Anime: Revolutionary Girl Utena
"Grant me the power to bring the world revolution!"Revolutionary Girl Utena
(Shoujo Kakumei Utena
) is a surreal shoujo
work that deals with the trials of a girl named Utena Tenjou, her loss of innocence, and her struggle to bring on the world's revolution.Utena
- A five-volume manga. Though chronologically the first version (serialization began in mid-to-late 1996), the manga and the anime were simultaneous projects.
- A 39-episode anime series. Aired in 1997 from April to December; considered the "core" canon.
- An original animated feature film. Released in 1999; considered an alternate continuity to the original series.
- A single-volume manga based on the animated feature. Considered yet another alternate continuity, as it diverges from the movie's story.
- A pair of light novels. One focusing on Miki, the other on Saionji, published in 1998; perhaps the most obscure part of the Utena canon, these make up another alternate continuity (though they bear the closest resemblance to the original manga).
On the day of her parents' funeral, seven-year-old Utena meets a prince on a white horse. The prince gives Utena a signet ring and says it will one day lead her back to him; overwhelmed with emotion, Utena decides that she too will become a prince. Seven years later, Utena (who now presents with a mix of male and female gender cues) has followed his trail to Ohtori Academy. When she attempts to defend her best friend Wakaba from an upperclassman, Utena becomes enmeshed in a swordfighting tournament with members of Ohtori's Student Council. The tournament's winner receives "The Power to Revolutionize the World" — and the hand of the demure and obedient Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya.
As Utena and Anthy slowly become friends
, Utena learns that her new "bride" has a connection to "End of the World", the mysterious force behind the sword duels. In the show's second arc (the "Black Rose" arc), acting school chairman Akio Ohtori takes an interest in Utena — and everything promptly goes to hell.Utena
lovingly includes, describes, averts, inverts, and subverts a sizeable number of anime tropes, most notably Stock Footage
(Utena's Once an Episode Transformation Sequence
) and Clip Show
episodes (two of the three contain major plot twists essential to the story). The series has a striking visual design pieced together by director Kunihiko Ikuhara
and influenced by Takurazuka, Noh theater plays, fairy tale imagery, and classic shoujo manga; it also features a lush soundtrack that mixes classical orchestral themes with outre choral harmonies and surrealist rock.
The show features commentary on (and references to) existing works, including — but not limited to — Rose of Versailles
, Carl Jung
, Sigmund Freud
, the House of Borgia, Paradise Lost
, William Shakespeare
, Ovid's Metamorphoses
, multi-episode obscure visual references to Manet, and numerous nods to the existentialist German war novel Demian
. Underneath these themes, Utena
tells a coming-of-age story that explores two curious notions: can someone stick to childish ideals in order to defeat an opponent who embodies adulthood? And can a girl made of frills and pink hair and flower symbolism break free of the expectation of becoming a princess, and instead take on the role of a prince?
The series also focuses on sex, although it doesn't use any explicit imagery. Incest becomes a major theme, and the series explores it from numerous perspectives; loss of innocence (sexual and otherwise) also becomes very important. At its core, though, Utena
follows the story of a friendship-turned-romance between two girls
who never expected it; director Ikuhara has even said
that the love between the two is the most important thing of all.
In contrast to the series' subtle and symbolic approach, the 1999 film Shoujo Kakumei Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku
(literally Adolescence Apocalypse
; known as The Adolescence of Utena
or Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie
to Western audiences) makes the romantic nature of Utena and Anthy's relationship explicit. The film changes most of the characters in drastic ways, both in terms of appearance and characterization. the storyline receives just as many drastic alterations, and fans consider it more of a recreation of the series than an adaptation. Utena: The Movie
became notable for its Gainax Ending
... as well as its Gainax Beginning and Gainax Middle
. One could construe the film as an allegory on Mahayana Buddhism, a take on Jungian philosophy, a look at gnostic belief
, or it could just be about lesbians
. That notability earned the movie a nickname that serves as a Shout-Out
to that other
infamous Mind Screw
of an anime film: The End of Utena
.Central Park Media
originally released both the full series and the movie in the United States. When CPM snagged the show's license, it dubbed the show's first 13 episodes, but failed to secure the licenses to the remaining episodes until years later, which created a huge gap between the release of episodes. The DVDs for those releases have since fallen out of print due to CPM's demise, but remain easy to find (albeit expensive) if you know where to look.
In 2011, Nozomi Entertainment
re-released the series across three DVD sets; these new releases used the show's remastered Region 2 DVD release as the video base and retained the CPM dub. (Nozomi also re-released the movie; it came packaged with the third set.) The series will eventually air on Viz Media's Neon Alley
streaming service. Manga Entertainment
(who shares a distribution deal with Nozomi) made the whole series (dub only) available in its entirety on both Hulu and YouTube
; it also placed the movie (dub only) on YouTube
published the entire manga series and the manga based on the movie, but those releases have fallen out of print with no word of a reprint or relicensing.
At Kobe Animation '97, the anime series won the "Best TV Animation" award. A previous work by Chiho Saito
, may have served as the inspiration for several of the themes and tropes in this story.
Oh, and one last thing you'll want to remember: Word of God says all
interpretations of Utena
's symbolism hold true.
Revolutionary Girl Utena contains examples of the following tropes:
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- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Almost every episode, the Council members ride in a fancy elevator to meet in a rose-decorated tower to discuss the upcoming worldwide revolution. Then they swordfight for a chance to control said revolution. That's about as absurdly powerful as you can get. Beautifully subverted when it turns out that Akio and Anthy created the Duels for for the sole purpose of benefiting Akio, and not even Utena really had a fighting chance to become the final Champion as long as Anthy remained the Rose Bride.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Anthy can power up the Sword of Dios/Utena's soul sword; included in said power-up is this property, although it's only demonstrated during Utena's duels with Touga. To put it into perspective, Utena's powered-up soul sword can easily split approaching cars without them losing velocity.
