Revolutionary Girl Utena
Revolutionary Girl Utena is Magick.Most of the characters are either magicians or avatars. Akio's pursuit of the occult lead him to channel the spirit-archetype known as Dios, who embodied the First Prince, the first love of all young women, while Anthy was herself possessed by the spirit Rose Bride, She-Who-Married-Flowers-Instead-Of-A-Man, who embodied those who could not find emotional or sexual fulfillment, Dios' constant companion. The presence of two powerful spirits attracted the spirits of the Swords of Hate, the embodiment of the outrage of the death of innocence. At first, the Swords of Hate focused their rage on Akio-Dios, taking on the collective anger of overly-concerned fathers outraged at the strange boys who deflowered their virgin daughters. Akio-Dios managed to defend themselves, eventually helping a young Utena into finding a reason to live. But as Akio grew older and strayed from Dios' ideal form as the youthful boy-prince, his bond with Akio grew weaker and they faced annihilation at blades of Hate. To save their beloved, Anthy-Rose Bride directed the Swords of Hate at them instead, drawing on the resentment of parents against unfulfilled children. Dios then lost all connection to Akio, causing him to be obsessed with reuniting with Dios. Seeing that the Rose Bride was Dios' constant companion, Akio used magick to bind Anthy to the Rose Bride, keeping her subservient to him through demeaning acts, abuse, and rituals. Dios came to rescue his companion, and Akio in turn bound him to earth. In revenge, Dios shattered Akio's magical weapon, the Sword of Dios, preventing Akio from channeling Dios. Akio also began deluding himself, believing Dios to be a true god and that he could force Dios' into bonding with him again. Akio then spent the next following years gaining power and influence, ingratiating himself into the Ohtori school system. Using simple magick feats and trickery, Akio conned middle-school students into becoming Duelists, participants in his fairy tale-themed magickal rituals, the purpose of which was to reforge the Sword of Dios by passing it around, contained in the body of his sister, until it reached a strong mediums, that he might claim it once more and force Dios' power - the fabled "Power that brings the World Revolution" - onto himself. He also trained promising students in magick, that they might create rituals and dynamics of their own. At first, Akio thought Utena to be his final "reward" upon bonding with Dios, a "princess" to his "prince", but Utena was inspired to be a prince instead of a princess. Her mixing of gender roles made her both available channels for both the Rose Bride as well as Dios, which did not at all deter Akio. The first set of duels against the Student Councils introduced the players of the game as well as gauged their reactions towards magick. The second set of duels - against the Black Rose Society - had Akio manipulate his pupil Mikage into performing the Black Rose Rites with those close to Student Council members, forcing them to bond with the Swords of Hate. The third set revisited the first set, but with the aim of eliminating all other possible avatars of Dios' and the Rose Bride. Akio's schemes were going well, as even his eromenos lover and apprentice Touga (who had grown to be a magician powerful enough to challenge him) was defeated by Utena. But in the final duel, Akio defeated himself when he shattered the illusion of the castle in the sky, which in turn undermined his own magicks. Anthy betrayed Utena under Akio's instructions, Akio taking the Sword of Dios to break the "seal" which held the "power of miracles." As a last act of defiance, Dios chose Utena as his host, which gave her the strength to move despite being wounded. Instead of escaping, Utena chose to reach out one final time to Anthy, breaking Akio's magickal and emotional hold over her. The Rose Bride was freed but weakened by the ordeal, and bonded with the nearest available avatar, Utena, who was both boy and girl, male and female, prince and princess. This caused the avatar "circuit" to be completed, spiriting the Dios Bride gestalt into the metaphysical realm. Anthy, befeft of Utena's presence but left with the knowledge of her sacrifice, chose to reject Akio, rendering him magickally impotent as he had depended so much on her as both a vessel and a fixture.
Utena and Anthy meet again when they're twenty one. Why twenty one you ask? Because twenty is the age of maturity and consent in a lot of countries, stemming back from the middle ages where you could become a page at seven, a squire at fourteen, and a knight at twenty one.
Chu-Chu is the personification of Anthy's soulIt is thought that Anthy's true feelings are shown in her pet monkey. Also on this tangent: Chu Chu is thought to be a pygmy marmoset.
