Utena - character designs

I left out minor characters who seemed not worth the effort.

All characters have sharp chins, knife-point noses, and eyebrows that wrap around to their temples. It’s a stylistic choice.

Colors. I take it that hair color symbolizes a key character trait, and eye color symbolizes how the character sees the world, or what they see in the world.

Height. People are long and straight (when standing upright), so they are male sex symbols. Taller characters exercise more male power. That may not be all there is to it; see other symbols - character height. A person curled up (like Juri here) is a female symbol and stands for conventional female weakness. They are curled up in the egg of the world, not yet born.

Hair length. Some characters have variable hair length, but all characters can be said to have either long or short hair. Long hair is conventionally female, but it’s not that simple. Utena’s prince hair is longer than her ordinary-girl hair. Socially, long hair should mean high social status. That doesn’t seem to be it, though. I think it means high self-confidence. That rule works for Utena’s variable hair length, and arguably for Anthy’s. It may work for everybody else if we say that Dios’s short hair means that he lacked the self-confidence to override Anthy when she got him to give up and stop fighting. Miki, Kozue, and Shiori have short hair. Touga and Saionji have unusually long hair. Mikage has short hair by Utena standards, and does not have the self-confidence to show his feelings to Tokiko.

Another theory is from a popular Elizabeth Gitter quote: “The more abundant the hair, the more potent the sexual invitation implied in its display.” It is from the 1984 scholarly paper “The Power of Women's Hair in the Victorian Imagination” (DOI; paywalled as I write; also on JSTOR). She means the artistic depiction of a woman’s hair, but Utena can be broader (and the trope is centuries older than the Victorians). The two theories overlap: A sexual invitation takes a kind of self-confidence.

Straight versus wavy hair. Men have straight hair and women have wavy, curled (Juri), or styled hair. Saionji is an exception: His hair is wavy because he is the woman of Saionji and Touga (he is associated with conventional female activities like cleaning and cooking). Kozue’s duck tail may count as styled hair; alternately, she is another exception. It is part of the general symbolism that long and straight is male, curved is female. Hair waviness is variable. It’s especially clear with Utena’s hair: It is always curved in front. In back it is often nearly straight. Flat on her back in the First Seduction, it frizzes into wide curls. At other times when she is flat on her back, it winds into luxurious tentacles or billows. Charging Saionji in the episode 1 duel, it flutters into beautiful curlicues, girlish because she does not see herself as a prince yet. When it trails in later duels, it is mostly straight.

Symmetrical versus asymmetrical hair. Utena’s hair parts on the left (from her point of view). Shiori’s hair parts on the right. Left and right are surely meaningful; see turning left. There are others, but the majority of characters have symmetrical hair. The nerd boys are left, right, and symmetrical, while Nanami’s minions all have symmetrical hair. I don’t know what any of the choices means.

Orderly versus disorderly hair seems to tell how closely the character is trapped in the system of control: A self-controlled person has controlled hair, and the aim of the self-control is to maintain your assigned role. When you are free, you don’t need strict self-control. Anthy has tightly rolled up hair, except when she lets it down, when she is freer. Akio and Dios make the system, and have disorderly hair. Utena is in between; her hair is free but neatly kept. Nanami is closer to Anthy because of her coronet hairdo, but the rest of her hair runs free like Utena’s. I suppose Mitsuru has disorderly hair because the system is not finished trapping him; we see part of the process. He is thrashing around, not self-controlled.

This symbol shows up in specific events too, in obvious and subtle ways. Obvious: Utena’s disheveled hair in the First Seduction means she has lost control of herself. Subtle: In episode 4, Nanami visits Miki in the music room. A couple strands of her hair stick out. The episode hints that she is attracted to Miki. Maybe it’s because of his androgyny, but in any case Miki is officially male and Nanami is bowing to the power of conventional heterosexuality. He is not Touga, “the only man” for her.

