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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 Top10-11-2009 02:34:09 AM

minervana
High Tripper
Registered: 10-10-2009
Posts: 246

Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

I've wanted to write a post on this episode (my favorite in the series) since, well, before I joined this forum. What do you think this one episode is about, and how does it fit into the rest of the series?

I noticed, going through the screencaps (http://www.ohtori.nu/galerie/v/series/episodes/brs/20/), that Wakaba and Saionji are almost never in the same frame. Even when they are talking to each other, it's mostly reaction shots. There is one part of the episode, where Saionji takes Wakaba's hands:

http://www.ohtori.nu/galerie/d/8114-1/Series_ep20_022.jpg

http://www.ohtori.nu/galerie/d/8112-1/Series_ep20_021.jpg

which ends very quickly when somebody knocks on the door:

http://www.ohtori.nu/galerie/d/8124-1/Series_ep20_027.jpg

Note the student council jacket in the background. There is also this scene, where Saionji gives Wakaba a hair clip:

http://www.ohtori.nu/galerie/d/8230-1/Series_ep20_080.jpg

and when Wakaba becomes a Black Rose Duelist, they are very briefly together again (note that Saionji is back in his uniform):

http://www.ohtori.nu/galerie/d/8304-1/Series_ep20_117.jpg

The same seems to be true of the duel between Utena and Wakaba, except for the climax of the scene:

http://www.ohtori.nu/galerie/d/8420-1/Series_ep20_175.jpg

after which they split apart.

This episode has always intrigued me, especially for the scene between Akio and Utena (I've rephrased it a bit from the script):

Akio:  Like the goddess who leaves her name to the stars in the heavens... is that how it is?
Utena:  But how did Wakaba become so pretty all of a sudden?
Akio:  You don't understand, do you? You, living out your predestined fate...
Utena:  Huh?
Akio:  There are special people in the world. And they are always noticed. You, for example.
Utena:  Me?
Akio:  Yes. You're not particularly self-conscious, right? That is the special quality that you carry from birth.
Utena:  Oh?
Akio:  Most people are but a one person among many. However, given the slightest chance, they will shine with a light that they have never had before...It could even be said, that for many people, their special time lasts but briefly.

My question is, what do you think is going on in this episode? Who do you think Utena are the "special people" in Ohtori? It's especially interesting to me because of the idea of "Manufacturing Consent," which says that there "specialized class" who  should direct and manage the herd accordingly.  (Explanation of Manufacturing Consent here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJuqoDvyXOk )

Do you think that Saionji really cares about Wakaba? Is he using her? Why does he make her a hair clip? It seems so out of character for him, at least to me.

This episode has a profound effect on me because I've noticed this phenomenon myself, in almost identical circumstances.

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#2 | Back to Top10-11-2009 11:56:20 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

Minervana, I have a hunch you'll find this thread extraordinarily interesting, if you haven't found it yet emot-smile  Gio uses body language to analyze the Saionji of this episode forwards and backwards.

I have absolutely no doubt that Saionji sincerely cares about Wakaba, at least for the span of time he stays with her.  He's a terrible liar; he wouldn't be able to feign affection for Wakaba any more than he can feign indifference to Touga.  The issue is that he's a very different person here than he is anywhere else in the series.  I think what this shows is that Saionji's personality is contextual.  When he's comfortable, happy, and cared for, he's sincere and even humble; but his flaw is that he can't resist being drawn into conflict.  Mikage drops by and Saionji jumps at the chance to return to Ohtori.  And at Ohtori, where Saionji has to watch his back and struggle for dominance, he turns into the violent and outwardly cynical character we were introduced to in episode 1.  Wakaba?  Forgotten, a vaguely embarrassing artifact of the time Saionji allowed himself to fall into dependence.  I love this episode too, because it shows a potential for self-realization in Saionji that we don't see so vividly out of Juri or Miki.

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#3 | Back to Top10-11-2009 12:28:19 PM

hollow_rose
Egghead
From: Ohio
Registered: 10-26-2008
Posts: 1074

Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

I think Saionji has a short attention span, but I think he cares for her while he needs her. But she is easily forgotten once he has an opportunity to get his real life back.


20 threads dead so far.

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#4 | Back to Top10-11-2009 01:08:33 PM

YostinAust
Pathtracer
From: Tallahassee, Florida
Registered: 04-02-2009
Posts: 352

Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

To bring up Jungian parallels (and use the knowledge I've gained on analytical psychology), I'd say the specialized class is really a construct of society, rather than society being the construct of a specialized class. From his observations of native tribes in Africa, Jung came to the conclusion that rulers (shamans, cheiftains, etc.) can only occupy their state of supremacy so long as they serve to maintain a psychic give and take with those below them. In layman's terms, the reason for special people is the need common people have for special people to exist. Think about modern day people, how their personal problems can be forgotten when they bitch about the latest celebrity scandal or political fuck-up.

