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#1 | Back to Top12-24-2006 09:34:40 AM

Maarika
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From: Estonia
Registered: 10-17-2006
Posts: 2510
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What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

Existentialism is a very interesting topic for me and so I couldn't help but to think of this as I was watching SKU. Feel free to add your own thoughts about this. emot-smile Warning: it's very long and philosophical D:

From dictionary.com:
Eternity
noun, plural -ties.
1.    infinite time; duration without beginning or end.
2.    eternal existence, esp. as contrasted with mortal life: the eternity of God.
3.    Theology. the timeless state into which the soul passes at a person's death.
4.    an endless or seemingly endless period of time: We had to wait an eternity for the check to arrive.
5.    eternities, the truths or realities of life and thought that are regarded as timeless or eternal.


I've been thining about this for so long now and I've still got not enough answers.
I think it's very interesting to approach this topic from the perspectives that SKU offers us.

Firstly, there are many characters who are directly dealing with this issue. Each of them has their own view on this, below are my thoughts about some of them. Secondly, this issue also has a lot to do with existentialism. I'll also add the existentialistic ideas with them too.

Anthy
For her, eternity must have been something very dreadful and painful. Simply put, eternity is her hell. As a Witch, she had (or thought she had) no way of escaping her destiny, that's also the reason why her suffering became eternal. From an existentialistic view point, she chose to live like that thus it's her own fault to suffer eternally. In other words: she created her eternity. Based on existentialism, everyone seals their own fate and they have all the chances to do whatever they want with their life.
And now on to the most important question: What reason did she have to live for? All she had was her suffering, that doesn't seem like a very nice thing to live one's life for. What kept her living on was the fact that she wasn't truly living at all. She became the Rose Bride and therefore she had no use for feelings, she disconnected herself from life this way (or, at least she thought she had). And that's why she refused to asnwer this question.

Now, it's not that simple though (nothing in SKU ever is *sigh*). Even as the Rose Bride, Anthy seems to be more of a human than a heartless doll, which, dispite all the seeming contradictions, is true but since she doesn't want to admit it to herself, it causes big inner conflicts. Another reason why she can bear living that way is because of her prince (by this I mean Akio). Being trapped in an illusion makes it easier for her to live. What Anthy lacks big time is courage. She doesn't have courage to face her destiny and live her life. This, if I remember correctly, is one of the key factors in existentialism. Without courage you are forced to find an alternate way of life. But the one who is truly courageous is



Utena
Losing the meaning of life so early left a lasting impression on her. From episode 9:

girl:  Why does everyone go on living knowing they'll end up dying anyway?
girl:  I wonder why I never realized that until today.
girl:  Eternity couldn't possibly exist, could it?


Utena seems to have a different understanding of eternity. Things that end or disappear some day can't be considered as 'eternal'. Therefore life cannot be eternal. As we know, a bit later she has a new view on it. After learning about Anthy's fate, I think eternity must get a new meaning for Utena. So let's see: life = not eternal, while Anthy's destiny to live forever and ever = eternal?  I'll get back to this later.
So Utena finds herself a new reason to live. No, not to become a prince, but to rebel against life and its absurdity. This is the existentialistic idea here. According to existentialism, sooner or later people will notice the absurdity of life (as Utena did when her parents died) and when they do, they can make their choice:

1. To stop living their meaningless life (Utena as a kid in that coffin after her parents had died) or
2. To continue living while being fully aware of the absurdity of it. This is considered a rebellion against life. (This is what Utena chose after she met Anthy for the first time)

Also, according to some existentialists, people won't understand the value of life before they are confronted with death. Utena fits  here nicely, though what actually had an effect on her was eternity. And even so, was it really eternity that made her change her mind about her life? It simply could have been the suffering itself that Anthy had to bear which made Utena change her mind.