Anthy is the only one that's "real"The entire show is about Anthy learning to rescue herself byway of massive delusions. Her brother represents her wish to be a child forever, Utena her idea of innocence and so forth. Which would go a long way towards explaining why everything got so weird at the end.
Miki has noticed time is broken.(Proposed by a con panel): Time obviously is broken at Ohtori — look at the Black Rose Saga for the most obvious example, but there's plenty of others. Miki's constant fiddling with the stopwatch is his attempt to figure out exactly what's happened to time.
Miki is timing the fansubsBecause every time he shown with that watch, it contains the exact length of the previously said phrase.
Dios and Akio are separate people, created by Anthy.When Anthy created Dios, it was out of her idealized notion of humanity and nobility, who would always save people from harm. However, Dios couldn't save people from themselves because Anthy never imagined the possibility. When Dios couldn't save Anthy and she began to resent other people for being saved by him, he died, and the townspeople stabbed her thinking her a murderer. That's why Dios later only appears as a spirit- he's a ghost. As she continued to be stabbed by the million swords, Anthy hated and feared other people but secretly wished to return to the old ways- which is why Akio appeared and set up the duels. His abuse of her and their self-destructive relationship is her blaming herself for Dios's death and the fact that he never saved her.
Anthy and Akio grew up in British-colonized India.The reason we never see their parents is because they perished in one of the many plagues or famines that hit the British Raj. The Power of Dios was simply a game they made up to escape the harsh reality, but people actually began depending on their story. Having overexerted himself, Akio could no longer fight as Dios. Anthy was blamed for his loss of power and was attacked by the townspeople for witchcraft.
Akio and Anthy are NOT Dios and his sister.They're their reincarnations. It's an endless cycle. Whenever the Dios-incarnation reaches the later stages of adolescence, he becomes End of the World, and the sister-incarnation becomes the Rose Bride. The Dios that Utena met was a physical manifestation of humankind's belief in the ideals that the real Dios had created.
Spoilers for the final arc Dios was supposed to die in the tale of the rose, so he could be reincarnated
Chu-Chu is the basis for stories of a Witch's familiar, and semi-immortal.
Utena meets DemianThis is a bit WMG with Fridge Brilliance, but since it's only a theory, I post it here. This tropette has just recently read Demian, and of course, the "chick smashing the shell" speech resonated in my mind everytime Abraxas or the sparrow hank was brought out (which in the later chapters, it was a lot)). Some people know already that Utena borrowed some themes and symbols of the book, specially for the Student Council's motivations, but after thinking a lot, I realized that Utena's parallels with Demian go beyond the Sudent Council, and in a deeper way. To understand this, it's necessary a little insight of Demian. Demian is about a boy struggling to break free of the social dichtonomy of holy and evil, in order to live on his own desires. Thanks to Max Demian, Emil Sinclair starts to further analyze things to see their multiple interpretations instead of following the "right" one. Demian also suggest that there should be a god that represented both holy and evil, male and female, as a whole, and soon the protagonist meets this god in Abraxas. "The bird breaks the egg's shell, the egg is the world. To break free, one must destroy a world. The bird flies to god, the god's name is Abraxas." Abraxas is the god that unifies both good and evil in itself, then allowing people to care less of moral and following their true self and desires. The bird is a sparrow hank, a bird that flies freely, and represents the inner struggle of wanting and breaking free. My theory is that, in Utena, there was a sparrow trapped in a world's egg, wanting to be free. But isn't any of the Student Council's member (yet. Who knows? Maybe they'll break free too someday) but instead is Anthy. Anthy is methaphorically and literally trapped. By her brother, by society, by her role as Rose Bride and by her own fears of the unknown. But suddenly appears Utena in the picture and starts to change the way Anthy sees the world, sutlely but sure. Utena while in Ohtori, was a Demian figure to Anthy. But the real parallels are played in the last duel. Utena goes to the locked Rose Gate, wanting desperately to save Anthy and she managed to open it, but only a little. A little ray of light gets inside the coffin Anthy has been, a little crack on the egg's shell that allowed the sparrow hank to see Abraxas. Utena, with her having both male and female