When she introduces Akio, Anthy mentions that she goes to visit her brother (secretly named Dios) on Sundays, drawing on an immediate but subtle allusion to theistic worship.... specifically that of a religion that believes in a human incarnation of God.
Due to their Bait and Switch tendencies, I never really paid much attention to the opening or closing credits — until the final arc of the show, when we discover that Akio used to be Dios... and is boinking his sister Anthy. Suddenly, the slightly-unsettling shot in the closing credits of Anthy wrapping herself around the Prince in a possessive and sexual way takes on a good deal more significance. Especially when you consider that they were foreshadowing this since the very first episode. — JadedLady
Another thing that the opening credits foreshadow is Anthy stabbing Utena. As well as the reason why. Towards the end of the opening, you have Utena turning and bringing her blade to her face. The person she turns to is Anthy, with the background turning red. What also begins to happen is the arena under their feet begins to crumble. Anthy sees Utena as a threat when she threatens her world view, and her position thereof. Utena becomes a danger when true change becomes a possibility, and not before. —KeeperofTales
At first I thought that Anthy having a lot of pets and taking care of animals was just a hilarious character quirk. But after seeing understanding her character, it took a sinister edge as enjoying the company of animals rather than the company of people... —P0W4H-L4D33
After watching The Movie with a friend and thus being able to bounce ideas off of him, a lot of the seemingly crack-induced symbolism suddenly started to make so much more sense. Just to give one example, look at the scene where the girls are scrubbing down the empty swimming pool. It seems like a completely random location, and Anthy even says something to the effect of "it's only normal to get wet at a pool" despite the fact that no one is swimming, but remember that this is one of the few places in the movie where Utena meets Touga. Think about it. If you had drowned while rescuing a young girl from the same fate, would you want to be near a large amount of water while more girls, including your ex, who has been suppressing the memory of watching you die, were nearby? For bonus points, the scene even cuts away with the image of water filling up the screen as a lone shoe floats upward... —Roses Spindle
At first I disliked the "Animals hate Nanami" episodes and found them rather pointless. Then I understood WHY animals hate her: It was all Anthy's doing as a revenge. Calling her pets "Nanami" was probably some kind of magic. It can also be seen as karma: She drowned a kitten when she was very young, and now mother nature is out to get her.
When I began watching the series, I thought the theme song was about Utena learning to be a prince through protecting Anthy, what with all the scenes of her looking into Anthy's eyes, fighting for her, and the lyrics ("I will find out who I am, the value of being me"), not to mention that all the shots of them being pulled apart seemed to be foreshadowing a Bittersweet Ending. Then came the finale, and I realized that the song is from Anthy and about Utena, and the legacy she passed on to her; "take my revolution" referring to leaving Ohtori to find Utena, like how Utena became a Prince to save younger Anthy and everything she learned from watching the duels. - Ms Devin 92
And one more, but this is a small one. In Keiko's Black Rose episode, there are some overt Cinderella references made, with the other members of the Girl Posse as her wicked stepsisters and Nanami as the stepmother keeping Keiko and her prince apart. Then I re-watched the duel and realized that Keiko's umbrella was orange...like a pumpkin!
The show is filled with Fridge Brilliance. Who are the girls in a stereotypical fairy tale? Damsels or witches. Anthy ends up playing both roles, representing her status as a Fallen Hero and Dios counterpart. That's why everyone was upset at Utena becoming a prince, she was defying the tropes to a fairy tale that Akio wrote. The whole story works on fairy tale logic because a fairy tale character wrote it.
In fact part of this is spelled out in the play retelling Anthy and Dios' backstory: "If you can't become a princess, you're doomed to become a witch."
This is possibly my favorite piece of Fridge Brilliance in the show: after every duel in the series, bells ring to signify Utena's victory. In the last episode, the bells ring only after Anthy walks out of Ohtori and saves herself.
The ending of SKU also casts a reflection on the ending of the other two arcs: in the Black Rose arc, with Mikage leaving Ohtori and being erased from everyone's minds, and in the Student Council arc, with a "helpless damsel" fighting for and eventually saving themselves.
In the first recap episode, most first-time viewers assume that the shadowy figure Akio is talking to is Dios — or the spirit of him, at the very least. If you pay very close attention, though, you can see Anthy's silhouette as they walk out of the planetarium at the very end. And then when Utena asks where she was, Anthy smiles and doesn't answer.
