Fuuin Jubaku

Duel 06; Utena vs Touga; “Conviction”

Masks. That’s this one. Are there any masks in this episode? I certainly think so. Touga wears the mask of a prince to allure Utena. In terms of social classes, Touga and Nanami are the only two duelists at this point who we’ve been shown specifically they are wealthy. Yet wealth — being a baron, or duke — is not royalty. Furthermore, doesn’t this go along with the whole theater motif?

Well hey, mask is only used twice. This song, as you may expect, is about Touga. It feels very Touga by the lyrics. Repeatedly, it discusses “Man is __” in the abstract, which in generally linguistically is interchangeable with “Humans,” but I think in this context it by using “man” instead of “human,” it’s more to speak to Touga’s character. He’s arguably, at this point, the most ‘manly’ and arguably the most demeaning character toward women that we’ve seen. Sure, Saionji is abusive and shitty, but it’s never presented that he believes all women are that way. He’s more just an example of domestic abuse rather than outright misogyny. Touga, on the other hand, is shown to have a very clear-cut ideal of what gender roles are. So, doesn’t it make sense for him to say or think, “Man is __” rather than “Humans are __?”

I’m not saying it’s an awful thing to say “Man is __” and you should be stoned to death or whatever, mind you. It’s part of someone’s diction and not really harmful. But it’s more traditional to say “Man is __” and because it doesn’t include women, it kind is indicative of a more gendered world view.

Anyway, the comparing of make-believe and teachings makes for an interesting idea. If Touga, as a man, can only become what he was taught to be, then who was his teacher? And, by this comparison, would his teacher not be the one who taught him the art of make-believe?

Now, in all fairness I’m cheating since I’ve already seen the whole show as I pose these questions, but before we even see Touga’s teacher we’re already given hints as to that one being a façade.

Gougai Gougai! Well, extra information, anyway. I didn’t know about the Man in the Iron Mask before recently, but when I heard about that I was like “Oooo shit I missed something.” For your information, The Man in the Iron Mask was a prisoner in France rumored to have been put there before Louis XIV became king, and that the man was Louis XIV’s older brother. So Touga (Louis XIV) is the fake prince— the poser, to lure Utena, and Utena most overcome him to find her true prince, still trapped behind that mask. Later we’ll make this comparison again using a character we have yet to discover, but for now… Touga is #1 Husbando.

Last Evolution (Shinka Kakumei Zenya)

Duel 05; Utena vs Nanami; “adoration”

“Beginning of the earth / Stage props /” If the beginning of the earth is when stage props are set up, would that not mean that from the start, fiction and reality have always had a blurry border? The following stanza, beginning with, “Unchanging illusion,” certainly makes me think so.

Anyway, the most consistent motif of this song is astronomy, as is evident with “Laplace nebula,” “Human constellation,” and “theatre cosmic.” What do you think when you look into the stars? Stars are distant, unreachable, and yet we give them names, constellations, categories. Seeing someone looking at the stars makes you think of loneliness and longing. The parallel to Nanami is evident already — despite her cohorts, she feels lonely because her brother doesn’t attend to her as much she would like him to. She longs to be with him more.

The first half of the song — prior to Nanami’s flower being broken — is discussing Nanami and her brother. “My eternal self,” would refer to Nanami, and “The eternal stranger” is her brother. Think about it, even though that Touga spends time with Nanami, she feels so distant from him. Especially since he’s such a playboy. “Two relationships” is referring to how Nanami sees Touga differently from how Touga sees Nanami. Their relationship is uneven. Nanami loves Touga (or obsesses over him) far more than Touga loves her.

After the flower is knocked off, Nanami continues to duel Utena, breaking the tradition of duels up till that point. Nanami states, “You and I are the Milky Way.” The milky way is a spiral, you know, and implies that repetition of time is something that exists between Nanami and the person she is addressing. I thought at first she might be referring to Utena or Anthy because of the also general femininity of the spiral as mentioned earlier, but when I reconsidered it, it definitely seems more applicable to Touga. “Time is hypothetical, an illusional prop,” is referencing how, to Nanami, it doesn’t matter how old she or Touga are, because she will always love him the same. To her, time is meaningless. Nanami wants the repetition of time with the Milky Way part for two reasons: A. Touga has grown distant from her, so she wants him to go back to being that, and B. She wants time to repeat when Touga isn’t distant from her. She wants him all to herself forever.

