Utena - kiss catalog

Kisses on the left, near misses on the right. Mitsuru’s film kisses are in a separate section at the bottom. 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, the only kisses are 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 kisses that we do not see (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.

Shiori holds her hands over Juri’s eyes as she kisses over her head.
Episode 7, Shiori unnamed boy

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.

Touga kisses little Nanami.
Episode 10, Touga Nanami
Touga does not kiss Nanami.
Episode 10, Nanami Touga

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.

Utena expects a kiss from Touga, but he backs off.
Episode 11, Touga Utena

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.

Compare Akio kissing Utena in the Cinderella scene of episode 30.

Utena kisses Wakaba on the forehead.
Episode 12, Utena Wakaba
Wakaba reacts to the kiss.
Episode 12, Wakaba reacts

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 (hands on the side of her face). Utena kisses Wakaba with hands on her shoulders. Wakaba doesn’t realize it yet, but she also wants to be a prince and to marry her prince.

Anthy kisses the sharp tip of the Sword of Dios, while Utena in the background looks away in empathetic pain.
Episode 12, Anthy and Sword of Dios

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.

Kozue leans in as if to kiss Miki, and he pulls away in disgust.
Episode 15, Kozue Miki

Kozue is under the influence of the black rose. She lays her hand on the side of Miki’s face (see the top of hand catalog for the meaning, and comparisons - Utena’s expression for examples with Dios and Akio) and leans in as if to kiss him. Miki pulls away with a look of disgust. This non-kiss goes with Miki chastely kissing Kozue below. The non-kiss and kiss are parallel to the kiss and non-kiss of Nanami and Touga in episode 10; Miki is no longer a small child. And it parallels Touga trying to kiss Nanami in Akio’s car in episode 32, below.

Miki chastely kisses Kozue on the forehead.
Episode 15, Miki Kozue

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.

Utena and Anthy are about to kiss. Utena has her hand on the side of Anthy’s face.
Apocalypse ender, Utena Anthy
Anthy and Utena are embracing. Utena and Anthy are kissing just out of the frame.
Apocalypse ender, Utena Anthy
Utena has swept Anthy off her feet. Utena and Anthy are kissing just out of the frame.
Apocalypse ender, Utena Anthy

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.

Utena’s lips, her face lifted up. The ghostly descending prince is about to kiss Utena.
Apocalypse duels, prince and Utena

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.

Anthy’s seat is lowered until she is out of sight, and Kozue leans in as if to kiss her.
Episode 26, Kozue Anthy

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. The kiss may happen, but I think probably not because Kozue’s lipstick disappears, meaning she does not want to attract Anthy. 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.)

A close-up: Ruka is about to kiss Shiori, his hand on the side of her head.
Episode 28, Ruka Shiori
Ruka and Shiori kiss in sight of Juri on a nighttime date.
Episode 28, Ruka Shiori

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. Shiori shows the blush of attraction and they kiss again. Shiori’s left hand is on Ruka’s chest: It’s real attraction, but not her true desire.

Ruka’s face against Juri’s in his sexual assault, sweat on Juri’s cheek.
Episode 29, Ruka Juri

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.

Episode 32, Touga Nanami

In Akio’s car, Touga moves to kiss Nanami, trying (and again failing) to be like Akio. I chose to call it a non-kiss because we don’t see it or hear it, and Nanami pushes Touga away. But it’s out of sight, and we don’t definitively see it not happen, either.

Touga fails to take control of Nanami, while Akio succeeds and sends her into a duel (we don’t see how, but there are ample hints and we see the results). It’s another sexual assault.

Ruka and Touga in fail their sexual assaults and do not reach their goals. They don’t have Akio’s nearly irresistible appeal.

Akio smooches Kanae while they’re on a ladder.
Episode 14, Akio Kanae
Akio smooches Kanae while they’re on a ladder.

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.

Mitsuru has closed eyes and makes what he imagines is a kiss face. It looks silly.
Episode 18, Mitsuru Mari

Mari told Mitsuru that one real kiss is worth a hundred movie kiss scenes, so he tries for one real kiss. He can’t keep up with Utena in episode 11—not a high bar. He only shows off how childish he is, and Mari storms off.

Akio kisses Tokiko, surrounded by the yellow of Mikage’s jealousy.
Episode 23, Akio and Tokiko

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.”

Akio kisses Utena in his car.
Episode 30, Akio Utena

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.

Utena’s prince kisses little Utena’s tears away.
Episode 34, prince and Utena
Akio tries to tempt Utena into a kiss, and it’s close but she refuses.
Episode 34, Akio Utena

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 it’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.

Utena kisses Akio.
Episode 36, Utena Akio
Touga moves to kiss Utena’s hand.
Episode 36, Touga Utena

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.

Akio holds Utena down, apparently wanting to kiss her.
Episode 37, Akio Utena

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.

