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Gougai! Gougai!

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top05-02-2009 11:38:11 PM

Devyn Star
New Student
Registered: 05-02-2009
Posts: 6

The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Okay so the entire time I've watched Utena, I never understood the spinning roses in the series and what they symbolize. Sometimes they are used to censor out something, or they blink and spin. Most of the time they are different colors and are of course extremely "non-matching" to the background, like they are purposely showing you that this is a show and not real life. I dunno how to explain that.

Anyone know what they mean? :/

Also, in the episode with Mikage's past... there were several arrows and fingers pointing at things like the girl's lipstick, cats in the windows, decorations, etc. Does anyone know what these symbolize?

I'm trying to come up with writing an essay for a small website I have and if I could learn what these mean, I can use the help in my essays. :)

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#2 | Back to Top05-03-2009 06:39:22 AM

KillerxXxQueen
Snowdrop Lover
From: North Augusta, SC
Registered: 04-22-2009
Posts: 1760

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

A lot of the episodes are there to call attention to certain recurring items that show up throughout the saga. The pictures that are in the elevator, for instance, show up and are pointed to. Also, the lipstick on the teacup is just to imply what happened before the scene. I haven't watched that saga in awhile though...I'll try to get back to you on that.


"Reason I know is only a drug and, as such, its effects are never permanent."
                                                         --Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist

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#3 | Back to Top05-03-2009 11:57:26 AM

Bluesky
Chpn Dlst
From: Your window
Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

The little blinking arrows seem to fit in with Mikage's worldview, as he's described as being 'like a computer' several times. He sees things a little differently to everybody else (was I the only one who thought he was on the autistic spectrum?).

The roses I'd guess are just there to highlight that something important is going on.


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#4 | Back to Top05-03-2009 04:14:41 PM

thegreycoin
New Student
Registered: 01-16-2007
Posts: 9

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

the roses are used in several different ways throughout the series. if i remember correctly, oftentimes when they are spinning in the corner of the screen they are indicating memories or fantasies. other times they inexplicably 'censor' things, as you mentioned. and sometimes they just bring the viewer's attention to a scene, character, or line.

the roses and fingers are notable because they serve no narrative purpose. they are in no way a part of the story that we're seeing, and have been placed there only for the audience's benefit. it's the equivalent of reading a book that comes with certain passages highlighted. it's a surface level of narration that plays no part in the story itself but influences the way we read the scene.

i don't think that the roses (i will have to go back and watch episodes again 22 and 23 to comment on the fingers) had any symbolism behind them. i think they were largely functional, serving as a reminder of the fictitiousness of the story itself (and of the fictions WITHIN the story). they're just one in a long line of stylistic decisions meant to establish a mood and remind us that we're watching a postmodern fairytale.

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#5 | Back to Top05-03-2009 04:36:14 PM

Melancholic_Soul
Dancer Romancer
From: VA
Registered: 04-28-2009
Posts: 1513

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

The color of the rose is important. You'll notice that when someone's remembering
something, that how they're percieving that memory is connected to the the color of the rose... Like when Nanami remember's Touga there is a white rose when he's doing something she percieves as 'princely'. The white rose is the symbol of the white prince... so pretty much what you're seeing is the 'rose colored' glasses coloring over the memory.

That's only one aspect that we talked about in an Utena panel that was devoted to the symbolic imagery in Utena...

although when it comes to Nanami, her view of Touga is pretty obvious, even in the fact that when she visits memories of him, he always has this haircut... it's weird because no one else remembers him as a youth the way Nanami does... every one else remembers a long haired Touga


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#6 | Back to Top05-03-2009 04:37:34 PM

Melancholic_Soul
Dancer Romancer
From: VA
Registered: 04-28-2009
Posts: 1513

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

...and yeah it's still only one part of that...


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v476/anthy_utena/rukasan.gif Believing in the power of Love and Justice since 1999
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#7 | Back to Top05-03-2009 11:01:17 PM

Riri-kins
World's End
From: Cloud Nine
Registered: 09-22-2008
Posts: 2346

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Someone, although I can't remember who, once speculated that the roses symbolized repressed sexuality, and I agree with them. Take the scene with Nanami watching Touga shower or the tense meeting between Akio and Mrs. Ohtori.   I'm not sure about the fingers or arrows though.


Proud Saionji and Mikage fangirl
My Utena fanfiction: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2000115/Riri-kins

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#8 | Back to Top05-04-2009 06:43:14 AM

Melancholic_Soul
Dancer Romancer
From: VA
Registered: 04-28-2009
Posts: 1513

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Riri-kins wrote:

Someone, although I can't remember who, once speculated that the roses symbolized repressed sexuality, and I agree with them. Take the scene with Nanami watching Touga shower or the tense meeting between Akio and Mrs. Ohtori.   I'm not sure about the fingers or arrows though.

...
during that meeting, the rose on Akio's frame is red, symbolizing the power he can gain, the rose in Mrs. Ohtori's frame is white, as she's viewing him as someone who can 'save' her... Of course all of this is definitely sexual...Mrs. Ohtori is looking for a release (a fairly simple, no strings attached, make me feel like a woman kind of way) While Akio has his own motives (this point is pretty arguable, it depends on wether we think of Akio re-living his boyhood as Dios through 'saving' women by having sex with them, or possibly by having something pretty large to hold over their heads; blackmail)... as usual two people are going into a situation with different ideas of what is to be gained.
.................................................................................................................................................................
Sexual themes are so prevalent within Utena, almost everything can be connected to it.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v476/anthy_utena/rukasan.gif Believing in the power of Love and Justice since 1999
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#9 | Back to Top05-04-2009 08:19:49 AM

PrinceoftheLostEternity
Rose Assignee
From: Castle of Eternal Dark
Registered: 04-06-2009
Posts: 1720

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

The pictures in the Mikage thing are used to symbolize certain things. I know that there was the picture of the boys who dies, which was blatanly saying "Mikage killed em!" That's all that was. As for the roses, they can be seen at the introduction or during anything relevant to the individual characters, often reflecting their dueling rose's color.