And yet, no matter how much she wants it, there is, “Just one person in the theatre cosmic.” And that’s her. She’s alone.

Tenshi Souzou Sunawachi Hikari

Duel 04; Utena vs Juri; “Amour”

In English, the title of this song is Angelic Creation, Namely, Light. And yes, the song is largely referencing light. The first most evident contrast is Child of the Morning, Lucifer, and Child of the Darkness, androgynous. What could be androgynous? Let’s go to the third stanza to find out: “Shining with light, the spherical body of Gynous. / Born from all miracles, Gynous” Gynous is a kind of esoteric way of saying women (-gynous is an ending to words used to indicate the presence of female organs). Therefore, replace ‘gynous’ with ‘woman’ or ‘women.’ Shining with light, the spherical body of woman. A spherical body implies pregnancy, and the following line’s reference to birth supports this. And here’s where it gets good: shining with light is pregnancy, to give birth to miracles. If Lucifer, light, ‘bringer of miracles,’ is the opposite to androgynous, what could androgynous be?

Skipping to the forth stanza, various forms of duality are presented: both sexes, both poles, two of me…. The word ‘androgynous’ itself implies a duality: one’s appearance or actions are both masculine and feminine. Juri is clearly the one opposed to miracles, but how is she androgynous? Of anyone, Miki is far more androgynous in appearance. I’d suspect this is because Juri is a lesbian, so while her physical appearance is clearly feminine, her gender role is a lot more muddled. She is a woman meaning — by the logic of Akio and folks — she had ought to be the object of desire. However, by being a lesbian and therefore seeing other women as objects of desire, she shifts from an ‘object’ to a ‘subject.’ From one side, Juri is exactly as a man would be: desiring the Rose Bride for her selfishness, and seeing women as objects of her attraction. From the other side, Juri herself is a woman who, while not in this episode, may be the object of others’ desires. This duality — man and woman, north and south, left and right, up and down, angel and devil — is androgynous.

Revolutionary Girl Utena’s TRUE REVOLUTION

Revolution

n. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.

n. a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence.

n. the action of moving around something in a path that is similar to a circle

The cycle of death and rebirth. The cycle of the duels. All of it Akio and Himemiya have seen before. They have been through this before.

The spiral — a representation of this cycle.

Himemiya; woman; femininity — the one who gives birth. Her fate is to have sexual intercourse with the winning duelist, as is typical in marriage.

Akio; man; masculinity — the one who brings death. He sets up the duels which represent the competition to kill one another for possession of the Rose Bride.

The duelists want the power to revolutionize the world. But what kind of revolution will they bring? Exactly the kind Akio and Himemiya have seen over and over again. They are revolutionizing the world in that they are causing it to revolve. They are causing time to revolve; to loop back.

Eternity. This is the dream of many.

Apocalypse. This is the inevitable destiny.

If eternity existed, what form would it take?

Diamonds can be shattered.

Love never lasts.

No matter what monument or construct one sculpts, time triumphs over will. No pyramid is intact. No statue remains untarnished. All is temporary.
The only way to create something eternal would be to stop time. Think now, a game can be played for an infinite number of times. Because after all has happened, the clock is reset and the game is spawned again, untouched from each play. What if the same could be achieved for reality? What if real life could repeat, over and over again? It would bring revolution to the world, in all senses of the word. Not only would our society be revolutionized, but the world would revolve, always repeating, always continuing.

Spira Mirabilis Gekijou

Duel 03; Utena vs Miki; “Raison”

The use of theater in this song can be interpreted in many ways, though I think the most easy to understand interpretation is that the characters in revolutionary girls are well, just characters. They simply are playing their part and trying to make their fantasies come true. Miki is the kind of perfect example of this — he wants to return to his childhood and play the piano with his sister. So he fruitlessly pursues the Rose Bride, who can fill the role of his sister, in order to fulfill his childhood dream.

