Utena - Utena’s unfinished thoughts

Utena doesn’t always finish what she’s saying. She has different reasons. Sometimes she is interrupted. Sometimes she seems to find it unpleasant or otherwise a bad idea to continue. The cases that most interest me are those where she does not understand something: The gap in her words reveals a gap in her thoughts.

Utena sometimes stops speaking because she finds the words too unpleasant to say. She is compared to Nanami: At the end of episode 31, Nanami sees Akio and Anthy together. In episode 32, Touga asks her what she saw, and Nanami thinks “I can’t say it.” It’s too unpleasant, possibly because it is too contrary to the conventional morality trained into her (even though she ignores morality at times—like the scene right after her car ride).

Anthy doesn’t always finish what she says either. In bed in episode 25, Anthy starts to tell Utena something and breaks off. It’s not the only time.

It’s striking that the unfinished thoughts are concentrated in the Apocalypse Saga. It may reflect Utena becoming more thoughtful. But maybe not; Anthy’s unfinished thoughts are in the Apocalypse Saga too. As I write this, I’m listening to the song “Fang mich auf” by the band Unheilig, which has a line “Die Ungewissheit sieht mich schweigend an,” uncertainty looks at me silently (in the sense of not speaking). The lyrics are strangely appropriate to Utena.

Episode 3. At the dance party, Touga asks Utena why she came, and she answers “In case you are....” She means in case you are my prince, but she’s not certain and doesn’t say it. Or she doesn’t want to give away her feelings because they are embarrassing. (It’s not because she fears they could be used against her; she doesn’t worry about that.)

Episode 7. Utena has won the duel against Juri, her lost sword miraculously falling perfectly to slice Juri’s rose. She looks at the rose with the sword in its center and says masaka, “No way!” From her tone of voice, she means it more like “No way, was it....” She presumably means “Was it really a miracle?” I think she never comes to believe in her own power of miracles, despite the evidence.

Episode 21. In the duel, Utena says “You are.... You are....” She doesn’t know Keiko’s name.

Episode 26. Leaving the Kaoru house with Anthy, Utena wonders if the overgrown yard is the “sunlit garden” of Miki’s memory. Utena says she thought it was more.... Later Akio asks Anthy about it, and Anthy claims she doesn’t know what Utena meant. We’re shown that Utena spoke more, but we don’t hear the words. Is Anthy lying to Akio?

After their duel, Utena wonders why Miki decided to fight. She says Miki is more.... Anthy asks “more what?” but Utena does not answer. Utena believes that Miki is not the aggressive, dueling type, but in that case, what’s going on?

Episode 28, preview for the next episode. Utena asks Anthy, “I heard that Juri loves Shiori. Do you know what it means?” Anthy: Love is different for everybody. Utena: I don’t mean in general, what I want to ask is.... Utena has not grasped the idea of lesbian love, which explains how she can be oblivious of her love of Anthy. See Anthy and Utena in the Apocalypse Saga - episode 28. Utena has a gap in her thoughts.

Episode 30. Utena is injured, and Anthy is walking her to the school nurse’s room. Utena is about to tell Anthy her feelings, keeping her promise about working together. She is interrupted by Akio driving up, and does not keep the promise. It’s not Utena stopping short, it’s Akio interrupting with exact timing.

Episode 33. In the First Seduction, when flat on her back Utena babbles disjointedly. Her babble begins with “today...” and ends with “today...”, both directed to Akio, perhaps the same unfinished thought. There doesn’t seem to be enough information to guess what she had in mind. It could be a self-excuse.

Episode 35. In the greenhouse, carrying a bucket of water for Anthy’s roses, Utena says “Himemiya, I...” and stops short. She finishes, “It’s nothing.” She’s trying to remember her forgotten promise to Anthy in the prince story—it’s a gap in her thoughts. See almost remembering. A little later, with her fingers in the bucket, she looks at Anthy: “Could it be that you and I...?” She is about to remember, but as in episode 30 (see above), Akio interrupts with exact timing.

Episode 37. As they hit around a shuttlecock, Juri asks Utena what she’ll do about Anthy. Utena acknowledges that she loves Anthy, and says sadly “but I’m already....” Utena doesn’t want to continue. She may have started out thinking “broken up with her” or something similar, but she realizes it’s not exactly true. It’s another gap in her thoughts.

Episode 38. “This is the room where you and Anthy always....” It’s so easy to interpret that it hardly counts as unfinished. She is jealous of Anthy being with Akio. Utena finds it too unpleasant to talk about. It is part of a parallel with Kozue.

A little later, reacting to Akio accusing her of immorality, Utena in effect says he has gone off-topic, and says “About Himemiya....” The Nozomi subtitles translate it as “I care about Himemiya,” which seems good to me. But in fact, Utena did not finish the sentence, and other readings are available. See the final showdown - second challenge - about Himemiya.

Episode 39. Shortly before Anthy falls away from Utena, Utena says “Someday, together...” or in a more natural translation “Someday when we’re together....” A title screen completes it into “Someday, we’ll shine together,” which might or might not be what Utena intended, but it is what Utena intends.

Utena has not figured out what the future will be, but she is permanently optimistic. Her mortal wound is not worth consideration. I interpret the final shot of the opening sequence, with Utena rotating over a rotating rose while the paired rose is unoccupied, as Utena after she has left the Academy. Her eyes are closed.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 14 February 2022
updated 24 March 2024