Utena - blood catalog

For a show with sword fights and frequent injuries, Utena has surprisingly little blood. I expect to find more implied blood and put more images on the right side of the page.

Blood shows on young Saionji’s hand as Touga prepares to bandage it.
Episode 9, Saionji and Touga
The imaginary prince holds Nanami’s bandaged hand.
Episode 6, Mitsuru and Nanami

See hand catalog - bandages.

Right: In episode 6, Mitsuru says that Nanami is bleeding and bandages her hand with a handkerchief. We don’t see the blood.

Left: In episode 9’s flashback to earlier years, Touga and Saionji have a practice kendou match and Saionji is hurt. Here Touga is about to bandage the injury with a handkerchief.

Both are a person “treating” an injury, that they caused, of a desired person. They are about abusive love, like Akio’s love of Anthy. They are the abuser comforting the abused.

Suzuki, one of the three nerd boys, has been beaten up. He lies battered.
Episode 6, Suzuki

Nerd boy Suzuki is flat on his back and has a nosebleed after Mitsuru defeats him. The ground is orange for his one-sided love of Nanami (perceived love, I expect).

His open shirt is part of the comparison between violence and sex. In Utena, they are nearly the same, and sometimes exactly the same.

Mikage takes Mamiya’s hand, one of Mamiya’s fingers pricked by a thorn.
Episode 12, Utena in tatters

In the duel of episode 12 to win back her “self”, Utena’s uniform is sliced in many places. As it turns out, no loss. We don’t see any injuries, but in the recap episode 13 Akio states that she was wounded. The picture does not show blood, but it indicates blood.

As in some other cases on this page, we’re seeing Utena’s self-image rather than Utena’s body. Physically, she is cut. Mentally, she is unhurt. She is being a prince; see her prince-length hair. And a prince is undeterred by injury.

Gleaming red drops of blood fly as Anthy powers up Utena’s sword with her blood.
Episode 15, sword powerup
Anthy moves in a way that shows that her lips are cut.
Episode 12, cut lips

Anthy powers up the Sword of Dios for Touga in episode 12. She kisses the sword tip (see the commentary there for more on the blood), and it is implied that she cuts her lips. It’s presumably this blood that turns the sword red. She powers it up for Utena in episodes 15, 23, and 36, cutting her fingers and sending blood into the air. The blood gleams on a black background like sparks flying. Sex is tied to blood through the sharp swords, through red clothing and objects, through Utena bleeding, and by the equivalence of sex and violence.

Anthy is transferring the Power of Dios into the sword. Her connection to Dios is her blood: They are sister and brother. To power up the sword, she sacrifices some of her blood. How much of Anthy’s motivation for the sacrifice is from Utena, and how much from Akio?

Utena .
Episode 14, red outlines
Kozue is collapsed on the ground unconscious, lying on the red outline of a dead duelist.
Episode 14, Kanae loses

The red figures painted (OK, projected) on the arena floor are the one hundred dead boys, their positions outlined like murder victims at a crime scene. They were murdered by Mikage when he burned his building. As in examples below, the red color is symbolic blood, the blood of violence (which red also stands for).

When Utena defeats the duelist, scattering their black rose, they are murdered again and fall into the victim’s outline, metaphorically bleeding. We can take it that the black rose itself is the duelist boy. The body that Mikage cremates is twice dead. The one who lent their sword to the duelist (here Kanae) is asleep and forgetting, metaphorically dead.

Mikage takes Mamiya’s hand, one of Mamiya’s fingers pricked by a thorn.
Episode 16, nerd boys defeated

Utena punches the nerd boys. She could not take Nanami’s needling and lost patience when the nerd boys tried to shut her up. She was boyish but not princely. And they are wimpy; she knocked them all down with one hit each, apparently without sparing them a glance.

They are bleeding from the nose. It’s simultaneously realistic and suggestive—they found it sexy to be punched by a girl. Though the anime convention on nosebleeds seems bizarre to me. And note: In episode 6, after Mitsuru beats them up, one of the three nerd boys bleeds from the nose, above. The characters do not admit to variety in sexual orientation, but they have it.

Mikage takes Mamiya’s hand, one of Mamiya’s fingers pricked by a thorn.
Episode 17, Mikage and Mamiya

Mamiya deliberately pricks one finger on a thorn of the black rose. A spot of blood is visible. See hand catalog - episode 17.

It is Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on the spindle, so that she falls into sleep. Doing it intentionally seems to mean that Anthy is deliberately staying in her coffin. It’s true: She could leave at any time (and finally does), but she doesn’t dare. It’s significant that it happens in the Black Rose. Mikage (as Professor Nemuro) is dead and as Hades rules over the dead, so Anthy as Mamiya must be dead (in her coffin) to manipulate him.

It can also be the finger prick in Snow White. In that case, the black rose’s glass case is Snow White’s glass coffin. Anthy is the evil queen, and Kanae as Snow White is the black rose’s first victim.

Shiori’s face is bloody after Ruka loses his duel and her car crashes.
Episode 28, battered Shiori

When Ruka loses his duel, the car Shiori is riding in crashes. Her injuries are light, considering that her head goes through the windshield. It shows the emotional battering she is about to suffer rather than the physical battering she just suffered. Still, her face is bruised and bloody.

Ruka promised Shiori adulthood. When the car crashed, the promise was broken. The windshield was a view of the future that shattered when Shiori passed through it to her real future. Ruka did not care a whit. That places him a step up from Akio, who positively delights in deceiving people.