Hair hearts. Anthy, Dios, Saionji, Touga, Juri, Shiori, and some others have hair that forms a heart shape over the forehead. They seek love. Anthy’s and Dios’s hair hearts are closed at the bottom by the bindi, unlike anyone else’s. I take it to mean that their loves are satisfied (or were while they were together), while the loves of the others are incomplete. Like the two sides of the heart shape, the two sides of the couple have not been brought together.

Hair wisps. Anthy, Wakaba, and Keiko share tightly tied, precisely styled hair with two wisps that stick out from behind the neck. I suspect that the two wisps are escapees from the tight hairdo, and represent that the characters eventually escape from the Academy’s control. Anthy leaves at the end, and Wakaba is the next hero and will eventually escape. Keiko at least escapes from Nanami’s control. The hair wisps at least mean that the character is not fully controlled, and could escape.

Anthy’s hair wisps are missing in one shot (that I’ve found), in episode 15, in the scene where Miki visits the empty dorm, in a shot looking over Anthy’s shoulder. Is she especially trapped or self-controlled in that moment?

Face length. Older characters get long faces; younger ones get short faces. Men have longer faces than women; women are seen as somewhat childlike (and therefore in need of male “guidance”). For example, Juri has a shorter face than Saionji or Touga. Akio has the longest face. Anthy, the most oppressed girl, has the shortest face; it is shorter than Nanami’s.

Eye roundness. Characters seen as adult have narrow eyes; the younger ones have round eyes. It’s a cartoon convention, not only anime. Still, the standard Utena long-is-male and round-is-female symbolism applies. Saionji and Touga have narrow eyes. Kanae, though she is soon to graduate and must be older than them, has round eyes. Except for Miki, boys of a given age have narrower eyes than girls of the same age; it conveys the same idea as face length. It’s a standard convention of manga and anime (along with eye size); Utena makes a point by simply adhering to the convention.

Nanami’s minions Keiko, Aiko, and Yuuko have hair that can be interpreted as streaming water. They share with Nanami the feature that the dark color of their eyes (the above color, not the ligher color below) is black, or nearly so. I take it that their desire for Touga is a stand-in; if they only knew, they would really desire Akio. That is, they desire the patriarchy.

Aiko
Akio
Anthy
Chu-Chu
Dios
female teacher
Juri
Kanae
Keiko
Kozue
Mamiya
Mari
Mikage
Miki
Mitsuru
Nanami
nerd boys
Ruka
Saionji
Shiori
Tatsuya
Tokiko
Touga
Utena
prince story Utena
Wakaba
Yuuko

Aiko

Aiko with simple round red earrings.
Episode 16, earrings

Hair: Dark green. Eyes: Dark purple.

Aiko’s dark colors say she is especially messed up, more than most Utena characters—and that’s saying something. She has a hair heart, but it is the most open of anyone’s. Despite her name (“ai” means love), she is further from realizing her love than anyone else.

Her hair can be falling water splashing outward.

Akio

Akio smiles evilly, sunset sky in the background.
Episode 25, evil smile

Hair: Light purple. Eyes: Green for control. Height: Virtually a giant.

His green eyes see the control he imposes on others. It’s curious that his hair is light purple, not dark for his darkness. Is it because he believes and/or pretends that his evil is necessary? It matches Dios’s hair; the main reason must be that he imagines that he is Dios grown up. His hair is unruly, maybe because he is a rulebreaker. One long offshoot passes over the left of his face, complementary to Utena who has a gap in her bangs on the left. His hair flows through a spherical (therefore female) hair tie. It represents his corruption passing through women via sex (and continuing from there; women pass it on). The hair tie is gone when he dresses as a prince.

Anthy, Akio, and Dios have the same eye color. Well, they’re relatives, literally and metaphorically.

Anthy

Anthy smiles, a night sky with stars behind her.
Episode 1, hair rolled up
Utena is asleep at the table in the tower room, Anthy warning her she’ll catch a cold.
Episode 35, hair down

Hair: Purple for corruption. Eyes: Green for seeing control in the world. Height: Short.