Moving on, Utena has decided become a prince (and find her own prince). This is what she's striving for most of her life, always following her memories. Yet, she doesn't really understand eternity either (ack, who would?! I swear my brain's going to crash any minute now), but more importantly, she doesn't seem to think about it or place much meaning on it as some other characters do (Mikage, Mamiya, Saionji for example). UNTIL episode 33: What is Eternity? This is the thing that's been bothering me the most!
My little theory: I think for Utena, eternity could simply mean a memory. The memory of her childhood when she met her prince. It's important to note that she doesn't remember about Anthy yet, therefore she should technically belive that eternity a) doesn't exist / it has no meaning or b) is her memory of meeting the prince. Also note that not ever does she herself mention having seen something eternal. Touga and Saionji are the one's who keep talking about this. Eternity is something that's very hard to grasp as a concept so Utena doesn't try to do so (it fits her character). Whether life is eternal or not doesn't play an important part in Utena's life as we see her throughout most of the series. Makes you wonder why she suddenly asks such a thing in episode 33, doesn't it? In other words, my little theory didn't provide an answer to it.

Anyway, the reason why Utena is the most important character in SKU is because like Dios and Ruka, she had the most courage to live. Not only that, but each of those characters ended up living their life for someone else.

I'll stop for now, but I also want to cover the following characters (or you may do so yourself): Saionji, Mikage, Mamiya, Ruka and Akio/Dios. I suppose you could analyze the whole cast of SKU from this point of view but the ones mentioned above are the ones I find the most interesting.


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#2 | Back to Top12-24-2006 10:28:20 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

Maarika wrote:

Anthy
For her, eternity must have been something very dreadful and painful. Simply put, eternity is her hell. As a Witch, she had (or thought she had) no way of escaping her destiny, that's also the reason why her suffering became eternal. From an existentialistic view point, she chose to live like that thus it's her own fault to suffer eternally. In other words: she created her eternity. Based on existentialism, everyone seals their own fate and they have all the chances to do whatever they want with their life.
And now on to the most important question: What reason did she have to live for? All she had was her suffering, that doesn't seem like a very nice thing to live one's life for. What kept her living on was the fact that she wasn't truly living at all. She became the Rose Bride and therefore she had no use for feelings, she disconnected herself from life this way (or, at least she thought she had). And that's why she refused to asnwer this question.

Now, it's not that simple though (nothing in SKU ever is *sigh*). Even as the Rose Bride, Anthy seems to be more of a human than a heartless doll, which, dispite all the seeming contradictions, is true but since she doesn't want to admit it to herself, it causes big inner conflicts. Another reason why she can bear living that way is because of her prince (by this I mean Akio). Being trapped in an illusion makes it easier for her to live. What Anthy lacks big time is courage. She doesn't have courage to face her destiny and live her life. This, if I remember correctly, is one of the key factors in existentialism. Without courage you are forced to find an alternate way of life. But the one who is truly courageous is

Ah, now this is something I can really cut my teeth on. emot-biggrin I love the idea of eternity that is bandied about in the series; it's so damned fascinating seeing it through the eyes of each character. But from the beginning, I think we have to look at the definition of eternity you've just given us and work from it (and this does have a lot to do with something I was saying in the Heaven/Hell thread over at IFD). "Eternity" is essentially a characterless time period; it simply means lasting forever. Whether this eternal thing is good or bad is characterised and coloured by the THING that is eternal -- in Anthy's case, her eternal thing is her suffering. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Depends what way you look at it. Anthy choses to suffer because it saves her brother from suffering -- she takes the swords for him, and because she is apparently taking them forever (the metaphysics of this are beyond me, but Anthy can't die despite being impaled over and over, so we shall have to assume that this is ternal) her brother can never be harmed. Of course in doing this she had stripped her brother of his nobility and he has become Akio. Which isn't really a good thing, although it does stop him half-killing himself by running about saving all the princesses. So, Anthy's eternal thing is being static and never changing, so that her brother will also never change again to what he was. And this is a very common theme in the series, both this way and reversed. (Nanami and Touga, as well as Kozue and Miki, are good examples of this.)

I also agree to some extent that Anthy lacks the courage to break out of this eternal cycle that she is trapped in. She has fooled herself into thinking it is "better" this way (perhaps to the point where she acted more her brother's "princess" than his sister, as Akio's defintion of "saving princesses" has less to do with white horses and more to do with just going for "rides," so to speak; save a white horse! rise a rose bride! [coughs]). I think this is one of the reasons why Anthy later stabs Utena in the back -- it's partly to protect Utena from the eternal thing that Anthy has, and it is also because despite her misery, Anthy did this to herself...because she wanted it. And despite how horrible the entire thing is, I think Anthy can't quite let it go...because like I said, it stops her brother from killing himself over the selfish world.

