Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ep. 2: For Whom The Rose Smiles

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.

"Dare ga tame ni bara wa hohoemu" (誰がために薔薇は微笑む) 
April 9, 1997
Duel song: Nikutai no Naka no Koseidai
Duel theme: choix - Choice

We begin with the same fairy tale reflection on Utena's past.  This really is her comfort story that she replays throughout her life to keep pushing her forward, even neglecting the negative details of it.  With as frequently as she reminisces this event you would think it near impossible for her to forget the actual events but don't we do that with memories?  Try and focus more on the things that brought us joy than our pain? Especially if the negative is so dark your mind actually attempts to block it off.  Maybe that doesn't occur for everyone but in severe events, the mind will.  What's shocking is when the realization hits that you've forgotten something that should be so memorable simply because it was so terrible.

Enter episode as Utena is being gushed over by her peers.  This is set up for something to happen later next episode so we'll leave it alone for now.  
Entering the classroom we see Wakaba deep into a book titled Magnolia Waltz, a Chiho Saito manga title.  It even has her name in the author slot of the book!  Wakaba closes the book and relates herself to the lead character, carrying back into her cheerful self without a negative word or mention of Saionji.  You would think that she's realized what a jerk he is by posting her love letter and moved on.  She's really forgiven the incident and keeps her affections for Saionji as he probably wouldn't be such a jerk if he had the right girl.  Oh Wakaba...  Wait, Anthy's in this class now too?

Our first exposure of the egg speech from Touga as he ascend to the Student Council platform.  It looks as though the Student Council is playing old maid or something similar with cards that have envelopes sealed by rose crests.  Nothing is nothing in this show.  As they play they discuss the duels as "the game" and how they can't back out because of things demonstrated to them following letters from End of the World.
How much their card game parallels the duelist game right here.  The letters and the card backings.  How they all play the card game so seriously.  I think even the cards they throw down say something here.  Judging by how they are shown to be sitting and from which directions the cards are thrown; Juri puts a pair of 9's, Miki a pair of 6's, and Touga a pair of queens. 
What does that mean?  At this point, you really don't know these members in great detail so what I say will be old news to people who have watched the whole show but it shows their level of power within the duelist game.  Miki is bottom of the totem pole, Juri is better than Miki but both are trumped by Touga (though Touga's queens could be beat by kings or aces leaving two players of the duel more powerful than him).  Or maybe it's an innocent card game.  Hahahayeahright.

Now we follow Utena and Wakaba walking to Utena's dorm which from the length of the walk judged by scene changes must be on the other side of the town practically.  No wonder she can stay so trim; she's walking that far to school and the dueling arena everyday than she had better be.
Moving on from that, her dorm building hasn't been used in 10 years according Wakaba and is rumored to be haunted.  This has got to mean something but I still haven't caught it.  Utena gets there and there isn't ANYONE anywhere in this place but her door is there and labeled.  And on the second floor.  Hopefully there were no rooms on the bottom floor.  I feel like Utena really got shafted on the dorm deal here.  
She isn't the only duelist to live in a dorm.  It appears that Juri does as well in her episode so what's the deal with her being isolated?  Oh well, let's meet Chu-Chu.

Oh yeah, surprise!  Anthy moved in as her roommate and brought her pet/friend Chu-Chu.  What is a Chu-Chu?  Chu-Chu is a mouse.  But the bananas?  Chu-Chu is also a representation of Ikuhara.  Ikuhara bananas?  Hehe..  

Okay, so this is a lot of establishing right here and also gives Utena her time to ask natural questions anyone would have if they randomly fell into this like she did.  Items such as what the fuck and why the hell are lightly addressed as Anthy only answers one question directly with a single answer before answering Utena's question with a question.  But hold on!  That answer makes total sense if you know what's going on here.
U: "If you don't know, then why do you do that?"
A: "Why do you always dress like a boy, Miss Utena?"
Unfortunately, Utena doesn't answer very honestly here so when Anthy says "that's my answer" it can take you back a bit.  Anthy doesn't have the same answer that Utena orated, but the same answer underneath.  
Because of Akio.  
Because of Dios.  
Their answers are the same, Utena just answered incorrectly hiding something that will be a big reveal later.

Utena asks about the ring and why Saionji has one leading Anthy into an explanation of how she's now marked as a duelist and other student council members will challenge Utena now.  Utena declares that she will take part in no such thing.  
As Saionji meditates (broods) by his katana even taking it up to practice before being intruded upon by Touga.  He's upset because he felt the Rose Bride was his, forever.  I think it's important how he says forever.  His something eternal.  I think I finally get it now.  Dude's afraid of change.  He's one of those people that fight change when it happens.  Something eternal, never changing.

Utena's eating dinner alone waiting for Anthy when Chu-Chu runs in to tell Utena that Anthy is in some sort of trouble.  We really see that she's just talking to Saionji but hey, need your title character to go check on something?  Send in the animal representation of the director to get her there.  
I want to take a moment to talk about this awesome sundial/astrological sign thing in this scene.  When it is just Anthy and Saionji, the shadow falls on Scorpio then later closer to Libra when Utena comes out.  Where is the light source coming from?  There's a street light behind Saionji out to the street but this is like floodlight from the house.  So how does it move?  What does it symbolize?

Slap!  Pushing Utena into a duel because it's in the school guidelines though Utena has expressed that she doesn't want to participate in these duels.  Solution?  Fight to stay in school but lose on purpose to get out of the duels.  As the shadow girls say "losing may be harder than you think."

A quick step to reflect on the placement of the roses for the duels.  Yes it's the breast pocket but it's right over the duelist's heart.  Many of our duelists fight because of events tied to their hearts or their feelings and desires.  I'm going to snag the words of a friend for this here: "Utena's chest emphasizes that as a woman has more of a chance to suffer from love than a man's or is it because it's easier to theoretically hit her heart?"  I nice take away for someone only watching the first episode for the first time.  I hope he picks it up again soon.  I think he might have a good eye to see the beauty of what Utena has to offer.
So then if we look at the rose like that, what does it say about Utena guarding the rose with her hand?  Was the choice really to stay in the duels or was it to protect her heart and feelings?  Or was it simply natural as she's always guarded her heart, saving it for her prince?

Speaking of her prince, when the chips are down someone descends upon Utena empowering her to overtake Saionji.  The shadow of Utena's prince.  The tool to keep her in the duels.
I love how Utena says "I did it for Chu-Chu" when Anthy confronts her about not losing the duel.  Mostly because it's indirectly her saying "I did it for the director."  I'm amused.  Shush.
Is that a real smile we see from Anthy?  I don't see why not.  No one is watching her for her to be pretending to.

I didn't do it for you.

Images courtesy of


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