Utena - glossary

For a small number of jargon terms, I made up meanings that I use consistently.

approach-withdrawal - A psychological influence trick that Akio uses repeatedly against Utena. He approaches her to create a desire, then withdraws from her to draw her out and put the onus on her to seek her desire. At the right time, he approaches again to make the desire flare up. The aim is for Utena to make decisions freely based on her feelings—which are not free.

boyish and girlish - Stuff belonging to the system of control’s conventional male role is boyish; to the female role, girlish. The earrings Touga gives Utena are girlish. Utena’s sports are boyish. Eternity is girlish. Revolution is boyish. Akio seeks to suppress Utena’s boyish side and bring out her girlish side. The terms are defined by the system of control and have no meaning outside it; Utena does not see herself as either boyish or girlish because she does not accept the roles as existing. She doesn’t even notice them.

The final showdown happens in episodes 38 and 39. See the final showdown and Akio and Utena’s relationship - the final showdown.

The shadow line is a diagonal line between light and dark, commonly the edge of a shadow. Well, sometimes it’s more complicated than a simple diagonal. Utena is full of shadow lines, and takes care to place characters on the light or dark side of a shadow line.

The Swords of Hatred are not named during the series, only described (and don’t get much description, either). I habitually capitalize the term as if it were their name. It might be a habit I picked up elsewhere—maybe I ran across the term and it stuck to my shoes. I don’t remember. But whatever.

system of control - The vast, layered, multifaceted, all-encompassing system of human culture that seeks conformity from its members, us humans. Especially the parts of it related to sex roles and oppression of women. Good-hearted and sexist Dios accepted the system of control’s role of good prince and used his power of miracles to save women for his own benefit (see the shadow play of episode 34). When that didn’t work out, his heart turned evil and he used his power to destroy women for his own benefit. Under Akio, Ohtori Academy becomes the apotheosis of the system of control, or as Akio puts it, his tower room is the high point of the world, the place where the system of control is at its strongest. It’s good to “graduate” and leave the Academy, but you’re still inside the wider system of control.

I also made up names for Akio and Utena’s three dates. They are

The First Seduction
The Second Seduction
The Routine Date

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 7 December 2021
updated 19 July 2022