Maarika wrote:

Utena
Losing the meaning of life so early left a lasting impression on her. From episode 9:

girl:  Why does everyone go on living knowing they'll end up dying anyway?
girl:  I wonder why I never realized that until today.
girl:  Eternity couldn't possibly exist, could it?


Utena seems to have a different understanding of eternity. Things that end or disappear some day can't be considered as 'eternal'. Therefore life cannot be eternal. As we know, a bit later she has a new view on it. After learning about Anthy's fate, I think eternity must get a new meaning for Utena. So let's see: life = not eternal, while Anthy's destiny to live forever and ever = eternal?  I'll get back to this later.
So Utena finds herself a new reason to live. No, not to become a prince, but to rebel against life and its absurdity. This is the existentialistic idea here. According to existentialism, sooner or later people will notice the absurdity of life (as Utena did when her parents died) and when they do, they can make their choice:

1. To stop living their meaningless life (Utena as a kid in that coffin after her parents had died) or
2. To continue living while being fully aware of the absurdity of it. This is considered a rebellion against life. (This is what Utena chose after she met Anthy for the first time)

Also, according to some existentialists, people won't understand the value of life before they are confronted with death. Utena fits  here nicely, though what actually had an effect on her was eternity. And even so, was it really eternity that made her change her mind about her life? It simply could have been the suffering itself that Anthy had to bear which made Utena change her mind.

Moving on, Utena has decided become a prince (and find her own prince). This is what she's striving for most of her life, always following her memories. Yet, she doesn't really understand eternity either (ack, who would?! I swear my brain's going to crash any minute now), but more importantly, she doesn't seem to think about it or place much meaning on it as some other characters do (Mikage, Mamiya, Saionji for example). UNTIL episode 33: What is Eternity? This is the thing that's been bothering me the most!
My little theory: I think for Utena, eternity could simply mean a memory. The memory of her childhood when she met her prince. It's important to note that she doesn't remember about Anthy yet, therefore she should technically belive that eternity a) doesn't exist / it has no meaning or b) is her memory of meeting the prince. Also note that not ever does she herself mention having seen something eternal. Touga and Saionji are the one's who keep talking about this. Eternity is something that's very hard to grasp as a concept so Utena doesn't try to do so (it fits her character). Whether life is eternal or not doesn't play an important part in Utena's life as we see her throughout most of the series. Makes you wonder why she suddenly asks such a thing in episode 33, doesn't it? In other words, my little theory didn't provide an answer to it.

Anyway, the reason why Utena is the most important character in SKU is because like Dios and Ruka, she had the most courage to live. Not only that, but each of those characters ended up living their life for someone else.

Utena's eternal thing was Anthy's suffering -- and the fact she wanted to end it. This is what made Utena capable of bringing about "revolution," I think -- because she wanted to destroy the concept of eternity within the series. And when we look at the various characters' "eternities," we tend to find that each character wants their "eternal thing" to be a memory of their past that remains static and never changes. For example:

Miki: his memory of his sister and him playing piano (which was never accurate)
Kozue: her memory of her brother's love and undivided attention (which was true)
Mikage/Nemuro: his memory of falling in love/being part of a family (partially true)
Nanami: her memory of her childhood with her brother (...fairly accurate, perhaps)
Saionji: his memory of his childhood best friend (debatably true)

Each one of these characters wants this eternal thing back, or to stay true forever -- most of Mikage's actions go towards preserving the memory of the dead boy who now embodies the love he held for the dead boy's sister. Nanami acts out to make her brother forget everyone else around him and come back with her to their idyllic childhood. Kozue acts out to make her brother forget everyone else around him and come back to her...but in contrast to Nanami, Kozue doesn't want to recreate their childhood, she wants to break down Miki's false perceptions and come to her as an adult (which makes her somewhat different to others; she wants to CREATE the new eternity based on the foundations of an old one). And Saionji's resentment comes from the fact he knows he can't have his eternal thing back because he's not sure he ever had it in the first place.

Utena goes against all of that because she wants to destroy Anthy's eternal thing as it imprisons her. The irony being that Utena is running on her own eternal thing -- her memory of Dios admonishing her to be a prince. And Utena's own memory of that is pretty damn faulty.