- Accidental Marriage: Utena and Anthy, though it's more like an "engagement".
- Action Girl: Utena, Juri, and the other female duelists.
- Adaptation Distillation: The movie-manga cuts out most of the actual movie's weirder symbolism (most notably the cars) in order to tell its story in a more straightfoward fashion.
- Adaptation Dye-Job:
- Utena started in the manga as a blonde, but was given pink hair in the anime and later manga volume covers and illustrations. Her eyes also varied between being brown or blue in the early colored artwork, but stuck as blue after her hair changed to pink.
- Anthy also originally had dark brown/black hair in the manga, but it was changed to violet in the anime and later colored illustrations, while her eye color changes from brown to green. Other hair color changes included Juri going from being blonde to having orange hair (while her eyes changed from brown to blue), and Touga's hair changing from black with red bangs to red with one paler forelock. Miki's hair also was originally brown in the first color illustration of him, but quickly changed to blue to fit with the anime (as did his eyes).
- Utena's uniform was also originally pink in the manga (though she receives a black uniform as a plot point in the third volume), but Ikuhara vetoed the idea of it carrying over to the anime. Chiho Saito explained in an omake that he gave her the choice of having Utena wear black or red in the anime; while she picked red, he settled on giving her black.
- Anthy's Rose Bride dress was originally white with blue trim, but changed to red in later manga illustrations to match with Ikuhara's color choice.
- Adaptational Wimp: Movie-Akio. Series-Akio is an inscrutable and seemingly invincible Magnificent Bastard, giving him a sizeable Draco in Leather Pants following in the fandom. Movie-Akio is presented as a much more foppish and blatantly pathetic character, and he toppled out of a window after freaking out over the fact that his sister hadn't been asleep when he was molesting her.
- Adorably Precocious Child: Mitsuru Tsuwabuki.
- Age-Appropriate Angst: Played with. Though most of the cast are teenagers, reasons for angsting and levels of angst will vary depending on the personality and maturity levels of different characters. Then it's played straight with Akio and Anthy, who've lived for what's implied to be centuries and have universal problems proportional to their humongous ages.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Sadly lampshaded by Juri, who remarks that people would be much happier if they could simply change the objects of their affections.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Towards a certain Mysterious Waif... Don't expect her to take everything lying down, though. And Nanami would've fared better if she'd known that Anthy has faced far, far worse than any bullying her little group of schoolgirls could've come up with.
- All Take and No Give: Akio and Anthy's relationship is a twisted and messed up play of this trope. Akio has the position of ultimate power, not just in the relationship but in the whole Ohtori, while Anthy is at the lowest buttom of the social power's pyramide and it's at her brother's hands; but he's powerless without her and she knows it and in exchange of the power she gives to him, she manipulates him to get attention and some kind of "affection" from him in a manipulative masochistic tango.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": The Movie might as well be called "That Anime Where A Girl Turns Into A Car"
- Alpha Bitch: Nanami for most of the series. Juri in the manga.
- Alternate Continuity: Subverted with the manga and the movie. Although they do tell their own stories, they also work in a kind of symbolic sequence that seems to indicate a connection of some kind, like how Utena gets her series' outfit partway through the manga, or how the characters in the movie have kept some character development from the series. The movie-manga plays this straighter, being a more normal and rearranged version of the movie's scenes.
- Anachronism Stew: It's a fairytale story using roles like princes and witches, while taking place in a setting practically made of symbolism that roughly corresponds with a modern one, that has characters who are implied to be aliens and there's even a hint of the undead.
- And the Adventure Continues: The anime ends with Anthy departing on a quest to find the missing Utena.
- Animals Hate Her: Nanami.
- Animation Bump: The Stock Footage is stock footage, yes, but it's all very well-animated.
- Anti-Villain: Nearly every character that can be considered a villain at any point in the story is this except for Akio.
- Anything That Moves: Touga (although he's mainly into girls) and especially Akio.
- Ambiguously Brown: Anthy and Akio. Also, Dios.
- Arc Words: All over the place, to the point where the show occasionally throws in parodies of its own arc words for humorous effect.
- "Revolutionize the world!" and numerous variations. ("[Grant me] the power to bring the world revolution!", etc.)
- And also appearing in the sword-pulling sequence, "Rose of the noble castle, by the power of Dios that sleeps within me, heed your master and come forth...!"
- End of the World, used to refer both to the mysterious individual and the actual event.
- The Absolute Destiny Apocalypse, both the name of the transformation sequence's song and what Anthy repeats in every "next time" preview.
- The Shadow Play Girls have "Kashira kashira! Gozonji kashira?" and "Gogai! Gogai!", both Japanese phrases which are used in several different contexts in their plays.
- Various mentions of "endless motion" and other forms of repetition.note (Which is a motif that the overuse of arc words ties into.)
- From the Student Council arc (and also somewhat the whole series): "If it cannot break out of its shell, the chick will die without ever being hatched. We are the chick, the world is our egg. If we don't crack the world's shell, we will die without ever truly being born. Smash the world's shell!note "
- Most of the Student Council has their own special words: Saionji's "something eternal"/"that which is eternal", Miki's "shining thing"/"that which shines", and Juri's "the power of miracles".
- From the Black Rose arc: "Deeper... go deeper..." and "The path before you has been prepared.note "
- From the Akio arc: "There, can’t you hear it? If your soul has not truly abandoned all chance for hope, then you can hear the sound that races through the End of the World. Follow us to the world you seek!" and "I now reveal the End of the World... to you."
