Utena not only compares events, it loves to compare characters to each other. In fact, I can argue that Utena has only one character, and the separate characters that we viewers think we see are aspects of the one. In Utena’s allegory, its one character stands for human society and its contradictory impulses. That’s one way of looking at it.
I aspire to eventually draw a chart of the web of character links. I doubt I’ll ever find all the links, let alone all the aspects of each link, but here’s a down payment. I say again: I seriously don’t believe this is all of them, or all the details behind each one.
If I could explain explain the reasons behind all the links, then I would know something about Utena!
Akio ~ Anthy. See Anthy ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Dios. See Dios ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Miki. See Miki ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Mitsuru. See Mitsuru ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Nanami. See Nanami ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Saionji. See Saionji ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Touga. See Touga ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Akio.
Akio ~ Wakaba. See Wakaba ~ Akio.
Anthy ~ Akio. Akio controls others by seduction. In the Black Rose, he assigns Anthy to control Mikage by seduction. Akio controls others individually by manipulation, and in general by promulgating cultural narratives. Anthy enjoys her work of manipulating others and promulgating Akio’s cultural narratives. Overall, Anthy is like Akio in some ways because Akio makes her be so—and in many cases Anthy agrees with Akio and enjoys her assigned work. Akio’s psychological control over Anthy is deep.
Anthy ~ Kozue. See Kozue ~ Anthy.
Anthy ~ Mamiya. See Mamiya ~ Anthy.
Anthy ~ Nanami. See Nanami ~ Anthy.
Anthy ~ Miki. See Miki ~ Anthy.
Anthy ~ Ruka. See Ruka ~ Anthy.
Anthy ~ Saionji. See Saionji ~ Anthy.
Anthy ~ Touga. See Touga ~ Anthy.
Anthy ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Anthy.
Dios ~ Akio. They’re the same person. Akio passes himself off as a prince, though he no longer is. Or perhaps he is a prince of hell, the opposite of a prince of good.
Dios ~ Nanami. See Nanami ~ Dios.
Dios ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Dios.
Juri ~ Nanami. See Nanami ~ Juri.
Juri ~ Ruka. See Ruka ~ Juri.
Juri ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Juri.
Kozue ~ Anthy. Both fear crowds. Both became corrupted by love of a sibling. This indirectly makes timid good Miki parallel to aggressive evil Akio!
Kozue ~ Nanami. See Nanami ~ Kozue.
Kozue ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Kozue.
Mamiya ~ Anthy. Anthy plays Mamiya in the Black Rose. Mikage sees Mamiya as resembling Anthy, even in memories from before the real Mamiya died.
Mamiya ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Mamiya.
Miki ~ Akio. Their siblings were corrupted by love of them.
Miki ~ Anthy. They have corrupt siblings. Kozue and Miki as a pair are parallel to Utena and Anthy as a pair, through their connections with Castor and Pollux of the constellation Gemini.
Miki ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Miki.
Miki ~ Wakaba. See Wakaba ~ Miki.
Mitsuru - Akio. Mitsuru is a weaker Touga, who is a weaker Akio. He tries to be a manipulator like Akio, but it’s beyond him.
Mitsuru - Saionji. See Saionji ~ Mitsuru.
Mitsuru - Touga. See Touga ~ Mitsuru.
Nanami may have as many comparisons as Utena. I have a ways to go.
Nanami ~ Akio. Both have an incestuous relationship with a sibling. Both are selfish power-seekers. Both are commanders, as indicated by their epaulets: Nanami commands her minions and Mitsuru while Akio commands Ohtori Academy. Both break a sword charging against a solid object. Both are rule-breakers; Nanami keeps fighting after her duel ends. Both are associated with the constellation Taurus.
Nanami ~ Anthy. Anthy is second to Akio. She incestuously loves him and is exploited by him. Nanami is second to Touga, who is parallel to Akio, and shares the relationship of incestuous love and exploitation. (Minus the incest, the same mechanism ties Saionji to Anthy). Both are jealous princesses and queens, associated with both powerlessness and power. Nanami takes action to keep other girls away from Touga but can’t keep most away, while Anthy is only sometimes allowed to take action against Akio’s lovers; neither can usually defend their target. Like Anthy, Nanami will murder out of jealousy: She kills the kitten in episode 10 and aims to kill Utena after losing her duel, like Anthy backstabbing Utena. The shadow play of episode 21 represents Nanami taking vengeance on Keiko, another equation with Anthy backstabbing Utena. The underlying reason for the Anthy-Nanami rivalry is Nanami’s close parallel with Utena, who is Anthy’s other half.
