Before this review, if you asked me to pick two episodes that were the most dissimilar from not only this arc, but all of Utena, I probably would have referenced two episodes from separate arcs. After watching the two of these side by side I believe it is only fair to say that no two episodes in this show could be more different. To make my point, let me just say episode 6 features Touga boxing against a kangaroo to save Nanami and episode 7 features one of the most poignant character examinations in the story.
How can I talk about the themes of these episodes at all? One of the episodes features a kangaroo fight. I should honestly let it be known at any given point when I cover Nanami that I think she is probably the funniest thing about this series. While ridiculous and petty I simply believe a lot of the slice of life sections of this show would lack a lot if it wasn’t for her entirely ridiculous antics. Especially because this episode focuses around a new male character who was so smitten by Nanami being saved by Touga he decided, wow. I’m gonna do that. I’m going to be the big brother figure of the most high maintenance character in the entire show!
Who does that? Who sees that and thinks of it as their dream? A lot of boys in the school want to date Nanami but
there is no more high pressure of a situation than trying to be what Touga is to Nanami, and it’s easy to see why. This all results in Touga fighting a kangaroo to protect Nanami and end her ‘prank’. Looking back on this anime its easy to see how ridiculous things happen in newer anime. They have the perfect excuse! “Well we figured as long as we didn’t go so far as fighting a kangaroo we’d be pretty golden.” And aside from special instances (see: bunnies blending people for ‘shock’ factor) I have to say it’s hard to think of anything sillier off the top of my head.
And then, of course, my favorite episode of the Student Council arc happens right after it, so I’m not exactly sure how to feel. It is pretty funny that Nanami got two episodes before Juri got hers, but this episode is all about Juri. For most of the episode, it focuses on how cold and standoffish she is, and rumors fly that it has something to do with her best friend stealing away the guy she wanted to be with. Man, it sucks to be Juri! Except it doesn’t. Juri’s heartbreak over the situation is that she was in love with her friend, not the boy she ‘stole’ from her. At the end of the episode she laments that this is the case and not understood by anyone, but that was the moment I fell in love with Utena.
Back in the age of Utena representation was hard. Alongside Sailor Moon my first anime with actual representation was Utena, but the representation of homosexuality was so poignant in Utena they couldn’t possibly dub it out. There is no getting rid of the overt adult themes that blossom slowly in Utena, but Juri’s admission of love for her friend is not even overt. As it stood when Utena came out it wasn’t very common for anyone to be in love with a member of the same sex in most shows unless the show itself was focused on that. But Utena wasn’t just meant to be a shoujo-ai- it’s a show about love, maturity, adulthood, heroism, and fault. It felt like Juri’s entire reason for existing all made sense: of course, she is grumpy, people don’t even understand the reason why her heart would be broken.
The way it’s said gets me everytime: Yes, I hate you. Because I can’t make you understand how I feel. This episode is Utena at its best, setting up something we think we understand only to reveal a truth that is more heartbreaking than we thought. This episode is the first taste of that feeling, but it’s a feeling that Utena captures over and over.
From here on out. . .I wish I could say things got more serious, but we have some funny things before the beginning of the end for this arc. Midnight will get the pleasure of covering some. . . field trip hijinks, but then I will be back to cover the beginning of the arcs ending. Oh what fun the two of us will have once you guys get to see the nitty gritty of this Readers Request.