Kisses on the left, near misses on the right. I left out the stage kisses in some shadow plays.
The most striking thing about the kisses and misses is when most of them happen: Toward the end of the Student Council arc when Touga is in control of most events, and after the First Seduction toward the end of the Apocalypse Saga, when Akio is in control of most events. In the Black Rose there is only Akio and Kanae, which is part of Akio’s setup to corrupt Utena, Akio and Tokiko, and Miki chastely kissing Kozue.
Of the eleven kisses that we see between people, five are sexual—three with Akio to influence Utena, one with Akio to influence Mikage—and the others nonsexual. (Ruka kissing Juri is covering his theft of Juri’s locket. Anthy’s kiss of the Sword of Dios is not between people.) Of the eight kisses that do not occur (including the off-screen kiss in the ending sequence of the Apocalypse Saga), all are seen as sexual by at least one of the two participants. I did not count the ambiguous case in episode 26.
It’s a symbolic image, not a literal depiction. The kiss is not real. We can guess that Shiori really did kiss the unnamed boy who she thought Juri liked—maybe even where Juri could see—but not when Juri was between them.
At his age 12 birthday party, Touga kisses little Nanami on the eye as the kitten looks on. It’s parallel to the prince kissing little Utena’s tears away, below; Nanami takes Touga as her prince, as her coronet hairstyle suggests. At the time of the main story, Nanami would like to relive the kiss, but Touga sees it differently. Touga does not accept Nanami as his princess. Maybe Nanami took on her minions out of frustration.
Touga convinces Utena that he is her prince. He moves as if to kiss her, and Utena is ready to be kissed—but Touga pulls back. For now, he only wants to challenge her to a duel. He believes that he has caught her, like every other fish in the sea, and that after the duel he can return for the kiss whenever he likes. For her part, Utena accepted a passive female role: She took no action, but stood there waiting to be kissed at Touga’s discretion. It’s a turnaround from how she acted when meeting Touga in episode 3—Touga’s manipulation of Utena works that far, as Akio’s does in the Apocalypse Saga.
Utena kisses Wakaba on the forehead in thanks for her help in breaking Utena’s depression. This is as special as Wakaba gets until episode 19, when she returns to her dorm room where Saionji is staying. Her blush is our best evidence that Wakaba takes her relationship with Utena more seriously than she playfully lets on—despite Saionji. See a comparison versus Akio and Utena in the final showdown for Wakaba’s pose on the left.
Dios kisses Utena in the prince story to dry her tears, and her ring in episode 39 as a “reward”. In Wakaba’s story, this kiss corresponds to Dios kissing little Utena on the eye. Wakaba doesn’t realize it yet, but she also wants to be a prince and to marry her prince.
In Utena’s duel to take back her “self”, Touga has Anthy kiss the Sword of Dios to power it up. It is implied that she cuts her lips painfully. Utena looks away, unwilling to watch Anthy be hurt. I think she feels ashamed that she can’t prevent it.
The sword is a symbol of male power. When Anthy kisses the tip, she is engaging in a symbolic sex act, for male benefit. Anthy hesitates and moves slowly. We don’t see Anthy bleed, but it is implied that she is in pain. When Anthy powers up the sword for Utena, she instead cuts her fingers on the sword, a different symbolic sex act; Utena exercises male power, but she is a woman. Anthy acts quickly and willingly. We see the blood but we are not shown that it is painful. The blood flying from the tip ties violence with male sex: The blood is the ejaculate of violence. The metaphor is worked out thoroughly! Male power, even Utena’s male power, is sexual and causes harm, however willing Anthy may be. Violence and male sex are the same in essence.
After Kozue loses her duel, and after all the sexually charged images of the duel and the events leading up to it, Miki chastely kisses Kozue on the forehead. The blue spinning rose seems to say that the two are getting along again. For the moment, they are. See siblings and incest: Kozue jealously and spitefully keeps Miki and Anthy apart, so that the two usually can’t get along. Here Miki accepts it anyway because Kozue got into trouble, and returns a more normal sibling-like kiss. Compare Utena kissing Wakaba on the forehead.
The blue light points out an illusion, presumably the illusion of companionship. The sibling moon shines in the window. The shadow grid represents the bars of a cage and corresponds to the fence in the episode 5 moon image. Contrast Utena’s sibling moon in the same episode, which is about loneliness instead of companionship.
The second ending sequence. Utena’s hand is on the side of Anthy’s face; compare Dios and Akio touching Utena’s face. Anthy and Utena embrace, kissing out of frame; compare the hand positions in Anthy’s incest with Akio, which indicate trust and closeness. Utena sweeps Anthy from her feet as the kiss continues; it is incomparable.
It depicts their love, not an event. Utena is exercising princely power over Anthy, and Anthy is happy about it. Anthy’s feet are off the ground. (The white shape next to Anthy’s foot is a bit of ruffle, not a shoe.) It is parallel to Akio exercising power over Utena, who is happy about it.
In the duels of episodes 25, 26, 28, 29 and 32 Utena calls on the prince. A ghostly apparition of Dios descends from the inverted castle in the sky, and we see Utena turn her face upward to be kissed. In the episode 36 duel against Touga, and the duel against Akio in the final showdown, Utena no longer wants to marry the prince and does not call on him.
It’s ironic that she wins boyish duels of active power with a passive girlish action of waiting to be kissed.
We don’t see the kiss happen. It is the sign of a miracle and seems to be miraculous itself, but Dios is a ghost and the kiss is not real.
