Utena - wind catalog

In The Rose of Versailles, wind represents the approaching storm of the French Revolution. Utena draws so much meaning from The Rose of Versailles that its meaning can’t help but color the meaning in Utena. But, though Akio adopts the word “revolution” in his propaganda, in Utena the storm comes at the beginning, when little Utena is hiding in her coffin in the church while a thunderstorm booms outside. The storm represents Akio’s power. Its rain is the water of illusions and tears, and its lightning is the weapon of his mythical correspondent, Zeus. The clouds hide the sun, meaning Dios, goodness, and truth.

Nanami, who is parallel to Utena in many ways, also gets a storm (actually two storms, one in the body swap episode and one when “losing” Touga).

The wind refers to the prince, or to princes and the power of princes, or more generally to power over other people (which is what princes have). The combination means that Akio is performing something extraordinary. In fact he is: He is bending Utena’s entire future life in the direction he chooses. The storm matches little Utena’s mood, and that too is a manifestation of Akio’s power.

Some actions cause a bit of wind. See Utena slapping Touga’s hand away in episode 3 (picture and brief mention under skirt shadows). Blowing out the three candles when Utena is corrupted in episode 30 shares in the meaning of wind. Akio tempts Utena into making a wish to be corrupted; his power is behind the wind of Utena’s breath in blowing them out. It is in the small what Akio plots in the large: Getting Utena to join him, co-opting Utena’s power to his own ends.

Wind blows on prince Dios.
Prince story, Dios
Wind blows on little Utena.
Prince story, Dios leaving

The wind blows in parts of the original prince story, the one that begins episode 1. It blows on Dios, and it blows as Dios is leaving (little Utena’s dress is blown, and a few pink rose petals are flying). The imaginary prince that little Utena wants to become is also blown by wind.

Right from the start, the prince is tied to wind.

Utena and Anthy in princess dresses, dancing with two copies of Dios.
Ending credits

From the first ending sequence. The wind blows in both directions. Utena’s hair and the dresses of Utena and Anthy are blown to the right, while the capes of the two copies of Dios are blown to the left. Utena and Anthy are being princesses, so it is Dios’s wind, blowing from Dios. The image is a reference to an image in Sailor Moon.

Maybe the wind is Dios’s power blowing outward. Maybe it is their separate powers. Maybe it represents that Dios and Utena are ultimately blown apart.

Anthy faces away as she prepares to let her sword be drawn. Wind lifts the skirt of her princess dress.
Episode 1, sword from Anthy
Anthy stand in front of Utena as she prepares to draw Utena’s sword. Wind lifts the skirt of her princess dress.
Episode 25, sword from Utena

Dios’s wind blows when a sword is drawn in the arena, whether from Anthy or from Utena. When the sword is drawn from Anthy, Dios’s white light shines from under the skirt of her dress.

In the final showdown, Akio draws Utena’s sword with wind and light, and light shines from Anthy (who is out of sight) when he draws Anthy’s sword. In the Black Rose, there is neither wind nor light when a victim’s sword is taken; the prince has nothing to do with it.

For a longer discussion, see duel symbols - pulling a sword.

Utena’s hair blows in the wind in the dueling arena.
Episode 4, arena

At the start of episode 4 is a flashforward to the duel against Miki in the next episode. In the flashforward only—not in the duel—a gust of wind blows through. It happens when Miki threatens, “even if I have to hurt you!” It seems to represent Miki’s desire for power over Anthy.

Again the wind blows in both directions, but in this scene it blows Utena and Miki toward each other. They end up as friends. Alternately, the wind represents their desires to exercise power against each other. Utena’s wind looks more impressive because of her long hair.

Wind blows Nanami’s hair and yellow rose petals.
Episode 4, dorm

When Nanami imagines her triumph in humiliating Anthy, wind blows past her imaginary self, carrying the yellow rose petals of her jealousy. It’s the wind of controlling other people’s conceptions of Anthy... which she can’t do.

The yellow and pink abstract background seems to represent Nanami’s jealousy of Utena for being close to Anthy.

What is with that strange pose?

Wind blowing curtains while Touga pontificates.
Episode 5, Touga
Strong wind blows window curtains inward.
Episode 36, cactus

In episode 5, in Miki’s imagination, Touga repeats an argument that Miki should duel for Anthy. A strong wind blows the curtain inward. Outside the window is yellow for Miki’s jealousy.