Also, I have to wonder if the reference to theater, an occupation that at least in stereotype attracts less masculine men, has anything to do with the fact that of the males presented in Revolutionary Girl Utena, Miki is the least masculine (with the exception of Mamiya, who in reality is being performed by Anthy, a female). I’m coming from an American perspective though, so the same may not be true of Japanese culture. Anyway, pure coincidence most likely but I think it is interesting.

Spira Mirabilis is a latin term meaning, “Miraculous spiral” or “Marvelous spiral” and is applied in mathematics to describe the logarithmic curve which looks like this

 

Now, scroll down a bit and look at my last Utena post on Paleozoic Within the Flesh. Aha. You see it. To clarify though, the spira mirabilis is the same kind of spiral as what is found on mollusks like the Ammonite. If I haven’t plugged it much yet, I found this article to be a very interesting feminist breakdown of Utena, in which the author claims the focus on the spiral is representative of DNA strands which relate to reproduction and therefore the balance of power between men and women.

Phew. The spiral. This shape is referenced in some shape or form many times within just the first season. After Spira Mirabilis Theater, the spiral is mentioned in Last Evolution and No One Has Anything to Tell, along with the visual appearance of a spiral in the staircase to the dueling arena.

https://pifflepondering.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/spiral-staircase.jpg?w=656

Now, I have three theories as to what the spiral could have to do with feminism:

A. The spiral is in reference to the Sazae-oni, a bakemono yokai formed from an aged mollusk (mollusks have the spiral shape). This yokai is a temptress who steals the testicles of men it sleeps with. So, in reference, the spiral could be representative of the demonizing of women by men by portraying women as misleading and untrustworthy.

B. The spiral has a general religious / mythological / symbolic connotation historically as the cycle of life or of death and rebirth.

C. The spiral is in reference to the Spiral Dance, a book and resulting ritual spawned in 1991, just 6 years before Utena, performed by Wiccans and practicers of neopaganism or Witchcraft. In this instance, the spiral would be representative of freedom and independence, along with mindfulness of nature and a higher power (the Goddess as described in the book).

https://i2.wp.com/www.manandmollusc.net/advanced_uses/image_files/Turbo-cornutus.gif

I did the research here, so believe me that all of these are things that could potentially give us a clue as to the meaning of the spiral. However, of the listen possibilities I’m going to go with B since it is by far the most colloquial and kind of goes along with the ending of the song, which translates to, “death rebirth death rebirth death rebirth…” and the first song, which ends with, “Born into the world; born in an instant // To repeat again.”

Birth seems to be the key word in both this song and When Where Who Which, which is clearly connected to women and femininity in that women are the ones who give birth. It is women who continue the cycle.

Wait… a cycle????

Paleozoic Within the Flesh

Duel 02; Utena vs Saionji; “Choix”

Cambrian. Ordovician. Silurian. Devonian. Carboniferous. Permian.

Paleozoic!

Stromatolite, Lycopodium, Selaginella, Trilobites.

Ammonite!

https://i1.wp.com/www.fossilmuseum.net/Fossil-Pictures/Ammonites/Ammonite-5/Ammonite-5-1024.jpg

Okay, so in less excited terms, the first list (Cambrian…Permian) are all parts of the Paleozoic Era, which precedes the Mesozoic Era (Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, which are also listed in the song). The second list are all critters or plants from the Paleozoic Era. Ammonite is the creature whose perspective it is in the second half of the song. “Rose of the sea. Lily of the sea. Apple of the sea. Bud of the sea.” “Paleozoic Within the Flesh.”
So what we know about this song is that it’s talking about ancient creatures and times, all of which are extinct.

Get the hint now? Extinction is the theme of this? Hmm… How does that relate to this battle?

Well, from my perspective this is then about Saionji. He had the Rose Bride for a time, but now, to her he is extinct. She belongs to Utena now. This whole battle is Saionji trying to deny the fact that she doesn’t actually have feelings for him. But ultimately, he is extinct.

Phew! That one was a lot simpler.

Hint: There is more, but I’ll talk about that in Miki’s duel song…

When? Where? Who? Which?

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.”

Anthy photo RevolutionaryGirlUtena-Anthy_zps1b722186-1.jpg

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.

https://i1.wp.com/i73.photobucket.com/albums/i232/YamPuff/anthy-1.jpg

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!