I list the episode titles with some notes. Some of the references were a bit of work to turn up, and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t found yet.
With the text of the titles, I can often look up what they refer back to. It’s not so easy with visual references or parallel events. The number of references in the titles tells me that there are many references of other kinds that I do not know about. And there are sure to be references in the episode titles that I did not find yet. Some of them smell of it.
|1||The Rose Bride||bara no hanayome||薔薇の花嫁||Anthy’s last line is “Starting today, I am your flower.”|
|2||For whom the rose smiles||dare ga tame ni bara wa hohoemu||誰がために薔薇は微笑む||So we know that the rose is Anthy.|
|3||On the night of the ball||butoukai no yoru ni||舞踏会の夜に||Kabawata Yasunari. See episode 3.|
|4||The sunlit garden - prelude||hikari sasu niwa • pureryuudo||光さす庭•プレリユード|
|5||The sunlit garden - finale||hikari sasu niwa • finaaru||光さす庭•フィナール|
|6||Take care, miss Nanami!||nanami-sama go-youjin||七美様御用心||Little Red Riding Hood. See episode 6.|
|7||Unfulfilled Juri||mihate no juri||見果ての樹璃|
|8||Curried high trip||karei naru hai torippu||カレーなるハイトリップ|
|9||The castle said to hold eternity||eien ga aru toiu shiro||永遠があるという城|
|10||Nanami’s precious thing||nanami no taisetsu na mono||七美の大切なもの||Thing or person. I like “Nanami’s precious one.”|
|11||Gracefully cruel - the one who picks that flower||yuuga ni reikoku • sono hana o tsumu mono||優雅に冷酷•その花を積む者||Now the flower is Utena. She becomes girlish.|
|12||For friendship, perhaps||tabun yuujou no tame||たぶん友情のため|
|13||Tracing a path||egakareru kiseki||描かれる軌跡||Recap with duel names. See episode 13.|
|14||The boys of the Black Rose||kurobara no shounen-tachi||黒薔薇の少年たち|
|15||The landscape framed by Kozue||sono kozue ga sasu fuukei||その梢が指す風景|
|16||The cowbell of happiness||shiawase no kauberu||幸せのカウベル|
|17||The thorns of death||shi no toge||死の棘||Novel by Shimao Toshio. See episode 17.|
|18||Mitsuru’s impatience||mitsuru modokashisa||みつるもどかしさ||Or “worn-out impatience”. See episode 18.|
|19||A song for a kingdom now lost||ima no naki oukoku no uta||今の亡き王国の歌||Literally not “lost” but “dead”.|
|20||Wakaba flourishing||wakaba shigereru||若葉繁れる||Reference to Aoba Shigereru. See episode 20.|
|21||Vermin||waruimushi||悪い虫||Keiko. See the shadow play.|
|22||Nemuro Memorial Hall||nemuro kinenkan||根室記念館|
|23||Terms of a duelist||duerisuto no jouken||デュエリストの条件|
|24||The secret Nanami diary||nanami-sama himitsu nikki||七美様秘密日記|
|25||Their eternal apocalypse||futari no eien mokushiroku||ふたりの永遠黙示録||They as “the two of them.” See episode 25.|
|26||Miki’s nest box (the Sunlit Garden - arranged)||miki no subako (hikari sasu niwa - arenji)||幹の巣箱（光さす庭•アレンジ）||A musical arrangement.|
|27||Nanami’s egg||nanami no tamago||七美の卵||See episode 27.|
|28||Whispers in the dark||yami ni sasayaku||闇に囁く||Lovecraft. See episode 28.|
|29||Azure paler than the sky||sora yori awaki ruriiro no||空より淡き瑠璃色の||Lapis lazuli. See episode 29.|
|30||The barefoot girl||hadashi no shoujo||裸足の少女||Cinderella and Maryša. See episode 30.|
|31||Her tragedy||kanojo no higeki||彼女の悲劇|
|32||The romance of the dancing girls||odoru kanojo-tachi no koi||踊る彼女たちの恋|
|33||The prince who runs through the night||yoru o hashiru ouji||夜を走る王子||The First Seduction.|
|34||The rose crest||bara no kokuin||薔薇の刻印||The rose emblem on the dueling ring.|
|35||The love that blossomed in wintertime||fuyu no koro mebaeta ai||冬のころ芽ばえた愛||Literally “sprouted”.|
|36||And thus opens the doorway of night||soshite yoru no tobira ga hiraku||そした夜の扉が開く||The Second Seduction. See episode 36.|
|37||The one who brings the world revolution||sekai o kakumei suru mono||世界を革命する者|
|38||End of the world||sekai no hate||世界の果て|
|39||Someday, together, we’ll shine||itsuka issho ni kagayaite||いつか一緒に輝いて||See episode 39.|
Episode 3, “On the night of the ball”. There is a short story by Kawabata Yasunari (Wikipedia) called “The night of the dance” (without “on”—butoukai no yoru without ni). It seems to be little-known story and I didn’t find a satisfying description of it. So I’m not certain that the episode title refers to it. But from what I did find out, I feel it’s likely. This article from Medium places Kawabata as an early influence, or a co-initiator, of the yuri genre and class S (Wikipedia). The story is apparently about a high-society event with few participants and many spectators, so maybe it was more a performance than a party? I couldn’t tell. The point of view characters are not of high society, so there is at least a point of correspondence with the episode.