When Utena duels Akio, the castle begins to crumble when Utena brandishes her sword and tells Akio sheíll become a prince. Used to anime conventions, I first assumed that the castle was breaking down due to the power of Utenaís convictions, if not her words. But then the camera shifts subtly to Anthy, who looks totally lost, and it becomes clear that itís because of Anthyís perceptions being completely thrown about.
In the very first episode, Saionji tells Utena to think of the castle as a mirage, a trick of the light. Utena dismisses him, but in the end, thatís exactly what the castle ends up being all along. Also, the viewer is disinclined to believe Saionji about the love letter Wakaba gave him — Utena accuses him of pinning it up, and he claims that he didnít. Since he comes across as a total jerk, no-one assumes he was telling the truth, but in retrospect, it makes perfect sense for Anthy to have been the one who pinned it up instead.
Speaking of Saionji, his flippant dismissive comment to Wakaba about the hair pin and how he'd buy her something better when he was back at Ohtori can seem extremely callous but think about it a little more - his friend is Touga and he's surrounded by people who have wealth and privilege. Of course to him there's no inherent value in a handmade pin!
Why is Anthy scared of crowds? If you know how she became the Rose Bride, now you also know why she was so terrified during the champagne and dissolving dress incident.
When I watched the movie, I was surprised to see Utena with short hair when not dueling, then I thought this was made to make her look like a man, but then I noticed her hairstyle... She has the same hairstyle as Tokiko (Mamiya's sister), and Mikage DID call Utena "Tokiko" during their duel! It wasn't only to raise her Bifauxnen status, it also counts as Genius Bonus.
Why do they find Akio's body right after Utena's duel with Juri in the movie? Juri's nickname on campus is apparently "The Prince," and by defeating her, Utena has effectively killed the prince of Ohtori.
In the movie, during his first scene with Shiori, the first thing we see of Touga is when he's sitting on a chair under a white sheet that falls off him. What else tends to be kept under sheets? Corpses.
The first time I watched the show I was a little bothered by Yuriko Fuchizaki's performance as Anthy, just because she sounds way too old for Anthy and much more like an adult woman than the rest of the high school cast. It was only on later viewings that I realized this was exactly the point, since Anthy's only pretending to be young and innocent, so having her sound like what she really is was yet another hint about her true nature.
Tatsuya's nickname, "Prince Onion". At first I thought it was just something humorously random, but then I read his character entry. Apparently it means "second-rate", so Tatsuya must be crappy prince. However, he's rejected to become a Black Rose duelist due to his pure heart, and he's the only one Mikage calls a truly good person. Guess what the antagonistic characters are often affectionately referred to as?
His rejection seemed a little bit odd. However, if one looks at his background it makes sense. He's a transfer who was indirectly rejected by his love. Mikage couldn't of used him in the first place, since Tatsuya is new to Ohtori and doesn't know anyone important except Wakaba (who later became a Black Duelist due to her infatuation with Saionji). Another point is that Mikage knows what it's like being heartbroken since the woman he loved was kissing Akio. In Mikage's mind, Tatsuya is innocent based on sympathy for his pain. — Usag17suk1n0
Why are the "Kage Shoujo" (Shadow play girls) associated with flying saucers and even described as aliens by the director himself when they are physically human? Fairy tales have been largely replaced by science fiction stories, with magical creatures being replaced by aliens and the like. Who better to dissect a story concocted by a fairy tale character than beings from the replacement genre?
There's also the fact that they don't interact very much with the main cast, meaning that their segments are somewhat alien to the main plot, in their own outside-context.
Akio didn't look that much older than Anthy when both were kids, but now Akio is unmistakably an adult and Anthy, voice aside, can easily pass for a teenager. That's not just a product of the fairy-tale logic that the story runs on (pay attention to the fax machine and 20th century clothing that the mob wears), it's also a product of what these two symbolize. As an archetypical adult male, Akio is powerful, mature on a superficial level, and unmistakably not a child. Anthy represents the female archetype, which sees the ideal woman as passive, submissive, nurturing and childlike, as something to be fawned over. She passes as a teenager due to what she represents.
Why, in episode 38, Anthy suddenly dissapeared from her Rose Bride gown to be showed in the little red dress she wear when she became "a witch"? Because she have been acting as Akio's princess all this time, but Akio then recognized Utena as his princess. Now without prince once again, she have no other option than returning to be the witch. When Utena rejected the idea that the only way the story could end was with her being Akio's princess, Anthy once again could take the role.
