Friday, July 18, 2014

Ep. 17 - Thorns of Death

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.

"Shi no Toge" 
July 23, 1997
Duel theme: jalousie - jealousy
Duel song: Chikyuu wa Jinbutsu Chinretsushitsu

Let's start out with Juri in the Rose garden, looking at her locket.  "Believe in miracles..."  Reflections on Shiori.  Really just in case you forgot from Juri's duel, here's your gentle reminder that she's in love with her childhood friend who has no clue that Juri really loves her.

Juri really pours herself into fencing.  Possibly as an escape from thinking about her love for Shiori.  You can't help but to notice how incredibly skilled she is.  And Utena bested her.  Your level of skill doesn't seem to matter in the arena, more your heart and conviction.

Juri sends Miki's fencing sword flying then lays into him about his performance.  She can be a friend but when she is team captain, she takes it very seriously.  Miki even looks a little hurt by how firmly she addresses him.  It's an odd flip from all of her previous interactions with him.

As his sword is dropped back down, we see her.  Shiori.  Who observed the finally moments of the fencing match.  Shiori catches Juri's gaze and gives a warm smile to which Juri turns swiftly away.  Shiori is hurt by this action.  Why can't her friend return her smile?  Because Juri can't openly admit her feelings for her friend so she avoids her altogether.  All this does is feed the destructive circle they are in.  Juri protects herself which hurts Shiori who hurts Juri in turn. And round and round they go.

I notice how everything in Shiori's dorm room is covered in cloth.  Yes, she's just moved in that day but everything remains covered.  She hasn't even bothered to have opened her suitcase yet as she sits atop it.  She really has JUST come back to Ohtori.  

Shiori talks all about how great a friendship there was between her and Juri then implies that she no longer deserves any of that.  We see Anthy looking back to the dorms as they leave.  Then as Mamiya, she pricks her finger on the rose's thorns.  She already knows what role Shiori will play and is ready to strike.  Through metaphors, Mamiya and Mikage discuss how to reel Juri back into dueling.  Use her poison.

Miki reports to Nanami the experience of having a sword pulled from his chest.  He sits on a chair inside the Student Council area while Juri and Nanami stand.  They are seperated as they haven't had the same experiences.  He has gone through having his sword pulled while they have not.  

Nanami denounces the occurance.  She sees the student council still as some amazing school power.  The black Rose duelists cannot be a threat because the student council is so amazing.  The idea that the student council is powerless is unreal to her.  She then goes into asking Miki what it felt like.  He blushes furiously giving the impression that the feeling is quite intimate when it occurs.  Juri excuses herself when questioned on her thoughts.

She opens the locket on her elevator descent, reminiscing the events of the past that we've seen played out before.  Juri keeps her thoughts trapped in those moments, not allowing herself to move forward.

Shiori approaches Juri telling her that she wishes to talk.  Juri's response is to turn and leave again.  This leaves Shiori calling out for her this time.  You can hear the hurt in her voice.  If only Juri would listen to me, talk to me, like she used to.  Her dismissive was hurting Shiori more and more.

Shiori finally corners Juri and says her piece.  Juri never really wanted to hear this which is why she avoided Shiori.  She didn't want to know about the time Shiori spent with BHB.  She didn't want to think about that.  

How Juri's eyes change when Shiori talks about going back to the way things were.  I think she would like that.  Maybe.  

Shiori moves next to Juri and Juri coldly closes down the conversation and excuses herself.  At the same moment she leaves, as Shiori gasps in pain once again as her friend pushes her away, a bird slams into the glass window near them.  This is very symbolic of what is happening between the two girls.  Unintentionally cruel.  Neither is meaning to hurt the other just as the glass isn't meaning to hurt the bird.  

Juri stares at the bird for a moment before divulging that she never carried feelings for BHB.  Which confuses Shiori even further.  Then why is her friend so cold to her?  Then who is it that Juri loves so much that she won't tell anyone?

Utena confronts Juri as she comes down the stairs.  Utena is under the impression that Juri will not forgive Shiori for some unknown reason.  Not that Juri will not stop hurting herself over her feelings for Shiori.  Everything Utena tells Juri drives right into her heart.  Cruelly innocent.  