Nanami ~ Dios. Both lie on hay and transform into something dead due to intervention by Anthy. Nanami is sold to the slaughter in a dream, while Dios is put into a coffin as Akio.
Nanami ~ Kozue. Nanami turns into a cow. Kozue is compared to a bull. It is part of a parallel that connects the three paired characters Nanami (paired with Touga), Kozue (Miki), and Utena (Anthy). Nanami jealously tries to keep Touga out of any other relationship; Kozue jealously tries to keep Miki out of any other relationship. See siblings and incest.
Nanami ~ Juri. Episode 16 draws this comparison: Nanami and Juri both commit the sin of pride, as shown by their relationships with their jewelry.
Nanami ~ Saionji. See Saionji ~ Nanami.
Nanami ~ Touga. See Touga ~ Nanami.
Nanami ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Nanami.
Ruka ~ Anthy. Ruka and Anthy both provoke Juri to anger in their plots to manipulate her.
Ruka ~ Juri. Juri seeks the miracle of Shiori realizing Juri’s feelings without Juri having to speak them. Juri apparently accepts lesbianism as a socially prohibited topic; I expect her powerful family would consider it shameful. Ruka seeks the miracle of freeing Juri from her obsession with Shiori. He tries everything short of a miracle in episode 29, and Juri doesn’t even realize what he is trying to do. (Then Utena’s power of miracles grants the miracle in an unexpected way.) Both seek a miracle that helps Juri.
Ruka ~ Saionji. See Saionji ~ Ruka.
Ruka ~ Touga. See Touga ~ Ruka.
Ruka ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Ruka.
Saionji ~ Akio. In episode 9, Saionji fearfully calls on Touga to stop opening little Utena’s coffin. In episode 39, Akio fearfully calls on Utena to stop opening Anthy’s coffin. See opening coffins.
Saionji ~ Anthy. Anthy is second to Akio. She loves him and is exploited by him. Saionji is second to Touga who is parallel to Akio; he loves him and is exploited by him. (The same mechanism ties Nanami to Anthy.) Saionji and Anthy both tried to backstab Utena in fury. (Anthy succeeded.) Another parallel is set in episode 20 when Wakaba suggests to Saionji they should work together, along with episode 25 when Utena hopes to work together with Anthy. It indirectly ties Saionji to Anthy.
Saionji ~ Mitsuru. Both admire Touga and want to catch up with him in some sense. Both see Touga not only as ahead of them, but as more mature. Saionji is Wakaba’s prince, for the moment. Mitsuru is Nanami’s prince, briefly.
Saionji ~ Nanami. Saionji and Nanami are both second to Touga. They’re opposite in that Saionji becomes Touga’s lover, while Nanami does not.
Saionji ~ Ruka. Both read their opponent’s feelings from their swords.
Saionji ~ Wakaba. See Wakaba ~ Saionji.
Touga ~ Akio. There are extensive parallels between Touga’s actions in the Student Council arc, leading to a duel that he wins by trickery, and Akio’s actions in the Apocalypse Saga, leading to a duel that Akio wins by treachery. Both are manipulative assholes. They are opposite in that Touga is a rule-follower while Akio is a rule-breaker: Touga largely adheres to social conventions while Akio freely violates the conventions that he arranges for others to follow.
Touga ~ Anthy. Both are second to Akio. I suspect there is more connection than that.
Touga - Mitsuru. Mitsuru wants to be Touga, and in the shadow play of episode 6 he is indirectly compared to Touga: Mitsuru is a weaker Touga.
Touga ~ Nanami. Nanami is paired with her (actual or supposed) sibling Touga, but that is not their only connection. Both seek power and are turned back in the end by one more powerful. Both are associated with sound recordings.
Touga ~ Ruka. Both are manipulative plotting assholes with two-tone hair.
Touga ~ Utena. See Utena ~ Touga.
Utena ~ Akio. Akio claims truthfully that Utena and Akio are alike because both are rule-breakers. Utena breaks rules for personal idealistic reasons, while Akio breaks rules for personal selfish reasons: Both are self-motivated. (Utena does follow her own idealistic rules, until she is corrupted. Akio told her she was a rule-breaker to persuade her to violate her ideals.) Both want to be Anthy’s prince. Both are associated with the constellation Taurus. Both are cuckoos who cheat on their lovers, Akio also via his association with Zeus (since Zeus transforms himself into a cuckoo to woo Hera) and Utena also because she was not raised by her parents. They are opposite in that Utena is the main hero while Akio is the main villain.
