Utena - celestial bodies in the window

Five times early in the Apocalypse Saga, we see celestial objects projected in the window of Anthy and Utena’s bedroom with the S-shaped bed. In each case, the episode also shows the shadows of Anthy and Utena lying down in bed (but not vice versa—shadows don’t imply a projected celestial object). After the First Seduction, the shadows go away—Utena and Anthy are no longer close enough to lie down in synchrony. The images are presumably symbols that Akio chooses. They may have more than one meaning each, but here’s what I came up with.

Two more celestial views come up near the end of the series: Mimas orbiting Saturn in episode 36 and the constellations Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper in episode 37.

Saturn, episode 25. Akio favors Greek myth. The Roman name Saturn points to the Titan Cronus. Cronus ruled over the Golden Age, when there was no immorality in the world. Zeus overthrew Cronus. Therefore Zeus is Akio, and Cronus is Dios. That’s the overthrown Dios in the window. Point 1 that Saturn is Utena’s planet.

The Roman god Saturn is directly relevant too. Saturn is the god of destruction and renewal, and related domains like agriculture with its cycle of reaping and sowing. To revolutionize the world is to destroy the old world and create a new one; it falls under the purview of Saturn. Point 2 that Saturn is Utena’s planet.

Like Utena, Saturn wears a ring. Saturn is her planet.

Ruka’s comet in the window, departing in episode 29.

A comet, head down, episode 28. A comet is a special passing occurrence and we get comet images for both of the Ruka episodes, so it refers to Ruka. The comet is head-down, arriving from outer space. As in the West, in Japan a comet was traditionally seen as an omen, whether good or bad.

A comet, head up, episode 29. Ruka again, this time leaving rather than arriving. Ruka dies: It was a bad omen. Akio refers to Utena as a comet in episode 34.

Two moons, episode 30. In episode 15, Akio said that a sibling is like the moon. See the next item. The moons move apart, which represents Akio separating Utena and Anthy over time, pulling them apart from each other. Since it is Akio’s symbol, he depicts it as the moons following their independent orbits, a natural Class S evolution of feelings. In reality, it is part of Akio’s plot.

The constellation Gemini in the window, with lines drawn in.

The constellation Gemini, episode 31. The twins, Castor and Pollux. The two topmost stars are Castor and Pollux and represent the heads of the twins. Episode 31 is a Nanami and Touga episode, so it refers to their sibling relationship. Utena’s twins are Miki and Kozue, who care for each other so dysfunctionally that they don’t get along. But I think this is foremost: In episode 21, Akio compares Utena and Anthy to Castor and Pollux. He must mean that mortal Utena is mortal Castor and immortal Anthy is immortal Pollux. In this variant of the myth, the twins have the same mother and different fathers: One Zeus and one a mortal man. That way Utena and Anthy are siblings—each like a moon to the other, useless and unimportant. Akio would like that to be true.

Castor and Pollux are in the planetarium sky in the episode 33 constellations. This image of Gemini, more plainly than the episode 33 one, depicts Anthy helping injured Utena walk with one hand on her breast. Mikage sees Anthy and Utena as Mamiya and Tokiko, another pair of siblings.

In Sailor Moon, Castor and Pollux mean friendship and teamwork—both successful and failed—and Utena seems to take over that meaning. Akio does not break all friendships, but he does ensure that friends cannot work together against him. He wants to control each person individually, if they’re important to his plot. Touga and Saionji remain friends and become lovers, but are manipulated by Akio and cannot work together against him. Wakaba remains friends with Utena, but does not successfully help her after episode 12; in episode 30, Akio uses Wakaba against Utena. Utena and Anthy work together, which Akio finds good as long as it helps his plot (episode 25). But later it threatens his individual control over each of them, and he takes a variety of actions to force them apart from each other and turn them into “siblings” who are useless and unimportant to each other.

In their myth, after mortal Castor dies, Pollux gives up half of his immortality to be with his brother. They spend half of each year in the underworld and half on Mount Olympus. It can be related to Anthy and Utena in more than one way. Most basically, it marks them as inseparable, like the boy and the rose in Heidenröslein. In the Black Rose, Anthy playing Mamiya represents Persephone, who also spends part of each year in the underworld and part in the upper world. At the end of the series, Utena possibly dies and Anthy gives up her immortality in leaving the Academy. I feel that this myth adds to the ambiguity of the ending.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 16 December 2021
updated 1 March 2023