Utena - neckwear catalog

Juri’s locket and Nanami’s cowbell are parallel. Examples of jewelry worn at the throat are parallel. Surely it goes further, I reasoned: The necktie of the girls’ uniform, and Akio’s necktie, and all the other neckwear should participate in one big parallel—they all have you by the neck, or they are different species of albatross, or something. Is it true?

I’m pretty sure that items worn around the neck stand for constraint or restriction, either in general or with some more specific meaning as well. Beyond that, I’m still thinking about it.

I think bows are related, although they are not generally worn around the neck. Bows are discussed at the top of costumes. Possibly bow ties, or any bows worn at the throat, count as neckwear. A loop around the neck is a common way to hold them on. The elementary school uniform for girls includes a bow tie.

Aiko is not angry, her mouth is the normal light pink inside.
Episode 3, Aiko Keiko Yuuko
Akio gets pink spinning roses as he greets Utena for the first time.
Episode 14, purple tie

The girls’ uniform comes with a comical-looking necktie. I suppose it is technically a stylized neckerchief to go with the sailor uniform, but whatever, it’s a tie. Chu-Chu wears a smaller version of it. Akio wears a tie with a more conventional form. Its purple color goes... interestingly... with his red shirt. Utena’s real theme is strange clothing.

If ties represent tying people to conventions, then Akio’s tie is part of his propaganda. He freely violates convention himself, and around freedom-loving Utena superficially supports her freedom to violate convention. In reality, he constantly pushes cultural conventions on others, to maintain his control.

Kanae sits in the confession elevator. We see her from behind.
Episode 14, Kanae

Kanae wears a scarf that hangs down her back. Is there a specific word for that? I guess it’s like a necktie worn backwards.

The scarf is white for the prince. I take it to mean that Akio is constraining her actions, or in fact controlling her life. See taking Ohtori: Akio, indirectly through her father and probably directly with Kanae herself as well, arranged to take Kanae as fiancee. Later he’ll murder her. Kanae who he has promised to marry is no more in control of her own life than Anthy, who he has a de facto marriage with.

Juri’s locket, open to show the picture of Shiori.
Episode 7, Juri’s locket
Nanami shows off the cowbell.
Episode 16, Nanami’s cowbell

I go into the parallel between the locket and the cowbell in the jewelry catalog - Juri’s jewelry. In the same episode, Juri wears a fancy necklace. Both are parodied in the episode’s shadow play about belling the cat. The false hero mouse in the play pretends to have belled the cat; the true hero Utena removes Nanami’s cowbell: Utena removed a constraint.

The locket and cowbell are both associated with stubbornness: Juri’s stubborn obsession that she tries to be rid of in episode 17, and Nanami’s stubborn sense of superiority.

Dios from the prince story, wearing the white prince uniform with a large blue faceted gem.
Episode 1, Dios
Utena and Anthy in the dueling arena.
Episode 10, Utena and Anthy
Mikage .
Episode 22, Mikage

Dios, Akio, Utena, and Anthy all wear gems at the throat. So does Mikage when visiting Tokiko. Utena’s and Anthy’s are round and female; Mikage’s is longer and more male. Utena’s, Anthy’s, and Mikage’s are illusions that they carry. Utena’s seems to stand for the part of her that remains a princess even while she is a prince. So I guess that Dios and Akio’s must be a prince gem; they carry the illusion of princely power, an illusion that is often true.

I guess they’re not worn around the neck?

On the long table is a holder with two unlit candles. At the far end, Touga is eating.
Episode 27, napkin

In episode 27 with Nanami’s egg, eating at the long dining table in the Kiryuu mansion, Nanami and Touga both wear napkins around the neck. Maybe it’s unrelated to other neckwear?

In the following episode 28, Nanami and Miki wear napkins around the neck as they eat at a table on the Student Council platform. If Miki is being compared to Touga, then I don’t see how. It may only represent an upper-class Western eating habit.

Saionji’s head and neck. He is wearing a loose dog collar.
Episode 36, dog collar
Side view of Touga’s face. He is wearing a motorcycle helmet with a loose neck strap.
Episode 36, helmet strap

Touga and Saionji are riding the motorcycle, Saionji in the sidecar. In these pictures, both are wearing helmets with loose straps. Saionji’s strap looks like a dog collar, and his helmet does not appear in other views of the two riding the motorcycle.


Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 22 August 2022
updated 3 November 2023