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Snails in her pencil box... A mongoose in her desk drawer... A giant octopus balloon in her closet! And now shaved ice for dinner?! You're making me sick!"
- Artistic Age: Type 1. It's easy to forget that Utena, Wakaba, and Nanami are 14 years old, looking about the same age as their 16-18 year old upperclassmen. Makes for added Squick during Akio's seduction of Utena
- Ascended Extra: Nanami, a major secondary character in the anime, only appears in a photo in the manga, where Juri more or less takes her place. By that association, because Juri has some of Nanami's traits in the manga, Shiori as an ascension in the anime also counts.
- Ascended Fridge Horror: A good rule of thumb with this series is that if something, especially a relationship, seems a little fucked up at first glance odds are it's not only exactly as bad as you think it is, but worse.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Possibly Utena, in the end of the series and manga.
- Author Avatar: Chu-Chu. This is Ikuni.
- Autobots, Rock Out!: With Ominous Latin Chanting to boot. Try not to enjoy the Black Rose Arc songs.
- Back for the Dead: Ruka.
- Backstory: Everyone has one.
- Tsuwabuki, of all people. Sure, the main characters spend pretty much all their free time having sword fights to bring about the World Revolution (Whatever the heck that means), but all they ever really do is try to knock something off each other’s shirts. Nine-year-old Tsuwabuki, on the other hand, gets jumped by three high-schoolers, and he takes them all. That kid has got spunk.
- Hell, Utena herself. Even outside of the duels, she's a really tough chick both in personality and in physical ability. She can jump, she can punch, she's a demon on the basketball court, and she can beat trained duelists with broken swords, bamboo practice swords, and a pitchfork. And let's not get started on the truly epic move she pulls in the last episode...
- Badass Boast: The songs during the duels sometimes contain these, like "My children, astronomical planets - five solid bodies are my descendants". Sometimes they're the namesake of the song, like "I Am All the Mysteries in Creation" or "I Am An Imaginary Living Body".
- Bastard Boyfriend: Saionji, Touga and Akio are cold, and diffident to the Rose Bride, and to other women.
- The Beautiful Elite: Almost every major character (except, notably, Anthy) has a scene where they are being admired by a crowd of lovestruck onlookers (of both genders). This usually happens when they're first introduced.
- Bifauxnen: Utena, particularly in the movie.
- Big Bad: End of the World/Akio.
- Big Brother Attraction
- Big Brother Instinct: Averted. Dios ignored Anthy when he was too busy saving the rest of the world. Then he became Akio and decided that he wouldn't mind having his sister stabbed by swords for all eternity.
- Subverted with Touga, who outwardly indulges Nanami but ultimately sees her as a toy like he does with most girls.
- Played with with Miki, who wants to have a relationship with Kozue, but no longer knows how he can do that.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Between Utena and Anthy at the end of the movie.
- Big "NO!": Kanae at the moment of her defeat
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Chu-chu has them. And he's supposed to be cute.
- Bishounen: Roughly the entire male cast.
- Bittersweet Ending: Utena has disappeared and the entire campus will eventually forget about her. But the revolution did occur—Anthy is inspired to finally end her cycle of abuse, and go out into the world to find Utena again. And the rest of the Student Council seems to have, if not had their own revolution, at least resolved their issues.
- Bloodless Carnage: There aren't any injuries that would be accompanied by noticeable blood until the final episodes, but none of them feature the puddles of blood that they should.
- Bloodier and Gorier: The manga, surprisingly enough, is much more violent than the show in a couple scenes, despite the manga usually being Lighter and Softer. Utena brutally cuts a large gash in Akio. Even the movie-manga's painting scene has the paintings melting in a bloody-looking way.
- Blood Sisters: Utena vows to protect and support Anthy no matter what the cost, but being a Mind Screw show, just getting there is half the battle...
- Book Ends: The very last episode features a montage of "everyday" scenes paralleling events that happened to Utena and the other characters throughout the last year. As Anthy points out, the ending is not as bittersweet as it initially appears — the character dynamics that Utena changed are things that can't be undone.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: More or less literally — the asparagus sandwich may never be the same.
- Break the Cutie: Everything's Better with Princesses? I don't think so. Weaklings in Utena either stay weak and get into severe trouble, or they try to seize power in incredibly unscrupulous ways.
- Break the Haughty: Everyone's haughty to some degree, but no matter how it seems from the outside, Akio does not live a happy life.
- Brick Joke:
- One of the shadow plays features a scientist and her robot, which every now and then mutters some nonsense about catching monkeys. A few episodes later, there's an entirely unrelated skit with talking animals, and it ends when a robot appears out of nowhere and kidnaps the monkey.
- In the first episode, Utena asks Saionji why there's an upside-down floating castle in the middle of the forest. He says, "It's a kind of mirage. Think of it as a trick of the light." Thirty-seven episodes later, Akio turns off the planetarium projector.
- Bright Castle
- Brilliant but Lazy: Played with in Miki and Mikage. Neither are completely lazy, but they do not reach their full potential in the series.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Wakaba and Saionji take on this role in her Black Rose episode. It goes horribly wrong, of course.
- Brother-Sister Incest: No! Don't be repulsed! The incest is for Deconstruction! Not Fetish Fuel! Miki and Kozue, Nanami and Touga, Anthy and Akio. The first is implied and the second never gets explicit. Akio and Anthy, on the other hand...
- Broken Bird: An overt example is Juri. She's the reason Ruka comes back for the dead. A more unconventional example is Anthy. Also, Kozue and Shiori.
- Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: They're all over the place, especially in the movie.
- Butt Monkey: Nanami and Saionji, throughout the filler episodes.