caracteristics, could be Demian, Frau Eva (Demian's mother) or even Abraxas. Utena managed to open a crack on Anthy's shell, showing her a contradiction of her world views: a girl managed to get this far the duels, a girl has defied her brother, a girl was closer to be a prince than other men could, but specially that someone cared enough for her to try to help her. But Utena only could give to Anthy the way, not rescue her. That was something Anthy needed to do herself. Demian in the book, gives to Snclair tools in order to help him to be independent or else, he would be relying on Demian and his mother like Sinclair did on his parents in his childhood. Anthy needed to want to be free and act according to her desire to archive real individualization. She taking Utena's hand was just that. Unfortunately, the coffin falls and both hands are separated. Utena banished from Ohtori's world. But Anthy has seen her Abraxas, and it's determinated to fly to her, all that it's left is breaking free of the world's shell. Leaving Akio's grib over her and walaking out the school's gates has smashed a world's shell: without her as a bait for duelists, the whole dueling system falls aparts, destroying Akio's hopes of taking back the power of Dios. Sinclair managed to break free too, just in time to be left all alone as he was going to battle in the WWI, but Demian told him in their last meeting, that whenever he was in troubles, all he needed was look within himself and realize that Demian was within him, instead of phisically. This means that Sinclair was now able to think and do the things Demian could and he was already independent of his constant support. Anthy also is all alone (sans Chu-Chu), but she now can do the things Utena could. She's now her own self, independadnt of her brother or Utena, free to follow her desires without restrictions. This sparrow hank is flying freely to Abraxas; Anthy is searching for Utena.
Everyone at Ohtori is dead.Their souls are stuck in a spiritual purgatory, created by two gods with distinct multiple personality disorders. Note, the campus itself resembles a funeral plot. Also, in the flashback, Utena's parents' funeral in her memories had a third, unusually small, coffin. Her "hiding" in it? It was hers. This is further supported by The Movie, where at least one major character with whom Utena interacts is in fact dead and has been for years.
The Movie's version of Ohtori is where Utena and Anthy went after the end of the series.It is the next higher "level" of reality, what is beyond "the ends of the world". Anthy actually managed to get there before Utena, and has been busy setting things up, and they're much closer to the ideals what they'd like to be. Anthy is much more active and self-determined, and Utena's appearance and attitude is even closer to her "prince" persona. Meanwhile, much as Anthy said at the end of the series, Akio seems revealed as much less slick and more petty. This can be nicely dovetailed with either of the above.
Utena has 'escaped' Ohtori before, and each Alternate Continuity is her trying to free everybody - the 'revolutions', to bring them back to the real world.Think about it -she escaped from the Ohtoriverse once before, and returns again to free the people she met there after becoming accidentally trapped there by the rose ring given to her -the manga was the first time she went through the Ohtori rollercoaster trying to save everyone and rescued Anthy from Akio. Through Anthy being a 'witch', the anime is Utena and Anthy going back to rescuse everyone else from Ohtori and Akio. Either that, or the Shadow Girls are the witches who brought Utena and Anthy to the 'anime' version of Ohtori. However, due to imperfections in the spell cast, Utena, nor Anthy can remember what happened, nor the reason why they are there, (possibly because Akio interferes with them re-entering) - and this version of Ohtori has disintergrated somewhat from what they saw - thus leading to Utena only rescuing Anthy again before returning to the real world. The movie is another attempt to free everyone trapped by Akio - and Utena and Anthy remember some of why they are there - and this time Utena and Anthy succeed, leading everyone out from Akio as a car, or something. Ohtori is considered a timebubble or alternate universe created by Akio to imprison his sister, and perhaps people he didn't like - and where the same events play out over and over again, with varations. The differences can be explained by Akio slowly losing control over his alternate universe after losing Anthy - the movie headtrip is caused by him being outdone by Utena twice in keeping Anthy and him slowly going into petty vengance...
Utena takes place After the End.We never see anything of the world outside Ohtori. No one ever leaves. And in the movie, Utena and Anthy find themselves in a deserted wasteland after escaping. Isn't it obvious?
