If successful, Revolutionary Girl Utena will help you see the world in new colors. Instead of RGB like most people, you’ll see RGU, red green and ultraviolet. Flowers will never look the same again.
One of the many advantages of anime life is that everyone carries a tiny LED in their mouth. We unfortunate normies in the real world hold darkness in our mouths. Here Aiko in episode 3 (on the left) glows a healthy anime pink in the mouth as she berates Anthy.
It’s not perfect. If the character is angry, there may not be enough energy left over to light the LED to full brightness. Poor Keiko is furious and not as bright. There are more examples throughout Utena.
We’re at the dance party of episode 3. That’s the silhouette of Nanami on the right. She is wearing an enormous butt bow. One size larger and she could fly. Does she think she is a social butterfly? But whatever. Nanami is allowed to be outrageous, it’s an endearing character trait. What caught my eye was the dress of the second woman from the left: She is wearing a knee bow. A bow at the knees. A bow around the knees that gathers in the skirt of her dress at the knees, making it harder to walk, rather like wearing heels. Of all the places to attach a bow, the back of the knees.
The shadow line at the dance party is barely above the floor. The dance floor is a dark place, so dark that it even has a knee bow.
Utena and Anthy are dancing in a column of light. The light represents the spotlight that they are dancing under—the attention on them—and prefigures Utena in rose petals in episode 9. But... where is Utena’s right hand?
In other images of the dance, Utena’s right hand reaches around to Anthy’s back. Here, it disappears behind Anthy’s arm and does not re-emerge. Is Anthy not the only one given to groping? Is that why Utena feels surrounded by soft petals?
Utena is smiling and looking at Anthy. Anthy is looking at the camera as if to acknowledge the situation to the audience.
Oh... that’s why Utena and Chu-Chu get along so well. They’re both monkeys.
A curl of Utena’s hair cutely echoes Chu-Chu’s tail, making sure we don’t miss the comparison.
It’s raining in the dueling arena. I love the idea that the arena not only creates illusions, including solid illusions that you can push off of, but also controls the weather—within its own boundaries. Does the rain fall through the castle in the sky?
The prince leans in to kiss little Utena’s tears away, in the prince story of episode 34.
The prince’s kiss is so effective that tears already running down her cheeks also disappear. That’s the Power of Dios for you!
Utena is not famous for keeping characters on model. When we see an eye in profile, sometimes it is convex, sometimes flat, sometimes concave. Episode 36 has flat to convex eyes, episode 37 has flat to concave eyes. Occasionally eyes have an S-shaped profile. Do the characters secretly carry around multiple pairs of glasses to correct for their unstable corneas?
The swords tend to vary in length, often from shot to shot. But Touga’s sword here in episode 36 is overdoing it. It looks hard to control. Did he just cut off one of his own fingers?
In episode 25, Utena wonders why Anthy is late to bed. Chu-Chu sleeping nearby is not an adequate substitute. Utena is lonely while Anthy is busy with Akio. She is flat on her back with her arms seemingly raised in surrender, upside down and with blue-green eyes because she believes that Anthy’s business is innocent. Her pajama shirt is not entirely fastened, which suggests why she is lonely. The light is dim for Akio’s corrupt darkness.
How is this image lit? Most shadows say that the light is coming from above the frame. Utena is lit from below, as Anthy isn’t when casting a shadow upward. Shadows on Utena’s hand, cuff, and cheek say that light is coming from left of the frame. Shadows on her forehead and neck say that light is coming from below and to the left. The reflections in her eyes say that light is coming from below the frame to the right. The highlights in her hair agree and say that light is coming from every which way. That’s why there are no shadows... wait a minute.
Dignity, chastity: Two things not illustrated in this picture. It’s the duel song of episode 28 after Anthy has drawn Utena’s sword and Utena has flourished it.
If you have never thought about the meaning of the darker section down the front of Anthy’s dress, you should think about it now. This image makes it particularly clear that Anthy is split down the center, from her hair to the ground. Carrying a sword around inside your body can do that to a person.
Jay Scott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
first posted 11 December 2021
updated 16 February 2023