Utena - Utena as Musashi

In episode 1, Utena’s ability to defeat Saionji with a bamboo practice sword (even the stub of one) seems like a reference to Miyamoto Musashi, who legendarily defeated famous sword masters in duels, sometimes using pieces of wood instead of a sword. (The stories don’t seem reliable, though.)

Utena, on the ground, holds up half of the practice sword.

At first I assumed the reference was intended. Now that I’ve studied the duels more closely, I’m pretty sure it’s not. The duels have meanings, but not this kind.

How does it feel to insult your opponent with “you’re pretty good... for a girl”—and then lose in such an embarrassing way? I have to imagine that it would feed the worst parts of Saionji’s personality.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 14 November 2021
updated 25 December 2021