Utena is a Shaping DuelThe show actuly takes place in Exalted's Wyld and is one long shaping conflict between fair folk. The Student council are the nobles, people with faces the commoners, and the faceless are simply fantasies created from the Wyld. The ending scene is Utena's animating force proving that her character is more important than Akio's entire world. Utena has Sword shadowing Staff. (or maybe Ring, she mostly uses Sword shaping, she does basically systematically destroy the social order of the school though, hence Staff) Touga has Sword shadowing Cup. (The episode where he convinces her that he is a better prince, is a magnificent Ravishment). Nanami goes from a Staff commoner to a Staff shadowing Sword noble. Anthy is a Ring commoner. Akio is a master of both the Staff and the Ring, (but he kind of walks into Utena's Sword shaping, and lets her set her Character up as the Hero). The way Utena gets dragged into fighting for Anthy is a Burden, at first imposed using Staff shaping but it is reinforced with Ring shaping soon enough.
The series is either an alternate universe iteration of a Green Lantern origin story, a Future Imperfect retelling of one, or a Black Mercy hallucinationGranted, this troper has only read the manga, but c'mon! A dying person passing on his ring of power to a successor and telling them they have
Ohtori Academy was created by Suzumiya HaruhiIf there's one thing that Ohtori Academy never is, it's boring.
Akio became the Obsidian LordAfter Anthy left him, Akio started the Hi ME Festival (which is essentially a duelling tournament) as a method of creating a new Rose Bride, using the same method of tempting the winner with whatever they desire in return for their servitude.
Miki's stopwatch was a gift from Jack Harkness.Lots of things you can do with a stopwatch.
The story of the Rose Bride and Ohtori Academy were created by Drosselmeyer.It's got all the trademarks of his stories: quirky heroine stuck between two identities, a Broken Bird princess as a possible villain, a prince with Chronic Hero Syndrome who turns into a villain, and the key to everyone's suffering being Dramatic Irony. In fact, he probably wrote it to outdo the Prince and the Raven; he Tutu's power for understanding feelings through dance with the duels (so Utena would be confused and not always know her enemies' motivations), made it so true love couldn't turn the Prince back to a good guy, and made the princess opposing the main character less sympathetic so nobody would want to save her, keeping everything in the Vicious Cycle. The power to bring world revolution was actually the power to leave the spell keeping everyone in Ohtori. Utena found it by defying her role and keeping true to her ideals, and Anthy followed her by rejecting Akio and refusing to stay as the Rose Bride. (Alternatively, the power is hope.)
Ohtori Academy has another sister school in JapanIt's called Ouran Academy
Ohtori is in Hyrule.Breaking this down: 1) The Triforce shines, is eternal, can create miracles, and has the power to bring world revolution. Therefore, Akio, Anthy, and Utena are all Triforce holders; Akio has Power, Anthy has Wisdom, and Utena has Courage. Akio (Ganondorf) needs the powers of both Anthy (Zelda) and Utena (Link) to achieve world revolution. That power is behind the Rose Gate (the Sacred Realm/Door of Time), but he can't open it on his own, instead needing someone virtuous wielding the Master Sword (The Sword of Dios). Utena and Anthy had met as children, where Utena pledged to save Anthy, but she wasn't capable of doing this until she was older. Anthy also shapeshifted into a male (Sheik) and had powers like disappearing or giving extra power to the Sword of Dios. 2) In the first arc, Utena has to beat seven duels, analogous to freeing the seven sages (alternatively, the duelists are the Shrine Maidens). The duel names can also be seen as having something to do with the sages (Amitie/Friendship, symbolized by Green; Saria and Link were friends). The colors of several duelists' roses also correspond to the sages' medallions (Nanami's yellow rose to the Light Medallion, Juri's orange rose to the Spirit Medallion, etc.). Either the Black Rose duelists or the duelists themselves can be seen as bosses. 3) There are three alternate instances of Utena- the manga, the anime, and the movie- that can be seen as different worlds or continuities. Since the movie is such a Mind Screw, it may as well be Termina; Utena also went there looking for a friend she lost (Touga), she and Anthy were nearly crushed by a large object holding a beautiful world inside of it (the castle, in place of the moon), and it is at least somewhat linked to the anime world (Ocarina of Time) by the Shadow Girls acknowledging both exist. Several characters either change or don't exist at all between the versions, just like in the games.
Akio is another avatar of Randall Flagg.True, he doesn't have the 'R.F.' initials, but he's Japanese so it's excusable. Akio's entire M.O. is very similar to Flagg's; he lures people with pent-up resentment and inner darkness to his side in order to accomplish some world-altering goal. Both are immortal and implied to have gone by many names in the past, and both are pretty blatantly sexual in their manipulations. What's more, Akio is associated with the color red.
