Utena - Chu-Chu’s arc

Anthy. <- PreviousNext -> Kanae.

We meet Chu-Chu for the first time—eating a cookie.

Chu-Chu doesn’t have much of an arc. The only part that feels like a story thread is the ongoing byplay with the frog. Nevertheless, Chu-Chu is a complex character.

Chu-Chu’s sex is never specified. I take it to be deliberately left open. Chu-Chu acts female with Tatsuya in episode 19, but that’s a gag and proves nothing.

Chu-Chu shows Anthy’s feelings, for example in episode 2 aiming a fork like a sword against Saionji’s shoe: Anthy would like to take vengeance on Saionji, but she is not allowed to because he is one of Akio’s candidate miracle workers. Later in the episode, Chu-Chu reveals her disappointment when Utena decides to lose the duel against Saionji. When Anthy hides her real feelings, the audience needs the help.

Chu-Chu wears the tie from the girls’ uniform and a ring in the left ear like Akio’s: Chu-Chu is tied to Anthy and Akio and the Academy. Those details reflect Anthy’s feelings too. Anthy not only accepts but believes in the conventional female role that Akio assigned her; she believes in the girls’ uniform. Akio’s ring is silver for the moon, and Chu-Chu’s is gold for the sun and therefore Anthy’s love Dios.

Chu-Chu is not around for Anthy’s most serious actions: Duels, murdering Kanae, talking with Utena in the poisoning scene and the attempted suicide, attracting the Swords of Hatred. At those times we often get to see Anthy’s feelings directly.

Chu-Chu reflects how others treat Anthy. Utena makes friends with Chu-Chu immediately, the first sign that she will act to save Anthy in the duel of episode 2. Saionji harasses Chu-Chu at every opportunity. When Anthy visits Akio for sex, Anthy carries her desires to Akio and leaves her misgivings behind with Chu-Chu. For a symbolic example, see comparisons - Chu-Chu hangs on. It’s parallel to how Utena dissociates her desires into body language and her misgivings into babble in the First Seduction. Chu-Chu avoids Akio completely and acts afraid when Akio is mentioned, because Chu-Chu carries Anthy’s misgivings about Akio. The only time we see Akio and Chu-Chu together is in the epilog, when Chu-Chu reflects Anthy’s hidden sadness in leaving behind the central relationship of her life so far.

Plots. Chu-Chu follows Anthy’s orders, or at least participates in her plots, as when harassing Nanami (Chu-Chu plants the egg) or when interfering with the photograph in episode 34.

Gags. Chu-Chu gets into scrapes that have nothing to do with Anthy’s feelings or plots, for example eating the eraser in episode 4, and later being captured by the octopus. Chu-Chu likes to follow Utena around and imitate what Utena is doing. How much of it is because Anthy wishes she could be with Utena, and how much because Anthy is spying on Utena to manipulate her? I expect it’s both.

Eating. Chu-Chu’s gluttony reads as stress eating, Anthy’s reaction to her traumatically stressful situation displaced onto Chu-Chu. Eating in Utena sometimes means sex, as in devouring fish (women). That reading doesn’t seem entirely natural to me for Chu-Chu, but if you accept it then Chu-Chu’s uncontrolled eating stands for Anthy’s uncontrolled sex life. She has no choice, but is required to satisfy Akio’s demands plus those of the dueling champion. Saionji is captured by a vision of eternal true love, but I can’t imagine that Touga restricts himself to his fangirls. Plus we know that, as much as Akio would like to do it all himself, Anthy is sometimes assigned tasks that involve seducing people—she plays Mamiya to seduce and control Mikage.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 22 July 2023
updated 4 November 2023