Utena ~ Anthy. Utena and Anthy are named as parts of a whole, calyx and corolla. They are metaphorically two aspects of the same thing: They stand for all women. They are opposite in so many aspects (dangerousness, directness, energy, honesty, idealism, insight, knowledge of the situation, moral flexibility, optimism, power, realism, sportsmanship and sports skill, even wearing frilly clothing) because they fit together into one whole. Utena as prince forgives all others; Anthy as victim (subject to so much unwarranted blame) blames all others. Even their cuffs are complementary (picture). Their oppositeness means that a woman can be anything; she does not have to take on any fixed role. As one whole, they are in effect inseparable twins like Castor and Pollux. In the duel of episode 12, when Touga repeats Utena’s purpose “to take back your self,” the camera turns to Anthy because Anthy is half of Utena’s self—as well as because Anthy, and the promise Utena made to save Anthy, are what gave Utena the prince role that she accepts as her “self”.
By their mythological correspondences, both represent destruction and renewal: Utena with change, Anthy with continuity. Both are The Rabbit in the Moon (Utena, Anthy). Both have the powerful/powerless duality (Utena is prince and princess; Anthy is queen and princess). Both are special due to roles that Akio assigned them, Utena as heroic prince and Anthy as Rose Bride. Both lose their specialness when they escape Akio’s roles at the end of the series. Anthy is jealous of Utena being with Akio; Utena (once she learns of it) is jealous of Anthy being with Akio. Anthy’s jealousy is destructive and helps separate Anthy and Utena. Utena’s jealousy is creative: It arises in the final showdown and helps drive Utena’s victory. Utena’s bright pink hair and Anthy’s dark purple hair are related in hue and opposite in lightness.
Utena and Anthy are also tied by episode 9’s story. Anthy in a coffin at the dueling arena re-enacts the history of little Utena in a coffin.
Utena ~ Dios. They’re both heroic princes due to childish illusions, and possess the power of miracles. Dios is dead, while Utena is slated for death. They are opposite in other aspects: Sexist Dios prescribes cultural rules and has universal goals (save all girls and kiss them, as The Tale of the Rose puts it). Dios turns all girls into princesses. Utena is individualistic and has specific goals (rescue Anthy). Utena turns no one into a princess, though until episode 23 she would like Anthy to remain a princess—it is, ironically, what Utena is doing when she admonishes Anthy to leave the Rose Bride role.
Utena ~ Juri. Both seek a relationship with another woman (though Utena is slow to realize it). Juri’s obsession with Shiori is parallel to Utena’s belief in princes. Insightful Juri knows that she wants the power of miracles (though her attitude is conflicted); oblivious Utena relies unconsciously on her power of miracles. Both claim to disbelieve in miracles. Juri surrendering her duel and abandoning her obsession in episode 29 is parallel to Utena abandoning her belief in princes in the final episode, and both are the result of a miracle.
Utena ~ Kanae. Both are only children (Kanae, Utena). Both have a relationship with Akio, with dangerous results (Kanae, Utena). Both are associated with lilies (Kanae, Utena), because both are attracted to women. Both are naive about the real world (Kanae) and let themselves be manipulated. Both have domed epaulets, indicating their connection. The domes likely represent breasts.
Utena ~ kitten. The story of Nanami and the kitten in episode 10 is parallel to Anthy and Utena. Utena is a naive kitten, playing around batting at things with her claws/sword, who is slated for death.
Utena ~ Kozue. A close parallel. Kozue and Miki as a pair are parallel to Utena and Anthy as a pair, through their connections with Castor and Pollux of the constellation Gemini. In episode 15, Kozue cannot forgive the music teacher for (as she puts it) sullying Miki. She stops short, unwilling to describe exactly what she saw. In her determination to protect and/or avenge Miki, she is compared to a bull—when she is triggered, she charges. On the other side of the equation, the planetarium constellations of episode 33 equate Utena with Taurus the bull. In the final showdown, Utena shows the same determination to protect Anthy from Akio, and sticks to it despite everything. And Utena is also unwilling to describe exactly what Akio and Anthy did together in the planetarium room, leaving her thought unfinished in episode 38. In episode 26, Kozue carries out a heroic rescue of nestling birds and takes on a male role with respect to Miki, as heroic Utena takes on a male role with respect to Anthy. Kozue falls and is saved, as Utena sacrifices herself in the final showdown and needs saving. Kozue and Utena both accept positions of weakness and push controlling men away by the face. They are opposite in that Utena is largely good and Kozue is largely bad.
