Friday, August 06, 2004

(More Utena Spoilers) Reading fan discussions of Utena is great- it helps you remember things you might have missed, such as the fact that Utena is found in a coffin, and Anthy is rescued from one. Their differing takes on the characters and plot are important in a series that leaves a lot up to the imagination of the viewer. I think this makes it a stronger series, because in part, each viewer gets a personalized story. I feel it is a big allegory for adolescence. You have to, through struggle and toil, let go of your childhood. That's why Akio and Anthy, while having a lot of power in this world, seem trapped in it. Akio feels like he has given up the ideal of princehood, but it's not like that at all. It's like he's orchestrated this whole dueling game, so that he can get the power of Dios, which is just his young princely self. Even Anthy says it at the end- you can go on with your prince game.

However, Anthy had her own demons to slay, like thinking that she deserved everyone's ire, and Akio's bad treatment. While Anthy wasn't exactly the passive girl people thought she was, it seems that at some level she blames herself for the fall of Akio(whose name comes from a reading of the character for Venus, which is called the morning star- i.e. Lucifer). At least that is my theory of why she puts up with everyone's shit, and especially Akio's treatment of her- it is interesting how Akio reaches for a princely ideal, but acts very unprincely with his treatment of his sister as a fucktoy.

Of course, this is not to say that Utena or the other characters get a get out of jail free card. They all fall short of their ideals, or what they thought of as ideal wasn't so ideal in the first place. I think that's part of the pain of adolescence- realizing that what you wanted to do or be, may not in fact be possible. The triumph that Utena has is seeking a compromise between being a foolish idealist who must be all to all, like Dios, who is portrayed as lying on the floor sick, exhausted from the claims of the world, or being a cynic like Akio, who says he doesn't believe in princes, but keeps hanging on, or Jury, who says that miracles don't happen, but still desperately hopes for one.

The fact is that Utena achieves one small goal, one realistic goal. She saves her friend. Even after the "You slept with my brother!" "Well, you slept with your brother!" tension or the stabbing, Utena still wants to save her friend. I like how she realizes that she wanted to save Anthy before, because she saw her as a princess, as someone to be saved, but now, she wants to save her, for herself, and that's why I think Utena could open the coffin.

I think everyone has different opinions, which is why this is such a compelling anime. Note how I have projected my concerns onto this show- adolescence, ideals vs reality, optimism vs pessimism. Others would have brought other concerns to the forefront. Some characters would be more important in their analysis, others less so. To some, the arcs would have been brought forward differently- I used mostly material from the final arc.

I think this whole thing reminds me of this guy my comparative literature teacher mentioned, who said that you could never read a book in its entirety. He said it was because the reader kept changing. I don't remember whether this is what the guy really said, but it was about the changeable face of language- how the very words could start to mean something slightly different, how one phrase could leap out one time, and be meaningless another. The wonder of narrative, especially books, is that it seems to be fixed, but it isn't. Every narrative creates different narratives in different minds. That is the power of it- it is never solely the author's, it belongs to everyone.

With that said, don't come crying to me, when you try to pretend that famous book is your own book, buster.

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