In the show we learn that those who leave Ohtori are forgotten about, but we know that isn't the case with Utena cause unlike when Mikage "left" the students could clearly remember her name. This shows that the revolution has indeed occurred.
Most of the show seems to be set up specifically in such a way that the only characters who ever actually leave Ohtori (discounting flashbacks) are Mikage and Ruka, who outright are dead/die, and Anthy and Utena after the revolution, with various other characters shown to be moving on with their lives within Ohtori as well. Even Saijonji, who leaves early on, is later shown to have never left in the first place, and certain lines from the Black Rose arc imply that time isn't exactly flowing for the students within. In other words, the revolution did exactly what the student council said it would do - it "smashed the world's shell", metaphorically speaking, and allowed the students to live their lives after childhood, truly being born.
General consensus seems to be that the spinning roses throughout the show, and similar themes relating to spinning such as the opening and phrases such as 'endless motion', don't really mean much other than they just happen to be a recurring motif, but what is a synonym for a spin or a rotation? A revolution.
Oh, and there's also the fact that Akio, who is Really 700 Years Old, is posing as the principal of a high school where he frequently coerces the students into sex in the back of his Cool Car... while he's driving. He even slept with three students on-screen (Anthy, Touga, Utena) and was engaged to another one (Kanae, whom he had POISONED)!
Speaking of poor Kanae, the last we see of her in the series is in episode 32, when Akio and Anthy are poisoning her with slices of apple; she doesn't even appear in the montage near the end of the final episode that shows just about every other character. This may suggest that by the end, Kanae is either very sickly, outright comatose, or even dead.
Utena and Anthy switch bodies in one episode. The switch lasts for at least a couple of days, if not a week. And once a week Anthy goes to visit her brother... Therefore, it's highly likely that Akio got a taste of Utena far earlier than even she thought. And without her consent.
Not necessarily defused, unfortunately. It's actually Anthy in Utena's body that Akio may have had a "taste" of; it's likely that Anthy would still have come to him on Saturday night despite the body switch, and who knows if he would have kept his dick to himself then. Granted, taking Utena's virginity at this early stage might be detrimental to his plans, as already mentioned, but he could potentially have done all sorts of things to Utena's body while still leaving her a Technical Virgin (he's definitely not above sodomy, for instance) and poor Utena would've been none the wiser when she got her own body back.Brr.
Also, even if he did stoop so low as to engage in vaginal sex with Utena's unwilling body, there would not necessarily be any evidence of her having lost her virginity. For example, bleeding during one's first intercourse is far from universal, and much less common than many people believe. But yeah, either way, brr.
When Saionji is hiding in Wakaba's room during the Black Rose arc, he talks about having had nowhere to go, no friends, no money and so on after he was expelled from Ohtori. Notably, he makes absolutely no reference to going home or having any family. Based on this and his general abusive behavior, some rather sad conclusions could be drawn about his home/family situation. (It's fairly popular fandom speculation that he may have come from a background of domestic violence, for example.)
Sort of sitting in-between Fridge Brilliance and Fridge Horror is the fact that Anthy can only make snack foods, while Akio is a Supreme Chef all around. You'd think that Anthy, the resident Girly Girl, would be a good cook, but the masculine Akio completely blows past her in that area. There are two explanations for this, one considerably darker than the other. The first is that it draws attention to the idea that, while women cook, men are the real chefs. The second can be summed up with a simple question: Why would Akio want Anthy to have the idea that she can support and take care of herself?
This might have another level of Brilliance. Anthy has many hidden witch-like qualities, although she appears to be a princess type. Keeping that in mind, Anthy can't cook, even if tradition dictates it as a classical part of the feminine role, but she can make stuff like potions and poisons, for instance, the curry that changes bodies.
A more simple theory is that in literature, Witches are known to make all types of tasty treats to lure the innocent into their domains. Anthy being able to make nothing but snacks, is a foreshadowing of her being a witch. And the fact that she makes the snacks for Utena is even more frighting.
When Ruka Tsuchiya came into the picture, one of the actions he took to try "freeing" Juri from her Shiori-centered self-destructive spiral was attempting to molest her. Taking in consideration that Juri is a lesbian or at very leastsuper-fixed on a female, this deal can be easily seen as Ruka using borderlineCORRECTIVE RAPEon Juri: she's obsessed with a girl, he sexually assaults her, she drops said "obsession" and turns to him. (Or would turn, since Ruka is dead by the end of the episode).