I want your love and I want your revenge, you and me can write a bad romance.

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#10 | Back to Top05-05-2009 03:04:25 AM

Devyn Star
New Student
Registered: 05-02-2009
Posts: 6

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Wow thanks for all the replies everyone. My observant skills are toned down since not studying for a while so I'm glad some of the insight was shown to me. If anyone has any other responses just post. emot-smile

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#11 | Back to Top05-05-2009 05:08:01 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
Website

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

thegreycoin wrote:

the roses and fingers are notable because they serve no narrative purpose. they are in no way a part of the story that we're seeing, and have been placed there only for the audience's benefit. it's the equivalent of reading a book that comes with certain passages highlighted. it's a surface level of narration that plays no part in the story itself but influences the way we read the scene.

i don't think that the roses (i will have to go back and watch episodes again 22 and 23 to comment on the fingers) had any symbolism behind them. i think they were largely functional, serving as a reminder of the fictitiousness of the story itself (and of the fictions WITHIN the story). they're just one in a long line of stylistic decisions meant to establish a mood and remind us that we're watching a postmodern fairytale.

I'd argue the point of the pointing hands -- they serve a distinct purpose in the narrative, because my over-arching impression of those two episodes is that we were witnessing the collapse of Nemuro's psyche through his own eyes. They're symbolic of where his attention is being drawn to. Nemuro is presented to us as a computer-like man with no real grasp of the nuances of normal human relationships, and this breaks down as he falls in love with Tokiko and forms a friendship with Mamiya. This internal change is reflected in his changing view of the world around him, which he used to see as uninteresting. Now that he cares about other people who exist in that world, he starts to see that world and how it affects him and those around him more clearly. Though of course Akio is manipulating what he sees, hence why everything shortly turns to custard. It's actually fairly ironic, as Ohtori is presented as an insular world, somehow separate from the world beyond its borders, but it is only in Ohtori that Nemuro begins to see the outside world. He then turns around and ends up as Mikage, perpetually trapped in his little mad world inside his head.

I love irony, by the way. emot-keke

...and yeah, I always reference this essay when I want to talk about Mikage, but it's mostly because I'm too lazy to go over it again even though I wrote this...shit, almost eight, nine years ago? emot-gonk But it explains the significance of what's being pointed at by the hands in the Nemuro episodes. Or at least, it points out the significance as I see it. emot-keke http://www.anime-myth.com/garden.html

eta: This might end up as a bit of a tldr, but this is probably the more important section of the essay when it comes to your question:

Some of the key symbolism of the Black Rose Arc is found principally in the two episodes that deal with the past of the non-existent building, Nemuro Memorial Hall, its non-existent master, Souji Mikage, and its non-existent resident, Mamiya Chida. The symbols that surround Professor Nemuro and Souji Mikage in episodes 22 and 23 are perhaps the most penetrating - as they relate directly to the memories of Professor Nemuro and shaped the man Souji Mikage would become - and it is to these we must look for insight into who the "imaginary living being" truly was.

The first thing that one might notice is the allusions to Professor Nemuro's existence as "a computer-like man," as he is nick-named by the students he supervises. Upon entering the school, Professor Nemuro begins to notice things that he has never noticed before. We are shown this by the way a hand appears, similar to a cursor of a mouse, accompanied by a computer-like beeping (notice this hand is the same hand that directs people to the Mikage Seminar... every student comes to the seminar only when their eyes have been opened to something they themselves never really saw before). This happens with a number of things as they catch Professor Nemuro's attention. Each symbol is apparently communicating to us something significant. We are shown: a cat in the window, a teapot, a butterfly, another cat, again a cat, two students holding hands, lipstick, Mamiya and Tokiko, the lipstick again, and finally Tokiko and Akio. Each is a symbol associated with either affection, friendship, rebirth and regeneration, or love. These are three things Nemuro has never known until now; the computer-like man doesn't understand the workings of the heart... until he is drawn into the world of Ohtori Akio.

The Symbols That Open the Professor's Eyes

Treating each symbol in turn, we firstly look at the three cats, who appear one after the other in Tokiko's window as she speaks to Nemuro about the research going on at the school. They appear to be symbolising a family, which becomes very important in determining the relationship between Mamiya and Mikage as opposed to the relationship between Professor Nemuro and the boy. There are two larger cats and one smaller cat. They are a family: Nemuro, Tokiko, and Mamiya. Of course, one can also take them as the classical symbol of bad luck, and they do say bad luck always comes in threes... and Professor Nemuro certainly gets his fair share of bad luck in Akio's Academy.

The teapot is merely symbolising affection; making tea for another is a gesture of friendship, something it may be fair to say Nemuro doesn't get a lot of. He reacts to the student on the staircase earlier in the episode almost rudely when asked about the snow, and is never terribly warm towards the student in the spontaneous, "break the ice" conversation. The student later remarks to his colleagues "The man himself is quite dry" and implies that Nemuro himself is simply a person who doesn't care. Nemuro even makes a point of asking Tokiko at the outset of their meeting in her house over the tea, "You've called me all the way out to your house, so what do you want?" apparently showing that he isn't terribly used to the idea of friendship for friendship's sake.

