Utena - Kanae’s arc

Chu-Chu. <- PreviousNext -> Mrs. Ohtori.

Kanae looks downward while facing Anthy.

Kanae’s story is short but eventful—and the events all went against her. Akio exploits her to seize control of Ohtori Academy, he exploits her to manipulate Utena, she fights a weak duel against Utena, and Akio has Anthy poison her. She was born to a life of privilege, and it was turned against her at every point. She did not understand what she wanted from life, but found she could not get it, and then she was murdered at a young age. She did not live long enough to learn how she wanted to live.

See her design - her clothing - Akio’s plot to take Ohtori Academy - the duel of episode 14 - her murder.

In episode 14, Akio introduces Kanae as his fiancee to Utena as part of his plot to corrupt Utena. When he later seduces Utena, she will feel that she is harming Kanae in violation of her princely ideals. When Utena loses her princeliness, she becomes an ordinary girl, and ultimately a princess under Akio’s control.

During the episode, clues say that Kanae loves Anthy and is in denial about it. The picture above is one of the clues: Kanae is staring at Anthy’s breasts as she asks Anthy to call her “big sister”. (It’s realistic behavior at that age... and often older.) At the end of the conversation, Kanae closes her eyes to symbolize that she does not understand. See flowers - Kanae for more. In the confession elevator she speaks as though Anthy were strange and dangerous (true) and to be avoided (a reasonable conclusion), but in fact she tries to approach Anthy rather than avoid her. She does not understand herself.

In Kanae’s murder, first Akio drugs her with the same date rape drug that he uses later against Utena. Then he has Anthy feed Kanae a slice of poisoned apple, Snow White-like. Kanae has no chance; she is rendered unconscious and no doubt dies without waking up unless Anthy feels particularly vindictive.

personality

Kanae sits in the confession elevator. We see her from behind.

Kanae wears an orange dress, except in the dueling arena. The orange color is for her one-sided love of Anthy (who despises her). The buttons down the back suggest that she has a maid to help her dress; see costumes - Kanae. She says that her father chose Akio for her, so the family is traditionalist, that is, old-fashioned. She tells social lies smoothly, without hesitation. I read her as a pampered girl trained to socialize with the wealthy and with little experience of the real world. I expect Akio had no difficulty convincing her to agree to the engagement. She fights weakly in her duel because she has never needed physical skills. Look at those spaghetti arms—she has no strength in them. She is submissive; while trying to talk down to Anthy, she holds her arms defensively in front of her as Anthy habitually does.

Kanae wears a purple uniform in her duel because she is corrupt. There’s no definite evidence of why, but it looks like her family is corrupt and raised her that way. Trying to control Anthy (“make her like me”) is an example of it. I imagine Akio corrupted her further. Even so, Kanae is only mildly evil, and not effective at what she tries to do (she can’t move either Anthy or Utena, and Akio seems to control her effortlessly). She is not close to her mother’s level of badness.

meaning

The patriarchy is rapacious and will stop at nothing. Kanae is corrupt, but the bad things that happened to her seem beyond her ability to affect no matter how she acted.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 4 November 2023
updated 3 May 2024