"It is not titles that honor men, it is men who honor titles". - Machaivelli

Akio's idea, of a top-down model of society, is less an apt sociological observation and more a sign of his own social pathology. As Dios, he submitted himself wholly to the needs of normal people. Now, he is convinced that the normal are just sheep in need of a shepherd. Thus, his disdain for Wakaba. Her decline was never a failure of her own abilities, but rather the fact that she had based her newfound confidence on the acceptance and love she was recieving form someone she thought of as "special". She was always as great as she was when she had Saionji, she just hadn't been allowing herself to be. For a bad pun's sake, she "psyched" herself out.


"In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service"
     - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

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#5 | Back to Top10-11-2009 11:36:52 PM

minervana
High Tripper
Registered: 10-10-2009
Posts: 246

Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

That thread is great, Satyr, you're right. Thank you for linking it to me. I had never really thought about Saionji's role in that episode before, but now I have. I think Gio is spot on.

YostinAust wrote:

Akio's idea, of a top-down model of society, is less an apt sociological observation and more a sign of his own social pathology. As Dios, he submitted himself wholly to the needs of normal people. Now, he is convinced that the normal are just sheep in need of a shepherd. Thus, his disdain for Wakaba. Her decline was never a failure of her own abilities, but rather the fact that she had based her newfound confidence on the acceptance and love she was recieving form someone she thought of as "special". She was always as great as she was when she had Saionji, she just hadn't been allowing herself to be. For a bad pun's sake, she "psyched" herself out.

I always thought the "manufacturing consent" model was pathological, because it aims to keep the vast majority of people on a low level of awareness, and directs them to do things which are not only against their interests, but may be extremely harmful in the long run.

I think you're right, YostinAust, about Wakaba psyching herself out. If she would recognize her own innate talent and gifts, without pinning her self-esteem on the opinions of a "special" person, she could flourish. It's really interesting you mention that, since the episode before this is about Wakaba and her "Onion Prince," who she rejects at the end of the episode to be with Saionji. Maybe honesty and affection are considered somehow frightening or wrong in the Ohtori-verse.

One thing I really like about this episode is it's one of the few episodes where we see anything like a "pure" friendship, in the sense that both parties are being honest with each other, and they seem open and affectionate towards each other, even though they're sidestepping the romantic or sexual issue. It's sad this don't last, but for reasons Gio's described, Saionji won't allow himself to be loved, he feels that power is a better prop for his self-esteem.

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#6 | Back to Top10-12-2009 01:08:34 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

minervana wrote:

I think you're right, YostinAust, about Wakaba psyching herself out. If she would recognize her own innate talent and gifts, without pinning her self-esteem on the opinions of a "special" person, she could flourish. It's really interesting you mention that, since the episode before this is about Wakaba and her "Onion Prince," who she rejects at the end of the episode to be with Saionji. Maybe honesty and affection are considered somehow frightening or wrong in the Ohtori-verse.

I think you've hit on something interesting here, because of course honesty and affection -- and the refusal to consider them frightening or wrong -- are part of what makes Utena so powerful at Ohtori.  She's the only member of the cast you can rely on to mean what she says and trust what she feels.  And if the others aren't as forthright, I blame it on their environment.  Ohtori is built on mistrust, misunderstanding, miscommunication, misanthropy.  Not just Akio's -- everyone's.  Ohtori is a mass of malformed relationships, and too much honesty and affection would bring the whole mess tumbling down.  Everyone knows that, on some level, and while no one's happy in their relationships, no one wants to take responsibility for changing them.  Everyone wants someone else to revolutionize the world, or wants it to happen through some kind of magical dueling game rather than through actually acting like they love someone.  Everyone except Utena, who somehow, maybe by accident of birth, is almost completely un-self-conscious about her honesty and affection.

From this perspective, what's funniest about Wakaba's asymmetrical "relationship" with Saionji is how closely it parallels Tatsuya's asymmetrical "relationship" with Wakaba.  Both Wakaba and Tatsuya approach their loved one at an angle, not head-on -- Tatsuya by professing love to Utena to get close to her friend, Wakaba by putting up Saionji to get close to him.  Both have bad histories with their objects of affection -- Tatsuya gets bawled out by Wakaba repeatedly in episode 20, and Wakaba was outright pwned by Saionji in episode 1.  Both eventually get around to acting affectionate, and both eventually find their affection reciprocated.  But in the end, both relationships end in misunderstandings.  Wakaba may feel affection for Tatsuya, but her heart is with Saionji; Saionji may feel affection for Wakaba, but his priorities lie with Anthy.  Poor Wakaba walks away from a guy who loves her, only to have the guy she loves walk away from her.  And why the misunderstandings?  Because Tatsuya talks about his feelings in evasions, and Wakaba doesn't talk about her feelings at all.  (Anonymous love letters don't count.)  These are both affectionate characters, but when it comes right down to it, they're scared of acting their feelings.  Unashamed affection or honesty would have ended either relationship in a plain rejection that probably wouldn't have sent anyone to Nemuro Memorial Hall.  It was because of hiding that matters worsened and Mikage was brought in.