Maarika wrote:

I'll stop for now, but I also want to cover the following characters (or you may do so yourself): Saionji, Mikage, Mamiya, Ruka and Akio/Dios. I suppose you could analyze the whole cast of SKU from this point of view but the ones mentioned above are the ones I find the most interesting.

Yay! I like this subject thread. It makes my head hurt. emot-dance


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

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#3 | Back to Top12-26-2006 07:19:51 AM

Giovanna
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From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8795
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

emot-aaaemot-aaa
How did I not see this thread? I'm sorry! I'm also at work now so I can't go on too much of a tangent. Blast!

Clarice wrote:

Saionji: his memory of his childhood best friend (debatably true)

I think in a wider sense Saionji wants his innocence back. The childhood friendship he had with Touga was innocent and without the barbs in their relationship that exist now, and I think Saionji longs to return to that place in his life that was safe and warm, before Touga pushed the lid of the coffin, and at the same time Saionji's eyes, open. He does place this all on Touga though. I wonder if that's not because he couldn't make his home life the symbol of his childhood happiness. I've mentioned before my suspicion that Saionji's family life was a bit rocky.

I think the subject of and desire for eternity make Saionji in relation to Anthy something worth pointing out. Isn't it ironic that Anthy's 'something eternal' is pain and suffering, while Saionji chases her and that permanence without ever thinking eternity could be something other than good? More ironic still that Saionji, perhaps in his identifying her as the key to eternity, beats the crap out of her, causing yet more pain and suffering? Saionji wants so much to see what is shown to Utena. Eternity. He has the Rose Bride in the beginning, he dances so close to his answer, he's right next to it the whole time, and never realizes it. Because if he saw, and knew, it would kill him. I almost wonder if, coming back to existentialism, he would not, at that point in his life, have chosen to live life absurdly. Or is this part of why he beats Anthy. Does he sense, deep down, that she lives out something he can't bare to see, and creates by his abuse a safe distance?

But then, later on, we have his ride in the Akio car. He says he saw 'the world', but of course we know he saw whatever Akio wanted him to see, not necessarily the real world. But after his duel there's a marked change in his character and he seems to both withdraw and start seeing the things around him as absurd, as if he hasn't quite picked a side yet. But all the characters when we leave them are only half finished.

Now that I think of it, it's not surprising he'd get a bit more cynical after riding in the car with Akio. Akio is definitely one of those that have chosen to live absurdly. After all, who takes things less seriously than him? But he also has something eternal that's not his own suffering. Akio lives for all eternity in his coffin, playing with his human toys, in an illusion he creates that's by design absurd. He's eternally a child, but on none of the terms Saionji could accept. Perhaps something about eternity is said in how the characters would use it. Akio uses it to stay a child, free of responsibility for actions, allowed to live forever in an egocentric state. Saionji doesn't seem to mind so much the responsibility, he wants to live forever ignorant to what and ugly and cruel place the world is, a fact Akio accepts almost gleefully, even in his childlike state.

And while the both of them want eternal youth, in the most youthful sense (children), Anthy (who they both abuse, thus helping her live out her eternal suffering) has an eternity no one wants, and she doesn't realize she can let go of. Saionji's obsessed with obtaining eternity and the woman he identifies as linked to it, while that woman lugs it around in pain and agony, wanting so much to cast it aside but not thinking she can. For someone that doesn't have it (Saionji), eternity is a gift, and for someone that does have it, it's a curse.

But that could say as much about the idea of living forever as it does about the miserable terms she lives under. Living forever in any way is a curse, isn't it? Saionji in his ignorance thinks he wants to live forever, or have anything at all forever, and Anthy with her eyes open decides eternity isn't all that great given the price. And it always has a price.

Akio just doesn't notice it.

...I shouldn't do this in the morning, I have no idea if this makes a damn scrap of sense. emot-frown I'm sorry if it doesn't. emot-frown


Akio, you have nice turns of phrase, but your points aren't clear and you have no textual support. I can't give this a passing grade.
~ Professor Arisa Konno, Eng 1001 (Freshman Literature and Composition)

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#4 | Back to Top12-26-2006 08:29:44 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

Giovanna wrote:

emot-aaaemot-aaa
LOTS

...I shouldn't do this in the morning, I have no idea if this makes a damn scrap of sense. emot-frown I'm sorry if it doesn't. emot-frown

No, no, I think it makes sense. emot-tongue Saionji is a damned fascinating character, and if I had the time I'd do a series-wide analysis of his character (and then my brain would likely explode boo). But yeah, what is eternity to Saionji? I agree with you, Gio, in that a lot of his wish for eternity is tied up with his childhood memories of Touga, and the innocence therein (which, as a slight aside, makes me wonder if this is the reason why my brain occasionally tries to hook up Nanami and Saionji; they have a similar concept of eternity, being that Nanami wants her own innocent childhood with Saionji returned to her...or her returned to it, whatever).

