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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 Top09-06-2013 11:13:54 AM

Flah
Belladonna Buster
From: British Columbia
Registered: 09-05-2013
Posts: 209

What kind of onion is Wakaba?

In a number of episodes, Wakaba referred to herself as the Onion Princess. Unless I was grossly misinformed, Japanese culture considers an onion to be a sort of lesser substitute for something else. During my multiple viewings of the show, it seemed pretty clear that she was a sort of onion version of Anthy. At the very beginning, Utena was Wakaba's "boyfriend" until Anthy showed up, claiming to be engaged to her. Initially, Wakaba had wanted Saionji, even though his heart belonged to Anthy. When Saionji was expelled, he wound up settling for Wakaba, up until the point where Mikage manages to install him back into the Student Council with a chance to win back the Rose Bride. All signs pointed to Wakaba being an Onion Anthy.

Then I looked back at the movie. During the car chase sequence, we have Utena, transformed into a car, rescued by the other characters who are riding a jeep with a licence plate sporting the name "Wakaba". It goes without saying that she actually was the jeep. And, unlike every other vehicle except Utena herself, Wakaba was unique. This points to Wakaba being the Onion Utena in the film. That's perfectly acceptable, characters are allowed to take on different thematic roles in an adaptation. But the film is meant to be a condensed version of the series, so there had to be some parallel scene for that to draw upon.

Racking my brain, one episode stood out for me as what that scene referred to. Utena, having just lost to Touga, loses her fire and slowly transforms into one of the sad normal people. It's Wakaba, with her harsh words, who reignites her urge to fight. In a way, Wakaba infused Utena with her own lesser version of the qualities that made her act in the first place.

This got me thinking that maybe Wakaba takes the role of every character in onion form. An Onion Nanami to Saionji's Onion Touga. A sad manipulated Onion Saionji to, once again, Onion Touga (who is himself an Onion Akio making this the Inception of onions). An Onion Duelist who proves to be so incompetent that she loses without Utena even having to draw her sword. Even her plain brown hair and standard uniform attest to this, whereas everyone else (except for Nanami's minions) has brilliantly coloured hair and unique clothing. The only reason that the Onion Anthy is so prevalently displayed in Wakaba is that the series does focus mostly on the relationship between her and Utena.

So, I ask the forum, as a new member: Is this a valid interpretation of Wakaba, as a sort of gestalt of all of the characters? A foggy mirror showing their primary qualities in a muted form? Or am I grasping at straws, trying to find symbolism that isn't there in a show that's already been analyzed to death?


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#2 | Back to Top09-06-2013 12:00:12 PM

gorgeousshutin
Bare Footman
Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
Website

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

Hi, Flah:

Actually you're mostly right.  Onion means second-rate.  And Wakaba translates as leaves, which can refer to the side characters in a show serving as backdrop to the leads, or the plain girls/boys in a social background serving to make the pretty girls/boys prettier in comparison.  Her character is designed such that her abilities/beauty are all second-rate in her elite-dominated social setting.


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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#3 | Back to Top09-06-2013 12:34:20 PM

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

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

It should be noted that an onion's layers represent eternity and God's complexity in many cultures.  Wakaba seems to be a perky average girl but if you peel back her outward layers you find a girl who's desparate for attention.


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

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#4 | Back to Top09-06-2013 02:27:55 PM

gorgeousshutin
Bare Footman
Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
Website

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

Riri-kins wrote:

It should be noted that an onion's layers represent eternity and God's complexity in many cultures.  Wakaba seems to be a perky average girl but if you peel back her outward layers you find a girl who's desparate for attention.

Oh, Wakaba is definitely layered.  Plain abilities/looks aside, she had hidden strengths (and despairs) that go far beyond the perky mask would suggest.


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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#5 | Back to Top09-06-2013 02:50:20 PM

mistspinner
Ohtori Paramouri
Registered: 08-10-2013
Posts: 92

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

A sweet, young shallot that caramelizes well, nothing like those terribly sharp red onions.
(in all honesty, that was what I first thought of when I saw the thread title)

Is this a valid interpretation of Wakaba, as a sort of gestalt of all of the characters? A foggy mirror showing their primary qualities in a muted form?

I think it does work as an interpretation, but I would caution you to remember that for all her normality, Wakaba still is very critical to the events of SKU - if it weren't for her confession to Saionji, Utena wouldn't have joined the duels in the first place, and as you noted, it was Wakaba's presence that helped snap Utena out of her post-Touga slump. So yes, while Wakaba may not be the flashiest student at Ohtori - a problem that's at the source of much of her angst - she is extremely important and, frankly, much healthier imo than the characters she reflects. Perhaps that could be drawn into something larger about moderation and the danger of excess, but someone else will have to do that, since I am far too lazy to do so at the moment emot-tongue For now, though, I guess I could see Wakaba as potentially emblematic of the importance of the everyman - she's *not* the best at anything, but damned if she isn't important.

