Utena - rescue

I hope to collect all the rescues in Utena. I think I have most of the important ones.

In episode 1, Utena says she wants to be a prince who rescues princesses. Rescue is a prince’s first job. Princes also protect, but apparently protection is less important. I guess an ounce of protection is not worth as much as a pound of spectacular rescue. Well, sometimes protection may take the form of a rescue.

Rescue is an exercise of power. To rescue someone, you bring power that they do not have or do not use; rescue is inherently unequal. Utena’s ideal is for people to be equal, and to help each other. Rescue may be welcome (episode 3), or it may deny the agency of the person being rescued (episode 20). In Utena, many rescues are staged rescues from engineered dangers.

Grateful princess trope. When a prince rescues a princess, the princess is supposed to be so grateful that she falls in love. It is part of the fairy tale lore to teach children conventional sex roles. The other side is that the prince falls in love with her too, and they live happily ever after. Exploiting that schtick is Dios’s modus operandi. (He doesn’t live happily ever after, though.) Utena and Anthy, and Akio and Utena, play it out seriously. In episode 6, Mitsuru and Nanami play it out falsely. In episode 9, Touga tries it on Utena, with some effect, shortly after Utena “saves” Anthy.

the rescues

In the prince story, Akio (playing the role of Dios) rescues little Utena from her coffin. It’s a staged rescue; he arranged for her to be there in the first place.

In episode 1, Utena looks out of an upper-story window, which symbolizes that she is playing a female role. She sees Saionji slap Anthy. She does not like it, but does not run downstairs to intervene. Utena is relieved when Touga intervenes: He rescues Anthy from being slapped again. He does not know that Utena is watching (he hasn’t noticed her yet), but it contributes to his princely image.

In episode 2, Chu-Chu anxiously gorges on too much cookie, fearful of Utena, and begins to choke. Utena helps by offering tea, which amounts to a rescue. After that, the two are soon friends. It is arguably an example of the grateful princess trope. It’s likely symbolic too: Anthy is choking on too much... something, and Utena helps her.

In episode 2, Utena rescues Anthy from Saionji who has come to take her back. In later duels, she sees herself as protecting Anthy—except episode 11, when she loses.

In episode 3, Utena rescues Anthy from Nanami’s trap at the dance party. Anthy accepts her role as a princess and is happy to be rescued.

In episode 6, Mitsuru rescues Nanami from troubles that he caused. Nanami asks him out, then (rather than accepting him as an underage boyfriend) uses him as a flunky. They are pretending to play the roles of rescuing prince and grateful princess.

In episode 6, young Touga saves little Nanami from a rampaging bull. The bull is associated with Zeus and suggests that Akio staged the event. Mitsuru is impressed and comes to want to be like Touga. Is this when little Nanami develops her incestuous fixation on Touga, via the grateful princess trope? It seems consistent, and little Nanami already has the coronet-like “I want to be a princess” hair.

In episode 6, when the boxing kangaroo attacks and the silliness meter maxes out at 999.99, Mitsuru saves Nanami from one punch, then distracts the kangaroo to save Utena and Miki. Then Nanami grabs Mitsuru and runs to save him. Touga tops them all and KOs the kangaroo, the only final rescue. The kangaroo images do not match the earlier horse and bull; it is different. It must be another false rescue; surely Touga and Anthy cooperated on the kangaroo attack.

In episode 9, Utena seems to rescue Anthy from her coffin as the dueling arena goes crazy. It is a false rescue staged by Touga as part of provoking Saionji.

In episode 9, Touga provokes Saionji into attacking Utena and rescues her from the attack. It goes a long way toward convincing Utena that Touga is her prince.

In episode 10, Anthy provokes Nanami by pretending to try to rescue Utena from Nanami’s accusations (Touga’s injury is your fault). Nanami predictably turns on Anthy instead.

After winning the duel of episode 11, Touga depicts Utena’s loss as a rescue from the nonsensical dueling system. She can drop the burden and just be an ordinary girl (as if that were easy for Utena). It’s a self-serving false rescue, but Utena accepts his authority and believes it... for a while. In the same way, she later accepts Akio’s authority and believes what he says, until the final showdown.

In episode 12, Wakaba tries mightily to rescue Utena from her depression, and finally succeeds in helping her.