Why does Saionji go looking for eternity in Anthy? I think it's partly to do with Anthy's act as the Rose Bride (she is essentially a mirror, projecting a reflection of whatever The One Engaged wants her to be...which is hilarious, actually, when you consider her brother runs around himself with a massive projector of his own), and partly to do with Anthy herself. She's a curious creature to everyone around her, and to the "normal" schoolkids she's something of a freak...Nanami's three henchchicks are a good example of this, given they seem to want to beat her down to assert dominance over someone who in theory could kick their asses to kingdom come. Anthy's ostracised by the general school population because she's "weird;" Saionji is attracted to her because she's weird, I think. I think it is also because he sees in her someone who needs to be rescued, but the irony is he turns the tables around and makes her appear even more of a damsel in distress, hence Utena's rescue of her.

Now, I think I am losing the thread here, so let me stitch it back together. My point is that Saionji was attracted to Anthy as an "eternal thing" because she needed to be saved -- but what Anthy does is behave exactly as the One Engaged needs her to. She played the victim because Saionji needed one. But she's not going to co-operate and save herself -- partly because her eternity is exactly the way she wants it to be, and partly because Saionji's the one who wants to save her. She doesn't do the saving, she's a girl. Saionji naturally gets frustrated and acts out against her because of this passive-aggressive state, and the fact he cannot save her whereas he is sure Touga could have.

So, what IS Saionji's eternal thing? Friendship? Why would he go seeking that by saving Anthy? Perhaps it will bring him on to an even keel with Touga...and once they are even (and this is a theme played out a lot in the series, the fact that Touga is "better" than Saionji...although I am always amused by the fact later in the series, when Saionji is beginning to shuck off his rose-coloured glasses, Touga and Saionji have a fight and we are never told who actually wins despite seeing a fallen shinai) they can be friends again? I think this is why Saionji begins to decide that his eternal thing, his struggle towards the castle, is ultimately useless. He is the first to see that Touga is in deep with the chairman (PUN FULLY INTENDED HA HA HA), and this brings him down in his eyes. I'm sure you've said something similar in your essay about Akio's relationships with the cast, Gio; Saionji, once he sees what Akio actually is and the way Touga behaves with him, no longer has to strive to be Touga's equal not only because he's come to Touga's level, but because Touga's been dragged down below his. And yet Saionji stays with Touga right until the end. I think this says something about Saionji's maturation as a person and as a former duellist -- he's given up on eternal friendship, but he hasn't given up on friendship.

And because I am definitely still amused by the parallels of Nanami and Saionji, I must point out again that of the cast Nanami is the only other person to act like she's got over her obsession with her own eternal thing by the end of it all (to the point where she chews Utena out for continuing her own quest, and shucks off her uniform/ring even before The Duel Called Revolution). I think it's no coincidence, given that her vision of eternity is also very tied up with her brother...and once he comes down from that pedestal, she learns to go on with that knowledge and learn something. The others don't necessarily do so -- Juri being a good example, given that scene of Shiori running after her. But that's another analysis. emot-biggrin

As for living forever and whatnot, I don't think Akio cares about the price because hell, he ain't paying it. He's charging it to AnthyCard. "The Thousand Swords Of Hate plunging themselves into your sister's body for eternity? Priceless." school-devil


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

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#5 | Back to Top12-26-2006 09:49:33 AM

Giovanna
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From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8795
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

Clarice wrote:

Stuff about Saionji and Touga

Oh crap I just had the weirdest idea, I don't think I believe it yet, but it should definitely spark a little bit of conversation. But it's a whoooole other thread. I'll work on the idea and get back to it. emot-dance

Clarice wrote:

Nanami and Saionji

There's so so so much relating these two characters. It's fantastic, and something I've wanted to examine for the analysis site for a while. Like you said, they're both very quick to hang up the dueling game, and they're also both preoccupied with a desire to capture for eternity an idyllic image of their youth, which coincidentally, centers in both cases around Touga. Touga must have been really hot shit when he was a kid for these two people to connect him so strongly with their innocent happiness. (What's that I smell? Yet more Touga and Akio parallels!)