The butterfly is a symbol that has its roots in earlier episodes of this Saga, and is deeply associated with the leaf symbol in these two episodes and Mikage's elevator. In Mikage's elevator, as a student descends to their "heart of darkness" we are shown several things on the specimen box on the elevator wall. It begins as a butterfly, moves through to a chrysalis, to a caterpillar, to a leaf (perhaps with eggs on it). This is an indication of a journey; the person is reverting to a state in which they can be reborn, which obviously happens with each of the Black Rose Duellists. They are reborn - a green leaf symbolises springtime, the period of Easter, of death and rebirth - as different people are forced to duel Utena Tenjou for the Rose Bride. Nemuro's first transition is not so outwardly sinister, though it becomes obvious later that Nemuro's change is possibly not for the better in the end. However, Nemuro is indeed "reborn," coming to life as it were. The mechanical man takes on a new vitality; his students notice that he is excited and enthusiastic about the research now. Nemuro is a changed man, having seen for the first time the way to love somebody.

As he is talking to Tokiko, Nemuro receives something of a flashback to some of the hundred youths ascending the staircase to the Hall. He noticed that two of the young men are holding hands. This could be taken as either simple friendship or something deeper, but its impact on Nemuro is the same. It is a sign of affection, of love, be it platonic or romantic. In fact, the ambiguity is in fact possibly intentional, for the two loves Nemuro discovers he can feel are both. He is romantically in love with Tokiko and platonically in love with her brother.

The lipstick on the teacup is related to two things in the context of the episodes; the first is that it is a symbol of the friendship Tokiko and Nemuro are building up "over the teacups." It reoccurs slightly differently later in the episode when it is seen again, when it is to do with the contract Nemuro is asked to enter into and the nature of what he must do to fulfil his duties.

The next - major - thing shown to us and Nemuro by the cursor-hand is Tokiko and Mamiya themselves, and the relationship between the pair. It seems safe to assume that the pair's parents are dead or absent, leaving Tokiko alone to bring up her younger, ailing brother. Nemuro is astonished by the passion of Tokiko as she tells her brother "What I hate the most is someone who doesn't look after themselves!"

The importance of this devotion is what obviously strikes a chord with Nemuro, because when Mikage overhears Utena Tenjou use a similar phrase to Anthy Himemiya, the automatic association he makes is to Tokiko. It is this relationship between sister and brother - and Tokiko's later tears over the matter, the "first" time Nemuro had seen someone cry - which opens his eyes to love and what he feels can be his family.

The last symbol is perhaps the disturbing shattering of the illusions Nemuro has been building from these symbols. When Nemuro chases the coffin the evening Akio gives him the Rose Signet - passing by a black rose on the journey - he comes across a scene that breaks him.

It is Akio and Tokiko caught in a passionate embrace.

This is where the lines between Nemuro and Mikage become indistinct; this is the key turning point, the true rebirth of Nemuro himself as Souji Mikage, the principal Black Rose Duellist. But this is tied up with the fire that ultimately destroyed the building where the research took place, one of the most tangled memories of the Professor and the key to understanding Mikage. However, before the fire is explained, there are numerous other symbols to be taken into account.

The Contract and the Rose Signet

The Rose Signet is placed in the cup Tokiko has been drinking out of, and indeed, Nemuro's acceptance of the contract seems partly based on his desire to please the woman to make her love him... but the Rose Signet itself, worn by all the hundred boys and potentially by Nemuro, is a very important symbol in itself. It is a contract, emphasising Nemuro's earlier statement that he is involved in the research "Purely for business reasons." In fact, this is one of the indications that this is how Nemuro brought himself to burn the building down in the first place. There are three things that let his conscience rest somewhat, become lax enough to light the fire. The first is that it would allow him to grasp eternity, thereby releasing Mamiya from his illness and making Tokiko happy. However, he states that "...even if I do grasp eternity by doing this, she won't be very happy." He is in fact further compelled to do so by Mamiya's peculiar change of heart. While Mamiya has previously insinuated that he did not want to live forever, Mamiya later comes to Nemuro - caught in the web of indecision over whether or not to undertake the "required sacrifice" - and insists he wants eternity after all.

The third thing is the simple matter of the contract - the boys are being treated as "spare parts, so to speak." Akio insists they have a contract; Nemuro later uses this as his excuse to Tokiko as to why he did what he did. "Those boys had a contract." He also seems to justify it to himself with a scientist's detachment - "Those boys had a contract. Ancient creatures died and left naught but fossil fuels, like coal and petroleum. Without that sacrifice, our present energy civilisation would not exist. That sort of sacrifice is what is always demanded." Whatever Nemuro's true feelings were, when he put on the Rose Signet, he became a tool of the Ends of the World. He himself had a contract with Akio - and even though Mikage later insists "I've done nothing more than make a deal with you. There's no reason for me to obey your orders," it becomes clear to us that he is compelled to continue the grasp for eternity... for the ward so constantly at his side.

Time and Photographs

The hourglass is an important symbol in this arc because of the ambiguity of time in this world. It is never entirely clear how much time passed between the fire at the Hall and the present of the series, though we are given indications, the key one being Tokiko's apparent age when she returns to the Academy. The passing of time is also indicated by numerous other things - the pictures are one example. In the past, there is a picture of Tokiko and Mamiya that is later displayed in the montage in Nemuro Memorial Hall. However, it is no longer in colour - it is in black and white, seeming to indicate that it is in the past, lost like the sands that slip so reluctantly through the hourglass.