Anthy sees that she is controlled and that she imposes control on others. Her hair is usually rolled up tightly. I take it to represent her tightly controlled manner. The heart shape in her hair, and the side rolls, mark her tie to Sailor Moon. It means she is motivated by love. In the Apocalypse saga, she sometimes lets it down, particularly at night. Its length varies from long, as here, to extravagant when Nanami sees her with Akio in episode 31 and Utena does in episode 36. The long hair is Anthy as Rapunzel inviting prince Utena into her tower. The extravagantly long hair seems to be Anthy as a princess; princesses have especially long hair.

Anthy and Utena are dark and light, parallel to Akio and Dios. Anthy is dark in skin, hair, and eyes.

Chu-Chu

We meet Chu-Chu for the first time—eating a cookie.
Episode 2, cookie

Colors: Red and blue.

Chu-Chu has a comic character design—a silly mouse-sized monkey with oversized head and ears and overlong tail. (It’s to make Chu-Chu emotionally expressive.) The eyes are scribbles, the eyebrows are parallel lines, the mouth is detail-free, the blush stickers (TVTropes) are cartoonish. The red face and butt are like a Japanese macaque (Wikipedia), though the resemblance ends there. The red butt of a Japanese macaque is a sex marking: Evolutionarily, it is thought to be due to sexual selection. Monkeys can be tricksters; Chu-Chu participates in Anthy’s plots, especially Nanami’s Egg.

Chu-Chu is red, shaded toward orange, and blue, shaded toward purple. With the blue color and unrealistic design, I think that Chu-Chu is imaginary, like Dios, and represents a dissociated part of Anthy’s personality. When Anthy visits Akio, she brings her desires, and Chu-Chu stays home with her misgivings.

Dios

Dios reclines next to the prostrate princess Utena.
Episode 39, with princess Utena

Hair: Short and light purple. Eyes: Green for control; he is a fiction created to control others. Height: Growing in episode 34, tall in episode 39. But he doesn’t look as tall as Akio. Compared to Akio, his face is shorter.

His design is younger than Akio’s, but he has narrow eyes. Dios shares disorderly light purple hair with Akio, and the heart shape with Anthy. Like Anthy, he is motivated by love (well, by “kissing” all girls; close enough). His hair is short, which is how Anthy’s looks when she puts it up (which is usually). As a fictional character created by the system of control, intended to appeal to boys and girls, he shares features of the male and female parts of the system. Dios is light (he is the sun), so he has light hair, but he was created by darkness to serve a dark end, and it shows in the traits he shares with his creators.

Dios gains height in episode 34. Dios became Akio when he reached adulthood—according to Akio. Akio believes that adults are necessarily corrupt, or at least impure, and his story of Dios goes with that.

female teacher

Close-up of the female teacher.
Episode 1, hassling Utena

Eyes: Hidden. Hair: Light green and tightly tied, with buns. Height: Tall.

We don’t see her eyes, but her glasses are red above and blue below—for the moment. When Utena walks away, they are purple above and red below. Her hair is green because she acts to control students. I suppose it is light green because her control is ineffective (or maybe she doesn’t care much about it, inside). She is tall because she is a working part of the system of control.

Her hair is tied tight because she is tightly self-controlled. But two curled hair wisps at her ears seem to say that the control is not complete. Her hair buns fly up in episode 7 when she loses self-control.

Her eyebrows are high arches, unlike anybody else’s. They go with her controlled hair. And they seem to call her a villain... except that others get eyebrows like that at comic moments. Maybe they call her a joke.

Juri

Juri.
Episode 28, concerned

Hair: Orange with ringlets. Eyes: Blue-green, with more blue than green. Height: Tall.

Juri’s hair is orange for her (perceived) one-sided love of Shiori and her (disclaimed) wish for a miracle. Those are two of her illusions. Another, I assume an illusion of love, is that Shiori is innocently cruel, as she tells Utena in episode 29. (Shiori is maliciously cruel.) Juri’s ringlets are an anime-universal symbol of an upper-class background. Juri is from a wealthy and powerful family, as signified by her name and shown in her proud and sometimes arrogant behavior. Her wealth and power stem from her family, and I conclude that she feels she cannot be open about her sexuality because it would endanger her standing. (She is likely correct.)