But that's another thing, both Nanami and Saionji have this image of eternity as being a good thing, a happy shiny thing. They imagine heaven but are in their strange ways too innocent to really believe in hell. Stranger still because they're the two most openly aggressive characters in the series; Saionji hits people on a regular basis and Nanami goes out of her way to cause suffering to anyone that slightly displeases her. They're both vicious and cruel, but almost in a way that suggests they don't believe it. Though they both cause a lot of suffering, it's perhaps because they're trying to make themselves see that that's real, when both Saionji and Nanami really don't want to believe the world is like that. They flail and grasp at the Rose Bride and whatever else is offered to them hoping it will prove people aren't really cruel, and the world isn't really ugly, and they're not the kind of people that make life that way.

I don't think in either case it's quite that they want eternity, but that they want the happiness they felt, and having that, that it would last forever. Maarika suggests that Utena's eternity might just be the memory, and I think that holds a lot of water here. Eternity isn't what they want, it's just the terms they desire for that happiness. Which is why both are so quick to stop playing, I think. When they realize nothing's eternal, and that the world can be an ugly place, but that not all happiness must be a memory. Nanami I think actually works this out quicker than Saionji does, but ultimately they both have to learn to concern themselves less with holding on to a feeling and more with allowing themselves to find it. Saionji needs to be able to meet someone like Wakaba and allow himself to see the potential for happiness there, instead of letting it fly right over his head because it's not eternal or part of the package he thinks he deserves. For Nanami, she's figuring out her brother is her brother, no more or less, and that, when the dust clears, that will be enough. They let go of eternity, though, because it wasn't quite what they wanted. As opposed to Juri, whose interest remains, and so she's probably going to be slower to recover. But Juri had no interest in eternity. Perhaps because she didn't lose something, she only wants to gain it. Maybe if Shiori had been hers at one point, she'd also be harping on about something eternal.

For that matter, all the characters that mention eternity are in that position. They had something and lost it. Mikage, Saionji, Utena...


Akio, you have nice turns of phrase, but your points aren't clear and you have no textual support. I can't give this a passing grade.
~ Professor Arisa Konno, Eng 1001 (Freshman Literature and Composition)

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#6 | Back to Top12-26-2006 10:58:29 AM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

Giovanna wrote:

Clarice wrote:

Stuff about Saionji and Touga

Oh crap I just had the weirdest idea, I don't think I believe it yet, but it should definitely spark a little bit of conversation. But it's a whoooole other thread. I'll work on the idea and get back to it. emot-dance

See that you do! I love talking about those two. emot-dance

Giovanna wrote:

There's so so so much relating these two characters. It's fantastic, and something I've wanted to examine for the analysis site for a while. Like you said, they're both very quick to hang up the dueling game, and they're also both preoccupied with a desire to capture for eternity an idyllic image of their youth, which coincidentally, centers in both cases around Touga. Touga must have been really hot shit when he was a kid for these two people to connect him so strongly with their innocent happiness. (What's that I smell? Yet more Touga and Akio parallels!)

But that's another thing, both Nanami and Saionji have this image of eternity as being a good thing, a happy shiny thing. They imagine heaven but are in their strange ways too innocent to really believe in hell. Stranger still because they're the two most openly aggressive characters in the series; Saionji hits people on a regular basis and Nanami goes out of her way to cause suffering to anyone that slightly displeases her. They're both vicious and cruel, but almost in a way that suggests they don't believe it. Though they both cause a lot of suffering, it's perhaps because they're trying to make themselves see that that's real, when both Saionji and Nanami really don't want to believe the world is like that. They flail and grasp at the Rose Bride and whatever else is offered to them hoping it will prove people aren't really cruel, and the world isn't really ugly, and they're not the kind of people that make life that way.