As for being special, I'm not totally sure what that word means to Wakaba -- which is more important than what it means to Akio or Utena.  Honestly, I think we're meant to interpret it in terms of the narrative: the special people are the main characters.  Wakaba knows there are main characters and knows she isn't one of them.  But the main characters in this show are people with seriously fucked up relationships or dramatic personal flaws, and Wakaba has neither, just low self-esteem and a touch of neurosis.  If Wakaba believed in herself and expressed her affection without fear or shame, she'd be Utena, and the show only has room for one Utena.  There's just no role for her to fill except "actual hero's goofy sidekick."  No wonder she's frustrated.

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#7 | Back to Top10-12-2009 09:03:00 AM

Stormcrow
Magical Flying Moron
From: Los Angeles
Registered: 04-24-2007
Posts: 5971
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Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

I still don't think Saionji's betrayal in this episode has anything to do with Anthy personally. There's no actual text to that effect. Mikage gets the hairclip from Saionji in return for bringing him back from exile, but could easily have not mentioned why he wanted it. Of course, Mikage could easily have gotten it to Anthy, or perhaps Mamiya just told Mikage that the hairclip was the key to the plan and Mikage never looked too closely into it either. In fact, the mechanism of how exactly Anthy GOT the hairclip is very interesting to me, because it makes a huge difference in how you interpret the episode and relate to the characters. Which says ultimately that I don't WANT to believe that Saionji gave it to Anthy. Without that, his betrayal is somehow easier to swallow, that he did it for power and not out of some pathetic hope of getting Anthy back.

I say all this because I do believe that Saionji cares about Wakaba in this episode. Or, to put it more precisely, he cares about his story with Wakaba. I think Saionji is too immature at this point to realize that life is more than a narrative. He buys completely into Touga's story of being a dashing prince and a heartbreaker. He utterly fails to compete with Touga, so when he gets kicked out of Ohtori, and Wakaba takes him in, he recognizes a new chance to be the hero of a story. Not as grand a story to be sure, but at least he gets to play the lead. So when a part opens up in the original play, he jumps at that instead. I don't think he wasn't committed to his part in Wakaba's play, but I do think it was always a second choice for him. He probably never knew that himself until Mikage came to him though.


"The devil want me as is, but god he want more."
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#8 | Back to Top10-12-2009 09:38:39 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

Oh, I agree, I'm sure Saionji didn't give the pin to Anthy himself.  The reason I'm sure is that -- well -- he knows it would hurt Wakaba.  As Gio discusses, he's at least peripherally aware that Wakaba is crushing on him, hence his slight reluctance to ask her about Anthy.  Mikage would find it much easier to convince Saionji to give the hairpin to him than to give it to Anthy, Wakaba's rival.  I don't know if I'd go so far as to say Saionji would never have done the latter if it meant getting back on the A-list, but I think the former makes more sense.

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#9 | Back to Top10-12-2009 10:28:00 AM

hollow_rose
Egghead
From: Ohio
Registered: 10-26-2008
Posts: 1074

Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

I just appreciated that Wakaba was one of the few Black Rose Duelists who had a reason to want to kill Anthy. In an exaggurated sense but at least she had a reason to be personally angry at her, as opposed to say, Shiori or Mitsuru.


20 threads dead so far.

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#10 | Back to Top10-12-2009 09:39:30 PM

minervana
High Tripper
Registered: 10-10-2009
Posts: 246

Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

satyreyes wrote:

Wakaba was outright pwned by Saionji in episode 1.

In both episode 1 and 20, A Wakaba/Saionji communication is intercepted by some third party. I believe Saionji when he says he threw the letter away--he probably gets lots of those sorts of letters, why would he single out that one for display? It seems sort of out of character for him, too--yet another love letter seems like it would be too low on his priority list to post it. Someone, or some force, intercepted it to get Utena involved, as the catalyst for the rest of the series.

As for the hairclip, Mikage took it as the catalyst for another black rose duel, and to play on both Saionji and Wakaba's weakness, and to keep them from being too happy or too close. I have to agree with StormCrow and Satyr, that he didn't know what was done with the hairclip, he even says "I never thought he'd really help me for that puny little thing!"