Utena As Religious Allegory.
The different hair and rose colors each mean something.(Proposed by the same con panel as the above): White is perfection/enlightenment/the Prince. Black/purple is corruption and decay, and brown is the mundane. The other colors represent various ways of trying to achieve perfection: red is power (both physical strength and social manipulation), blue is hope and the intellect, orange is the miraculous, yellow is childishness (both in the sense of innocence and in the sense of immaturity), and this troper can't remember whether they said green was eternity or loyalty. Pink is red, but closer to white than plain red is. The student council's hair colors are the most obvious examples, but it also holds in a lot of other places — the roses that occasionally appear in the corner of the screen, for example. A random sampling of other examples:
The rose colors represent the Seven Deadly Sins.For instance: Saionji, the green rose, is Envy. Nanami, the yellow rose, is Greed. Touga and Akio are surrounded by red roses a lot, and Akio also uses purple roses, linking them to Lust and Pride.
Receiving A Sword From Someone Is An Allegory For Sex.This has kind of been rattling around in my brain for a while, but if you think about the way the receipt of a sword from someone else's body is represented (especially in the movie, where it's much more grope-y), it seems an awful lot like sex (I guess in reverse, though, since it's removing, rather than penetrating). The "bride" can have her sword removed by anyone who is her current owner, since one of the main duties of a bride (historically) was to sexually serve her husband. When it came to the Black Rose Saga, that sex became by conquest and theft (basically, those relinquishing their swords were being raped by an enraged black rose duelist). In the final saga, once everyone had connected with their love, they could remove the swords by consent rather than having to take them by force.
The elevator in the Black Rose Saga drives people insane.Sure, Mikage and Mamiya have a lot to do it it, but the victims are in an enclosed space, talking to a disembodied voice while the elevator goes faster and faster. If it doesn't drive them crazy outright, it sure doesn't help.
The series ending is an allegory for coming of age.Utena refuses to let go of her childish ideal of princehood for much of the series and it proves to be her downfall in the end, leading to the tragicomic ending. We are led to believe Utena dies a horrible death, a failed hero that will soon be forgotten by her peers. However, the dialogue between Akio and Anthy before Anthy leaves Ohtori Academy forever indicates that there is more here than meets the eye. Anthy instructs a stunned Akio "By all means, stay in this cozy coffin of yours and continue to play prince", adding that Utena "isn't gone at all, she's merely vanished from your world." The words "play prince" stuck with me, because what do they evoke? Childhood. The same childish sentiment that Utena held for much of the series. Utena's obsession with becoming a prince ended up tearing her away from the one she loved - but remember what the lyrics in the OP say, "If we are ever torn apart, I swear I will change the world". Akio believes no revolution has taken place, and that the world has not changed, but this is not true. The main characters have all become more well adjusted and friendly to one another and the duels have finished forever. The revolution has taken place on an unconscious level among all the main cast and students of the academy. They may very well forget Utena, but Utena's quiet revolution is unmistakable, and her sacrifice will save everyone else. The combination of the words "play prince" and "vanished from your world" lead me to this idea - Utena isn't dead or gone to some afterlife, nor has she Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence, so to speak, but it's actually a metaphor for Utena progressing out of childhood. Utena realises the painful truths of life (as metaphorically represented by the million Swords of Hate) - princes don't always save princesses, and they don't always win against the Big Bad. By finally letting go of her childish black and white view of the world, with "good princes" and "good princesses" against "Wicked Witches", she has begun the path to adulthood and shedding the baggage of her past. The painful realisation of this truth removes her from the world where the rest of the cast reside, playing in their fairy tale world of make-believe and surealism. She has started to mature into an adult at last. When Anthy says she has "vanished" from Akio's world, what she means is that Akio has never truly grown up from being a child - he may be an adult, but he still "plays prince" like a little boy. By graduating from the Academy and leaving forever, Anthy begins the same path to adulthood that will take her out of her childhood and back to Utena. All this considered - the series ending becomes much less a Downer Ending and actually Bittersweet at worst, but I personally see it as an example of Earn Your Happy Ending with a bit of And the Adventure Continues thrown in for good measure.