Immediately after the sexual assault, Ruka reveals that he's gotten hold of Juri's locket, then drops it to the floor and threatens to crush it under his foot — which begs the unsettling question of when and how he got it off her in the first place, especially since Juri always keeps her locket under her clothes!
Even more disturbingly, there's some speculation that Ruka actually did rape Juri in Akio's car. Between the abovementioned sexual assault and the car scene, Juri challenges Ruka to a fencing duel and says that if she loses, she'll do what he wants. She does lose. Later, in the duelling arena just before Ruka draws Juri's sword, she acts strangely quiet and subdued. Think about it. Granted, the theory relies heavily on the assumption that every Akio Car scene is a stand-in for sex (and Juri's car scene is one of the least sexualised of them all) but the possibility is still there, and it's completely horrifying.
One action that Ruka took as part of his plan to discredit Shiori was having sex with her in the back of Akio's car. It always struck me as completely unnecessary, and it seemed like all it did was give the fandom an excuse to slutshame an already extremely unpopular character — but then it occured to me that that could've been exactly why Ruka did it: to give himself an excuse to see poor Shiori as a whore. It's one more example of Utena's fourth wall being flexible.
Even more twisted, it very likely that Ruka loses his duel on purpose just to give more of a reason to bring down Shiori. Considering he was smiling at the end of the duel and looked so calm seems to strongly indicate this. What an asshole.
During the last episode after Utena's sword shatters on the Seal we hear Akio mention that her sword won't workeither. Emphasis on that last word. At the end of the show he's planning to start new duels. Exactly how many times has this happened!? Considering the people targeted, his modus operandi and that his plan requires him to guide an unusually noble young person to the final duel and then take their sword and use it to try to smash through the Seal how many people have been mentally raped, coerced into sex of dubious (if even that) consent, blackmailed and possibly murdered? And after each failure he tries again. —GrantMK2
Believe or not, this can actually get worse. Utena breaks the seal without a sword, using her emotional strength. Therefore, it's quite possible that no sword can break the seal, rather the key being emotions or some such. (Alternately, some weird magic stops Akio specifically from doing it: it must be done by the person the sword came from). How does this make it worse, you ask? If Utena and no subsequent victims broke the seal, this would continue forever.
Actually, building on this, there is another thing to be considered. Anthy's last words to him include the sentence, "By all means, stay in this cozy coffin of yours and continue to play prince." This is a Take That at first glance, but on second thought, it's not. See, Dios is 'dead'. Akio is the 'corpse' left from the Prince. Therefore, his world, the Ohtori Academy is where he is buried. But why is his coffin 'cozy'? Because Akio actively works to damage, break or corrupt the "noble heart" he specifically told Utena not to lose when baiting her as a child, implying that he had done this to others, because it's the only way to rob them of their power and make them princesses-in-distress. The line, "As expected, she caused no revolution to occur" supports this, in that he was expecting there to be no revolution, he had set it up that way. The fact that the seal is broken not by a sword but rather by the "noble heart" Utena was supposed to retain points towards Akio's "I want to regain the power of Dios" a self-inflicted delusion, as what he really wants is what Anthy snarks at him for - to repeat the cycle forever.
We actually do see an older group of duelists much earlier than the last episode implies they exist - the 100 boys of Nemuro Hall. They were all given rings back when they were alive, which makes one wonder that if Mikage hadn't burned them all, if they would have participated in a much, much larger dueling tournament than the one focused on by the show.
What authority figures do we see at Ohtori, besides Akio? They include: a sexist jerk (a.k.a. that guy from episodes 7 and 30), an old woman with incredibly backwards values (a.k.a. the guidance counciler) and an implied paedophile (a.k.a. Miki's piano teacher). With all that in mind, it's not unreasonable to assume that Akio must deliberately employ these kinds of people in order to further reinforce patriarchal values and oppress the students.
Even worse, with all these bad authority figures it makes Akio look like the only trustworthy adult and thus putting him in a huge position of power. And as we know, Akio is not trustworthy at all.
Everything that happens to people like Nanami and Saionji as a result of Anthy's actions. We generally just see those events as funny breather episodes. In hindsight it quickly becomes clear that Anthy is deliberately using magic and deception to "curse" the people she can't outright defy.