In flashbacks to younger Juri, and in images in the shower and in her nightrobe, her front hair is not curled into ringlets. I think she has become more uptight over time—more twisted up—and now relaxes only when she expects to be alone. If her hair is this long when curled, how long would it be if straight?

Kanae

Kanae sits in Nemuro Memorial Hall, looking worried toward the camera.
Episode 14, worried

Hair: Light green. Eyes: Green. Height: Middling, maybe about the same as Utena.

Her hair is light green because her attempted control over others is light. She tries to make Anthy like her. Her eyes are dark green because, in her upper-class world, she sees the power exerted to control others. She’s confused and corrupt, but a better person than her surroundings deserve.

Kanae’s wavy hair is somewhat like Utena’s in that aspect. Like Utena, she has an asymmetrical gap in her bangs that is somewhat irregular and not a hair heart. It is on the opposite side, making her a mirror image of Utena (as Shiori is). Kanae and Utena are two in Akio’s (no doubt long) series of prospective wives to murder. Both love Anthy. This picture is part of a comparison with Utena.

Keiko

Keiko with simple round white hanging earrings.
Episode 16, earrings
Keiko faces away from the camera so that we see the two wisps of hair behind her neck.
Episode 21, hair wisps

Hair: Brown, with subtle meaningful variations over time. Eyes: Black and green. Height: Short.

Keiko’s black and green eyes (sometimes they are all green) go with Nanami’s black and purple eyes. Her brown hair for ordinariness is tinged green (left) and yellow (right). It is sometimes tinged red, and sometimes seems not tinged at all but pure brown.

See hair wisps for the second image. Keiko has forehead hairs and hair spouts that curve in opposite directions. She may be partly right and partly wrong. The hair spouts probably represent the pouring water of illusions, though I speculate that they could be butterfly wings too.

Kozue

Kozue pushes away the boy she’d been talking with by the face.
Episode 15, face push

Hair: Blue and short. Eyes: Blue and blue-green. Height: Short.

Kozue’s hair is darker blue than Miki’s, but her eyes are a shade lighter: She is more deluded in her personality or attitudes or something, but sees reality a little more accurately. I don’t know how those points go together. To my eye, her hair is slightly shaded toward purple, but measuring the pixels tells me that it is not so clear (except in the dueling arena in episode 15 and episode 26). It’s variable; sometimes there is a minute shading toward purple or toward blue-green.

Kozue’s hair is similar to Miki’s in front, with irregular bangs, but without the strands that hang down at the sides. In the back it is formed into an odd duck-tail shape. I don’t know what that’s about. Mamiya just below has a duck-tail too. It suggests they are connected somehow.

Mamiya

Mamiya in the conservatory (aka greenhouse) at home, the grid of windows behind him.
princely and caged
Mamiya in the light on the left stands in the elevator, facing the camera, as Mikage stands in the dark on the right.
Episode 14, duck tail

Hair: Purple, matching Dios. Eyes: Green, matching Dios and Anthy. Height: Short.

Mamiya’s hair is much like Dios’s, light purple and disorderly, with the hair heart that Dios shares with Anthy. It is a bit more compact, making Mamiya more Anthy-like. He has a duck-tail in back somewhat like Kozue’s, but less pronounced. His eyes are the same color as Dios’s and Anthy’s, and his height matches Anthy. Mamiya is unreal, like Dios, and shares characteristics with Dios and Anthy—who are already similar.

This is Anthy playing Mamiya. The real Mamiya we see only in a black-and-white photo—and even in the photo he wears Anthy’s epaulets, suggesting he or the photo may be an illusion too.

Mari

Mari glares down at the camera. We are seeing Mitsuru’s point of view.
Episode 18, glaring

Hair: Purple. Eyes: Purple. Height: Short.

Compared to Shiori, Mari’s purple hair is darker and her purple eyes have less blue in them. She is more corrupt than vindictive Shiori, who actively tries to hurt Juri, though a little less deluded. It shows in her sharp tongue. Mari is already unpleasant, and unlike Shiori she has high self-confidence. I get the impression that in a few years she will be outright dangerous. She may go yandere.

