I’m not big on favorites. I don’t have a favorite food or a favorite color, or many other common favorites. But I do have a favorite Utena character, and my choice is unusual: An extra who appears once and does not have a name. That’s her at frame right. I’m happy every time this image comes up, which is in episode 12 when Utena walks to school wearing the girls’ uniform. Utena’s fangirls are delighted and excited.
Look at that innocent joy. She is as lost in illusions as anyone. She wears a red wristband that corresponds to Utena’s pink dueling ring—she is a dyed-in-the-wool Utena fangirl. (Compare Wakaba’s hair ribbon.) Unlike the most excited of the other fangirls, her eyes are open. It’s a sign of sincerity. Whatever she may see, she is actively looking, not hiding the sight from herself. Her eyes are brown, the color of ordinariness, which must mean that she sees the world in an ordinary way; to be an Utena fangirl is nothing special. Her hair is dark blue-green, suggesting that her understanding has been subject to especially powerful manipulation. Compare Kanae’s light green hair and Tatsuya’s yellow-green hair. Maybe she became an Utena fangirl in reaction to being controlled.
The background of green trees and blue sky contributes meaning. The white of the clouds is the prince behind the scenes, and the white of the girls’ uniforms says that the girls seek their princes. As fangirls, they see Utena as a prince of the school, and apparently as the personal prince of each of them. The red blushes mean excitement, and given the meaning of red in Utena, it is specifically sexual excitement. The fangirls preview Anthy coming to see Utena as her prince.
The fangirls are deluded, but at the same time—however accidentally—they see an important part of the truth. Utena really is special. Their postures say that it’s a little scary to see her close up.
Utena’s public specialness lies in her sports feats, as shown in episode 1. She dresses differently than other girls, and her fangirls latch onto that. But in episode 3 at the dance party she wears a dress, and in episode 12 she wears the girls’ uniform. Her fangirls like her conventional girlish clothing even better. I think it’s because it hints that they can become special too; they don’t have to stand out in a weird way to become special. And as fangirls, of course they are excited to see anything new about Utena.
Outside the frame to the left is another fangirl with her eyes open. The camera passes over her to get here, and I barely notice her. She’s not my favorite.
Jay Scott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
first posted 27 July 2023
updated 29 November 2023