That's a really interesting way of phrasing it; I'd never really thought of it that way before. And I agree -- Touga must have been something rather special as a kid to attract attention, but then I suspect that is why he eventually became president of the Student Council; he has a charisma, and a presence about him that attracts people. So like you say, there's a Touga and Akio parallel right there...actually, we could go even further with that at some stage and note that Touga's kind of pulled a Dios/Akio there, albeit on a much smaller scale (and apparently without his sister acting as a catalyst). I mean, Touga was apparently a pretty sweet kid until he realised that the world sucked and he couldn't save girls the way he was...and then he turned to Teh Dark Side. Hmm....

But yeah, I agree that it is really weird that Saionji and Nanami are "innocent" but then they tend to be the most indiscriminately violent/cruel of the lot (and for some reason I'm just thinking of that episode of The Simpsons. "Kids can be so cruel..." "We can? Cool!" [runrunrunTHUMP] "Ow!"). But then it makes sense in that kids have less of an understanding of those around them than do older people; they perceive the needs of others far less well than they do their own. I mean, Nanami and Saionji can hurt others easily, but I think it is because they don't quite understand how it feels...I think that fits in with the idea that there are the "special" people and the "ordinary" people. Saionji and Nanami are on the "special" side and therefore are separated from the others who are "lesser" than they are. And then when they realise that this whole idea of special/ordinary is just a pile of bullshit, they move on and calm down considerably. If any of that makes any sense. (I'm just throwing out ideas again to see if anything interesting comes up...I need to start writing essays again. emot-biggrin And I need to pick a topic...)

Giovanna wrote:

I don't think in either case it's quite that they want eternity, but that they want the happiness they felt, and having that, that it would last forever. Maarika suggests that Utena's eternity might just be the memory, and I think that holds a lot of water here. Eternity isn't what they want, it's just the terms they desire for that happiness. Which is why both are so quick to stop playing, I think. When they realize nothing's eternal, and that the world can be an ugly place, but that not all happiness must be a memory. Nanami I think actually works this out quicker than Saionji does, but ultimately they both have to learn to concern themselves less with holding on to a feeling and more with allowing themselves to find it. Saionji needs to be able to meet someone like Wakaba and allow himself to see the potential for happiness there, instead of letting it fly right over his head because it's not eternal or part of the package he thinks he deserves. For Nanami, she's figuring out her brother is her brother, no more or less, and that, when the dust clears, that will be enough. They let go of eternity, though, because it wasn't quite what they wanted. As opposed to Juri, whose interest remains, and so she's probably going to be slower to recover. But Juri had no interest in eternity. Perhaps because she didn't lose something, she only wants to gain it. Maybe if Shiori had been hers at one point, she'd also be harping on about something eternal.

I am totally with you on the idea that eternity is a memory -- this is why I really fell in love with the series, actually. Eternity wasn't something that lasted forever; it was taking a moment in time and making something static last forever. Which doesn't really make sense, but then again...doesn't it? [grins] Mikage is actually one of the best examples of this, because he has several simple motifs associated with him that really do play this up. The most obvious is the photographs that he keeps on the wall in Nemuro Memorial Hall; they are pictures of the black rose duellists at their moment of "eternity," as such. But then you have pictures of Nemuro, Mamiya and Tokiko during the time Nemuro was actually there; why does Mikage keep them when his memories are apparently all up the wop anyway? Because that was what he wanted to preserve. It's the same as Tokiko making dried roses and pickled sugar roses; the whole thing was a metaphor for keeping her dying brother the way he was. (Which is kind of creepy, actually. It's as if Tokiko knew that her brother would never grow up because he wasn't meant to, but he she could just keep him the way he was she would be able to keep him forever.) Eternity in this show was all about preserving something forever -- usually a memory of childhood, or a person someone can not stand to lose. Saionji and Nanami wanted their childhoods with Touga, for example; Tokiko wanted to keep her brother, and Nemuro wanted to hold on to the memory of (a) falling in love for the first time and (b) feeling like part of a family for the first time. Like you said, Gio, the people who obsess most about eternity tend to be those who have lost something...and they want that happiness before they lost that thing/person back again.