In the duel against Miki, Anthy’s seat is lowered until she is out of sight and Kozue leans in as if to kiss her. It’s unclear whether Kozue or Anthy lowers her seat (but either way, the driver’s seat should not be designed to allow that). We don’t see a kiss.
Kozue is trying to make Miki jealous, and for that she doesn’t need a real kiss, only the appearance. I think the kiss likely happens, but since it’s not necessary, I chose to label it a non-kiss.
That is Anthy’s right hand on the side of the car. It stays in the same spot through the whole incident, so Anthy’s right arm lies in between Anthy and Kozue. Anthy generally keeps her arms in between herself and any person who is very close. (I only know of one exception in the series, plus the embrace in the ending sequence outside the series.)
Ruka seduces Shiori, apparently an easy task, and seals it with a kiss. Ruka is faking attraction. Shiori looks surprised but excited and more than willing. Ruka lured corrupt Shiori into a lie. Compare Akio in episode 14, who tried and failed to lure honest Utena into a lie. Ruka has a hand on the side of Shiori’s head, just as Akio has a hand on the side of Utena’s head when about to kiss her in episode 30. The hand claims possession, or at least exercises control: The purpose of a hand is to hold or manipulate.
They go on a nighttime date and kiss again. Shiori’s hand is on Ruka’s chest: She is not only provoking Juri, her desire is real.
This is Ruka forcibly kissing Juri in a sexual assault after pinning her to the wall. Ruka’s color is cooler in hue than in the image above. See the sweat on her cheek. She bites his lip in self-defense.
Ruka is trying to free Juri from her obsession with Shiori. He goes about it in a disastrously hurtful way, by reckless ruthless exercise of male power, treating both Shiori and Juri purely as instruments for his goal. His assault ensures that Juri will hate him. He sounds a little sad about it, but in the end he doesn’t care. He knows he will die soon.
Akio, sitting unsafely on the top of a ladder, smooches Kanae as Utena enters the room. It is part of Akio’s plot to corrupt Utena; he is laying the groundwork. The planetarium projector says that an illusion is being conveyed. Utena is to understand from the beginning, and feel in her heart, that she is harming Kanae when she later kisses Akio. Utena must choose to do wrong to be corrupted.
Right is an adjusted image to make the line art easier to see. Click through for a much larger view. Kanae stands on a ladder rung as Akio bends around backward. The bucket with cloth seemingly compares Akio to Saionji; see meaningful images - episode 9 practice match.
Intellectual Mikage copes poorly with his emotions about Tokiko. Geek guy can’t talk about his feelings. That makes him an attractive tool for Akio—part of Mikage’s parallel with Utena. See cool stuff - Akio and Tokiko.
Compare with Akio and Kanae, immediately above. The poses are different, but both imply that Akio was sitting and the woman approached him. With his nearly irresistible sex appeal, it may well be true. It conveys “this was her choice.”
In episode 30, Akio starts to cash in on his preparation. Utena has already been tempted once, by Akio’s delayed smile before driving her to the hospital for her injury that he arranged. Akio initiates the kiss, not Utena—unlike the two images above, Akio was the one to approach Utena. But Utena likes it and again falls to temptation. She chooses to blow out the second candle.
I pulled the above two images with Kanae and Tokiko out of episode order to point up the connections. Actually, though, the above images are a better match for episode 36 below.
In the episode 34 version of the prince story, the prince kisses little Utena’s tears away. It seems to be an apology for being unable to save Anthy, but that’s a lie. Akio is kissing a little girl so that she will grow up full of love for her prince. At the start of episode 30 when Utena is corrupted, after hearing talk of lying about one’s first kiss, she thinks back to it and wonders if it counts as her first kiss.
Earlier in the episode, when Akio is checking Utena’s feelings, Akio tries to tempt Utena into a kiss. Utena feels the attraction but doesn’t quite give in to it, and pulls away. She prefers her prince. It’s similar to Utena turning away from Akio after she becomes a princess in the final showdown. She prefers Anthy.
The Second Seduction is a success for Akio: Utena moves to kiss him, signaling that she wants sex. Utena’s approach makes it a match for the kisses of episode 14 and episode 23 , above. After this, we can expect that Akio carries out the rest on his own schedule. He cued Utena to initiate and then cede control.
Later in the episode, Touga takes Utena to the dueling arena and makes a final try to catch her like a fish. We see him move to kiss her hand, and I take it that he does. It is a turnaround from episode 11 above.
Home again at the end of the Routine Date, Akio holds Utena down in the car and seems to want to kiss her, repeating the scenario of episode 30, but she keeps him at a distance and changes the subject. Turning her face away indicates rejection; see comparisons - Utena looks away (and compare it to the ones above that, if you like). She is in a period of regret for what she has done.
In the final showdown, Akio turns Utena into a princess and promises they’ll live happily ever after. He moves his face close to Utena’s, either to kiss her or expecting her to kiss him. Look at that false smile. Utena is half-convinced, but she has learned enough skepticism to turn her face away and ask questions. Her voice has an uncertain girlish tone, without her usual confidence. It’s no illusion that she has become a princess.
Dios lies down to kiss Utena’s ring. The merry-go-round in the distance is his origin and destination: Dios is a childish illusion.
Dios’s goal, according to The Tale of the Rose, is to save all girls and kiss them. He does not try to save Utena or kiss her. He only kisses her ring as a “reward” for respecting it, that is, for following his example.
Jay Scott <email@example.com>
first posted 12 March 2022
updated 1 September 2023