Of course, the pictures themselves are symbolic of several things. They are symbols of the past; perhaps they are also Mikage's way of clinging to the memories of Professor Nemuro, no matter how inaccurate they can and do become. There is a picture of Mamiya on the desk Mikage sits at, forever keeping his goal in front of him - as a scientist, Mikage needs something to work for. The pictures on the wall are also symbolic of the past and rebirth. Utena, Nemuro, Tokiko, Mamiya, Kanae, Kozue, Shiori, Tsuwabuki, Wakaba, Keiko... the Black Rose Duellists have their rebirth as those bitter individuals forced to duel with Utena in the sky. Tokiko is "reborn" through Mikage's misconception that the woman is working through Utena to destroy him. Mamiya is reborn through the false Mamiya, the mask behind which Anthy hids. Utena has been reborn from the girl hiding in the coffin to the girl who wishes to become a Prince. Nemuro has been reborn as Mikage, his purpose being to grasp eternity for Mamiya. The pictures are the past that drives them forward.

However, the hourglass is a symbol of how time is manipulated by Akio. "I exploited the illusion you cherished in your memory so much that you even halted your own time." When Tokiko returns to the Academy, it is obvious to her that the time is skewered... something that she noticed earlier when she was making Professor Nemuro tea. "I wonder if even an hourglass can run slow," she says in confusion, though when she returns so many years later, the strangeness of time does not appear to bother her so any longer... she merely states "there's something wrong with that, though," when Akio says no child becomes an adult in the Academy. There are two hourglasses associated with Mikage and Professor Nemuro - Tokiko's, and Akio's. Tokiko's merely seems a symbol of how a "normal" person in the Academy could notice the oddness of time - perhaps Miki Kaoru is the only other person likely to notice this, what with his stopwatch fetish - while Akio's is a symbol of how he is in fact controlling Mikage and manipulating his memories so that his time is in fact halted.

Time and eternity - nothing at all - are very important ideas in this arc, naturally. Nemuro's first thoughts on this subject are obvious; he makes a clear indication that the thought of building a perpetual motion machine is silly, as well as being impossible. He thinks mechanically, does this computer like man, and his machine-like brain cannot grasp the concept of something so utterly metaphysical. It is not until his mind is opened to the emotional world of love and affection that he realises that it is a worthy dream. This is echoed by the fact that he reaches a stalemate later on in his zealous mission to grasp eternity - he can't solve the final equations, the last analysis. He needed to do it another way, a way not so mathematical, not so reasonable; and it was perhaps it was his realisation of this that made him more open to Akio's highly irrational plan to sacrifice a hundred youths to open the road to eternity from the Academy.

The Tears

There is also a little to do with tears as symbols. Water falls into the black rose aquarium, to touch upon the roses, the water. This is perhaps more a symbol of opening gates - they resemble the water droplets that open the waterlock of the gate leading to the Duel Arena, and later Utena's own tears, which open the Rose Gate that seals away the Power of Dios - but they could perhaps be the tears of Mamiya. He does, after all, sometimes allude to an abhorrence of what he and Mikage are doing, much as the true Mamiya once expressed a dislike for the thought of making something last forever even when it perhaps really wanted to die. At one point, Mamiya does call Mikage "A wicked man." More tears seen in association with Nemuro are the tears of Tokiko, the ones she sheds when detailing her brother's tragedy. When she apologises for crying in front of him, Nemuro makes a strange response for the uncaring computer-like man: "It's all right. It feels like this is the first time I've ever seen a person's tears." Nemuro is alluding to the fact that real tears are a symbol of true emotions that he has not understood until introduced to Tokiko; it is part of his awakening or rebirth.

Finally, Mikage's tears symbolise his emotions. He weeps in the elevator he is at last ironically taking down himself; the supposed puppet master has fallen so low that he is subjected to his own psychological analysis. He seems fascinated by his own tear, as if he didn't think he could cry. It is a part of Nemuro displayed prominently in Mikage; the computer-like man can be broken. C-ko's statement that "...a robot does not worry... a robot is not lonely," seems to be untrue. Mikage is falling ever deeper into the realm of strong emotion... the realm that kept this imaginary living being as a prisoner of the Academy for so very long.

Mamiya and His Roses

Mamiya Chida is a very intriguing character. Long before he was to be made into the Rose Bride, he had an interest in roses... he tended to them as Anthy Himemiya herself does. In fact, even though he is dying and knows he should be in bed, his main concern is the roses in the greenhouse. Consequently, his roses come to be descriptive of his very character and who he is precisely.

The key symbol his roses represent are the fragile nature of life itself. Cut flowers, of course, will not live long... but even the flowers on the bushes still will not last forever. Mamiya alludes to the fact that he himself is a rose... he implies his sister makes rose sugar pickles and dry flowers because "She doesn't want to see the flowers scatter, you see." Tokiko is of course trying to do the same for Mamiya, to make him last forever... but what does Mamiya have to say on the matter?

"But I wonder if the flowers themselves are happy, being forced to last so long."

