronomically impossible moon. The clouds tell us that the horizon is downward in the frame, and the narrow crescent means the sun is near the moon in the sky, but the light on the moon comes from above—where the sun cannot be at night. It implies that Keiko’s pursuit will fail.
I haven’t identified the stars across the bottom, but I suspect they’re meaningful too.
Miki and Kozue. The moon outside the music room while Miki plays piano. The room is moonlit, despite “sunlit garden” in the episode title. Less and less of the childhood sunlit garden remains. This view of the moon comes up repeatedly through the episode until Akio arrives in his car to drive with Miki.
Nanami’s egg. The moon is outside Nanami’s room when she wakes up, having dreamed of finding an egg under the sand as a child. It isn’t a sibling moon or a romance moon, though it has hints of both. No surface features can be seen: It is a moon that visually resembles an egg.
Jay Scott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
first posted 29 January 2022
updated 4 April 2023