Utena ~ Mamiya. The two are related through Anthy, who plays Mamiya. Anthy and Utena are parts of a whole. Mikage sees Anthy as Mamiya and sees Utena as Tokiko, therefore Utena is indirectly Mamiya’s sibling.
Utena ~ Mikage. Both have pink hair. Both are tied to Anthy (Mikage through Mamiya as played by Anthy). Both wear princess gems. Both are sad and lonely (Mikage, Utena). Mikage correctly claims that Utena also seeks eternity (though Utena’s wishes are more complicated). Both end up “graduating” from the Academy. They’re opposite in that Utena wants to save the Rose Bride and Mikage wants to kill her (and replace her with... Mamiya, who is played by Anthy). They have opposite characters: Mikage is insightful, cynical, and manipulative, versus Utena who is oblivious and honest and loves individual freedom.
Utena ~ Miki. Gendermixed Utena has a parallel with androgynous Miki. Akio wants Utena and Anthy to be like Miki and Kozue in a certain sense: Utena’s promise in episode 25 and that episode’s shadow play are about teamwork. Akio compares Utena and Anthy to the constellation Gemini, the twins. The show’s twins are Miki and Kozue, who love each other but don’t get along. For Akio, the first step in breaking apart Utena and Anthy is to ensure that they are unable to work as a team. Utena and Anthy are halves of a whole. Utena is good and Anthy is bad. Miki is good and Kozue is bad. Utena and Miki are the only two characters that Anthy at times sees with idealized smiles when she regards them as safe.
Utena ~ Mitsuru. The shadow play of episode 6 indirectly compares Utena and Mitsuru: Both are ignorantly trying to exploit their situations to meet their goals, and failing, while being exploited by the more knowledgeable and powerful.
Utena ~ Mrs. Ohtori. Akio uses the same Cinderella routine in seducing each. He plans to murder both (Utena, Mrs. Ohtori). It’s a weak connection; that’s everyday behavior for Akio.
Utena ~ Nanami. A strong connection. Utena is in some ways equated with Nanami, and in some ways opposed to her.
The prince. Nanami episodes begin with Utena’s prince story. In her duel, Nanami says that her ring was given to her by her prince (Touga). In episode 31, when Nanami becomes convinced that she is unrelated to Touga, she gets a storm with lightning, parallel to the storm in the prince story.
Equal. Both are naive and jump to conclusions. Both seek power (Utena wants to be a prince; Nanami commands her minions). Both temporarily accept a loss of power regardless (Utena under Akio, Nanami with her cowbell). Both are in part princesses (Utena and her gem, Nanami), so they share the power versus princess duality (so does everybody else, but it’s particularly distinct with these two). Utena loves Akio; Nanami loves Touga who is parallel to Akio; both loves are bad. Both are symbolically placed in the confession elevator in the Apocalypse Saga (Nanami in episode 31, Utena in episode 38). Utena removes Nanami’s cowbell, but the constellations of episode 33 equate Utena with Nanami as a cow—and both are associated with the constellation Taurus. Both are associated with cuckoos. Both wear unusual multi-color shoes with bows. Both understand others better than themselves: In episode 1, Utena diagnoses that Wakaba likes Saionji in seconds, but does not realize that she herself likes Anthy until episode 37. Nanami is more extreme; compared to Utena, she is more perceptive about others and less about herself.
Nanami’s story in episodes 31 and 32 is a complicated parallel to Utena’s longer story in the Apocalypse Saga. I haven’t worked through the details, but large parts are becoming clear to me. Akio does the same to both of them: He separates them from Touga and from Anthy, performs a fake princely rescue in which Nanami is a mirror image of Utena, and controls them through sex. Deluded, they reject their own loves and choose to follow Akio. In the upper pictures, they have become more alone and more girlish. In the lower ones, they have ridden in Akio’s car. Nanami strikes a pseudo-sophisticated sexy “adult” pose in her duel, and Utena wears a pseudo-sophisticated sexy “adult” outfit after the Routine Date. Nanami becomes more thoughtful, as Utena does. Nanami’s thoughtful window reflection goes with Utena’s when she drops the ring. The sunrises of one-sided love in episode 32 and episode 36 are parallel.
The picture of Nanami from behind is parallel to the shot of Utena flopping back on the ground next to Anthy. They are images of being down while showing exaggerated female physical characteristics (exaggerated relative to Utena’s usual depictions). Utena is flat on her back and therefore farther down than Nanami. They are representations of oppression. Utena is even behind Anthy; that is new. In the two car pictures, Utena is again farther down than Nanami, and is being physically held down, and is inside the symbol of Akio’s power. They represent choosing subordination: Nanami is showing off, Utena decided by herself to lean back in the car.