Utena vents to Akio about how Juri addressed her.  Oh yeah, just the guy to go talk to.  Tell him all of your friends secrets so that he can exploit their weaknesses.. Mwahahahaha!  Er, I mean, go on.

Juri removed the locket from her neck and throws it into the lake at Ohtori Academy.  She is hoping to release herself from her torture not realizing that the action was a useless one indeed. 

 Shiori's dorm door flies open as she approaches with the locket resting inside her vase.  This action eats at Shiori's insecurities.  Who out this here?  Are they mocking me?  Did they look inside?  Does everybody know?  Did Juri do this to me?  Is she toying with me?

Now she enters the elevator and divulges her feelings about Juri.  This is my favorite elevator ride.  It's a rocket of emotion from beginning to end.  Shiori talks about hating Juri but I think rather these were all traits that she admired and attracted her to Juri.  She talks about it as hate for Juri but I think it might be more misplaced self-hate that we're seeing.

Note that Shiori actually looks up from her token that she's brought with her.  She looks at herself and is able to continue her rant about how she felt Juri was always making fun of her by being nice to her. This elevator ride is not so much about her feelings towards Juri but her insecurities focused on Juri.  

For a moment, she revels proudly in being better than Juri.  By being the one Juri loves and can't have, to make her miserable as Shiori feels all of the time.  She is laughing and smiling at carrying this power.  Then, the snap.  She throws the locket and begins to scream in panic.  Why?  Why me?  Why do you look at me like that?  The elevator is shaking at the intensity that is Shiori's emotions right now. 

Shiori then approaches Juri and holds up the locket.  Juri stumbles forward in a movement that says she wish she could take it back.  Take it back before Shiori could see what she has probably already seen.  Juri hangs her head, defeated and ashamed to have the inside of the locket revealed.  

What Shiori says here is again more about herself than Juri.  "I loved the look in your eyes when I hurt you."  She doesn't so much love to cause Juri pain as many might think, she just wants to feel equal to Juri.  Hurting Juri is the only way she's ever conceived to be able to be Juri's equal.  

Now we see the removal of the sword.  It begins with intimacy, being close and toying with their emotions before suddenly and painfully removed from their bodies.  I've read an essay likening the experience to rape.  It's invasive and forced upon.  It definitely can be done gently, as seen with Miki, or to cause further pain, as we see with many of the black Rose duelists.

The Shadow Girl again performs a piece that reflects much on what is going on.  "My secret is out! I'm doomed!  Doomed!"  This is both Juri and Shiori here.  Juri feels this way only towards Shiori in regards to the locket.  Shiori worries about who placed the locket in her dorm.  How many people know that she is the object of Juri's  affection?

The birds.  The bird that hurt itself against the window of course would be the item to represent Shiori in the duel.  She felt like the bird then but now, she will demonstrate how strong the bird can be.  The problem with this is that Shiori just wants to show herself as Juri's better in this duel, not actually win.  

And away they fly.  Unable to control them from being hurt again.  They'll fly away to hurt themselves once again against a window just like before.  The never-ending cycle.  

This duelist going to the fire has hair much like Shiori's with the same small bird resting on his chest.  Interesting to note that you will see no male duelists in these coffins.  I do believe them from a time before Akio met Utena and began to consider allowing females to enter the duels.  

Juri awakens to find the locket laying next to her.  Again, we know not who put it there.  

Utena claims that Shiori seems different but Anthy knows better.  She knows a faker when she sees it because she plays the game in the professional division.  Shiori hasn't changed.

Juri passes her and gives a greeting.  While Shiori responds, she doesn't aknowledge Juri as Juri was hoping for.  You could see where Juri was hoping for a miracle.  That Shiori would remember that she is in her locket and maybe, just maybe, they could be close like that.  But of course it couldn't.  But the hope has her chained in the locket once more. 

Why can't I be stronger?

Screenshots (and cells) from the lovely except Miki being lectured by Juri, Juri's face while talking to Shiori, and the duelist in the coffin.


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