- The Casanova: Touga, Akio.
- Catchphrase: Goes with the stock footage.
- Chalk Outline: The arena during the Black Rose arc becomes filled with red silhouettes of dead bodies. Rather creepily, whenever a Black Rose duelist is defeated, they collapse perfectly into one of the silhouettes.
- Remember where Mikage gets his Black Rose Seals...?
- Character Development: Everyone gets some over the course of the series.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: You don't want to know what it did to Dios and Anthy...
- Cinderella: Subverted, of course. At first, Keiko seems to follow this tale straight to the point of parody, Nanami being a sorta "evil stepmother". But then her attitude to her "prince" appears to be much more "rose-bridish" than "cinderella-esque". And as she gets close to Touga at last, she switches roles with Nanami, starting to humiliate her. To crown the subversion, she ends up beaten and "princeless".
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Nanami, Kozue, Shiori, and tragically Anthy.
- Clip Show: Episodes 13 and 33 summarize the first and third arcs, respectively, while surrounding the clips with intrigue, surrealism, and plot twists. Episode 24 is a humorous version, and compiles all of Nanami's Butt Monkey moments as diary entries written by Tsuwabuki.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Anthy sometimes appears to be one, mostly near the beginning of the series.
- Clothing Damage: During the second duel with Touga. Also happens in Utena's duel with Saionji in the movie.
- Colour Coded Characters: Each major character has a color associated with them. Each color, in turn, represents the biggest emotional problems they face. Similarly, Utena's white rose when she faces Black Rose Duelists is a classic case of White Hat Black Hat.
- Conspicuously Light Patch: Utena's locker in the Black Rose arc.
- Continuity Nod: The shadow play girls talk about a monkey-catching robot in episode 22. It makes later appearances in episodes 24 and 31.
- Cool Car: Akio's car, which appears several times starting in the third act and becomes a major motif. The movie has a hypertrophied pink Batmobile-like vehicle with two modes. It's actually Utena, after she's transformed in the world's most intense car wash. Also in the movie are Kozue, Shiori, the black cars, Wakaba and (exaggerated to terrifying effect with) the entire castle.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The series really toys with this trope. There's the deity Dios, a literal prince on a white horse, who occasionally comes down from the heavens to give Utena his strength. The antagonist is Akio ("Morning Star", as in, Satan), who clearly defines himself as Dios' evil counterpart. It turns out they were once the same person, who was worshiped as a god in a medieval society, but unable to listen to everyone's prayers and fulfill his duties as a deity. His sister Anthy took the blame and was symbolically crucified as a Jesus-figure, still to this day feeling the pain of her punishment, but absolving the people of their sins.
- Custom Uniform: The duelists' uniforms are in non-standard colors, with custom tailoring and military decoration like braid and epaulets. Utena's Non-Uniform Uniform gets pimped out to the point of Custom Uniform when dueling. The transformation is part of the standard duel intro sequence.
- Damsel in Distress: Subverted. Anthy is introduced as one, but it is eventually shown that there's more to her than it first seems. Different characters shoved her between the different stereotypes until it finally occurred to Utena that her personality didn't have to be so flat. Meanwhile, Utena is in constant danger of becoming one herself, and everyone else has deep psychological problems which they must either be saved from or save themselves from. Failure in either is is what Akio counts on to keep them in the Duels.
- Dances and Balls
- Dark Mistress: Kanae. Poor, poor Kanae.
- Dead All Along: Mamiya and Mikage in the series, Touga and Akio in the movie and movie-manga, and Chigusa in the game. The boundary between life and death is flexible in Ohtori, it seems.
- Depraved Bisexual: Akio is the manipulative kind who will seduce Anything That Moves as long as it will help his cause.
- Despair Event Horizon: ''Everyone will suffer''. Only some will survive, and Akio is not among them.
- Discretion Shot: We are mercifully spared seeing Nanami wearing a nose ring.
- Disposable Fiancée: Kanae is either a hilarious invocation or an inhumanly cruel straight example of the trope, depending on how you watch the show.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Keiko offers her umbrella to Touga. Nanami's response? Remove her from all her clubs, positions of power at the school, and every other group she is involved with and basically ruin her life. Nanami loves her big brother...
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Done several times throughout the series, though a particularly notable example is the filler episode "Nanami's Egg," a metaphor for the onset of puberty.
- Domestic Abuse: Saionji and Akio are particularly abusive to Anthy. The Movie features a particularly disturbing scene of incestuous rape involving Touga and his adoptive father.
- The case with Akio is more complex than it seems at the first glance. It's not physically abusive (in the conventional sense, at least), and emotionally, the two torment each other bitterly, even as they share shallow expressions of affection. Akio is in the position of power, but on the other hand he's utterly dependent on Anthy, and she knows it. It's a crazy, messed up relationship of passive aggression and emotional cruelty. It's Anthy who ultimately desires to break the chain of abuse, and Akio who tries to cling to it, however; Utena is the impetus for Anthy finally breaking free and leaving Akio behind.
- Downer Ending: Most of the Black Rose episodes end with the Black Rose duelist happier off and with some Character Development for their trouble; Wakaba's, on the other hand, ends with her coming to see Saionji has left as she mutters an "I'm home" to herself.
- The Dragon: The Student Council, and later Mikage.
- Dramatic Irony:
- The entire Black Rose Arc. Especially for Wakaba.
- Akio's plan to open the Rose Gate hinges on Anthy taking the Swords of Hate in his place so he can gain world revolution. Let's just say he's doing it wrong.
- Driven to Suicide: Seems to be the case with Akio in the movie and the movie manga. Anthy also attempts this in the series.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Akio in the movie.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!:
- Kozue to Miki, when he's fallen asleep at the piano.
