Utena - first ending sequence

The opening sequence. <- PreviousNext -> The second ending sequence.

The Student Council arc and the Black Rose share the same ending credits sequence, Utena and Anthy motionlessly dancing with identical copies of prince Dios.

The sequence is about the delusions that Utena and Anthy suffer from. Both accept the fiction of princes and desire prince Dios.

Silhouettes of Dios and Utena dancing in front of a rose background. The silhouettes have changed to full-color images, and the background is black.

Utena and Dios are silhouetted against a background of red roses. Wind blows. The characters and background swap places: The characters fade into color and the background fades to black. It’s a theater technique ubiquitous in Utena: Change the lighting to focus attention and indicate a change of scene. We’re not to forget for a moment that Utena is a fiction—an allegory, a metaphorical story about the false stories that society tells us.

Utena’s eyes are open. Dios’s eyes are invisible throughout.

It’s a slow sequence. The last word before the transition is uso “lie” or “lies”.

Utena’s head next to Dios, her hand on his chest, her eyes closed. Anthy’s head next to Dios, her hand on his chest, her eyes open.

A fast transition sequence of four shots.

Utena closes her eyes. Anthy is introduced as a mirror-image of Utena, and opens her eyes. Both wear princess dresses. As we’re told in The Tale of the Rose, Dios makes every girl a princess except Anthy: If a girl is with Dios, she is a princess. We see it in episode 39, when Utena becomes a princess as Dios walks up to her, and returns to herself when he leaves. Akio must have made Anthy a princess. The eyes mean that Anthy sees the reality that Dios is now Akio; Utena does not.

Utena looking up to Dios’s face, her eyes now opened. Anthy looking up to Dios’s face, her eyes now closed.

Utena and Anthy, still in mirror image, look at their respective copies of Dios. They have identical adoring expressions, perhaps looking for a kiss, and Dios smiles back. A hand on Dios’s chest indicates desire. Dios’s hand on the side of the head indicates possession, or at least manipulation; sexist Dios saves girls to possess them, as sexist Akio possesses girls to destroy them.

The words over the sequence of four shots are kowashi tsuzuketai “I want to keep on destroying” (lies).

We can take the words as Utena’s. They don’t fit anyone else. The editing emphasizes the key words “I want to keep on destroying lies” and associates them with Utena closing her eyes, Anthy opening her eyes, and both of them loving Dios.

This Dios is full-grown. The false Dios we meet in the prince story looks like a teenager. We don’t meet the full-grown Dios in person until the final episode.

I suppose the viewer’s understanding of the ender is meant to change as they progress through the series. Once we understand Utena’s attitude toward princes, the contradiction is distinct: Utena wants to defeat lies, but she is trapped by a lie. She faces left and closes her eyes because she does not see the truth of Dios—her love of a fairy-tale prince is not good, it is a trap she has fallen into. Later we learn it is even worse: This isn’t Dios at all, it’s Akio. Anthy faces right, in the direction of reality, and opens her eyes to the truth, but is equally (or more) trapped by love of the false Dios.

The mirror images show Anthy and Utena as complementary aspects of the same thing; they fit into one whole.

Utena in a princess dress in a dancing pose with Dios without moving. The wind is blowing their hair and clothing.

Utena’s eyes are closed.

The singer’s voice changes tone for the lyrics translated as “adults who cling to old stories”. We are switching from Utena’s point of view to someone else, possibly Anthy speaking the truth of the story. The words are about Utena’s message: In Utena, you become an adult by understanding the truth, which means giving up false and controlling social narratives. Princes and princesses and such are fairy tales for children.

Anthy reaches around Dios’s back to his shoulder. Anthy looks venomous.

As the view switches to Anthy, the words say that “unchosen angels” don’t even need wings. Anthy is “unchosen” because she is not a duelist, and she is not allowed to become an adult bird that can fly freely; she has to stay in her bird cage greenhouse. It can still be Anthy speaking; she accepts her position. Anthy’s narrowed eyes and hand position match up with her venomous expression and hand position just after stabbing Utena in the back. I find Anthy’s expression on the left hard to interpret. It’s not venomous, but perhaps thoughtful and sad, and the eyebrows hint at anger. It’s somewhat like Anthy’s sad expression just before stabbing Utena. Here Dios is facing toward Anthy, where Utena when backstabbed faces away.

Utena dances with Dios as Anthy dances with an identical Dios.

Anthy and Dios split off from Utena and Dios.

The singer’s voice returns to its original tone, and the words must be Utena’s again.

Anthy and Utena are now depicted as parallel images rather than opposed mirror images. It emphasizes how they are alike rather than how they differ: Both are powerless princesses trapped in the same system of illusions.

It is part of Utena’s wider structure of parallel characters, alike in that they suffer under the same system, different in how they attempt to cope with it. The system of control is wide and deep.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 30 October 2022
updated 31 August 2023