In the Student Council arc. <- Previous • Next -> In the Apocalypse Saga.
Anthy and Utena’s relationship progresses during the Black Rose, but we don’t learn much about it along the way. Most of it seems to happen while we’re looking elsewhere.
In episode 14, we get one mildly revealing moment. Utena and Anthy are visiting Akio and Kanae. Talking about Akio’s stars, Kanae mentions that he slept in the room last night. (With Anthy.) A little later she says, seemingly about his obsession with stars, “Remember me sometimes too, OK?” At that moment, Utena turns her head to look at Anthy, who is hiding behind her Rose Bride face. Akio does not actually care about Kanae or stars, but Utena does care about Anthy.
In episode 18, the library scene about adulthood hints at Anthy’s desire for Utena.
In episode 19, when Anthy and Utena visit Akio, Utena worries about monopolizing the conversation. She shows more consideration of Anthy than she did in the Student Council arc. Then, as Akio talks about how we’re unable to see into others’ hearts, and we can’t know others’ princes, the camera tells us that Akio does not see into Anthy’s heart or know that her prince is Utena. Anthy has successfully kept it hidden.
At the end of episode 21, Anthy tells Utena with a cheerful smile that if it’s for someone you love, you lie to yourself for as long as it takes. It’s a giant clue, stomping around and leaving giant footprints in the terrain. Utena visibly reacts and appears to take in the information, but I didn’t find any clear sign that she learned from it. Maybe it contributes to her realization in episode 23? Anthy is of course talking about herself—she believes in Akio despite knowing his nature—but not only about herself. Miki naively accepts obvious falsehoods, that he should see through, out of love. Juri rejects miracles (accepting the unbreakable stability of the system of control) despite her deeper beliefs, out of love. After Utena is corrupted in the Apocalypse Saga, she makes self-excuses. She lies to herself, and continues lying until she falls out of love with Akio in the final showdown.
In episode 22, Utena has apparently learned that Anthy as the Rose Bride is under somebody’s orders. She tells Anthy that she doesn’t have to follow orders. Anthy answers that it can’t be helped. Utena rudely rejects that. She can’t get her head around the idea that Anthy is not free.
In episode 23, waking up from a dream of the church where she was in a coffin, she finds that Anthy has fallen asleep holding her hand. “Nothing is eternal” from the dream and an image of hands parting tell us that it won’t last. Utena realizes that Anthy can’t quit being the Rose Bride. Finally! The Black Rose is almost over, it took most of the series for Utena to grasp the idea! She tells Anthy her realization... but Anthy is asleep. Well, one step at a time.
It’s a key event. Afterward, Utena treats Anthy more kindly and Anthy gains greater trust in her. It’s necessary for their relationship to progress, for Utena’s power of miracles to continue to strengthen, and for the two to eventually escape from the Academy.
The Rose Bride role itself is supposed to be eternal. We’re being given a hint that Anthy will eventually leave it. And that Akio himself is not eternal.
At the end of the Black Rose, all events related to Mikage vanish from the timeline; they never happened even in memory. Utena’s power of miracles has been strengthened by the duels, and that remains, but I find no evidence that she remembers the duels themselves. Unrelated effects like Akio’s grooming of Utena remain. Anthy and Utena’s relationship progress remains too. Utena’s realization of episode 23 gave her the motivation to seek out Mikage—she was seeking help for Anthy—so it could count as a related event. But I don’t think so, because she doesn’t bring up the issue in the Apocalypse Saga. In any case, Anthy and Utena are closer at the start of the Apocalypse Saga than at the end of the Student Council arc. Their relationship progresses rapidly in episode 25, and it is because the groundwork has been laid.
Jay Scott <email@example.com>
first posted 31 December 2021
updated 24 November 2023