- Subverted in the movie, where Anthy is pretending to be asleep.
- Miki does this to Utena in the manga, when she's taking a nap on his couch.
- Duels Decide Everything: But like everything else, it's subverted.
- Dysfunction Junction: Yes like whoa.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The ultimate goal of all the Duelists is to literally gain the power to "bring the world revolution". How and why is an entirely different matter, but the Student Council model sums it well enough.
Touga: If it cannot crack its eggshell, a chick will die without being born. We are the chick. This world is our egg. If we cannot crack the world's shell, we will die without being born. Smash the world's shell!
All: FOR THE SAKE OF REVOLUTIONIZING THE WORLD!
- This could be one of the interpretations for the ending of the movie.
- Elaborate University High: It is sometimes difficult to tell where Ohtori Academy ends and the town it inhabits begins.
- Elevator School: Ohtori covers elementary through high school.
- Emotionless Girl: Anthy, although the trope is twisted and subverted in every possible way the way. After all, this is Revolutionary Girl Utena.
- Even the Girls Want Her:
- Utena's got a legion of fangirls at Ohtori, and Wakaba goes so far as to call Utena her "boyfriend".
- Juri seems to have this effect on female fans.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Akio's Super Seduction Skills lets him seduce most of the major cast... unless it really is just a ride in his car.
- Just a ride in his car? Oh, come on. It's Akio.
- Everyone Is Bi: Most everyone is canonically or hinted at being bisexual, although lip service is paid to heterosexuality as being the norm ("I'm a totally normal girl who wants a totally normal guy!"). Hilariously lampshaded when Touga, who is sleeping with Akio, tells Nanami, his sister, that only boy/girl romance is normal. And proceeds to make out with her.
- Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Utena. Anthy, and to a lesser extent Juri, are implied to have the potential.
- Extreme Doormat: Anthy. Subverted when we find out that her emotionless personality is just a cover for her collusion with her brother, double subverted when she actually is an Extreme Doormat to him, though she passive-aggressively rebels every step of the way. In any case, she's far from emotionless to the point where some fans consider her worse than Akio. She theoretically can rebel against her destiny as a fallen princess / Wicked Witch, but has to choose between eternal torture and returning to the outside world which brought about her torture into the first place.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Subverted. Since when is being a helpless waif better!? When the alternative means being stabbed by a million swords, that's when! And what's worse then that? When the princess in question is so psychologically traumatized and resentful of the experience that she'd rather be tortured for all eternity than re-enter the outside world!
- Evil Laugh: Saionji does this a few times. His English voice actor makes it rather crazy.
- Lady and Knight: A big theme. Also what Anthy and Utena are to each other.
- Ladykiller in Love: Touga, but it depends on whether you think he's really in love with Utena or not.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Wakaba's speech during her duel about how Utena, Anthy and the student council are all so important actually seems to be her jabbing not at them being important to Utena, but rather that they are the main characters.
- Lethal Chef: Anthy, who cooks up not poison but explosives with magical side effects. Unless she's making shaved ice, which is safe. Subverted with Akio, whose magnificent cooking skills only belie his Big Bad status. In the comic, it's Chu-Chu's fault.
- Let's Get Dangerous: The Black Rose arc is pretty much comprised of the supporting cast bucking up and trying to kill the Rose Bride. Many a jaw dropped when this included Tsuwabuki and even Wakaba.
- Like Brother and Sister: Miki and Juri's friendship has some hints of this; Fanon and fanfiction have been known to take this in non-platonic directions.
- Literal Metaphor: "Utena is the vehicle through which Anthy escapes from Ohtori". Then the movie came along...
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Akio, Touga, and Saionji.
- Loophole Abuse: Ain't no rule a girl can't wear a boy's uniform! This is given more detail in the manga, where the exact rule Utena is manipulating states that a student must wear a uniform from the school's designer. It may not be the usual boy's uniform, but it's by the same designer, all right.
- Love Dodecahedron: *Deep breath*:
- Utena idolizes Dios and loves Anthy but gets tempted by Touga and sleeps with Akio, who is engaged to Kanae and sleeping with Kanae's mother.
- Anthy mourns Dios, has love/hate feelings towards Utena, sleeps with Akio, and is pursued by Saionji and Miki.
- Saionji, who may-or-may-not return Wakaba's feelings, also may-or-may-not love Touga.
- Touga may-or-may-not love Saionji back, but seduces hordes of schoolgirls anyways, attracts both Keiko and Nanami and appears to fall in love with Utena. Also, Touga sleeps with Akio, and Miki in the light novels.
- Wakaba loves Saionji and maybe Tatsuya, who definitely loves her. She also develops a schoolgirl crush on Akio later, and she may-or-may-not love Utena in more than a platonic way.
- Tsuwabuki loves Nanami, but Nanami has feelings for Touga, who has no problem with kissing her.
- Mari is jealous of the attention that Tsuwabuki pays to Nanami and Tsuwabuki may-or-may-not like Mari back. Interestingly, Nanami seems to be jealous of Tsuwabuki's friendship with Mari, in spite of being in love with Touga.
- Kozue fools around with lots of boys, sleeps with Touga (and quite likely Akio as well - at the very least, she goes on a date with him and rides in his car) and kisses Anthy at one point, but actually loves Miki; meanwhile, Miki may-or-may not also be attracted to Kozue, and loves Anthy at least in part because he thinks of her as an idealized version of the person Kozue once was. Miki is also implied to be molested by his piano teacher, at least until Kozue pushes him down a flight of stairs.
- Mikage nce loved Tokiko, who was seduced by Akio, and now loves Mamiya, who is Anthy in disguise (kind of).