I also agree with you on Juri; she's actually got to take a different route to get out of the duelling game because she was in it to prove that eternity didn't exist...or at least, that the idea was pointless. She had no real interest in the Rose Bride, who was in fact a symbol of eternity (or at least, of a moment lasting forever). Juri never really had anything she wanted to last forever...you could argue that to get out of the duelling game, she needs to gain something and then lose it. Which is perhaps why she didn't quite get the message Ruka tried to send her, but I am getting off-track. I tend to find Juri less interesting to analyse as a character, compared to some of the others. emot-frown


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

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#7 | Back to Top01-01-2007 05:36:46 PM

dollface
Postmistress Elf of Subtext
From: North Carolina
Registered: 11-17-2006
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

You know, I never really thought about this until last week, but in SKU they don't lie as much as one might think. Anything someone says that seems rather "piece of the puzzle" or "plot-like" can usually be found again to be true, though steeped in metaphor or general confusion.

Utena's childhood. Original idea: Utena is a princess, prince inspires her, she admires him, she becomes him. Then, of course, this is just the play, and what "really happened" is as such: Utena's parents have died, she awaits sweet death, there is nothing eternal, Dios arrives and changes her mind. What was eternal? My first thought would have been memory, nobility, or purity. Are these not key components to helping Utena from her physical coffin [not her metaphorical coffin]? But then, of course, that didn't happen. Well, not quite as imagined. Dios shows Utena the suffering witch princess Anthy, who can only be saved by a true prince. This is said to be what really drove Utena to becoming a prince, in order to save Anthy. The night is forgotten, as predicted, and all she can remember is a prince and this ring. The story we are fed prior to the truth behind Anthy's past is basically the story Utena forms in her head.

Now that we've had that pointless recap, I'll try to explain whats floating in my head right now [oh jesus...]. When Touga is taking Saionji in a ride in the Akio car, he tells Saionji that "The girl was shown something eternal. Someone saved her. That person was [Ohtori] Akio." Once the story is learned, one believes that Touga is only saying this to hit a sore spot for Saionji and push him into the duel [which he succeeds in, mind you.]. But as I was watching SKU again last week, I noticed something. When Akio//Dios "saves" Utena, they do reveal something eternal, though it wasn't quite the symbol I was looking for. Utena is moved so deeply by Anthy's suffering, she simply is unable to let this happen. "I'll become a prince! I'll come to save her!" I believed that her passion for Anthy alone is what REALLY inspired this nobility, that the idea of something eternal was cast off in her mind because she found something real to fight for. But what are we shown here that is eternal...?

Pain. Misery. Suffering. It is said that only "A prince can save her from this eternal torment.", or "She cannot die. Living on in agony...this is her destiny." I know it seems incredibly stupid, but Touga wasn't wrong. Akio showed Utena something eternal, but it was the one sentenced to the eternity that really awoke the prince within her.

So...That was rather pointless, it adds nothing at all the analysis, but it was eatting me up inside to say it.

Last edited by dollface (01-01-2007 05:37:41 PM)


ah, man does not exist; ah, within the darkness; ah, the sound of the waves

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#8 | Back to Top01-02-2007 12:05:04 PM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

dollface wrote:

So...That was rather pointless, it adds nothing at all the analysis, but it was eatting me up inside to say it.

Not entirely pointless -- one of the greatest ironies of the show is that while all the other duellists are fighting for their "eternal things," these vapourous and ephemeral illusions, the only real eternal thing we ever see is painful and tragic and horrible. I etc-love IRONY. It also is rather nihilistic, and while nihilism and exitentialism aren't the same thing, they occasionally knock boots. emot-biggrin


It takes forty-seven New Zealanders eight months to make just one batch of 42 Below Vodka. ...luckily, that leaves one of us free to be Prime Minister.

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#9 | Back to Top01-02-2007 05:29:09 PM

Syna
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From: Never-Neverland
Registered: 12-03-2006
Posts: 105
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Re: What is Eternity? [Existentialism and SKU]

Pain. Misery. Suffering. It is said that only "A prince can save her from this eternal torment.", or "She cannot die. Living on in agony...this is her destiny." I know it seems incredibly stupid, but Touga wasn't wrong. Akio showed Utena something eternal, but it was the one sentenced to the eternity that really awoke the prince within her.

OH MY GOD, I NEVER SAW IT THAT WAY, but... THAT'S SO AMAZINGLY PERFECT. ALL OF IT.

Nothing more to add, except that was one of those eureka moments that makes me adore this series, and you are awesome. emot-biggrin

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