Episode 6, “Take care, miss Nanami!” It looks like a reference to the 1978 song “akazukin-chan goyoujin” (Take care, Little Red Riding Hood) (Japanese Wikipedia) by the band LAZY. It’s a conventional love song, “choose me, not that wolf,” complete with a Japanese Industrial Standard “I’ll protect you” line. It’s fluffy to the point of being silly, and very 1970s, and can be found on Youtube. Apart from 1970s-ness, all the points fit with the episode. For the episode, the title says that Nanami is Little Red Riding Hood and Mitsuru is the “safe” suitor who will protect her—although Touga’s wolfness is invisible to Mitsuru as well as Nanami. In the wider Student Council arc, Touga is the wolf and Utena is Little Red Riding Hood, and nobody protects Utena—which is how the original version of the fairy tale (Wikipedia) goes. In the series as a whole, Akio is the wolf.
Episode 13, “Tracing a path”. Kiseki written 軌跡 as it is, means a track or trace—signs left behind that show a path followed. “Tracing a path” is a good translation. But kiseki written differently means miracle. Reading the homophone instead, you might translate it as “Delineating a miracle”. The pun can only be intentional.
Episode 17, “The thorns of death”. It is the title of a 1960 Shimao Toshio novel (Japanese Wikipedia), which won prizes. The Japanese Wikipedia article traces the title to the Bible line “O death, where is thy sting?” And in fact, the book’s English translation makes the title The Sting of Death (while the Nozomi translation is literal). In 1990 it was made into a film with the same title (Wikipedia). A husband has an affair, the wife is distraught, the couple falls into crisis but tries to save their marriage. For the episode, Shiori corresponds to the husband; she goes with the unnamed boy, but returns afterward.
For Utena as a whole, there is more. Utena and Anthy fall into crisis due to infidelity on both sides, but in the end recover their relationship. The word translated in English as “sting” means “sharp point” (Bible Hub), such as for example a thorn or a sword. The Bible says “the sting of death is sin,” and implies that there is no sting to death because Jesus has taken it. And Utena as prince corresponds to Jesus. It is a sign of her ultimate victory. I don’t know why it comes up in episode 17 in particular, but the drooping Student Council platform implies that he takes a major step forward in his plot in this episode. As so often, the signs point both ways.
Episode 18, “Mitsuru’s Impatience”. Mitsuru’s name is spelled ambiguously so that it can also be the verb mitsuru, to become emaciated, as by exhaustion. The grammatically-natural reading is closer to, as I translated it, “worn-out impatience”. My translation seems too mild. More like “worn to a nub”.
Episode 20, “Wakaba Flourishing” or wakaba shigereru must be a reference to to the 1973 novel Aoba Shigereru by Inoue Hisashi, and/or the 1974 TV miniseries, which was in turn made into a movie. Both titles mean lush spring vegetation, and “Wakaba” and “Aoba” have nearly the same meaning. In Utena, the title is an ironic allusion to Anthy’s cultivation of the students. In Aoba Shigereru, I guess it is the Aoba ward of Sendai city. I found only vague descriptions of the story, but it is apparently about a group of mischievous high school students with unfulfilled loves. As I write, the book is still in print on paper, and the movie can be ordered on DVD, so it must be somewhat popular.
Episode 25, “Their eternal apocalypse”. The Japanese means “the eternal apocalypse of the two of them.” The translation is ambiguous about who “they” are, but the original implies that it is Akio and Anthy. Akio’s plot against Utena is one more way that he harms Anthy, and he seems to run similar plots over and over.
Episode 27, “Nanami’s egg”. The episode is about Nanami’s immaturity, and “egg” in Japanese can mean that, metaphorically. For example, “the egg of a lawyer” means a lawyer in training, or a lawyer to be. We can read “the egg of Nanami” as “the fledgling Nanami”. It suggests that she will mature with time.
Episode 28, “Whispers in the dark”. The episode title is the same as the Japanese title of the 1930 H.P. Lovecraft novella The Whisperer in Darkness (Wikipedia). It fits with Akio and Anthy (corresponding to the extraterrestrials) controlling Ruka, who is in effect already dead.
Episode 29, “Azure paler than the sky”. The word for “azure” means the color of lapis lazuli. It is related to Juri’s name, and shares one of the characters.
Episode 30, “The barefoot girl”. A reference to Cinderella: Akio injures Utena’s foot (symbolically taking away her freedom) and then steals her shoe in the Cinderella scene. At the same time, a reference to the 1935 Czechoslovakian film Maryša (Wikipedia), which has the same Japanese title. See other references - Maryša for analysis.
There is a well-known Picasso painting with the same title, made when Picasso was about Utena’s age, but I can’t find a connection with it.
Episode 36, “And thus opens the doorway of night”. It is the episode of the Second Seduction, when Utena stops making moral decisions. Akio is associated with night and darkness and the color black, as Dios is with day and light and white. With no morality to slow Utena down, the door to Akio’s dark night of unending oppression is open. The Routine Date happens at night.
Specifically, the doorway of night can be the Rose Gate if Akio opens it. After the Second Seduction, he seems to feel confident that he will. When he attacks it with Utena’s sword, he calls it a door to a new world. Akio’s “revolutionized” world would certainly be a dark world where Akio’s night rules.
Episode 39, “Someday, together, we’ll shine”. The Japanese word order is unnatural in English. Natural is “Someday, we’ll shine together.” But the Nozomi translation retains the original word order for a good reason: At the end, with the framed photo of Utena and Anthy on the screen, we hear Utena say “Someday, together....”
Jay Scott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
first posted 8 August 2023
updated 24 November 2023