Duel 01; Saionji vs Utena; “Amitié”
I kind of wish I had tried to interpret this song before watching the rest of the show. Here in the first episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, all we know about Himemiya is that she is submissive and involved in this mystical, semi-magical association with the student council and other shady figures to be the rose bride and the prize of duels. From the best I can tell this song is foreshadowing what we learn about Himemiya throughout the rest of the show.
First, much of the song seems to be set in a first person, and while it’d be hard to tell just from what we would have known about Himemiya at this point that the person is Himemiya. Why do I say this song is from the perspective of Himemiya? Well, allow me to explain!
Now, I looked at multiple translations and there were some inconsistencies, but the most significant line in my opinion is, “kioku no ori no chi no nagare sennen shifuku no yurikago no” Which has been translated in the official? subs and by a translator on animelyrics.com (http://www.animelyrics.com/anime/utena/rguwwww.htm) respectively as:
“I am an actor / Just like the sphinx / in the eternal winter desert” or “I am an actor cast eternally / as a Sphinx in the desert winter”
The Sphinx is a mythical creature which exists in both Egyptian and Greek mythology. In the former, it is seen as benevolent but powerful. In the latter, it is seen as cruel and powerful. It’s difficult to say which is being referred to here, but I’m not certain that it is entirely relevant. The word that I think implies it doesn’t matter which it is would be “eternal” or “eternally.” Himemiya, as we learn later, is kind of this fairytale character who never ages and is potentially immortal. I think the reference to a Sphinx is more in that we have statues of a Sphinx that exist today, making it thousands of years old, and that Himemiya has been living as an actor in the “desert winter” for thousands of years.
In either translation, to me the more important part of the line is the desert winter. These two words individually have a connotation of loneliness, which I don’t think when put together is lost. Each refers to a separation from others, a spiritual coldness if not a literal one. This metaphor is helped by the use of the word actor, which can be used as a separator from the rest of the world. Someone who is an actor is not being true to themselves, they are simply playing the role they have been assigned.
Now, put these two pieces together and the core idea is, “I am immortal and alienated.”
This may be the standout line to me, but I thing the rest of the song backs this concept up. “You know the winds of sadness” or “Now you know the sad winds?” Wind has the implication of transience, so maybe this is saying something about a sad past? Jumping back to the first line, “The flow of blood of memories” or “The flowing blood from the cage of memory” gives, to me, a similar feeling. Our consistent words here are blood, flowing, and memory. So how are memories and blood comparable in their flowingness? Both are unique to an individual (blood type; what memories we have) and are transient in nature (we lose blood and memories easily). The forlorn observation of the transience of life that these lines convey are similar to A. Himemiya’s story and B. the line about the Sphinx.
The two translations disagree on where the third paragraph begins, but the core of what that paragraph is saying is “Born into the world! / Born into the moment! / Over and over again!” and “Born into the world; born in an instant / To repeat again.” At the end of the Utena TV series it is revealed that Utena’s journey has been made before by others, meaning a repetition of Himemiya’s story. Himemiya is being metaphorically born into the world over and over again to fill her role as the Rose Bride. This reiterates the immortality and jadedness to reality that the rest of the song seems to portray.
Before someone tells me that by the end of the show, Himemiya has changed, I know. I should have clarified: this song is from Himemiya’s perspective at the beginning of the show and from before the show. Himemiya is seeing Utena and thinking to herself, “This is just another duelist.” She doesn’t feel inspired yet from their friendship. All she feels is that coldness.
SO. That was a lot of reading into some esoteric and possibly symbolic but hard to tell lyrics of a duel in Revolutionary Girl Utena (Hey! Esoteric and possibly symbolic but sometimes hard to tell is like, the whole of Utena)! Mind you, this is entirely my own interpretation and the thought process I went through when reading and thinking about these lyrics. You can find an English translation of all the Revolutionary Girl Utena songs on animelyrics.com/anime/utena. No promises, but if you liked this I might make more!