All characters have expressive eyebrows, but Mari’s seem particularly active. The high outer portions are characteristic and can appear with expressions unrelated to this angry look. They give her a villainous air.

Mikage

Mikage in his office, the grid of a window behind him.
envious and caged

Hair: Pink and (compared to long hair in Utena) short. Eyes: Purple. Height: Middling.

Mikage’s pink hair ties him to Utena, but his hair is pale red rather than Utena’s hot pink. His hair is a bit disorderly, like Akio’s and Dios’s. If I’m right that long hair means high self-confidence, then his mid-length hair shows moderate self-confidence. I’d say he has low emotional self-confidence (he can’t reveal his feelings to Tokiko) and higher intellectual self-confidence (he believes he can do his job, but not so firmly that he rejects Akio’s temptation—offered in the scene this image is from).

During the fire, Mikage’s eyes are black and red. It is the black of Akio’s evil and the red of violence. In Christianity, Eve’s red apple brings death into the world.

Miki

Miki’s hair blows in the wind of a passing baseball on the Student Council platform.
Episode 25, wind

Hair: Short and light blue. Eyes: Dark blue for naive illusions, blue-green below. Height: Short.

Miki is gendermixed, like Utena. Juri says his sword is not for fighting; he exercises little male power. His short height reflects it. His eyes are darker blue than Utena’s because his illusions are deeper. His eyes are dark blue above and blue-green below in the lighter part; he sees illusions and some control. Kozue is the same.

Two short bits of hair hang down over his cheeks. I think they correspond to Utena’s cheek hair, though in principle they could correspond to Utena’s hair that passes in front of her shoulders. But unlike Utena, Miki’s hair is basically symmetrical. Miki has no hair heart; though he believes he loves Anthy, he does not particularly seek love. I read him as asexual but not aromantic, though there’s not enough evidence to nail it down.

Mitsuru

Mitsuru in the library, surrounded by tall stacks of books.
Episode 18, reading

Hair: Yellow and short. Eyes: Blue-green. Height: Very short.

Mitsuru is the only character with yellow hair. (Nanami’s hair can be yellowish, depending on the scene.) His envy of adulthood is his defining feature. His blue-green eyes suggest that it’s not native to him, though; the system of control manipulated him into it. (His eyes look darker in the dark library, and there is more blue in them than usual.) In the episode 18 library scene, Utena acts as an agent of the system of control and tells him that sex is the gate to adulthood.

His hair parts on his right, like Shiori and opposite to Utena. It’s a bit disorderly, somewhat like Akio and Dios.

Nanami

Nanami looms over Utena’s head, and over Anthy who is off the bottom of the frame.
Episode 10, berating Anthy

Hair: Light brown, but variable. Eyes: Usually purple, occasionally blue. Height: Short.

Nanami’s hair varies between gray and a yellowish light brown. The colors are unusually realistic for Utena. Apparently it is ordinary for girls, at least girls in her privileged but sheltered situation, to be ignorant and power-seeking. Her eyes are unusual too. Eyes in Utena are usually two shades of similar colors, the lighter shade below. Nanami’s eyes are black with blue-purple below. The black goes with the black of her uniform trim and epaulets, and ties her to Akio; she sees somewhat like Akio. Her minions share the feature. The purple means that she is deluded and corrupt, but more deluded. The corruption falls away occasionally, as in episode 7 when she wakes up with blue eyes.

Her hair is usually woven into a coronet like a princess crown. I can’t triangulate the exact meaning. She is a princess, sees herself as a princess, wants to be a princess, something. Her hair comes loose in episode 13, when it has a rough heart shape (and her eyes are blue).

nerd boys

The three nerd boys lined up in a row.
Suzuki, Yamada, Tanaka

Hair: Red, purple, black. Suzuki and Yamada have eyes that match their hair. Tanaka’s eyes are dark purple.