The blown curtain image repeats in episode 36, Touga’s out-of-focus cactus in the foreground. This is Touga’s imagination, or at least stands for Touga’s state of mind. The curtain is pink for Utena. Outside the window is orange to match the cactus.

I’m guessing this wind represents the desire to be a prince, the desire for power over others.

Nanami has slipped on a banana peel and fallen. She watches special curry spice blow away.
Episode 8, curry spice

Nanami has fallen. An elephant blows away the special curry spice. I put it here rather than under artificial wind because Anthy arranged everything: She sent Nanami on the useless quest, she made sure Nanami would fall, she set up the wind. The wind is Anthy exercising power over Nanami.

The elephant is a male symbol. It can represent Anthy because she is working for Akio—she is doing the work of the patriarchy.

Silhouette of Touga saving Utena from Saionji.
Episode 9, fake prince Touga

In the silhouette view of Touga protecting Utena from Saionji’s sword attack, wind blows. There is no wind before or after. As usual in Utena, the metaphors are for states of mind, not for reality: Utena sees Touga as a prince, so he gets the attributes of a prince. See cool stuff - Saionji’s sword attack for more on this image.

Utena’s hair blows in the wind after she loses.
Episode 11, Utena loses
Petals of Utena’s rose blow past Anthy in the wind after she loses.
Episode 11, rose petals

When Utena loses her duel against Touga, sudden wind blows the petals of her rose past Anthy. It is prince Touga’s wind blowing away Utena’s self-perceived princehood in white petals.

Darker clouds in the night sky with moon.
Episode 13, moving clouds

The wind is blowing clouds quickly across the moonlit night sky. Anthy remarks on it. This wind, in the same image as Akio’s tower and Akio’s moon, must represent Akio’s power.

The wind chime in the dorm room window.
Episode 15, wind chime

Miki shows up at the dorm to visit Anthy, but he’s too flustered to ring the bell. Utena pulls him in by the hand. Utena believes she is doing Anthy a favor, but the byplay with Chu-Chu and the fly and overeating by Chu-Chu suggest that Anthy is irritated. The conversation is punctuated by the sounding of the wind chime in the window.

The sound of the chime seems to be only punctuation. The chime as an object is musical and connects the meaning of wind with Miki’s music. The bell is pink for Utena with an orange rose for one-sided love, surrounded by blue because it is illusory, and the ribbon is blue-green for Anthy’s manipulation of Miki’s illusions. The following scene is the music teacher stumbling down the stairs. The stairs on the one hand resemble the ribbon of the wind chime, and on the other resemble the keys of Miki’s piano. Kozue is being set up for the next duel. The wind presumably represents Mikage’s power.

Nanami’s hair blows in a brief gust.
Episode 21, Nanami

A gust blows past when Nanami confronts Keiko and swears to exterminate bad bugs like her. She seeks power over others, and does have power over her minions. Her hair has turned white for the arbitrary princely power she exercises.

A window opens, blown by wind.
Episode 31, window blown open
A storm rapidly blows in.
Episode 31, storm

Wind blows open the window of Nanami’s bedroom in the Kiryuu mansion. The wind scatters the photos that Nanami had spread out on her bed. It is as if her preserved memories were a rose scattered in a duel. Later, Nanami concludes that she and Touga are not related by blood, breaking the foundation of her self-image and self-esteem. The wind suddenly rises and a thunderstorm blows in.

I take it that Akio is pulling out the stops to manipulate Nanami. The thunderstorm over the church is the only other thunderstorm in the series. (Well, there’s another in the body swap episode 8, and I’m not counting it though it’s also associated with Nanami. In episode 29, after Juri drops her rose, there’s a sound of distant thunder before the rain starts, but the storm we see is gentle.)

Anthy in silhouette, hair blown in the wind.
Episode 35
Anthy in silhouette, pierced by the Swords of Hatred, hair blown in the wind.
Episode 35, moments later

Utena and Anthy are on the grass. Utena has just shown off the earrings to Chu-Chu, when she looks at Anthy and has a sudden vision of her pierced with swords. Wind blows Anthy’s hair in the vision. Wind blows the trees as Utena wonders what just happened. She still can’t quite remember meeting Anthy in the prince story. Akio’s wind is acting on Utena.