Opposite. Utena wants to be a prince. Nanami wants to be a princess. Utena and Nanami both love Anthy, while Anthy loves Utena and hates Nanami. (Though in her backward world, Anthy treats Utena worse than Nanami: Her hoaxes of Nanami are not as bad as her placing Utena in Akio’s hands and finally trying to murder her) Nanami hates herself, while Utena is positive and believes in herself. Nanami feels that Utena is a love rival, apparently without realizing her feelings; Utena does no such thing. Nanami feels abandoned by her unknown parents (and in turn abandons the kitten and her egg), while Utena is sad about her dead parents but tries to stay cheerful (and does not abandon others). Nanami is a standard product of the system of control and reflects its evil, while Utena is oblivious to sex roles and is usually good. Both are selfish, but Utena is selfless when it counts most. Both are rule-breakers, but Utena breaks rules without intent to cause harm (until she is corrupted), while Nanami keeps fighting after her duel ends. Utena is the the rabbit in the moon: She sacrifices herself and gains victory in the final showdown. Nanami is the rabbit in the moon in reverse: She is sacrificed by Touga and defeated by Utena in the cowbell story. Nanami’s parallel with the rabbit in the moon is time reversed. Akio arranges “accidental” falls for both, and their limb positions as they fall are mirror images. Images of animal nose rubs shows the two opposite in every way (even agency—Utena rubs the horse’s nose while Mitsuru rubs the cow’s nose).
Utena ~ Ruka. In episodes 28 and 29, Ruka tries to free Juri from her obsession with Shiori. He uses complicated evil means and his plot fails. In the duel of episode 29, Utena unintentionally frees Juri from her obsession, by simple miraculous means. Utena’s duel with Juri is parallel to Ruka’s duel with Juri. Utena and Ruka are both slated for death.
Utena ~ Saionji. Utena and Saionji are rivals for Anthy. They have opposite motives: Utena feels friendship, love, and the desire to be a rescuing prince, while Saionji feels envy and wants to one-up Touga. Both are shaken by mentions of eternity and sometimes seem motivated to seek eternity, but in the end do not.
Utena ~ shadow girl with bow. The shadow girl with the bow in her hair plays a male character when there is one. When there is a character representing Utena, she usually takes that role.
Utena ~ Shiori. Utena and Shiori are parallel in that both have two loves at once, an unacknowledged unconventional true love and a realized, conventional, destructive false love. Neither understands herself. The parallel is about how convention, a part of the system of control, forces roles on people and conceals alternatives.
Utena ~ Tokiko. Mikage sees Tokiko in Utena; Tokiko is Utena’s mirror image. Tokiko treats Mamiya (played by Anthy) the same way Utena treats Anthy. The story of Akio and Tokiko is parallel to Akio and Utena.
Utena ~ Touga. Episode 9 draws a parallel between opening little Utena’s coffin in the church and opening Anthy’s coffin in the final showdown. Touga opens little Utena’s coffin and fails to rescue her from her self-imprisonment (and she later leaves it). Utena opens Anthy’s coffin and fails to rescue her from her self-imprisonment (and Anthy later leaves it). Utena and Touga both want to be gallant rescuers (well, Touga wants to show the appearance). Touga defeats a bull chasing Nanami in episode 6; Utena defeats Nanami as a cow.
Utena ~ Wakaba. See Wakaba ~ Utena.
Wakaba ~ Akio. Wakaba and Akio both seek Utena’s specialness, fiction-reading good-hearted Wakaba because she wants to be special herself, and realistic evil Akio for the same reason—he wants to steal Utena’s special power of miracles for himself. Both treat Utena as a lover, and aggressively seek her love, without truly meaning it. See Wakaba versus Akio over Utena and, for a reversal, foot catalog - Wakaba versus Utena. Wakaba and Akio both have tails of hair in front and behind.
Wakaba ~ Miki. Both are Utena’s real friends, although (this being Utena) both are led astray from friendship at times.
Wakaba ~ Saionji. Saionji continually presses his unwanted, misguided, and serious love on Anthy. Wakaba continually presses her unwanted, misguided, and playful love on Anthy’s other half, Utena.
Wakaba ~ Utena. Both are associated with fantasy (Wakaba reads fiction). Both sometimes express themselves vociferously (Wakaba, Utena). Both are honest and good at heart, but unable to be always honest or always good. Utena is a special hero. Wakaba wants to be special, and events at the end of the series suggest that she becomes the next special hero.
Jay Scott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
first posted 24 April 2022
updated 19 November 2023