Suzuki’s hair parts on the left (like Utena), Yamada’s on the right. Tanaka’s is symmetrical. The nerd boys are different, but they are doing their best to conform. Their identical glasses help. In this picture, their expressions are slightly different. Tanaka’s colors seem to make him the most evil of the three.

All have orderly hair—not as tight as Anthy’s, but more precisely kept than other male characters. If I am right about hair wisps, then Suzuki may eventually escape control.

Ruka

Ruka.
Episode 28, Ruka

Hair: Blue, with one light blue lock. Short behind, long in front. Eyes: Dark blue with a bit of purple below. Height: Tall.

Touga has one light red lock. See character notes - Touga and Ruka for a comparison and interpretation.

His eyes say that he sees the world in a way that is deeply deluded but only mildly corrupted. That’s interesting if correct. I don’t know why Ruka’s hair is long in front.

Saionji

Saionji.
Episode 1, self-satisfied

Hair: Green for the control he exerts over others. Eyes: Purple for corruption. Height: Tall.

Saionji is rude and violent; those are his methods to control others. Bits of his hair hang in front of his eyes; his goal of control seems to interfere with his vision, which is already corrupt and inaccurate. Despite that, he sometimes has strange flashes of intuition, such as realizing that everybody at the Academy is in a coffin.

It’s interesting that Saionji has green hair and purple eyes, while his supposed love Anthy has purple hair and green eyes. They are complementary in a way. Yet Saionji chooses Anthy while Anthy rejects Saionji.

Shiori

Closup of Shiori in lineup for the class photo.
Episode 7, about to whisper

Hair: Purple and short. Eyes: Purple. Height: Short.

Shiori’s purple hair is not as dark as Anthy’s; she is less corrupt. But her eyes are very dark purple. She sees the world in a deeply corrupted way: She imagines that Juri is laughing at her behind her back, and takes well-intended advice as malicious. Her self-esteem in on the floor. Did her poor self-esteem cause her corrupted vision, or is it the other way around? They seem to be mutually reinforcing.

Shiori has a (narrow) hair heart, but unlike others, hers is off-center. It is to the right of her forehead. It makes her a mirror image of Utena, whose hair gap is on the left side. The two have hair of the same hue, or nearly so, but Shiori’s is darker. Shiori seeks love and can’t find it, though it’s right in front of her, while Utena does not particularly seek love, but too much of it comes to find her. Neither understands her own feelings until late (Utena in episode 37, Shiori possibly in the epilog).

Tatsuya

Tatsuya looks at the camera, only sky behind him.
Episode 19, illusionary prince

Hair: Dark yellow-green, and short. Eyes: Dark blue-green above, dark yellow-green below.

Tatsuya’s short hair fits the theory that short hair means low self-confidence.

Tatsuya’s colors are dark, but Mikage rejects him for a black rose because he is good at heart. Only the evil can take the black rose; see duel symbols - dybbuk. It’s an interesting tension. The dark colors seem to mean that he is severely messed up. He goes about seeking what he wants in ways unlikely to succeed. His blue-green eyes say that he has been taught beliefs that lead him to misunderstand the world. I’m sure Anthy could manipulate Tatsuya into a duel if she cared to; she does it to good Wakaba, after all.

Tokiko

Tokiko weeps while standing next to a mirror.
Episode 22, mirror

Hair: Purple for corruption, and short. Eyes: Black with blue. Height: Middling.

Tokiko has purple hair, a color related to Utena’s pink. It turns brown when she leaves the Academy. Her cheek hair is very similar to Utena’s. And the two share a gap in their bangs on the left side, though Tokiko’s is not as distinct. In other ways Tokiko is shown to be a mirror image of Utena, so it’s curious that in her hair she is a direct image. I guess that her character is similar in some way (Tokiko is seen treating Mamiya the same way that Utena treats Anthy), but her behavior or results are opposite. I haven’t figured it out.

Tokiko’s eyes are black above with grayish blue (and a dash of green) below, making them somewhat like Nanami’s. She has a mole to the left of her mouth, which adds to her asymmetry.