- Meanwhile, Juri, Shiori, and Ruka have their own love triangle all to themselves, but Juri also has lots of subtext with Utena, and Juri may-or-may-not love Miki in the movie, and Akio manipulates the emotions of all of the above to keep them in the Duels.
- In summary: Akio sleeps with half the cast.
- Love Redeems: Anthy to a huge extent, and Touga to a lesser extent, though whether or not the latter makes a full Heel-Face Turn is up for debate.
- Love Triangle: Juri-Shiori-Ruka and Utena-Anthy-Akio are the main ones. Then they're the smaller canon ones, and the smaller non-canon ones, etc... The Juri-Shiori-Ruka one is a particularly messy one for being about a non-titular character. None end well, though that observation is extremely debatable.
- Loving a Shadow: Everyone but Akio. Let's see..there's Miki-to-Kozue, Juri-to-Shiori, Shiori-to-Ruka, Saionji-to-Touga, Nanami-to-Touga, Touga-to-Utena, Utena-to-Dios, Utena-to-Anthy, Saionji-to-Anthy, Miki-to-Anthy, Mikage-to-Anthy, and finally Utena-to-Akio and Anthy-to-Akio for a time. Had fun reading that? Fortunately, all of the relationships are examined and have well-developed backstories to keep them from being repetitive. Not to mention that no two of them evolve the same way. Utena/Anthy is especially unique.
- Madonna–Whore Complex: Deconstructed. "Women who cannot become princesses have no choice but to become witches."
- Magical Girl: Deconstructed. The defining trait of all Super Sentai Magical Girl series is that altruism and unconditional love will always save the world. However, the biggest prince in the story became the Big Bad in part because he was incredibly altruistic, and all of Utena's strength and purity can't save one Damsel in Distress if said Damsel won't break away from centuries of abusive habits to save herself. Also, Utena is more of a Magical Warrior than a conventional Magical Girl.
- Malevolent Architecture: In the movie, the castle. It's actually all on wheels which constantly move and try to crush whatever is going through them.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Akio
- Manipulative Bastard: Akio, also a Magnificent Bastard. Touga aspires to be like him, Ruka tries to be like him for moral reasons, and Mikage believes himself to be one and succeeds for the entire second arc.
- Memento Macguffin: The Rose Signets, Juri's locket.
- Mental World: The arena takes on aspects of this during the Black Rose arc; it becomes filled with school desks and atop each one are identical copies of some item important to Utena's opponent.
- Mind-Control Eyes: Black Rose duelists.
- Mind Rape: With everyone. Even Akio suffers.
- Mind Screw: Everything in the series can qualify if you think about it.
- The movie. It is called End of Utena.
- Let's just say that the series becomes more and more of a Mind Screw with each arc. It starts pretty normal, starts losing it in the Black Rose arc, and becomes a metaphor/symbolism storm in the final arc - and the movie is a mental trainwreck, plain and simple.
- Misplaced Wildlife: In episode 8 Nanami and her Girl Posse go to India and are repeatedly menaced by African elephants.
- Monochromatic Eyes
- Mood Whiplash: The filler episode with the boxing kangaroo is followed by an episode where an Ensemble Darkhorse agonizes over her sexuality. This is followed by a Freaky Friday episode, which is followed by a flashback where eight-year-old Utena hides in a coffin and begs to die.
- More Than Mind Control: The Black Rose Saga, and Akio does everything in his power to keep doing this to Anthy.
- Mrs. Robinson: This is just Akio's Anything That Moves at work, but he and his mother-in-law-to-be definitely get it on. Poor Kanae.
- Mundane Made Awesome
- Surreal shows are full of dramatic flourishes and objects suddenly appearing in thin air. Touga, Saionji, and Akio are particularly found of this kind of Fanservice, and Utena loves dramatic poses to show her powerful, princely nature.
- In episode 21, Keiko hands out party invitations by whipping them like throwing stars.
- Virtually every Nanami episode will have this to some extent.
- The Musical: A one-off musical was made.
- My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Played with. Fighting ability varies depending on the user's motivation, but having superior sword skills definitely still helps.
- Mysterious Waif: Definitely Anthy, nobody else will ever be as complex.
- Never Grew Up: Ohtori Academy is apparently a twisted version of Neverland. Akio, Mikage, and (possibly) Anthy chose to stay, and the metaphor for "growing up" is "graduating".
- Noblewoman's Laugh: Nanami.
- The Nondescript: Played for drama with Wakaba, who is notable because she's pretty much the only "normal" person in the main cast. Over time, this causes her to feel very unhappy with herself, and she becomes desperate to break out of that role and become someone "special".
- Non-Human Sidekick: Chu-Chu.
- Nonuniform Uniform: Utena wears a version of the boys', not the girls' uniform. She justifies this with a loophole in the student handbook: technically, the only dress code requirement is that students buy items from school-approved lists. There is no written requirement that all the pieces come from the same uniform set, nor is there any rule against custom dyeing or tailoring. The standard boys uniform is a light-green jacket and pants; Utena's jacket (with darts and nipped waist) is dark blue, and she wears it with tight red shorts from the gym uniform. In the manga her uniform was originally bright pink top and bottom.
- Noodle Incident: What, indeed, were Tsuwabuki's strategies for winning Nanami's heart? Especially Plan 24...
- Noodle People
- Not Blood Siblings: Nanami is crushed after finding out she and her brother Touga are both adopted and not blood related after all. This is then subverted when it turns out that Touga was just playing with her head — while they are adopted, they were adopted from the same family and thus actually are blood siblings. For the record: This is the Double Subversion of the inversion of a trope — a prime example of how Mind Screwy this show is.)
