Utena - Touga’s arc

Shadow girls. <- PreviousNext -> Yuuko.

Touga’s katana.
Touga

Motto: The gay deceiver.

Saionji versus Touga. Saionji is a violent abuser and seeks Anthy, a victim of Akio’s abuse. Touga is a liar and cheater and seeks Utena, a victim of Akio’s lies and cheating.

meaning

In the allegory, Touga personifies an aspect of the patriarchy: Control of women by allure and deception. Touga seeks psychological control of women. Compare Saionji, who seeks physical control by violence.

story

The Student Council arc. Touga first falls in love with Utena, then realizes that she has the Power of Dios and plots to take it for himself. He pursues two goals. Winning Utena’s love seems easy, since girls flock to him, so he postpones it until he has achieved the second goal: Defeating her in a duel to take the Power of Dios. He pretends to be Utena’s prince to direct her desire for the prince to himself. It works toward both goals, but the duel is first and foremost.

Touga is like Akio, who also uses allure and deception as major tools. Touga’s plot against Utena has many and close parallels with Akio’s in the Apocalypse Saga. But Akio uses a wider range of methods, including violence and ideological control. Akio follows the opposite plan: He first wins Utena’s love, then tries to exploit her. It comes closer to working.

Touga does win the Power of Dios. He cannot win Utena’s love, though she is attracted when an ordinary girl. When a prince, she rejects him. And he can’t keep the Sword of Dios. Utena’s power of miracles belongs to herself, and not more than part of it is embodied in the sword. Anthy intervenes in the episode 12 duel and Utena regains her desired symbol.

Touga is doing Akio’s work under Akio’s control, which Akio exercises through Anthy. Touga coordinates with Anthy to set up and carry out his plot; it is especially clear in episode 9. Anthy is perfectly placed to manipulate Touga into doing Akio’s will. Akio sets up Touga as Utena’s final test, to see whether her power of miracles is the real thing, worth nurturing and stealing. Akio’s test has two parts: For Utena to pass, Touga must defeat Utena, and Utena must bounce back and defeat Touga in turn. Utena’s loss will plant the idea that she is capable of losing (she has trouble realizing it). It’s valuable because Akio needs to beat her in the end to succeed. But I think the ability to bounce back is the key part of the test, because a prince must overcome all odds. If Utena cannot overcome a major setback, then her power of miracles is inadequate.

The Black Rose arc. Touga largely sits it out. He seems crushed and depressed by his defeat, as Utena was in episode 12, and unlike Utena he does not recover quickly. He features in Nanami’s “Dona Dona” dream in the cowbell episode 16. He appears silently in episode 21, drawing Keiko’s attention and attending Nanami’s party for him.

The Apocalypse Saga. A key part of Akio’s plot to control Utena is to sever her support and isolate her from influences other than Akio himself. The crucial supporters to cut away are Anthy and Touga, who love her and are knowledgeable and powerful. Akio follows a thorough plan to suppress Touga.

1. Set Touga up with Saionji. Akio starts this subplot early and completes it late. Touga rides in Akio’s car starting in episode 25, the first episode of the Apocalypse Saga. He’s sexing up Touga, countering his homophobia (ironically, because Touga is a rule-follower). Touga and Saionji are definitively together in episodes 35-36 (the scenes are presented out of order so that the episodes overlap in time). Even then, he tries to keep his options open with Utena as much as he can, telling lies to Saionji.

2. Break Touga apart from Nanami. Akio does it in episodes 31 and 32. First, Anthy manipulates Touga into convincing Nanami that she and Touga are unrelated (though I don’t know how she does it). Second, he follows a plan with Nanami that is closely parallel to his plan with Utena, so that Nanami rides in Akio’s car and comes to believe that she desires Akio instead of Touga.

3. Break Touga apart from Utena. See at night with Touga. First Akio offers Touga the job of giving a gift to Utena, then stages his own rescue of Utena and carries out the Second Seduction. It is an approach-withdrawal maneuver; it leaves Touga frustrated and Utena unhappy with Touga’s untrustworthiness. Second, in the re-approach step, Akio allows Touga to lure Utena to the dueling arena and controls the environment to help Utena decide to spend the night with him. Touga sees that Utena is attracted and is hopeful, but to get that far he had to promise that it was the last time. Third, in the dueling arena Touga tries to reactivate her attraction, but that finishes off Utena’s trust because he broke his promise that it was the last time. The break is final.

We’re not shown how Touga sets up his one-last-time plot to get Utena to stay overnight with him, but we know that Akio is behind it. It involves controlling the dueling arena, making it like episode 9, so it’s pretty sure that Touga coordinated it with Anthy in the same way as episode 9’s plot. Akio again exercised his control through Anthy.

As a prince, Utena would forgive Touga his sins, like Jesus. But Akio and Touga have worked together to make Utena into an ordinary girl, who is corrupt and unforgiving.

The episode 35 practice duel between Touga and Saionji shows us that Touga has lost his self-confidence. He wants to protect his love Utena from Akio, and he doubts that he can. Touga’s own support base is largely cut away already, and he knows that Akio is more powerful than he is.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 25 April 2024
updated 18 May 2024