Utena - Black Rose arc

Yuuko. <- PreviousNext -> Final showdown.

In progress. There is a lot to say about the Black Rose, and I will say some of it. But there’s still stuff I haven’t figured out.

Black Rose duel combat - duel symbols - stabbing the black rose - Mikage’s sword - Mikage’s costumes - Mamiya’s costumes - unattended offices.

events

The Black Rose is told out of order, with its earliest events shown in its last episodes, 22 and 23. Here are the major events in story order, as best I can tell. I expect to add more. There seem to be deliberate inconsistencies in events around Tokiko and Mamiya. So far I have attributed them to Mikage’s memory failing. His memory is shown to be faulty, but I suspect there is more to it. I’ll try to decipher the clues and figure out what the inconsistencies mean.

• Akio makes separate deals with Mikage and 100 boys to research the dueling arena, starting with how to enter it. He separates them into different groups that do not communicate, so that only he has an overview of all they are doing. Compare how he isolates Utena from others, so that he can control her securely.

• Mikage and Tokiko are in love with each other, but (like Utena and Anthy) misunderstand, communicate poorly, and don’t get together. There are complications here that I don’t understand.

• When the research is done, or nearly so, Akio (no doubt using his overview knowledge) suggests the final missing piece to Mikage, in a way that will keep Mikage and the 100 boys out of his hair in the future. Death is the strongest form of isolation.

• Akio seduces Tokiko to impel Mikage to carry out his suggestion.

• Mikage does: He burns down his building, killing himself and the 100 boys. With his death he becomes the ruler of the dead, with an underground lair where the dead boys are stored in drawers. Curiously, when a boy who died by fire loses a duel, his body is destroyed by fire.

• Akio has Anthy play Mamiya to manipulate Mikage into using the black roses. But this seems to be out of order: The false Mamiya was already manipulating Mamiya in preparation for Akio’s plot to control Utena while Mikage was alive.

• Akio exploits Mikage to train Utena’s power of miracles in duels. The duels are lessons in school, with school desks arrayed in the arena/classroom. Utena starts out behind the desks in the student position, and her opponent is in front in the teacher position.

• Utena wins the training duels, one after another.

• When Utena visits Mikage before the final duel, the young Tokiko passes by on her way out, leaving Mikage and the Academy. Before we see that, the decades-older Tokiko visits Akio to cheat on her husband. The scenes may be out of order. What is the actual order of events?

• Utena defeats the endboss Mikage in the final duel. It is not a training duel, because Mikage starts out in the student position behind the desks and Utena is in the teacher position. I think its main purpose is to get rid of Mikage, who is shown to be very confused. Akio tells Mikage the truth, so that Mikage graduates and becomes adult. But Mikage is dead, so unlike Utena he doesn’t really escape the Academy.

• The Black Rose is revealed as a dream. Everybody wakes up from it and forgets the events. But the events did happen, and their effects remain. In the same way that everyone forgets Mikage and his events after he leaves the Academy, they forget Utena and her events after she leaves, but Utena’s revolution is no less real. It’s a sign that Utena is dead after she leaves (she is actually half dead).

confession elevator

The elevator where Mikage interviews his prospective victims as he lowers them to his underworld lair. I don’t remember whether I learned the term elsewhere and kept it, or made it up myself. Anyway, since then I have compared it to Catholic confession and concluded that it doesn’t have much in common. I thought it might be like Jungian analysis, but that’s not it either as far as I can tell. A goal of Jung’s was to bring unconscious information into awareness, but victims in the confession elevator don’t notice their unconscious desires.

See reflections - confession elevator for a few details.

Nevertheless, the regression of the butterfly back to its egg symbolizes a return to childhood and an examination of the origin of the victim’s disorder. In Utena everyone is messed up, and the confession elevator interview brings their disorder into the light. That is, the darkness. I think all Mikage needs to do is determine that his victim is disturbed enough to be taken over by a black rose. All are, except Tatsuya.

Every victim has a different reaction to the confession elevator and Mikage’s lair. Utena characters are varied and complicated.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 11 May 2024
updated 15 May 2024