- Even further subverted in that Nanami never finds out the truth (or if she does, it's never shown onscreen).
- Not Just a Tournament: The winner of the Rose Duelists' tournaments will hand over the godlike power of Dios to Akio, then be promptly disposed of.
- Oddly Visible Eyebrows
- The Ojou: Nanami.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Voices chanting "aaah-aaah-aaah-aaah" in the "Nectar Knife" song is beyond creepy.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: "Idea of Memory" and "Legend: The God's Name Is Abraxas".
- My God, What Have I Done?: Nanami get's one when she dropped the box with the kitten she gave to Touga in the river. She tries to justify it to herself by claiming that it was stealing her brother's affections from her, but she does not seem to be able to convince herself at all.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In the episode "Nanami’s Egg", Nanami and Touga have a conversation where she asks him if he would prefer a boy or a girl. Nanami talks about a kid (which she thinks will get hatched from an egg she got...It Makes Sense in Context); Touga thinks she's talking about boyfriends and girlfriends, so when she says she would like a girl, Touga ends up thinking she's a lesbian.
- On The Next Episode Of Catchphrase: "The absolute destiny, apocalypse."
- Ontological Mystery: In a loose sense.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Utena's ring.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Mikage in the series and Chigusa in the game. Touga, and possibly Akio in the movie. Different in what way? Well, they seem to manifest from other people's memories of them. In the movie, Utena has to say goodbye to Touga for him to pass away completely, and shortly after, Anthy has to realize that Akio doesn't restrict her anymore for his ghost to disappear. This is made more obvious in the movie-manga, where Anthy actually tells the Akio ghost that he's only in her head, causing him to turn into roses.
- Though she isn't dead, Anthy herself may possibly be some form of projected phantom. Her sudden disappearances and reappearances in the final episode, along with the reveal of her actual body being sealed behind the Rose Gate would seem to make this almost explicit.
- Out-of-Clothes Experience: Anthy is in the nude as she takes the swords of hatred.
- Palette Swap:
- The first ending credits sequence gives Utena a pink version of Anthy's dress, which she actually wears in episode 38. The third arc gives a blue dress to Kozue and a purple dress to Shiori.
- Akio and Anthy wield a black version of the Sword of Dios/Utena's soul sword during the endgame.
- Parental Abandonment: Utena herself, the Kiryuu siblings and the Kaoru siblings. The parents that are not dead or absent are simply not mentioned.
- And then there's Kanae's mother, who, even though she's one of the only parents to appear, manages to show in one short scene that she's abandoned her daughter in a way more heartbreaking than the rest of the casts' families put together.
- Personality Blood Types: Discussed by Nanami and her Girl Posse, and later by Nanami and Utena.
- Person of Holding: Anthy initially, but Utena and the other duelists also become this.
- Pimped-Out Dress: A few, like Anthy's dress for the duels, and the dress Utena wears in the introduction.
- The Pornomancer: Akio, and to a lesser extent Touga.
- Post Modernism: You think a story like Utena could have been written any earlier?
- Princess Classic: Anthy as the Rose Bride is a deconstruction. She has no control over her future and it's passed to the current winner of the duels. Not to mention, when she confesses a desire of learn to cook like Wakaba, Touga laughs at the idea of the Rose Bride cooking and that her only priority is taking care of the roses. Like a princess who it's just there to be pretty.
- Primal Scene: Nanami walks in on Akio and Anthy.
- Prince Charming: Series Metatrope. The Prince is the term given to the Utena Knight in Shining Armor equivalent. He always has to save the day; he has to be perfect. If not...
The concept also turns out to be a deconstruction: Akio (yes, Akio) used to be this through and through, as Prince Dios, but when he couldn't hack it anymore, he became the Big Bad, who still used the image of a Prince Charming to manipulate those around him. (i.e, seducing women and men for his own purposes, posing as Dios to comfort little!Utena when at her lowest point) But Wait, There's More!: Utena tried to invoke the trope and protect Anthy (the aforementioned deconstructed Princess Classic), and it turned out she wasn't doing it for Anthy's sake, but more to feel good about herself, and she REALLY regrets having done such a thing in the end.
- Pun-Based Title: The "Freaky Friday" Flip episode is titled in Japanese as "Curry-naru High Trip"; the "curry-naru" ("karē-naru") is a play on "karei-naru" ("magnificent").
- Take My Hand: The ending.
- Take Our Word for It: Steadily less of the action of the fights are actually shown during the third arc.
- Take That: In the movie, Akio referred to the Princess role for Anthy as being a "living corpse" which is actually the perfect way to describe that trope in general. Most princess are described unflatteringly as nothing more than waiting for a Prince to come and save them but in the movie, Anthy defies her role beautifully. More subtly, the Castle in the movie looked a lot like a Disney-esque castle.
- Tech Marches On: Akio's omnipresent car includes a car phone. Back in 1996, this luxury helped emphasize how rich and important he is. Now... not so much.
- Teen Genius: Miki, also Mikage.
- Temporarily a Villain: Pretty much all the Black Rose Duelists are normal (or at least morally grey) people around the school who have a really, really bad day, and decide the best way to fix things is to kill the Rose Bride.
- Theme Music Power-Up: The car chase scene in the movie.
- Theme Naming:
- In French, but the themes overall are more complex than usual.
- Lots of references to flowers and botany are made. "Utena" (萼) means "calyx", which is the part of the flower that protects the petals. "Ánthos" (Anthy) is Greek for "flower".
- There Are No Therapists: Holy cow...
- Subverted with Mikage, whose 'seminars' involve him listening to the problems of the character attending, similar to what a therapist or counsellor would do. The problem is that the therapy he administers is Mind Rape.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Utena with Anthy and Utena with Nanami.
