Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ep. 1: The Rose Bride

This episode analysis(musing) contains spoilers.  This episode analysis skims over topics and doesn't go into huge detail because each detail is really worth it's own post.  This analysis does not cover every detail to analyze but ones that I have chosen to discuss.  Also, these are my opinions and nothing official.  You do not have to accept or agree with any of this.

"Bara no hanayome" (薔薇の花嫁) 
April 2, 1997
Duel song: When, Where, Who, Which
Duel theme: amitié - Friendship

We are introduced to Utena's backstory of being so moved by her prince that she vowed to become a prince herself.  But was that really such a good idea?  That line is a huge warning right there of a lot of things to come.  Not just how maybe be trying to live up to a fairy tale ideal might not be healthy but because of where it takes her in the end.
It's important to note how fantastical these events are in Utena's memory compared to what really happened but we'll get there when we get there. 

We're then introduced to Wakaba standing on a bridge waiting for Utena to be found out that she was ditched and has to race to catch up with her.  This seems like an odd scene because that's not like Utena to ditch a friend but it really wraps up their friendship for the whole series.  Sometimes they are close and other times Utena has run off ahead on her own.  

We then see our title heroine being yelled at by a school faculty member for wearing a boy's uniform to which Utena politely excuses because there isn't a rule saying that she can't.  Her uniform though still doesn't even look like the school uniform the boys are wearing, shouldn't she at least be wearing the school's uniform?  I guess there isn't a rule on that but it works for making her outfit a foreshadowing tool.  That's right, her clothing is a symbol of events to come in how it is very similar in design to the Rose Bride's gown.

We see Utena then performing some very male activities such as beating the boys basketball team (single-handling) but then declining invite to join the team because she is a girl.  Before we are introduced to Anthy, Saionji, and Touga outside of the Rose Garden.  Wakaba introduces these characters.  Touga gets framed by white roses (possibly for his "pure" action of saving Anthy from another slap) while Saionji is framed by his signature green flowers.

We are then introduced to the student council and their meeting area.  Here we meet Miki (framed by blue roses) and Juri (framed by orange roses).  Saionji is being called out for how he treats the Rose Bride, while this conversation in dialogue establishing the duels and how Anthy is the Rose Bride and how she is passed along, there is much to read from the characters themselves in this scene.  
Miki's dramatic stopping of his stopwatch at the declaration of love from Saionji to Anthy.  Juri's sweet smile to Miki which quickly changes to a glare of disgust at Touga as he steps up to speak.  Even how serious Touga's face gets at Saionji as he waves off the notion of a new duelist coming.  

How awesome Akio is for manipulating events to know that Utena would challenge Saionji.  Could somehow he have planted something to motivate Wakaba to write that love letter?  Wakaba publicly denies her interest in him, even what we hear in the letter is more of a genuine "I would love to be there for you" than "I love you."  She had the comfort of claiming Utena as her boyfriend, so Akio must have moved her into making the move that would motivate Utena.

Shadow girls A-Ko and B-Ko give us light foreshadowing that Utena has signed herself up for something more than a simple duel for her friend's honor in their dialogue.  

The castle in the sky!  Saionji calls it out as being a mirage.  Geez Saionji, spoiler alert!  The first time I heard him say that, it didn't click for me but on rewatch it very much did because it IS simply a mirage.  And yet no one listened to Saionji.  No one ever does.

Anthy's actions in preparing the duel seem so sweet and harmless, yet what she does is on purpose to upset Saionji to further push Utena's drive to defeat a man who she feels treats women so badly.  Utena doesn't even realize how Anthy is pushing Saionji's buttons to upset him on purpose.  
This doesn't excuse Saionji's hitting but it really shows how well Anthy reads people and manipulates them.  Utena was new to the battle arena and could have turned around to leave the two weirdos in the battle arena so Anthy pushed Saionji's buttons keeping Utena involved.
Let's talk about the duel song for a minute too.  When, Where, Who, Which.  Which witch?  Play on words maybe?  So subtle.  Could it really be a play on what is later revealed about the Rose Bride?  
Utena gets her buttons pushed by Saionji through banter during the duel, fueling her and reminding her of the prince who inspired her bringing her to victory.  Anthy then throws salt on Saionji's wound by smiling and calling him her classmate instead of her engaged as she had previously.  This devastates Saionji and Anthy knows it.  She knew it was going to before she even said it.  Her grin went from light to bright as she paused before calling him her classmate.  She really just stomped all over him without having to raise a hand to do so.  It could be seen as simply how she is no longer his engaged but she really seemed to get some personal satisfaction out of that blow.  Saionji seriously just got slapped by Anthy and you don't even see her move a muscle.

From this day forward, I belong to you. 

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