Akio moves his face close, apparently expecting Utena to kiss him.
Episode 38, Akio Utena

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 by Utent to kiss her ring.
Episode 39, Dios

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.

Mitsuru’s film kisses

In episode 18, Mitsuru watches movie clips of kiss scenes. There are six scenes, the same as the number of duelists. I don’t think he could have compiled them himself; he must have found an existing collection. They are on physical film, with scratches and damage. Damage is rare to see nowadays; films are digitally restored to remove it.

I think it’s practically guaranteed that some of the scenes refer to specific movies, and I won’t be surprised if all of them do. That’s how Utena rolls. But I can’t identify any of them. It’s unfortunate, because there’s sure to be meaning behind the references.

The movie characters suggest Utena characters, though not all the identifications are clear. The show does not miss any chance to talk about itself.

Mitsuru watches a movie kiss scene. The two wear different military uniforms.
military

1. The two wear contrasting military uniforms, so any corresponding Utena characters should be duelists. The man wears white for the prince. The dress white uniform is common in navies, but not exclusive to them, and that doesn’t look like a navy hat. His hat resembles a French Foreign Legion cap more than any other headgear I turned up. The bridge in the background has triple lamps, like the drooping Student Council platform. The man is faking interest; he has his left hand at her waist for sexual interest. Deception suggests that he is Touga. The woman is Utena in episode 36, or less likely Nanami in episode 32. As the clip plays, Mari says it’s not such a bright idea, which fits either.

I see some resemblance to the Casablanca kiss scene with the airplane in the background, though it’s a distant match at best. The airplane is about separation, and Utena separates from Touga.

Mitsuru watches a movie kiss scene. The woman lies on hay.
romp in the hay

2. This is the image that most clearly identifies the characters: The yellow-haired woman is Nanami, and the red-haired man is Touga. The straw calls back to the straw two episodes earlier when she was a cow. And the straw implies that the two have sex; see comparisons - romp in the hay. Does the film clip show Nanami’s desire, or Mitsuru’s imagination, or what? I think it’s more Nanami’s desire. Her right hand looks like it’s on his shoulder, but she is reaching to put her arm around his neck, indicating closeness. She’s flat on her back.

The closest match is the car ride of episode 32. But it’s reversed: There, Nanami rejects Touga’s kiss. The comparison equates Touga and Akio, and the romp in the hay comparison equates Touga and Dios. Cute.

Mitsuru watches a movie kiss scene. The man seems to be a prisoner.
dark prisoner
Shadow play: The prince is trapped in a cage as the witch stands outside.
Episode 34, The Tale of the Rose

3. I take it that the dark-skinned man is a prisoner with his arms manacled above his head. He’s wearing a white shirt, so he’s not Anthy, he’s Dios. This is an alternate version of the scene in The Tale of the Rose where the witch traps the prince in a cage. The woman has her left hand on his chest, for false desire. She is either Anthy or Utena: Dios is fictional and does not exist, and she was tricked into loving him.

Mitsuru watches a movie kiss scene. The woman wears a veil.
veiled woman

4. The man is large and darker-skinned and wears white with suspenders. The woman wears a veil and a fancy uniform, also white. He has a hand on her upper arm; compare Anthy with Akio in episode 25. I think it is Akio and Utena, and the veil is for their wedding in the final showdown. It should not be Akio and Kanae; Kanae does not wear white.

This image and number 6 below are similar.

Mitsuru watches a movie kiss scene.
wearing pink for Utena
Wakaba leans over Utena, holding a lunchbox in her hands but in effect pressing Utena down.
Episode 11, Wakaba over Utena

5. The man wears blue. The woman wears pink with yellow plus a red headband, and has both hands on the man’s chest. It fits for Wakaba and Utena; Wakaba wears a red ribbon in her hair. She faces right and leans over Utena while Utena faces left. The man’s arms are placed the way Utena places her arms on Anthy, and in episode 11 on Wakaba.

Mitsuru watches a movie kiss scene. The woman is nearly obscured behind the man.
distant past
Episode 23, Anthy has finished her role in the Black Rose.
Episode 23, “good job”

6. The man’s costume with a ruff suggests a Renaissance setting (if I knew more, maybe I could narrow it down), and the black with ladder-like shapes on the sides refers to the gutter images. He is large and nearly obscures the woman. He has a hand on her upper arm, as in movie 4 above. I think he must be Akio again, and possibly the woman is Anthy. Akio and Anthy were already a couple back then. The reference to the gutters suggests the woman is Utena, though.

Well, if it was that long ago, it may have been the Utena of the day, his candidate at the time to open the Rose Gate. In those centuries, women were more obscured than today. If so, then the previous movie image and this one show Akio’s future and past.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 12 March 2022
updated 6 June 2024