In the image, Shiori’s hair makes her a mirror image of Utena—Utena’s hair wraps around her cheek like that, and the opening in her bangs is on the opposite side. Shiori powerlessly pleads with Ruka for another try. When Utena is betrayed, she exercises princely power and continues on course.

Ruka has blood on his lip.
Episode 29, Ruka bitten

Ruka sexually assaulted Juri and forcibly kissed her as cover to steal her locket. She was pinned down, but was resourceful enough to defend herself by biting his lip. Here he has blood on his lip. Juri’s locket is hidden in his hand.

Anthy moves in a way that shows that her lips are cut.
Episode 12, cut lips

Ruka’s sexual assault on Juri is parallel to the First Seduction, a sexual assault on Utena. Ruka steals Juri’s locket, which represents her obsession with Shiori, which arose from cultural expectations that left Juri believing she could not admit her feelings. Juri desperately reclaims the locket. Akio steals Utena’s virginity, which Akio convinced her she wanted to lose by drawing on cultural expectations. Both thefts are of things made valuable by sexual cultural expectations. Both are associated with blood; see the episode 33 picture below. The locket is also parallel to Nanami’s cowbell, so matching it with Utena’s virginity... opens up a field for complicated interpretations.

The picture on the right is a repeat. The two lip injuries should be parallel. A lip injury should indicate having your opinion silenced, or the like, and it does fit. Ruka is silenced by his own assault on Juri; she hates him, so he cannot declare his love or explain his goal of freeing her. I think he wouldn’t have anyway. Anthy is silenced by her Rose Bride role. I think the main point of the parallel is that Ruka is intending to act for Juri by acting against her, and it backfires, while Anthy is unintentionally acting for Utena as her role requires her to act against Utena. Powering up Touga’s sword promotes the power of miracles, which belongs to Utena and Anthy and not to Touga; it backfired for Touga. See the episode 12 duel. The cases where the actions of manipulative men backfire prefigure Akio’s manipulation of Utena backfiring.

Little Anthy with Dios on the hay. His cloak is spread out around him, lined with red.
Episode 34, Dios collapsed

When Dios lies on the hay, flat on his back, his cloak is spread out around him, lined with red. He is lying in a metaphorical pool of blood. Anthy seems to bring more blood.

It is parallel with Utena fallen below, where Utena is surrounded by Anthy’s red dress. I think the same idea applies that we are seeing Dios’s self-image: He is actually bleeding, but we don’t see it and his blood is represented by a symbol. Anthy fears he will die, a contrast with backstabbing Utena when she expects and accepts that Utena will die.

In his mind, Dios is still a prince. According to the story, when his self-image as prince fails, he becomes Akio, who is an adult. (According to Utena’s reality, Akio is at the Academy so he is still a child.) When Utena’s self-image as prince fails, she graduates from the Academy and becomes an adult.

The moment when Utena is pierced by Akio’s metaphorical sword. Her mouth and eyes are open wide.
Episode 33, pierced in front

We don’t see it, but Utena bleeds in the First Seduction of episode 33. She’s a virgin, and (I think) Akio tore her hymen painfully. Bleeding is culturally expected, though science says it doesn’t always happen. In fiction, cultural expectations generally rule, and in Utena sex is tied to blood and violence. The red of her date dress and the red of her purse symbolize this blood, among other things.

It is a defeat for Utena and she is flat on her back. The othello game makes it literal. She is pierced by a metaphorical sword and, as if it were a real sword, bleeds. Her wide eyes say that this is an event of violence, not sex; she notices the violence being done to her. But her lipstick does not disappear.

The parallel with the event below is intended; see Akio and Utena - parallels between their dates - a further parallel. Utena’s hair, spread around her defeated head when she falls under psychological attack, can be taken as corresponding to Anthy’s princess dress below, spread around Utena’s defeated body when she falls under physical attack.

Utena is stabbed and fallen to her knees, Anthy behind her, Anthy’s red princess dress spread around her.
Episodes 38 and 39, pierced behind

We again do not see blood after Anthy backstabs Utena. Utena has been run through with a sword, she has fallen to her knees, and she is about to collapse to the ground. She is in the process of bleeding to death. Anthy’s red princess dress visually represents spreading blood. We see no blood because Utena’s self-image is uninjured; see Anthy’s backstab, and compare the picture below.

Utena agreed to sex, due to Akio’s psychological trickery. She was pierced from the front, knowingly, and her boyish side was laid low. The backstab was treachery. She was pierced from behind by surprise. Her body was laid low, and perhaps her girlish side too (violent injuries call for stereotypical boyish qualities of courage and endurance and whatnot). In both events, Utena ends up lying down and nearly helpless in her defeat.

Utena’s metaphorical blood is more than Dios’s. She fights on despite being in a worse condition than her prince was when Anthy convinced him to give up.

Utena, with bloody hands, struggles to open Anthy’s coffin.
Episode 39, opening the coffin

In the final episode, Utena struggles to open Anthy’s coffin. Since being run through she has been taking vigorous (though shaky) action, and her strength is running out. Bloody hands are a decidedly understated representation of her physical injuries and her supreme effort to win through despite them.

Compare the picture above. The blood represents the injury to her self-image: She is in the process of giving up on the ideal of being a prince. Her cracked epaulets and damaged prince uniform have the same meaning.

In reality, people don’t exert heavy force on a large object with their fingertips. I expect that there’s a reason Utena is pushing unrealistically. It may be a reference.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 12 April 2022
updated 25 March 2024