Utena - doing away with Kanae

Murdering Kanae in episode 32 is one of the final steps in destroying the Ohtori family altogether in Akio’s plot to control Ohtori Academy.

Kanae wears orange for one-sided love. See Kanae’s white lilies. Does Anthy detest Kanae due to jealousy (like Hera) since Kanae is with Akio, or due to Kanae’s unwanted love? It can be both. I like the second idea, because the story is stronger if Anthy’s love of Utena is ironic, but the mythological and other hints favor jealousy. Anthy may also hate Kanae for her easy life as a rich girl (“I can fix that”). Anthy is an abuse victim and it’s unsurprising if she resents the unfairness. Or does she not detest Kanae at all, but only maintain emotional distance to protect herself? Anthy is associated with vengeance, and I think she does despise Kanae, but logically speaking it’s ambiguous. The block of ice could mean only the coldness of going along with Akio’s plots, no matter how evil.

Kanae looks drugged. Akio force-feeds her an apple slice.
Say “ah!”

The last time we see Akio’s fiancee Kanae is in episode 32, in the tower room. She looks drugged and unresponsive; she must have been hit with some date rape drug. Akio holds her in place and holds her mouth open, and Anthy feeds her a slice of apple.

Remember when it was called a Mickey Finn (Wikipedia)? Me neither. Date rape drugs are not a recent invention.

Akio is brutally removing Kanae from the picture. We do hear of her one more time: In episode 36, Touga takes Utena to the dueling arena and Utena mentions that Akio has a fiancee. In episode 37 Akio proposes marriage to Utena, and we don’t hear a response. Possibly the engagement is broken by then, and Utena knows it. More likely Utena no longer cares. In the final showdown, Akio promises to live happily ever after with Utena, and she is tempted.

The apple with a slice missing, stuck with forks.
Poison apple, you’re the one.
You make reprisal so much fun.
Chu-Chu is posing with a fork as a sword, episode 2.

The apple is stuck with forks. In episode 2 we saw Chu-Chu use a fork as if it were a sword, and in episode 16 Utena uses a pitchfork like a sword. I think the forks represent the Swords of Hatred stuck into the apple, Anthy’s hatred of Kanae. It associates the apple with Anthy and implies that the apple is poisoned—no doubt literally. All apples in Utena are Eve’s apple, whatever else they may be besides. It’s evidence that Anthy’s motivation is jealousy first.

It is the wicked queen Anthy giving the poisoned apple to Snow White, an apple created by witchcraft. Snow White’s wicked queen is motivated by envy, which Utena does not distinguish from jealousy. See fairy tales - Snow White for more on the parallel. Akio seems to be allowing Anthy to take her revenge on Kanae. Apples show up a lot in Utena. Like Snow White and Utena, Kanae does not grasp the danger she is in and innocently falls into traps.

in the side room

Anthy sawing the block of ice.

Utena asks “Isn’t Kanae back yet?” She means “back from the main room” where Kanae, Akio and Anthy are. Nanami is in the room, sitting curled up out of the way. She is upset by the incest she saw and doesn’t realize that worse is in progress.

Anthy returns to the side room. She starts to make shaved ice: She saws into a great block of ice with a frightening saw. The mix of humor and horror is unsettling. Utena gets up to enter the main room and ask after Kanae, and it’s so dangerous that Anthy loses her cool. She urgently says no before recollecting herself and explaining that the couple should be left to themselves.

Nanami sees that Anthy is a scary person, and Utena sees nothing. Utena is a babe in the woods, and it matters in the next episode. In fact, even in the suicide conversation Utena seems to discount Anthy’s confession of acting against her. She does not learn how scary Anthy can be until Anthy’s sword goes through her in the final showdown.

The ice represents Anthy’s cold vengeance, as shaved ice does on a smaller scale. Nanami is present: Anthy’s block of ice hides her great crime behind her small vengeance over Nanami.

what becomes of Kanae?

Snow White’s apple left her “dead” only until the spell was broken. However, the argument that Akio plans to kill Utena implies that Kanae is murdered, and there are multiple lines of evidence so it’s a firm conclusion. Besides that, destroying the Ohtori family will ensure that Akio can remain in control of the Ohtori Academy. Kanae is wearing the red shoes and will die.

Why is Anthy so alarmed that she loses her composure? She seems a little nervous even in putting off Nanami. If Anthy’s poison is slow, like the cantarella (Wikipedia) Anthy mentions in the poisoning conversation, then Kanae will get sick and eventually die in a hospital, like her father. But in that case, when Utena barges in all she will see is a sleeping Kanae with Akio, nothing to raise her suspicion. It makes me think that Kanae is already dying or dead, and her body is being dealt with. The ice saw might represent dismembering the body; it looks vicious enough. Whatever the case, we don’t see Kanae again.

The main point I think is to show Akio’s and Anthy’s utter ruthlessness. We’re being prepared for the brutality of Anthy’s backstab. When Akio gets everything he wants from Utena, or if he does not and gives up on her, then Utena will be the next in line for the poisoned apple. Anthy learns it in episode 37, when Akio tells her in her car ride. A second point is to give us enough information to figure out Akio’s plot to take Ohtori. Yet another point is that Akio may use his date rape drug on other occasions, such as in episode 34.

Back in episode 6, Anthy (working together with Touga) presented herself as too gentle to spray bugs attacking her roses. Now we see how big a lie it was. Viewers need a long memory to recall that Anthy was associated with poison so long ago. When it comes up again in the poisoning conversation of episode 37, it’s still fresh. See Akio plans to kill Utena - poison for these and other points tying Anthy to poison.

In episode 6, Nanami was lured through the transparent greenhouse door. She was a false victim being given false information. Here in episode 32, Anthy has to prevent Utena from going through the door to see Kanae. Utena is a true victim and has to be kept from the truth. See Akio plans to kill Utena.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 21 December 2021
updated 20 September 2023