- To the Batpole!: Goes with the Stock Footage.
- Tournament Arc: The whole series. But don't you dare try calling it cliche!
- Tragic Hero: Utena, Anthy, Dios, Ruka, Juri, and Mikage can all be argued.
- Transformation Sequence: Changes slightly between the first and second arcs; the third arc has a completely new one.
- Travel Cool: With Akio and his car, it's played way too straight in the series, yet subverted in the movie where he has lost his key and takes a taxi.
- Troubled, but Cute: Saionji. Kozue is a rare female example.
- Twincest: No! Don't be repulsed! The Twincest is for Deconstruction! Not for Fetish Fuel! Also only really present in the movie.
- Triumphant Reprise: The very end of the show, when Baiser slams into "Rose & Release", which is Okui Masami scatting to the tune of the opening theme. After everything that has happened, it is incredibly joyous.
- Two-Teacher School: Akio's the only authority figure who really matters.
- Umbrella of Togetherness: Between Keiko and Touga in episode 21. Obviously Nanami will have none of it and expels her from all extracurricular organizations and has the rest of the Girl Posse ostracize her, which drives Keiko over the edge and causes her to become a Black Rose duelist.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: While most of the student body has a touch of this, it's most obvious in Utena herself, who spends almost zero time investigating the supernatural events that are happening to her regularly. She appears to believe that the best way to handle her classmates trying to kill her and Anthy, in the midst of physics-defying weirdness, is to simply go about her regular routine. A normal person would be interrogating the Council, talking to the principal, or calling the cops.
- Valley Girl: In the English dub, an unnamed Ohtori student never really seen onscreen speaks with an exaggerated valley girl dialect. Most of the time she's relating gossip about Shiori and Ruka. Apparently, "the whole school's talkin' about it."
- Villainous Breakdown: Averted somewhat in that instead of going Ax-Crazy upon losing his second duel against Utena, Touga simply sits down in a chair. And stays there. For thirteen episodes.
- Real Life Writes the Plot. His voice actor temporarily left to work on other series. Plus, it made his re-entry into the third arc all the more dramatic.
- Villainous Incest: Take a good guess who.
- Villains Out Shopping: Happens with the student council members in the filler episodes, and to the point of eeriness with Akio near the end of the series.
- Voices Are Mental: In the "Freaky Friday" Flip episode.
- Wham Episode:
- For the first part of the series, you can almost convince yourself that the whole show is going to be interesting, but mostly fun and lighthearted. Then during Episode 9, we have a flashback to Utena more or less trying to kill herself when she was eight, the Upside-Down Castle nearly coming down and taking Anthy with it, and Saionji attempting to kill Utena and Anthy both. And then you can't.
- Episode 33, a Clip Show episode, which by its nature lulls the viewer into a false sense of boredom. And then Akio has sex with Utena, and you've missed it if you blinked.
- Episode 34, in which the Shadow Girls interact with the main cast for the first time and casually reveal the entire real plot thus far. And it's horrifying.
- Wham Line: In the movie, Miki asks who Touga is, while Touga is right behind him. We soon find out why Miki would ask that: Touga's been dead for years.
- What the Hell, Townspeople?: Sure, townspeople! Go ahead and stab your Messiah with a million swords just because he worked himself sick trying to help you ungrateful bastards! What, he's hidden away? No worries! Just stab his sister with the million swords instead! They represent us. Think about that.
- Wicked Witch: Series Metatrope - Anthy is implied to be either a Wicked Witch or a Damsel in Distress.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Utena. And Dios before he became Akio.
- William Telling: Episode 11 features the Greek Chorus playing out William Tell, albeit with the "son" pointing out that it's the 37,919th time in a row the apple has been shot, with the "father" saying that they'll keep going until somebody stops them. There's some point about being trapped in a destined eternal horror.
- Wooden Katanas Are Even Better: The bamboo training sword Utena uses to win her first rose duel.
- Word Salad Lyrics: The soundtrack has a bit of a problem with this.
Astrologic eras, primeval oceans, erosion, deposits
Three billion years, birth of life, geologic eras
Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian
Stromatolite, bacteria, collenia
Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous
- The duel songs for the first two story arcs (except for Mikage's duel) weren't written specifically for the show, and most of the ones that were manage to be even more obtuse than the ones that weren't.
- They do, however, sometimes offer commentary on the plot and its themes. One such song comments on the binary principle and the gender binary.
- World of Symbolism: Rule of Symbolism is really the only unbreakable rule in this story.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Ruka sees himself as Prince Charming in a series that has an ambiguous relationship with the concept.
- X Meets Y: Twin Peaks meets Sailor Moon.
- Yandere: Nanami towards Touga, Anthy towards Akio, Kozue, Shiori etc.
- Yaoi Guys: Mikage and Mamiya, though it gets complicated. Akio and Touga (and maybe Saionji as well) get into it later on, but most interactions like that aren't exactly lovey-dovey.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Other than Wakaba (reddish-brown hair), Keiko, Tokiko (both have brown hair), and Tatsuya (dark brown hair), all of the characters that are majorly involved at some point have outrageously colorful hair:
- Utena, Souji: Pink
- Anthy: Purple
- Akio, Mamiya, Dios: Lavender
- Touga: Red
- Saionji: Green
- Juri: Orange
- Nanami: Canary yellow
- Miki: Light blue
- Ruka: Dark blue
- Kozue: Indigo
- Shiori: Raspberry
- Kanae: Pale green
- Mitsuru: Dark yellow
- Chigusa (from the Sega Saturn game): Teal
- Zettai Ryouiki: Shiori in the movie. Nanami's duelist uniform also features it.