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The main discussion of the final showdown is much longer. This article is a brief discussion of the end of their relationship in episode 38. After the suicide conversation Utena knows what she wants, and she came to the arena to defeat Akio. When Utena sees him, she’s angry.
Akio is not easy to defeat. He comes close, defuses her anger, and takes her sword—her male power—and she becomes a princess in a pink princess dress, little different from the Rose Bride.
In Utena, a hand on the chest indicates desire. I think it is always physical desire, even when Nanami puts her hand on Touga’s chest (episodes 8 and 21). In episode 9, when Touga unwantedly grabs Utena and pulls her close, rather than pushing him away with a hand on his chest, she holds her hands back from Touga (though her princess-length hair echoes his) until she breaks free. At the end of the episode, when Touga is on the phone with End of the World, he’s in bed with girls, one with her hand on his chest. (I chose a clearer image here, though.)
In episode 11, Touga defeats Utena and takes Anthy. Anthy places her left hand on Touga... at stomach level, well below the chest.
Compare the top left picture to the big picture below. Touga and Akio are doing the same thing, Touga failing and Akio succeeding. Touga is facing left, the direction of illusions; Akio is facing right, the direction of truth. (Touga’s anonymous girl has her left hand on his chest. She is fooled. Anthy has her right hand on Utena’s chest, and Utena has her right hand on Akio’s chest for genuine desire. But in the big picture below, Utena’s left hand is on Akio’s chest. Akio manipulated her desire to the forefront, fooling her.)
Returning to episode 38, Akio’s smile is confident, his arm around Utena is possessive. It’s the first time she’s seen him in the white prince uniform. He leans over her dominantly as she leans back, looking at him wide-eyed. (Compare her wide-eyed look in episode 7 when Juri is leaning close, and also her wide-eyed look in the picture with Anthy above as she looks at Akio arriving in his car. It seems to mean surprise and interest.) After the suicide conversation with Anthy, she knows for a fact that Akio is abusive and deceitful and keeps Anthy in suffering—and still her hand is on his chest. She desires him regardless. She is tempted by his false offer of an eternity of happily ever after...
... but only until Utena remembers Anthy. She seizes her sword back from Akio—who could have held tight if he had not been surprised. That is when they break up. The fight goes on and the one-sided relationship ends.
Jay Scott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
first posted 8 December 2021
updated 19 October 2023