As for being special, I'm not totally sure what that word means to Wakaba -- which is more important than what it means to Akio or Utena.  Honestly, I think we're meant to interpret it in terms of the narrative: the special people are the main characters.  Wakaba knows there are main characters and knows she isn't one of them.  But the main characters in this show are people with seriously fucked up relationships or dramatic personal flaws, and Wakaba has neither, just low self-esteem and a touch of neurosis.  If Wakaba believed in herself and expressed her affection without fear or shame, she'd be Utena, and the show only has room for one Utena.  There's just no role for her to fill except "actual hero's goofy sidekick."  No wonder she's frustrated.

Word. It's an environmental thing too. Maybe in some other story Wakaba would be center stage, or she'd have a bigger role, but in Ohtori, the "special" people are actually the most brittle, since their insecurities make them easily manipulated. Have you ever noticed that in Ohtori, the most talented people are the most fucked-up, while the bit players seem too healthy to take center stage? I think that's on purpose. Anyone in Ohtori who actually displayed their talent, as Wakaba did briefly, would be smacked down or recruited into some poisonous, soul-warping project, like the Black Rose Saga or one of Akio's many designs.

I think Wakaba tries to express her affection for Saionji before someone knocks on the door. It's sad. Even if he rejected her, while he was still in "civilian" clothes he could have done it gently ("Our relationship is too special..." etc.).

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#11 | Back to Top10-12-2009 11:16:32 PM

OnlyInThisLight
KING OF ALL DUCKS
Registered: 01-15-2008
Posts: 4411

Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

minervana wrote:

satyreyes wrote:

Wakaba was outright pwned by Saionji in episode 1.

In both episode 1 and 20, A Wakaba/Saionji communication is intercepted by some third party. I believe Saionji when he says he threw the letter away--he probably gets lots of those sorts of letters, why would he single out that one for display? It seems sort of out of character for him, too--yet another love letter seems like it would be too low on his priority list to post it. Someone, or some force, intercepted it to get Utena involved, as the catalyst for the rest of the series.

As for the hairclip, Mikage took it as the catalyst for another black rose duel, and to play on both Saionji and Wakaba's weakness, and to keep them from being too happy or too close. I have to agree with StormCrow and Satyr, that he didn't know what was done with the hairclip, he even says "I never thought he'd really help me for that puny little thing!"

See, that's strange, because for me, that line is proves to me that he didn't know.  It's a reflection of both his poor self-esteem and defensive mechanisms being reinstated (he doesn't think the gift he made had any value because it was not expensive, not able to fathom that Wakaba loved it because he made it) and that he does not know it was given to Anthy.  He might have said something more along the lines of "in exchange for doing such an easy task" if that were the case.  Additionally, Saionji is smarter than he looks, or at least acts, and is suspicious to a fault for all that he is a fool, and Mikage asking him to give the leaf to Anthy would have struck too odd a note even for him to believe.  Finally, Saionji knows shame.  If he had knowingly given the leaf to Anthy after promising it to Wakaba, he would be too ashamed of himself to even try and joke about it in his usual cynical way.  Saionji believes that Touga once gave something to a girl he liked instead to he, his friend.  Saionji wouldn't purposefully do the same to Wakaba.

Of course, that's splitting hairs as far as interpretations go, and I can see how it works both ways, and appreciate the irony of Saionji repeating Touga's cruelty in order to become a prince.


Also, as far as the love letter goes, I want to believe that Saionji did not post it, not in defense of him but because I like to think that there was some sneaky secret thing that Anthy did for each duel to instigate it.  But it gets difficult to determine with the discrepancies in the subs, dubs and scripts.

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#12 | Back to Top10-16-2009 12:29:15 AM

minervana
High Tripper
Registered: 10-10-2009
Posts: 246

Re: Wakaba Flourishing, Episode 20

OnlyInThisLight wrote:

See, that's strange, because for me, that line is proves to me that he didn't know.  It's a reflection of both his poor self-esteem and defensive mechanisms being reinstated (he doesn't think the gift he made had any value because it was not expensive, not able to fathom that Wakaba loved it because he made it) and that he does not know it was given to Anthy.

Yeah, I agree with you. I think in both cases, Wakaba and Saionji were "pwned," by which I mean "pawned." It's also interesting that Saionji decides to stop dueling shortly after. His personality seems basically the same, but he no longer really seems interested in Anthy. Or am I imagining this?

Note that at the beginning of the Akio arc, Wakaba gets a crush on Akio, and says things to him like "I'm Anthy's friend too!," to which Akio responds "That's very nice" or something like that. I didn't notice it the first time, but Akio seems to tolerate Wakaba since she's sometimes useful (when she goes on a "date" with Akio) but is too marginal to encourage.

The Wakaba/Saionji link is an interesting one and deserves to be explored further.

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