Nemuro is apparently insulted by this remark, thinking Mamiya is ungrateful of what Tokiko and the Professor are trying to do for him. Mamiya insinuates that it isn't so, but he also seems to warn Nemuro under the statement "Eternity doesn't exist in this world, does it? It's just that one could think that a heart that longs for eternity is beautiful." It seems to be a subtle warning on the boy's part that eternity is not what it seems... and indeed, if Mamiya was made eternal by becoming the Rose Bride, his fate would not be entirely pleasant.

Mamiya's roses are the symbol of the price of eternity... and the indication that Mamiya is perhaps the only one of the three who does not want the eternity they struggle for. Does Mamiya want to die? Does Nemuro realise this? Certainly, he later seems reluctant to do anything drastic about grasping eternity after speaking to Mamiya... but when Mamiya has a change of heart, the Professor seems ready again to strive towards such things...

However, Mamiya's roses also lead into another symbol... the peculiar reference to a controversial work of art.

Olympia

One scene in the episode 'Qualifications of a Duellist' is perhaps very unusual in the manner it alludes to two famous paintings. It is most closely associated with Manet's Olympia, which is in turn a nineteenth century pre-Impressionist work based on Titian's sixteenth century work Venus of Urbino. That in itself is perhaps an indication of why it is there; there are two versions of the painting, and there are two versions of the man principally in the "painting" as shown in the anime. There is Professor Nemuro, and then there is Souji Mikage.

The figure prominent in Olympia is very different to the prominent figure in Venus. While the latter is a goddess, the former is a courtesan. In fact, Olympia was widely condemned by critics of the time for precisely that reason - it was not customary to paint such woman in such a manner. The way the painting was executed is also in a manner the critics called "childish" with obvious strokes and a very realistic "wart and all" impression. In fact, it has been said of the painting: "Instead of the carefully constructed perspective that leads the eye deep into the space of the painting, Manet offers a picture frame flattened into two planes. The foreground is the glowing white body of Olympia on the bed; the background is darkness." This is reminiscent of Mikage; a two-dimensional "shadow" surrounded by darkness.

Of course, the most interesting thing is the composition of the painting. Why is Mikage/Nemuro represented as a courtesan? Why does Mamiya offer him roses? Why is the cat in Manet's picture missing? All are very symbolic answers. In Manet's painting, there is a black cat; this cat is missing from the scene depicted in the anime. Think back to the earlier symbols of the cats; they represent a family. In this scene, Nemuro has realised that he can not create a "family" situation - like the cats in the window - with Tokiko and Mamiya because Tokiko is involved with Akio. And so, the black cat - an implication of Tokiko's presence - is noticeably missing.

Mamiya is shown in the scene to be presenting Nemuro with a bunch of roses, just as the servant girl does for the courtesan in the painting Olympia. They are said to be in the original painting a gift from a client of the courtesan - and this is a heavy inference that Akio had in fact interfered with Mamiya himself. After all, Mamiya once told Nemuro he didn't want to go on forever, like the dried flowers his sister took such pleasure in making. It wasn't until Akio asked Nemuro to burn the building down that Mamiya apparently changed his mind on the subject. This sudden change of heart - mixed with the implications of the roses Mamiya offers Nemuro - seems to indicate that Akio talked Mamiya into telling Nemuro he wanted to live forever.

And Nemuro/Mikage as the courtesan? The courtesan in the painting is perhaps identifiable with Mikage, while the Venus of Titian's painting is identifiable with Nemuro. Why is this? Mikage is the "earthy" side of Nemuro, more sexual and more capable of manipulating people to his own ends. And it was "doubly disturbing" of Manet's painting that the subject had a real identity, just as Mikage himself had a "real" identity - Professor Nemuro. And of course, what is a courtesan? "A woman whose body is a commodity." Indeed, Mikage, the imaginary living body, is a commodity, a possession Akio does away with when he decides he has no further need of him.

(This particular frame - the one resembling Olympia and Venus at Urbino is found in episode 23, when Mamiya discusses with Nemuro the nature of eternity).

The Snow

When we first see Professor Nemuro, he is being questioned on the staircase to the research Hall about the snow. The student asks him "It doesn't seem to disappear too quickly, does it, Professor Nemuro?" This theme is repeated later with the comment Professor Nemuro makes to Mamiya along the same lines - "The snow in this garden doesn't disappear so easily, does it?" Both are indicating that the winter is slow and unwilling to leave, which is perhaps an indication that time is running unusually slow in the Academy.

However, this theme could be taken in the context of April, the month of Easter, of green leaves and rebirth. 'April is the cruellest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain./Winter kept us warm, covering/Earth in forgetful snow, feeding/A little life with dried tubers.' Professor Nemuro is an emotionless creature, buried underground in frozen soil, seeming not to care about the world above him. As time passes at the Academy - no matter how peculiarly - he begins to grow. He is reborn into the world, a man of feeling, emotion, desire. The indication that the "snow doesn't melt too easily" is perhaps just saying that Nemuro was not easy to turn. However, he does grow up out of the frozen ground. He seems to realise this, because when he says to Mamiya that the snow doesn't disappear too easily, he sounds vaguely wistful. It is only the reluctance to let go of the past that drives him to say this, perhaps; after all, it is soon indicated to us that Professor Nemuro will cling to his memories at any cost.