In the episode 12 duel, Utena’s express goal is to regain her “self”. She wants to rescue Anthy from Touga. Touga seems to mostly ignore Anthy, but wants to exploit her for her supposed Power of Dios (and likely exploits her in other ways behind the scenes; see Chu-Chu - eating). But before Utena can rescue Anthy, Anthy is reminded of Dios and (whether deliberately or by loss of faith in her Rose Bride role) depowers the Sword of Dios, in effect rescuing Utena so that Utena can rescue Anthy. They are working together.

In Black Rose duels, Utena can be seen as rescuing her opponents from the effects of the malign black rose. I don’t think Utena sees it that way—except in episode 20, mentioned below. Utena believes she is saving Anthy from the duelists who swear to kill her.

In episode 15, Kozue tries to rescue Miki from (what she sees as) a predatory music teacher. We only see Kozue’s point of view, and I think we don’t have enough information to know if the music teacher truly is a sexual predator—though it wouldn’t be surprising. Her method is a physical attack, a form of vengeance, and it is ineffective. In Utena, vengeance does not work. Kozue may learn from her failure. In episode 26, she feels jealous but does not attempt vengeance (at least not until Akio manipulates her into supporting Miki’s duel).

In episode 16, Utena removes Nanami’s cowbell, rescuing her from a life as a cow. It’s presented as if it were a duel victory.

At the end of episode 19, we learn that Wakaba is putting up Saionji in her room. She rescued him from homelessness for selfish reasons.

In episode 20, Utena believes she is rescuing Wakaba from whatever malevolent force made her duel Utena. Wakaba does not see it the same way—but, this being the Black Rose, she forgets about it.

In episode 24, a new scene at the beginning (not a recap) has Mitsuru save Nanami from another horse as they walk to school. See down catalog - Mitsuru and Nanami.

In the episode 25 duel, Anthy draws Utena’s sword, rescuing the weaponless Utena from Saionji. Anthy advances Utena’s and Akio’s goals at the same time.

In episode 26, Kozue rescues nestling birds. We know it’s heroic because it’s insanely dangerous. In fact, she falls, and Miki catches her (as Utena tries to help). The rescuer Kozue needs rescue, just as Utena needs rescue after she vanishes from the Academy in the last episode.

In episode 30, Akio rescues Utena from the persistent teachers who are trying to get her to wear the girls’ uniform. It contributes to corrupting Utena. Akio is exploiting the grateful princess trope.

In episode 31, Akio stages an accident for Nanami (through Anthy, who does Akio’s dirty work), and rescues her from it.

In episode 34 in The Tale of the Rose, the fictional version of prince Dios rescues the princess from a monster, then from a dateless Christmas eve.

Later in episode 34, in the final version of the prince story, Akio playing the role of Dios rescues little Utena from the coffin that he in effect pushed her into.

A little later yet in episode 34, still in the prince story, Akio (as Dios) shows little Utena the trapped and tortured Anthy and says that she sacrificed herself to rescue the prince she loved. Utena is horrified. He claims that Utena might be able to rescue her someday. Akio sets up Utena as a rescuing prince, and therefore causes Utena’s later rescues. Of course, it’s all misleading; he doesn’t want or expect Anthy to be rescued, and in fact she is not. She leaves on her own.

In episode 35, Akio stages Utena’s fall from Touga’s horse and rescues her. It matches her princess fantasy so faithfully that Utena’s critical faculty (not hard-working to begin with) goes on vacation. Utena is sucked into the trope and loves Akio.

In episode 36, Touga fights a duel against Utena in an attempt to save her from Akio’s exploitation, and control her himself.

In episode 37, Nanami tries to rescue Utena from Anthy and Akio, “don’t you know you are being fooled?” By this point Utena does know it, though not fully, and does not want to be rescued.

In episode 37, Utena rescues Anthy from her fake suicide attempt.

In episode 37, Anthy tries to rescue Utena from Akio (telling her to flee the Academy) and fails. Utena does not want to be rescued.

In the final Revolution duel of episode 38, Akio is losing and Anthy rescues him by backstabbing Utena.

In episodes 38 and 39, Utena symmetrically tries to rescue Anthy from Akio and fails. Anthy does not want to be rescued either. Instead, each helps the other make a realization that leads to them leaving the Academy. Utena prefers cooperation and helping each other over exercising power to rescue another.

After the end of the series, if Utena survives then somebody will have to take her to a hospital. She will be unable to move under her own power. She will need rescue.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 23 May 2022
updated 2 May 2024