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#6 | Back to Top09-06-2013 07:51:42 PM

Raze Occam
New Student
Registered: 09-04-2013
Posts: 5

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

What's always been kind of interesting to me is that Wakaba (for five seconds or so) was a kind of a bait-and-switch protagonist; she's the first character we see onscreen after the intro and right before we actually meet Utena (and there could be just enough ambiguity to make us think she was the "princess") we hear that she's waiting for her boyfriend/possible prince-guy, etc., and she's very archetypal as far as actual shoujo heroines go (characters like Yumi from Marimite or pretty much every fucking audience surrogate mary sue ever comes to mind). And I'm pretty sure it was intentional to have Wakaba waiting for Utena not five seconds after she was onscreen for the very last time...

There's a lot of other stuff to get into with Wakaba, but her importance as a character cannot be understated--which is ironic since all her angst comes from being unimportant, not being "special", and being surrounded by "special" people. She's the underdog-everyman character that grounds us in a cast of bizarre, melodramatic people who might not always be totally relatable to us "normal" folk.


"It's a show about penguins"

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#7 | Back to Top09-06-2013 08:40:33 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
Website

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

Flah wrote:

This got me thinking that maybe Wakaba takes the role of every character in onion form. An Onion Nanami to Saionji's Onion Touga. A sad manipulated Onion Saionji to, once again, Onion Touga (who is himself an Onion Akio making this the Inception of onions). An Onion Duelist who proves to be so incompetent that she loses without Utena even having to draw her sword. Even her plain brown hair and standard uniform attest to this, whereas everyone else (except for Nanami's minions) has brilliantly coloured hair and unique clothing. The only reason that the Onion Anthy is so prevalently displayed in Wakaba is that the series does focus mostly on the relationship between her and Utena.

So, I ask the forum, as a new member: Is this a valid interpretation of Wakaba, as a sort of gestalt of all of the characters? A foggy mirror showing their primary qualities in a muted form? Or am I grasping at straws, trying to find symbolism that isn't there in a show that's already been analyzed to death?

I think you have found symbolism that is actually there, and I haven't seen it before! emot-biggrin

I do think Wakaba is kind of a Gestalt Onion.  But I guess I wouldn't read her as being an onion to every character individually as you suggest.  While Wakaba certainly does serve as a foil for Utena, I don't think it's right to say that she's sort of the bland average of all the main characters, which I think is what you're saying.  On the contrary, there are areas where she is stronger or weaker than any of the main characters.  She's probably the best friend of SKU's regulars, certainly the most optimistic, possibly the neediest, and also almost completely guileless, sometimes to her own detriment.  In short, she's her own character -- not bland but piquant -- even apart from being an important mover of the plot, as you and Spinner and Raze have all pointed out.

Wakaba is a Gestalt Onion in a different way.  She is not the weak substitute for anyone (or everyone) in particular; she is the weak substitute for main characters in general.  Or at least that's how she sees herself, and the main characters (and writers) often treat her that way too.  The onion metaphor is yet another way of communicating that, while she's relevant to the plot, she will never be the subject of it.  She's not a special person, she feels inferior, her internal narrative is one where she is a bland and uninteresting vegetable in a world of exotic greenery, and she expects to be treated that way even as she tries to be more than that.  That's my read, anyway. emot-smile

Last edited by satyreyes (09-06-2013 08:42:07 PM)

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#8 | Back to Top09-07-2013 12:16:10 AM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

Sitting here eating an onion. Now I feel all weird about it.

Onions and roses have a lot in common, but you'd never confuse one for the other.

But, let's face it, her mom telling her she was an onion princess or whatever is no more or less absurd that "and then the prince on the horse gave her a ring and said..." It's just funnier with onions.

They're like the "pants" of vegetation. Roses are the "dress."

"She stunned the room to silence, then sighs, with her gorgeous dress."

"She stunned the room to silence, then sighs, with her amazing pants."


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#9 | Back to Top09-07-2013 09:49:03 AM

gorgeousshutin
Bare Footman
Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
Website

Re: What kind of onion is Wakaba?

Decrescent Daytripper wrote:

They're like the "pants" of vegetation. Roses are the "dress."

"She stunned the room to silence, then sighs, with her gorgeous dress."

"She stunned the room to silence, then sighs, with her amazing pants."

Oh god, this captures Wakaba emot-rofl

She's a good-hearted (and tough) everywoman whose only character weakness lies in her admiration/envy of the elite - the weakness that gave room for Anthy/Mamiya to exploit her.  But I think she's gone past that after the BR eps.  Her flirting with Akio seems more like "for fun" than "for real ala Saionji-sama", and she's hanging out with a bland boy (Tatsuya) and NewBestFriend at Ep 39.

Last edited by gorgeousshutin (09-07-2013 09:50:22 AM)


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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