Utena - Anthy and Utena in the Apocalypse Saga

In the Black Rose. <- PreviousNext -> The earrings.

Anthy and Utena’s relationship during the Apocalypse Saga, except for the topics covered in other articles. By episode 28, Utena is unambiguously in love with Anthy. Anthy hides her feelings, and I can’t put a definite date on her love. A plausible time is the duel of episode 25, when she transforms Utena—she first wears lipstick for Utena then.

In episode 23 in the Black Rose, Utena realizes that Anthy cannot quit the Rose Bride role. Her attitude to Anthy improves immediately, and we see it in episode 25. Utena no longer berates Anthy for being the Rose Bride, but offers that they can help each other with their problems. Utena has Anthy’s Rose Bride problem in mind, but that does not matter; what matters is that she’s now working with rather than against Anthy. Anthy needs time to believe that Utena’s change is real, but we can trace her increasing confidence. In episodes 25 and 26 she apologizes for things that don’t bother Utena at all, and Utena answers that there’s no need to apologize. In episode 27, Anthy initiates the conversation herself, and does not apologize again. Anthy comes to trust Utena more, though she still does not talk about her relationship with Akio.

The planetarium projector projects yellow light from some lenses.

Episode 25 brings Utena into danger from Akio as he seeks to control her through a relationship, and at the same time shows the way out of the danger, through teamwork in a relationship with Anthy.

It is the first episode of the Apocalypse Saga and the episode of the first attraction, when Akio starts his corruption plan while pointing out Venus as the morning star. Corrupting Utena is one of his goals; another is to separate Utena from Anthy, to keep both under control and prevent either from saving the other. When he points to his namesake planet, the planetarium projector’s light changes from blue for illusion to yellow for jealousy: Akio is deliberately making Anthy jealous as part of his plan.

Shadows of Utena and Anthy lie down in bed.

Teamwork. Nothing is forcing Anthy and Utena apart yet. Just the opposite: Being in the S-shaped bed brings them closer. They talk in bed that night. Utena tells Anthy that they should help each other with their problems, and it reminds Anthy of Dios. Apparently she and Dios made a similar promise long ago. They hold hands, and Anthy almost confesses her problems. In the duel the next day against Saionji, Anthy watches impassively as Utena’s Sword of Dios disappears from her hand, leaving her defenseless. Then Anthy remembers what Utena had said and saves her, drawing Utena’s own sword from her chest. Utena’s promise to work together was an essential step in strengthening her power of miracles; it both aided Akio’s plan to exploit her to open the Rose Gate, and at the same time posed a risk to his plan.

Anthy almost confesses her problems, but thinks better of it. I think she was about to confess that she is manipulating Utena, because she feels conflicted that she is working both for and against Utena. She was not going to say that Akio is abusing her, because she doesn’t realize it. But talking about her tasks for Akio would not work out well, and she can’t go on.

Utena telling Anthy they should work together is a key event. In episode 23, Mikage offered help to her or any friend who had troubles. Only after that did Utena realize that Anthy had troubles—she could not stop being the Rose Bride. Utena phrases it as a suggestion to Anthy, but in reality it is an important promise, the opposite of Akio’s system of male domination, and it represents Utena’s answer to how a good relationship works. It is the theme of the episode’s shadow play. It helps bring Utena and Anthy closer together, for a time. Later, deceived by Akio, Utena breaks the promise, remembering it only in the suicide conversation.

In episode 20, Wakaba says something similar to Saionji as she tries to prevent him from leaving: “Let’s do our best together.” It helps make Wakaba suitable as the next hero after Utena leaves. In contrast, in episode 27 Mitsuru promises to do anything for Nanami, not to work with her. In episode 31, after Akio has moved Nanami into his tower, Touga comes by to try to bring her home. He tells her that, as siblings, “We should live to help each other.” He is lying in a complicated way; he wants Nanami to believe that they are not siblings, though he believes that they are.

Before the promise, Utena has some insights (unusually for her at this point in the story). She says Akio seems familiar (they met in the prince story). And she says he looks as though he has lost something important (the Power of Dios). Anthy says Utena seems familiar to her too. Utena never consciously remembers meeting Anthy back then. It’s possible that Anthy comes to remember Utena; I don’t think we’re shown enough to know.

Episode 26. Anthy and Utena again hold hands and talk at night. Utena, with no family, is pleased that Akio said she was like family. She wonders if parents always care for their children. Anthy answers that it’s probably because of genetics.

The broken teacup. After Akio breaks the teacup and Utena interrupts, Anthy is left to herself for a moment with the pieces of broken teacup in hand. As I see it, it is a breakage that foretells the future. Anthy shows no emotion, but in that moment I feel her fear of Akio’s actions and fear for the future. Anthy does not look far ahead, because she gains nothing from it; she does not control her own life. But she does have an attitude toward the future: She is resigned. Dios failed and fell despite his power of miracles; Utena will in time fall too (especially if she is Dios’s reincarnation; see the next episode).