The Butterflies and the Elevator

This idea ties in very firmly with the earlier ideas of rebirth and journeys. As was shown in the analysis of the symbols that opened the Professor's eyes, the specimen box in Mikage's descending elevator is a repository for several symbols that indicate this journey through an emotional waste land of negative feelings. It is a journey in fact comparable with Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness; those in the elevator sink deep within their human psyches and find nothing there but murderous hate. This is of course partly Mikage's fault, but it is also tied up with the popular literary/evolutionary idea that humans are savages at heart. Mikage's elevator is a portal to the darkness inside... such as Mikage himself is perhaps the darkness inside of Nemuro's own heart. The elevator allows Mikage to "rebirth" those who enter the elevator... is this a mirror of how Nemuro himself was apparently reborn twice? Once, the computer-like man became a sentient being... and then the one who loved not wisely but too well left himself wide open for the machinations of the greatest Iago of them all.

The Fire At "Nemuro Memorial Hall" and the Coffins Beneath

The infamous fire. It is safe to assume that perhaps the hundred boys did die in this fire, but the exact manner of their deaths is unclear. It seems that perhaps they were in fact buried alive; Miki Kaoru mentions that there is a rumour of that nature going around about Nemuro Memorial Hall. Mikage himself tells Utena that the one hundred boys who died in the fire were trapped in the building and burned to death.

Perhaps it is more likely that they were trapped in their coffins and suffocated as the building burned down... indeed, in the first episode of this Arc, Kanae hears distinct knocking from inside the coffins. It is as if they, too, are trying to escape the cruel fate but are shuttered away into these coffins, coffins they were locked into by their contracts with the Ends of the World, their mysterious "You Know Who."

The major symbol of the tomb beneath Nemuro Memorial Hall is of course these coffins themselves. Later on in the series, Kyouichi Saionji makes the bold statement that they (the present Duellists of the Academy) are all still in the coffins that the Ends of the World made for them - and indeed, in Professor Nemuro's case, this seems very much true. Throughout the time he is working under Akio without being fully aware of the fact, he is haunted by the sound of the boys pushing long, white-shrouded boxes around the hall. It isn't until he sees Tokiko kissing Akio that he finally sees that they are in fact coffins. It is a very unsubtle hint that Nemuro took to burn the place to the ground... as much as one can burn stone to the ground, at any rate. What is most unsettling about these coffins, however, is that it appears that Nemuro has a coffin himself... in his duel, we are shown a brief picture of Nemuro pushing a coffin forward. Of course, this may indicate that Nemuro started pushing the coffins around himself to speed up the process so he could bring death to all the boys, but it seems more that Nemuro was building his own prison, his own eternity in a coffin... imprisoning himself in his own memories, much as Anthy Himemiya is imprisoned in her own coffin. Is this perhaps an indication that Nemuro is dead...?

The missing shoes in the "morgue" are perhaps only circumstantial, but it is possible that they symbolise something to do with the question of Nemuro's mortality. The shoes are all lined up beneath the coffins set into the room - which Mikage claims leads to the Ends of the World - and Mikage himself stands amongst them. Whether Mikage is alive or not is difficult to pinpoint exactly. He seems to have his place among the dead of the Hall, but unlike the hundred dead boys, he does not hold a black Rose Signet. His is white, the same colour of those of the living duellists of the Academy. It is apparent that Mikage is alive, but at the end of the arc, Akio claims that Mikage was more or less a figment of his imagination, a spectre kept alive and functioning only through the manipulations of memory and former desire.

The fire itself is another highly complicated incident in this arc. There are two different interpretations one can make from it - the first is that Mamiya burnt the place down as part of his unexplained change of heart, because, as he told Professor Nemuro, "I... I... I want eternity." This is the explanation we are first led to believe; it is not until later that we come to understand that it was Professor Nemuro who burnt the place down... and the ill-conceived memory that Mamiya did was something that Akio gave Mikage to prevent him from being overwhelmed by guilt at having been the one to murder all those boys.

It is clear to us at the end of the series that the fire itself was in fact completely unnecessary; technically, Akio had no need for the sacrifice he insisted to Professor Nemuro was required. After all, Professor Nemuro did not make the Duel Arena appear, nor the road to it, nor the castle said to hold eternity - all are mere projections from Akio's Observatory that never really existed. The demand that Akio placed on Nemuro seemed merely for the point of testing Nemuro's devotion towards Mamiya... for what Akio really needed was a person to have something they desperately wanted to cling to. Nemuro's memory of Tokiko and desire to save Mamiya seemed to be exactly what Akio needed to manipulate the "puppet master" he would make of Souji Mikage.

The symbols of the Black Rose arc are deeply tied up with the experiences and fate of Professor Nemuro himself, which is why they are so important in the end. Professor Nemuro, in the short time he spent at Ohtori Academy - a short time soon to feel as if it were an eternity - made for himself a precise coffin, one built by the Ends of the World to his specifications. However, the memories would not stay hidden; when the snow melted, they rose again... and these roses were not the same as the bulbs that had been planted. The "God" of the Academy and his attendant Bride saw to that.

