In episode 31, Nanami saw Akio and Anthy together. After that, she lost any incestuous physical desire she may have had. We know because she rejected Touga in Akio’s car in the following episode 32. The question is: Did she have the desire earlier? The evidence is in favor.
• She puts her hand on Touga’s chest, which in Utena implies desire. We see it in episodes 8 (the picture here) and 21. (See the final showdown for more examples of a hand on the chest implying desire.)
• Nanami’s wish for apples from the tree in episode 9 implies it. See apples as a symbol.
• In episode 31, when she sneaks into the bathroom (failing her stealth roll) to watch Touga in the shower and steal his cell phone, she blushes while looking at him. She’s attracted. And there’s a spinning red rose. There are three others she blushes for once. One is Akio when he stages a rescue of her later in episode 31. The others were Miki in episode 4 and Mitsuru in episode 18.
Nanami’s interest in others doesn’t contradict her desire for her brother. Not even her anti-pursuit of Miki in episode 4 when she tries to ruin Anthy in his eyes. Utena makes it clear that a person can love more than one at a time.
It follows that Akio thwarted Touga’s plot in episode 31. There is likely more evidence to be found. Seeing Akio and Anthy together was traumatic for Nanami, and I haven’t looked closely to see how she processes it.
In episode 31, Utena tells Nanami that it’s not important, nothing real has changed. Utena would be right if there were no plotting going on behind the scenes.
• The two were adopted into the Kiryuu family at the same time and raised together as siblings. They both grew up believing they were biological siblings.
• Touga continues to believe it, but hatches a plot to convince Nanami that they are unrelated, to exploit what he imagines is her incest fantasy. He succeeds in convincing her, as mentioned above, but fails in exploiting the supposed fantasy.
• In episode 32, Akio asks Touga if he’ll tell Nanami the truth, that they are related after all. Akio the manipulator likely set up the adoption and orchestrated their relationship, so he should know.
• By anime convention, sibling characters should have related hair colors. It’s the kind of visual convention that Utena generally follows. It holds for Miki and Kozue and for Anthy and Akio. Nanami and Touga do not have related hair colors.
As Utena said, it doesn’t matter in itself. But I like the implication that Akio was holding out on one more level of deception.
[Within minutes after posting this insight I just had, I learned of Nanami, Anthy, and Escaping the Script by Giovanna. I’m sure it goes into far more depth. I haven’t read it because I need to figure things out for myself first.]
Touga is parallel to Akio in many ways. The Nanami-Touga incest theme is parallel to the Anthy-Akio incest theme. Therefore Nanami is parallel to Anthy. As Touga tries to rival Akio and never comes close, Nanami has a fierce rivalry with Anthy through the series, and despite seeming successes (the dance party of episode 3) comes out worse after every exchange.
Nanami’s hairstyle resembles a princess crown. She is Touga’s princess—a weaker princess—partly under his power. To me, it emphasizes that becoming a princess is a willing choice. Utena, fooled by Akio, willingly chose each step of her corruption; only the final step of having her sword taken was unwilling (and I see an argument even there that she consented).
If Nanami and Touga are not siblings, are Anthy and Akio also unrelated? I suspect it may be a point of deliberate ambiguity, because the hair color evidence in the two parallel relationships is contrary. Alternately, we might say that Akio and Anthy’s hair colors are not enough alike to prove they are brother and sister, and the parallelism says that they are not.
I suspect that one reason behind the Kiryuu family name is to refer to the city of Kiryuu. The city is divided into two geographically separate parts, split by the city of Midori in between. It seems to reflect the way Nanami and Touga are split.
Jay Scott <email@example.com>
first posted 22 December 2021
updated 5 February 2022