Touga

Touga with stars behind, one very bright.
Episode 35, with stars

Hair: Red. Eyes: Blue, occasionally purple. Height: Tall.

Touga has one lock of lighter red hair. He’s tied to Ruka, who has one lock of lighter blue hair. See character notes - Touga and Ruka for my interpretation of Touga’s hair.

Despite his blue eyes, Touga does not see illusions everywhere. Is his primary illusion that he believes he can become like Akio, or that he wants to in the first place? In Buddhism, desire causes illusions. His desire to be like Akio causes him to go wrong. Unlike Akio, he cannot “catch every fish” (Akio catches Utena, though she escapes the hook).

Touga’s blue eyes are purple in episode 3 when he hits on Utena. There are more examples. The shifting colors are complementary to Nanami’s shifting eye colors; maybe they actually are brother and sister despite their mismatched hair.

Utena

Utena in the foreground looks surprised. Touga in the background is walking away.
Episode 3

Hair: Pink with multiple meanings. Eyes: Light blue for naive illusions. Height: Tall for her age—nearly as tall as Juri.

Utena’s hair is asymmetrical, with a gap in her bangs on the left side, mirror-imaging Shiori who has a gap on the right side. If her hair were darker, it would look purple instead of pink, much like Anthy’s (though more red); they fit together into one whole. Her hair varies in length depending on what role she sees herself as playing, and varies in waviness. It is beautiful or ugly depending on whether she is being good or bad. Her cheek hair stands in for male sideburns and implies impulsiveness, as explained in a comparison with Nanako of Onii-sama e. At the same time, it is curved and therefore female. Utena is tall for her age, but shorter than older students like Juri and Touga, who are adult height. She is halfway between child and adult (her red shorts mean that too).

The gap in Utena’s bangs might represent a heart parallel to Anthy’s. I’m not convinced. But if so, it is on the left for her illusionary love of the prince.

Utena is light in skin, hair, and eyes.

prince story Utena

Little princess Utena in the first version of the prince story.
prince story

The real little Utena is similar to grown Utena, but the imaginary princess Utena in the children’s cartoon version of the prince story is different. She seems to imagine herself older than she is.

Her hair is rolled up in front, as Anthy’s is everywhere except in front. They are complementary in that way too! The comparison implies that Anthy still lives in the storybook world. Long strands hang down at each side. They go with the rolled hair to form a parody of the classical Japanese princess haircut (hime cut, TVTropes).

For the yellow dress, see costumes - prince story Utena.

Wakaba

A tear drips from Wakaba’s eye.
Episode 1, the letter

Hair: Brown for ordinariness. Eyes: Brown. Height: Short.

Wakaba is marked as the most ordinary character, more ordinary than the undistinguished nerd boys, and even more ordinary than extras. But she is Utena’s important friend, which should make her at least a little special. I think she is ordinary because Utena as prince suppresses Wakaba’s specialness, as we see in episode 20—monopolizing specialness is a prescribed role for princes. When Utena is gone, Wakaba becomes the next hero. Like Utena, her hair is shaded toward red.

Wakaba’s S-shaped ponytail labels her Class-S relationship with Utena; see S-shaped bed - Wakaba. Her three hair sickles are three points for her link to fiction and/or her goodness. They might be elephant trunk and elephant tusks. Yet her forehead curl twists clockwise for truth or reality. Her hair is tied tight with a bow; see costumes - bows. Two tiny bits of hair poke out from behind her neck. She shares that and the tight hair with Anthy and Keiko. I think it says that the three are held tightly by the system of control.

Yuuko

Yuuko looks grimly at the camera. In the wider scene, she is working hard to ignore Keiko.
Episode 21, ignoring Keiko

Hair: Red and/or brown. Eyes: Black with yellow-green to yellow-brown.

Yuuko’s hair color varies from reddish brown to brick red. Her desired Touga has pure red hair; Yuuko is apparently a similar devotee of Eve’s apple, but more ordinary. Her hair curls inward, not a natural way for water to splash, but still bears a resemblance to streaming water. It’s a pretty strange shape, actually.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 10 January 2024
updated 12 June 2024