The wind in Anthy’s hair seems to say that the Swords are Dios’s fault, not Anthy’s. Karma punishes Anthy with the Swords, but karma is an illusion too.

More detailed analysis of the vision is at red catalog - episode 35 swords.

Anthy stands at the building edge. Wind blows her hair and nightgown.
Episode 37, at the brink
Utena stands near Anthy. Wind blows her hair and nightshirt.
Episode 37, Utena arrives

Anthy’s suicide attempt starts with wind. In episode 37 we don’t see the wind die down. In episode 38, in the conversation after Utena catches her, the clouds continue to move swiftly, but the wind does not reach Anthy and Utena. It can be Akio’s wind in ordering Anthy’s suicide attempt to manipulate Utena, and it can be Utena’s wind because she has been successfully manipulated into acting as a heroic prince. I presume it’s both.

Anthy holds out the letter toward Utena.
Episode 37, letter

Wind blows as Anthy offers the taped-together letter from End of the World to Utena. She lets go of the letter and it blows away in the direction of the dueling forest. The shape of the clouds in the sky seems to echo the movement. It seems to be both Akio’s wind and Utena’s wind. It can be Anthy’s wind too.

Utena is prone on the walkway to Anthy’s coffin, wind blowing her dangling hair.
Episode 39, Utena

Utena failed to rescue Anthy and believes she was defeated. Wind blows her hair as the arena crumbles. She still has power over others: She successfully convinced Anthy (once Anthy has processed everything and gathered her courage) to leave the Academy.

the wind of movement

One example for each of three means of transportation: Feet, car, horse. They are in increasing order of specialness.

We watch from above as Utena, having won at basketball, runs to meet her fangirls. Her hair trails behind her.
Episode 1, running

Utena’s hair streams behind her when she plays basketball. In the first episode, it also streams out after she wins, as she runs to meet her fangirls, who are themselves rushing onto the court. It is the wind of Utena’s power of miracles. The fangirls’ hair does not stream behind them as they run.

The symbolism of feet is related: Utena’s hair can stream behind her because she has freedom of movement and she can run. If she were wearing high heels, or if something else lifted her from the ground, or if Akio had stolen one shoe, she would not be able to run like this. Nanami does run in high heels in episode 31. Her hair waves behind her but does not stream in the wind of movement like Utena’s.

Feet represent power that everyone can have. Some may give up the power or have it taken from them.

Touga and Akio are in Akio’s car. Their hair flutters behind them.
Episode 25, driving

Akio’s car represents Akio. Hair flying behind you represents not the inevitability of tangles, but Akio’s power.

The car represents power that adults can have.

Utena falls from Touga’s horse.
Episode 35, falling from the horse

As part of Akio’s setup for the Second Seduction, he arranges for Utena to fall from Touga’s horse so he can rescue her. Utena’s hair streams forward, which is... physically unlikely. She’s not being yanked off the horse. We don’t know how he did it, but clearly Akio engineered the fall. Utena’s hair is reversed by the wind of his power.

The horse represents power that special people can have. As Utena says, most people have never ridden a horse. In the real world, few people regularly ride horses. In Utena, only Touga and Akio ride horses. They use their horses to play prince, since princes are special and are associated with horses. Utena does not have riding skills because to Touga and Akio she is a princess.

artificial wind

Juri sits in front of a wall of spinning pinwheels.
Episode 15, pinwheels

The fan seems to spin a wall of pinwheels with its artificial wind. It doesn’t disturb Juri’s hair, though.

It’s Nanami’s fan. It represents Nanami’s artificial power in taking leadership of the Student Council—which does not have real power. She can claim power over the other members, pointing the fan at them... and she can cause toys to spin around. Juri is unaffected because the power does not touch her.

Nanami’s hair blows in the wind of an invisible train passing through the Student Council platform.
Episode 22, train
Miki’s hair blows in the wind of a passing baseball on the Student Council platform.
Episode 25, baseball

Events on the Student Council platform. An invisible train crosses the platform, blowing things with the wind of its passage. Nanami shows it the most. The characters can’t hear each other. It happens while they’re discussing End of the World in relation to the Black Rose—Akio seems to be using his power to impede their investigation.

In a later episode, the wind of a passing baseball blows Miki’s hair. The characters don’t notice because the game is metaphorical, not real to them.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 30 January 2022
updated 9 February 2024