The student council platform is a stage, as the curtains flanking its entrance tell us. See playing a role. Seen from inside the tower, the entrance to the stage looks the same every time. Seen from the outside from a distance, the exit from the stage looks the same except for minor details like color balance. Seen from a point of view on the stage, the exit’s appearance is different in every episode—sometimes minutely, sometimes significantly. Every play on the stage has a new backdrop.
Here are sample views from a distance, showing the slight differences (color balance, sharpening, position in the frame). The rose emblem is tricked out to resemble Ganymede’s water jug, pouring water over the stage. The water is notionally poured by Utena and represents illusions. Of course Akio is the real source of the illusions; Utena is only an intermediary. The Student Council is made up of duelists, so the closest connection is the water that pours when Utena opens the forest gate.
Here are the views from close up. I got one from each episode that has one (except that I skipped episode 35 as a duplicate of 36). In a couple cases it would have been possible to see a little more of the design by taking more than one picture, but this should be good enough. There are three basic designs. None of the designs matches the water jug, but they all have pouring water.
Design 1 appears only in the first episode, before the Student Council knows about Utena. The blue down the sides is the pouring water. The colors above are pastel shades of the council members’ colors. The raised edges are organic and rose bush-like, rather than concrete-like as the later edges are. The backdrop design is a stylistic match with the guard of the Sword of Dios, which points to Anthy. I take it to mean that the pouring water is tied to Anthy (see her epaulets, which pour water from Ganymede’s jug), not yet to Utena.
Design 2 after Utena’s debut duel turns the droplets blue; they’re water and tied to Utena. The central rose is pink for Utena. (We did not see the rose of design 1. If parallel, it was Anthy’s color, red.) The colors are more saturated, perhaps for Utena’s boldness. The rose emblems are very similar to each other, but no two are identical. For example, in the rainy episode 18 version, the topmost “water drops” in the falling water are blue, and elsewhere they are not. Even the two views in episode 25 are not identical. The design goes with the guard of Anthy’s sword, which points to Utena.
A budget-limited show will not redraw backgrounds without reason. See above, where not only the towers but the clouds in the two views are the same (and remain the same through the last similar view in episode 26). The differences are surely intentional. I don’t know what they mean, other than that all this Student Council stuff is artificial—but see unstable locations.
Design 3 changes the coloring pattern of the rose emblem, the hooks at its top, and the design of the blue “water” below it. The views in episodes 35 and 36 are the same, so I included only one. The two remaining are different in detail. They are more like each other than they are like design 1 or design 2, but they are not identical.
Design 3 has less water pouring down. Utena and the Student Council members are not free of illusions, but they are making progress.
This particular orange sunset is for endings, one-sided love, and miracles, all three.
Jay Scott <email@example.com>
first posted 13 January 2022
updated 25 September 2023