Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ep. 11 - Graceful and Ruthless; the One Who Picks the Flower

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.

"Yūga ni reikoku - Sono hana wo tsumu mono" 
June 11, 1997
Duel Song: Fuuin Jubaku
Duel Theme: conviction - Conviction

Utena and Wakaba are actually hanging out.  We haven't seen this in some time.  Wakaba's role in Utena's life is really important and I think they really needed to give some air time to their relationship before the events of the next episode.  A little reminder that even though she's not always there, she is Utena's best friend.  A great friend is like Wakaba.  Maybe not always there, maybe even some moments are just hanging out and eating food, but when you really need them, they are there for you with your best interests at heart.

Anthy shows up with an impressive looking bento box filled with festival food.  I love how Utena and Wakaba react with similar facial responses showing how close they really are even in a situation such as this.  Best friends, yay!

Miki catches Touga creepily spying on the girls with his fancy binoculars and asks about what he's doing.  "I'm looking at a lonely princess."  Well, which of these girls is he referring to?  Mostly possibly not Anthy as I believe he does recognize her in the role of the witch.  This can apply to Utena with his familiarity to her past.  This also can fit for Wakaba, the best friend trying to adjust to the new bond between her best friend and the new friend.  Even when Miki asks, we're shown the vision of Touga observing each girl as he responds that only he can see it.  

Touga begins to approach the picnicking girls and Utena actually freezes up a bit before he arrives.  She has a quick moment of uncertainty before he draws near.  Wakaba picks up on this and begins putting herself on the offensive about him.  She's picked up on how her friend is feeling and is ready to begin hating on principle of the matter.  Unfortunately, Wakaba picks the word prince to jab at Touga but that only causes Utena to internalize her uncertainty even more.  

Student council meeting with balloons!  The discussion is over Nanami's loss.  Touga claims that the fault lay within Nanami.  That even if things had been laid out for her to have fallen in to the path that it was her fault for going down that road.  It's interesting that he rests the fault in the situation that he orchestrated to happen, he sees his victim to blame.  But then the balloons, in the color of each student council member.  I think it's trying to tell them all that not only is Nanami a victim of a manipulated scheme, but so are they as well.  Even the whole school as more balloons fill the scene.

Utena is contemplating Touga's words of being something like her prince as she observes him enter the Rose Garden and converse with Anthy.  She talks about Wakaba's delicious cooking and wow, Touga tells her to get out of the kitchen and that she should forever remain in the garden.  It's like he's seen Akio talk to Anthy before and I think she feels Akio's presence through Touga in his actions here.  Her reaction is not her usual subtle tone but her eyes begin to shake and she actually seems to lose herself in what he is saying.  Not because he is Touga but because it is Akio's words.  Interesting to note, the stereotypical chauvinistic male talks about a woman's place being in the kitchen and that is where Touga tells her that she shouldn't be but in the Rose Garden instead.  Still close enough to the same kind of slap in the face, imho.  

Utena bursts in and here we are treated to a sincerely amazing sequence.  What looks like Utena standing up for Anthy is merely her pushing her will upon her.  Not once has she ever asked Anthy if she despises being to Rose Bride but simply assumes that she does because Utena herself thinks poorly of the role.  Utena does not like Anthy being the Rose Bride and instead of allowing Anthy to even finish her statement of what she truly feels, interrupts with "tell him you hate being the Rose Bride."  So Anthy says it. Because Utena told her to.  Touga even picks up on this, he doesn't say anything directly but in his laugh and saying "she's your rose bride" signal that he knows exactly what just happened.

Touga then plays the prince card, drawing Utena close and removing her defenses.  He plays on the events from their shared past and almost could have had a kiss but pulls out that they shouldn't before the Rose bride.  This interaction between these two is much different than earlier ones.  Before Utena would push away and be defensive.  She's lowered her defenses around Touga.  The "kiss" was a test from Touga to see if he had removed those defenses enough to be able to duel her and manipulate the fight enough to win.  

Utena in the hall.  We've seen her sulk in her room but this time she has removed herself completely from anyone to privately consider what is going on.  This is the first time that she almost removes her ring because she never imagined dueling her prince when she met him again.  Almost as if Anthy sensed that, she interrupts Utena's thoughts as she steps into the hall to offer Utena tea.

Utena and Anthy talk over tea about lunch and Wakaba becomes the topic of conversation.  Utena suggests that Anthy try to become friends with Wakaba.  This ignoring that Anthy has mentioned to Utena before that she doesn't want anymore friends.  Being pushed on the issue of friends, Anthy's face blanks out as she states that she would like to have more friends (regurgitating Utena's desire for her).  Utena is so naive and earnest that she thinks she's helping Anthy never realizing that she's never bothered to acknowledge Anthy's opinions.  

The shadow girl sequence is William Tell, the girls performing the same act for over 3,000 times.  The archer even tells him son at one point to quit thinking for himself.  Quite reflective of this episode.

The end of our stairway song has a different bit of animation towards the end this time.  We see Utena actually look to Anthy before fully ascending into the arena.  Actually considering Anthy instead of simply following through the motions.  I also like the emotion in Utena's face as she reaches for Anthy.  This shows how much Utena has come to care for Anthy during all of these events.  

Everything about this duel is different even before it begins.  You see Touga featured and having dialogue with Utena before the stairway song has ended.  These are all beautifully subtly clues that this duel will not end the same as the many prior to it.  

Touga's decision to open his arm defenselessly was genius.  She had no difficulty attacking when he was offensive, but her insecurities took over when he opened up to her and he took full advantage of that.  

It is painful to watch Utena struggle with losing Anthy.  She is so desperately hurt. Her emotions flowing forth just ache my heart.  And then, Touga asks Anthy if she is happy being the Rose Bride.  He changes the phrasing of Utena's earlier question and Anthy changes her answer in response.  As though Utena wasn't hurting enough already, hearing that drive the wound even deeper.  And he continues further after that.  I just can't continue on this right now.  Utena needed to know that she never truly allowed Anthy to speak for herself but Utena's reactions in this whole scene are just heart breaking.


Screenshots from the lovely except for four of them that I capped myself (Wakaba glaring down Touga, Utena almost removing her ring, Utena reaching to join hands with Anthy, and Utena, Anthy, and Touga talking while Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku is still playing).


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