Utena - episode 37: after the Routine Date

Where were you last night? <- PreviousNext -> Utena’s resolution.

After the Routine Date, Utena returns to the bedroom and finds Anthy awake. I think Anthy stayed up late waiting, as she did during the First Seduction. It’s our first chance to see how well Akio’s attempt to break Utena away from Anthy has succeeded.

We don’t see Utena’s eyes during this scene. See Rapunzel. As the episode proceeds, we generally (not always) see more of her eyes. Utena has started to look outside her metaphorical coffin and understand more of the real situation.

the star symbolism

Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper arranged around the North Star in the center.

The W shape on the left is Cassiopeia, who committed hubris by claiming herself and her daughter Andromeda more beautiful than the Nereids. It was an offence against the Olympian gods. The shape depicts the chair that Poseidon tied her to as punishment.

On the right is the Big Dipper. The two end stars of the Big Dipper are the pointer stars that point toward the North Star.

The sky revolves around the North Star as the Earth rotates. Just in case we were inclined to ignore the constellations and North Star, the decorations at the top of the window point toward them.

This might be from any normal planetarium show explaining the constellations. Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper are opposed in the sky, symmetrically across the North Star from each other, suggesting that their meanings are paired. The North Star is the center, it is what everything revolves around. (In reality it’s dimmer than the other stars of those constellations, not brighter.) It represents the central reality, the truth behind the illusions.

In the previous episode 36, Cassiopeia seemed to represent Touga’s failed challenge to Akio. The old meaning does not go away, but Touga is out of the picture and we need a new meaning: These are Utena’s two possible fates. She will follow the pointer stars of the Big Dipper to find the truth and escape. Or she will be captured by Akio and punished like Cassiopeia for the crime of hubris committed against the Olympian god Akio (she’ll be murdered). Being different, following your own way rather than accepting the sex roles assigned by Akio, amounts to claiming to be better.

Cassiopeia’s daughter Andromeda (Wikipedia) was chained up next to the sea to be devoured by Poseidon’s sea monster, to appease the gods. Perseus saved her. Andromeda is a captive princess saved from a monster by a prince—it’s essentially a fairy tale princess and dragon story. Andromeda is also Anthy, held captive and devoured every weekend by a monster. According to Ovid, Andromeda was from India and dark-skinned like Anthy.
The constellations Cassiopeia and Andromeda are adjacent in the sky. Cassiopeia, closer to the North Star, is Utena’s bad end, and Andromeda, to its south, is Anthy, still chained up. The constellation Perseus is also adjacent, though.

the conversation

The two stand at opposite edges of the window, which suddenly seems very wide. Anthy greets Utena in her cool Rose Bride voice. Utena is surprised that Anthy is still awake—it must be late. Utena asks, “Are you angry?” Anthy, “Why?” Utena in a warm tone, “I thought you’d be like that.” Utena is trying to understand Anthy, and making progress where in the past her progress has been sluggish. Her love is still alive.

Utena and Anthy’s hands together.

Utena wonders out loud, in a girlish voice, if Akio was teasing her in calling her girlish, minutes before in the car (she misquotes his words slightly). As she says this, the constellations have moved out of position: The Big Dipper is just to her right and descending past the bottom of the frame, and Cassiopeia is to her left and approaching, starting to disappear from view behind her. Heaven confirms that the constellations relate specifically to Utena. She holds out a hand in the direction of Anthy. Anthy answers with seriousness, though still in her Rose Bride voice, that in the end all girls are like the Rose Bride. It is a warning to Utena: If Utena is girlish, Akio will take control over her. Anthy takes Utena’s hand, and we see that they are now standing side by side. They had an honest moment and it brought them closer. But—

In the Student Council arc, Utena insisted that Anthy wanted to be an ordinary girl. Now Anthy says that she has been an ordinary girl all along. Utena’s mistake was a failure to understand what it is to be an ordinary girl.

Anthy continues in her Rose Bride voice and brings up the letter from End of the World. If you go to the castle you’ll meet your prince, she says. She must be following instructions from Akio. The constellations have moved back into position: Cassiopeia is overhead, the Big Dipper out of sight.

Utena ignores it. She has become more thoughtful and understands more; I think she detects Anthy’s falseness. She looks downward, hair covering her eyes, and speaks empty words about how much has happened since they met. We hear a camera click—Utena was playing a role with her empty words, not engaging with Anthy; she reacted falsely too. As the shadow play implies, the two are playing the role of being friends. In the Black Rose, Anthy and Utena pretended to be distant; here they pretend to be close. The next words are Touga from the next scene, “Is this goodbye?” Have Utena and Anthy broken up? Utena’s covered eyes mean that she is blind to Anthy’s feelings; see the broken teacup explanation. Cassiopeia is at the top of the frame and approaching. The Bad End is prominent in the sky.

Utena is superhumanly forgiving as a prince; it is part of her parallel with Jesus. But only Utena as prince is forgiving, and Akio has made her girlish. Her honest moment with Anthy means that she has forgiven her for her perceived betrayal, at least largely. But she has lost trust, and with Akio in her mind she does not wish to be as close as they once were. She has come to understand Anthy better, and sees more of Anthy’s bad behavior without realizing how much it is dictated by Akio. In any case, Akio has succeeded in separating them, not entirely but well enough.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 13 December 2021
updated 27 August 2023