Heck, just listen to what she says to Juri and even Miki during the episodes where the two duel Utena for the first time. With Juri, Anthy briefly flirts with her, reminding her of Shiori, and with Miki, Anthy first makes it clear that she will do whatever Utena wants regardless of Miki's opinion and later actively cheers Utena on during the duel, which leads to him losing. It's very clear that Anthy not only knows their deepest secrets and hidden personalities, but is actively using that knowledge to constantly screw with them. Even Anthy's encouraging words to the two at the end of their duels is probably nothing more than following orders to keep them in the duelling game.
Nanami and Anthy are actually Not So Different. Both have a Big Brother Attraction in the past which leads them to do bad things (Nanami drowing her brother's pet cat, Anthy denying Dios to the world) out of jealousy. The only thing that separates them is that Anthy and Akio follow their attraction to the logical extreme while Nanami, given the chance, doesn't. Realizing this must have been another moment of Break the Haughty to Nanami: she was just a hair's breadth from being in the same situation as Anthy.
The scene in episode 14 where Mamiya stabs Kanae in the heart with a black rose is disturbing enough by itself, but it becomes even worse on rewatch. The end of the arc reveals that the Mamiya we've been seeing was actually an illusion acted out by Anthy; therefore, it was actually Anthy who stabbed Kanae in that scene. Now bear in mind that not only is Anthy shown to be extremely passive-aggressive towards Kanae to begin with, but "Mamiya" smiles as "he" is about the stab Kanae, almost as if "he" is enjoying torturing her; it really speaks volumes about how much Anthy hates Kanae.
After watching "Wakaba's blooming" again, two scenes called my attention. One is Wakaba running to her dorm where Saionji is, but for some reason they just show the front of the building (this was weird to me since we already know he's there). Then the next scene is Wakaba looking so radiant through the day and then Utena lampshading it, saying that she [Wakaba] looked prettier. Then it hit me: Wakaba and Saionji had sex, the shot at the dorm was a Sexy Discretion Shot and Utena's comment was a inocent version of Did You Just Have Sex?. This would also explain why Wakaba snapped so badly, Saionji deflower her but wasn't going to take responsability, because he still have his mind focused on Anthy. Now Wakaba is a bigger woobie to me.
I got this revelation thanks to a spanish review/analysis of the series. Remember how the swords represent the phallus (aka penis)? Well, when Anthy first negated Diios to the world, most people in the angry mob where fathers sooooo... when she's being impaled with the swords of hate, it's literally the closest thing to gang rape you'll ever see!
OK, this is a little meta and I'm not quite sure if it goes here. Anyway, Lady Di had a car crash on 31 August 1997. Cars started becoming a major symbolic element in the episode that originally aired on the 10th of September on the same year in a series about princesses. Episode 26 (correct me if I'm wrong), originally aired on September 24, even has Kozue, looking like a princess, in a car crash near the end of the episode. Kozue's car crash looks kinda tasteless in the light of Diana's death - I don't know how well-known Diana was in Japan but if she was I wonder why the shots of Kozue's crash weren't cut out.
If one takes this interpretation, "Dios" or actually, Akio pretending to be Dios insulting Utena in the lowest way possible right after he and Anthy have betrayed her, she's just been stabbed by her best friend, and Anthy is facing horrific torture right before her eyes. "Dios" proceeds to tell Utena how she did well for a girl and how she wouldn't be able to do anything with the power of miracles, unless he controlled it. Worse yet, he gives her a kiss "in gratitude" while wearing this sadistic little smile.
Similarly if you take the same interpretation, that "Dios" talking to Utena as a child was also Akio, manipulating and traumatizing this little girl just so he could shape her into a prince, fully intending to disempower her later, all to regain the power to revolutionize the world.
And finally, there's a theory that Akio killed Utena's parents. Can't get more monstrous than that. They died in a car crash. And whose symbolism is most prominently cars? Akio's
Note that little Utena hid in an empty coffin which was located next to her parents' ones. But why was that coffin there in the first place? It's not like you store such things in chapels. And so this troper had a thought - what if Akio was the one who put the third coffin there so that traumatized Utena would think it waits for her and later he could appear in front of the girl as Dios and "save" her?
In the final episode, Akio uses Utena's soul sword to repeatedly strike at the Rose Gate in an attempt to force it open. With each hit, Utena cries out in pain, and it doesn't seem to be from her earlier stab wound. Think of the implications there.
According to the screenplay writer, Kanae's mother poisoned her own husband, under instruction from Akio. It certainly casts a darker light on the fact that she claims to not care about her husband. Yet again, you have to feel bad for Kanae, because she has no knowledge about that or the sexual relationship between Akio and her mother (his future mother-in-law!).