Last edited by Clarice (05-05-2009 05:11:18 AM)


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#12 | Back to Top05-05-2009 03:39:42 PM

thegreycoin
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Registered: 01-16-2007
Posts: 9

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

I'd argue the point of the pointing hands -- they serve a distinct purpose in the narrative, because my over-arching impression of those two episodes is that we were witnessing the collapse of Nemuro's psyche through his own eyes. They're symbolic of where his attention is being drawn to.

this is an interesting reading and it certainly fits into the theme of the episodes, but we have no real reason to believe that Nemuro is actually seeing/hearing/imagining the fingers. he never acknowledges or interacts with them in any way (that i can remember off the top of my head, feel free to prove me wrong!). his back is even turned to them in many scenes.

i think it's a pretty obvious and accepted interpretation that the fingers are pointing out objects or concepts or events that Nemuro is thinking about or that his attention has been drawn to; but saying that the fingers themselves exist and function within the narrative as a part of Nemuro's imagination/psyche is speculation. i definitely see how they can be read that way... that it can be argued that what we're seeing in those scenes are Mikage's memories of his past as Nemuro, that via flashbacks we are literally going into his head and seeing his thoughts (which i think we probably are, given how the Mamiya we're seeing is Anthy's version) and that the fingers are a part of said thoughts. but even given the fact that we are looking into his head in these scenes, i feel like going the extra step and saying that everything we see on screen also exists in his memories is a bit of a stretch. the rest of the series is full of imagery that acknowledges the audience, and is not or can only arguably be seen as part of the narrative. if we were talking about some other anime that is not so full of this kind of stuff, i would be more inclined to accept your interpretation.

but, personally, i'm not convinced. XD

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#13 | Back to Top05-05-2009 07:14:46 PM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

thegreycoin wrote:

I'd argue the point of the pointing hands -- they serve a distinct purpose in the narrative, because my over-arching impression of those two episodes is that we were witnessing the collapse of Nemuro's psyche through his own eyes. They're symbolic of where his attention is being drawn to.

this is an interesting reading and it certainly fits into the theme of the episodes, but we have no real reason to believe that Nemuro is actually seeing/hearing/imagining the fingers. he never acknowledges or interacts with them in any way (that i can remember off the top of my head, feel free to prove me wrong!). his back is even turned to them in many scenes.

I wouldn't say he's imagining them -- they're a device that's used to draw our attention to what he is acknowledging, whether actively or subconsciously. The motif of winter and its end seen throughout the two episodes mirrors Nemuro's "awakening" from his computer-like state, and the blinking hands are a metaphor for where his computer-like attention is focusing. By no means do I think he imagines them there, because they are being used to give the audience something to focus and follow. But the point of doing that is to follow Nemuro's attention as his character first develops, and then disintegrates. In that respect, given these two episodes are about his mental collapse, the use of the hands is an integral part of the narrative.


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#14 | Back to Top05-06-2009 01:07:26 AM

thegreycoin
New Student
Registered: 01-16-2007
Posts: 9

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Clarice wrote:

I wouldn't say he's imagining them -- they're a device that's used to draw our attention to what he is acknowledging, whether actively or subconsciously.

right! lol. that's what i'm saying. i think that what we are perhaps discussing here then is an issue of semantics and the different ways that the word 'narrative' is defined and understood.

By no means do I think he imagines them there, because they are being used to give the audience something to focus and follow. But the point of doing that is to follow Nemuro's attention as his character first develops, and then disintegrates. In that respect, given these two episodes are about his mental collapse, the use of the hands is an integral part of the narrative.

i wouldn't argue that the fingers are not a part of our experience of the narrative. but i would not say that they are a part of the narrative itself, if we take the word 'narrative' to mean the sequence of events that compose the story. the fingers are seen and interpreted only by the audience. i'm not saying they don't influence our experience or serve a purpose, but just that this purpose is in the narration of the story rather than the story itself. the narrative is that Nemuro is thinking about or focusing on something. the fingers are a narration of this event.

but it is worth posing the question as to whether the events of a narrative could exist without their narration, and whether the answer to this question can redefine the boundaries between narrative and narration. (i am unfortunately not a literary theorist, so if anyone has anything about this issue they could point me to it would be great.)

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#15 | Back to Top05-06-2009 02:19:50 AM

Devyn Star
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Registered: 05-02-2009
Posts: 6

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Wow, that was a very interesting read. I never ever figured that out! So much for my skills rofl!

Why does Mikage and Mamiya look like Utena and Anthy as guys? I always wanted to know that too. emot-tongue

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#16 | Back to Top05-06-2009 03:37:51 AM

Bluesky
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From: Your window
Registered: 10-25-2008
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Mamiya is Anthy as a guy, mate. emot-tongue
As for Mikage, it's probably some kind of metaphor. Everything else is. emot-rolleyes


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#17 | Back to Top05-06-2009 03:49:15 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Miss Bluesky wrote:

Mamiya is Anthy as a guy, mate. emot-tongue
As for Mikage, it's probably some kind of metaphor. Everything else is. emot-rolleyes

Bwahahaha, yeah. emot-biggrin In all seriousness, though, the implication for me was that Mikage/Nemuro is an earlier and less refined/ultimately useful form of the "prince." The similarity in appearance between Utena and Nemuro was used to underline how they were and are manipulated by Akio to his own ends. Nemuro's intentioned use is a bit up in the air, as in we don't know that Akio ever intended him to be used for the ultimate end of opening the rose gate (he may have just been screwing around with him as an experiment, given he later uses him to "refine" Utena), but they are both similar in that they wanted to save somebody for the other person's benefit. Or at least, it appeared that way. Nemuro wanted to save Mamiya for Tokiko for himself, which is probably where his use fell apart. Utena wanted to save Anthy to save Wakaba because Utena wanted to be a prince, but as time went on and she realised she was as just as selfish as anybody else underneath her ideals she wanted to save Anthy because Anthy needed to save herself. And that probably made no sense. Basically Mikage is Utena's shadow, or what she could have been had she not realised the true meaning of revolution. Which apparently neither Akio nor Dios ever knew anyway, otherwise he wouldn't have provoked her the way he did.