Anthy holding pieces of the broken teacup, episode 26. Anthy reflected in her teacup, episode 11.
The broken teacup calls back to Anthy’s reflection in her teacup in episode 11, when she is considering Utena’s views on friendship. It is the teacup of opening her heart, as Utena calls on her to do. The teacup directly represents Anthy and Utena as a pair. The teacup is also an outside reference: In The Rose of Versailles, in episode 26 (the same episode number) a black bird (I think a carrion crow) flies in the window and breaks a teacup in Oscar’s hand, leaving behind a black feather. It foretells André’s eye injury in episode 27 and eventual blindness, and thereby the tragedy of Oscar and André. Utena’s teacup, in Anthy’s hand and broken by Akio, foretells Akio’s actions to break apart Anthy and Utena, blinding Utena to Anthy’s feelings (see episode 37’s metaphor of the visibility of Utena’s eyes, which is also a reference to Rapunzel). Anthy picks up the broken pieces, saving as much as she can, but breakage cannot be undone. Anthy soon loses her willingness to open her heart to Utena: Utena is corrupted at the end of episode 30, and in episode 31 and later, nearly all she says to Utena is veiled (the suicide conversation is the great exception).

In episode 27, Anthy speaks first at bedtime. She asks if Utena believes in reincarnation. Anthy is thinking that Utena may be the reincarnation of Dios. Utena is unsure. Then Anthy talks about elephants leaving the herd before they die. Anthy seems to have a strong interest in elephants, yet here she is with Utena. Anthy may still be thinking of Dios, but Dios did not withdraw from the world before turning into Akio—Anthy pulled him away. In any case, Utena has no way of understanding it, and can only relate it to her own experience: Maybe it is because they don’t want their children to be sad. Utena acts cheerful and outgoing, but continually reminds us that she is sad and lonely; her cheerfulness is a coping mechanism. Anthy mentions passing on thoughts and feelings parent to child for eternity—that is what Akio does, he passes on his false worldview to generation after generation, and Anthy accepts his worldview (at least much of it). Utena is able to see it as similar to reincarnation. Meanwhile, the background song goes on about the timeless world of lovers—children who become parents.

Anthy is consciously or unconsciously warning Utena: Akio will isolate her from the herd—from her friends, including Anthy—and then Utena will die. Anthy warns her more explicitly in episode 37.
Parents pass on thoughts and feelings to their children—but not Utena’s parents, they are dead. Utena was not properly brought up under the system of control’s standard method. It presumably contributes to her acceptance of individual differences and her potential to change the world. See Tezuka Osamu - fasteners for another idea about Utena’s upbringing.

It is a tragic conversation. I think it follows from the broken teacup of the previous episode.

The episode is Nanami’s Egg. The conversation establishes a parallel with Buddhism that is part of Utena’s underlying structure, and the rest of the episode illustrates the parallel.

In episode 28, the first of Ruka’s two episodes, Utena brings up Ruka. Anthy says Utena seems to have something on her mind—without suggesting that it’s Ruka. Utena says she doesn’t know why, but her heart is pounding.

It’s love. The “I don’t know why my heart is beating so fast” trope is undisguised. In case the audience was born yesterday, Shiori’s heart beats fast with Ruka in the next scene (and the next episode hints that it may not last with Utena either). Utena does not understand herself. The two continue to grow closer, and Utena does not see a thing. She’s heroic in many qualities, including obliviousness. The preview at the end of the episode points out that Utena has not grasped the idea that one woman can fall in love with another; see Utena’s unfinished thoughts.

Episode 29 is the second Ruka episode. Ruka crushes Shiori with his rejection. Utena (with little insight into the situation) asks Juri to talk with Shiori. She can’t accept that Juri would ignore a friend in need. (When Juri does try to help Shiori, Shiori only becomes more poisonous.) In bed at night, she tells Anthy that she doesn’t understand it—is that really how Juri feels? Anthy answers that maybe it is part of her feelings. People sometimes do or say things they normally would not. Utena: You too? Anthy again nearly confesses her problems.

In other words, in an unusual situation, a person may do an unusual thing. Utena asks, “You too?” and Anthy does not answer. It allows that Anthy might someday leave the Academy, not something she is able to believe for now.

Episode 30 is when Utena is corrupted. Utena has another “I don’t know why my heart is beating so fast” event, this time for Akio. She loves both Anthy and Akio (though as Anthy says, every love is different). Akio increasingly draws her into his orbit and away from Anthy. At bedtime, the process is underway but she is not yet corrupted. Anthy notices that Utena didn’t eat much; Utena’s feelings are in turmoil. See the three candles on bedtime and, for the projected image of two moons, celestial bodies.

the rest

After episode 30, Utena is corrupted; she has chosen to betray her own ideals. She wants to hide her corruption from Anthy; see playing a role. Episodes 31 and 32 are Nanami episodes. Akio brought Nanami into his tower and put her in Anthy’s bed in part to keep Utena and Anthy apart. It works. With the First Seduction of episode 33, Anthy is made ferociously jealous and pushed yet further from Utena. The photograph in episode 34 has Anthy trying to recover some ground. The earrings of episode 35 give Anthy reason to believe that Utena has shifted irrevocably into Akio’s orbit. Akio lands one last hammer blow: Seeing Anthy with Akio at the end of episode 36 leads Utena to believe that Anthy has betrayed her—and Anthy knows it. It is a low point of their relationship. Akio does not release the pressure; in episode 37 - Utena’s resolution he orders Anthy to make further statements to drive Utena away.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 25 January 2022
updated 7 November 2023