And yeah, false!Mamiya looks like Anthy because he represents the false side of the Rose Bride. We're led to believe in the beginning the Rose Bride is subservient to the wishes of the One Engaged, but it's when Akio first turns up in the Black Rose Arc that we begin to realise she's dancing to the tune of the Ends of the World. Or so we're led to believe. [whistle]

And yeah, thegreycoin, I see where you're coming from now. emot-biggrin I think I misread your original statement as saying the hands and what they were pointing out were irrelevant to the storyline, when they're anything but. Though one could argue as to how planned some of the complexities of this damn show actually were. school-devil


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#18 | Back to Top05-06-2009 10:09:18 AM

sharnii
Pharaoh of Phanstuff
From: Melbourne Australia
Registered: 08-10-2008
Posts: 2416
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Wow fascinating. I commend you all on excellent points that are of much interest to me, and great in-depth analysis as always Clarice. etc-love

And now for my 2 cents... emot-tongue
spinning roses: sexual tension or melodrama. Or melodramatic sexual tension.
blinking fingers: sexual tension or melodrama. Or melodramatic sexual tension. With an ominous feeling of doom.
arrows: sexual tension or melodrama. Or melodramatic sexual tension. With a dash of something is about to happen. Something nasty.

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#19 | Back to Top05-06-2009 03:32:48 PM

Aelanie
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Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 377

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

It's always something sexual with you, sharnii. emot-biggrin

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#20 | Back to Top05-07-2009 12:49:47 AM

Ashnod
La poétesse revolutionnaire
From: Missouri, United States
Registered: 03-01-2007
Posts: 1243
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

clarice wrote:

Treating each symbol in turn, we firstly look at the three cats, who appear one after the other in Tokiko's window as she speaks to Nemuro about the research going on at the school. They appear to be symbolising a family, which becomes very important in determining the relationship between Mamiya and Mikage as opposed to the relationship between Professor Nemuro and the boy. There are two larger cats and one smaller cat. They are a family: Nemuro, Tokiko, and Mamiya. Of course, one can also take them as the classical symbol of bad luck, and they do say bad luck always comes in threes... and Professor Nemuro certainly gets his fair share of bad luck in Akio's Academy.

Take this as you will based off his past answers, but Chiho Saito asked Ikuhara exactly what the cats meant because she never could figure it out. His answer was the passage of time. One cat become two, two becomes three. Which meant to me that this whole courtship between Mikage and Tokiko in addition to the time he was working on the Revolution project took some considerable time.

But again, given Ikuhara's past answers, these  could be deliberate misdirections. All of his responses to Saito however, made sense in the context he explained them in.

Last edited by Ashnod (05-07-2009 12:51:34 AM)


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#21 | Back to Top05-07-2009 04:29:44 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Ashnod wrote:

But again, given Ikuhara's past answers, these  could be deliberate misdirections. All of his responses to Saito however, made sense in the context he explained them in.

That's an interesting thought, actually, given the passage of time (or the lack thereof) is very relevant to both Mikage and the series as a whole. The thing is, anyway, that these symbols can be taken any number of ways and the real fun of the series is seeing what other people got out of it -- including the creators. emot-keke


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#22 | Back to Top05-07-2009 08:08:10 AM

sharnii
Pharaoh of Phanstuff
From: Melbourne Australia
Registered: 08-10-2008
Posts: 2416
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Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Aelanie: It's always something sexual with you, sharnii. emot-biggrin

Must be part of why I love SKU so much. emot-tongue

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#23 | Back to Top05-11-2009 02:52:10 PM

Red Angel
Sunlit Gardener (Finale)
From: BEHIND YOU!!
Registered: 04-15-2007
Posts: 197

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Before, I assumed the fingers were Mikage's cursor and such, with the robot/computer business, until allegoriest drove it into my poor soul that episode 22 is alot like a sequence in a movie Ikuhara apparently admitted liking. 

I don't remember it well, but in the movie, the director made a movie about his past, and eventually, he had to confront his past self, and the present day one wanted to convince the past one to kill the woman that made him this way. (I think it was his mother? -Also, he couldn't do it.)

I know allegoriest wrote a sorta picture essay on this, but I have no idea where it is. emot-frown (I'd ask right now, but awakening allegoriest is asking for death.) But this one scene had alot of things from that episodes. It had the cats, the pointing hand, and diagrams alot like the ones Mikage was drawing. They were talking about something like how memories aren't always true or something. One of them was talking about how they burnt their mother's house down, and the other was swearing it didn't happen.

It had alot of Utenaish elements though. No one in that movie could figure out the time, and they were all very preoccupied with it. It had the dressed up dolls with girl's clothes, and everything was strangely secluded. And it had random bouts of J.A. Seazer too.

Before, I kinda didn't like these movies, but now I see them and I'm like mmm, Utena-y. They're still really strange, but I can't remember what they're called. emot-frown


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#24 | Back to Top05-11-2009 05:57:05 PM

J-Syxx
Banned
Registered: 04-25-2007
Posts: 102

Re: The Spinning Roses, blinking fingers and arrows...

Haven't read all the discussion on this thread, but I would assume that the rose serves as sexual symbolism at some level.  Well there's the obvious point that flower = vagina XD, but beyond that I think there's some reference to virginity/purity, other wise there wouldn't be all that effort during the duels to preserve your rose to make sure you become the prince who is supposed to be a completely pure soul.  Just my general take on it, I'm absolutely sure it's not just there as a generic theme though, because Ikurhara was obviously obsessed with symbolism when he made Utena.

Last edited by J-Syxx (05-11-2009 05:57:30 PM)

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