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#51 | Back to Top10-01-2013 07:03:22 AM

Snow
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From: in the wolf
Registered: 09-30-2013
Posts: 642

Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

For me, the interpretation of Anthy as a scapegoat makes the most sense. Before her intervention, the princesses of the world had nothing to worry about , any sort of problem or danger they could get into would be magically solved by the universal prince.
So now naturally they are pissed now, their problems are suddenly their own, they have to face life's hardships, sorrows and disappointments, and they have only themselves to blame for eventual failure...and Anthy, as the perfect scapegoat ( as she seemingly just puts up with anything and doesn't fight back ) has become the perfect target for all the blame, the evil witch who took their Prince, the one that protected them from the harsh realities of life, away from them. The swords could represent their souls, corrupted by resentment and bent on vengeance.

Utena was on the way of becoming one of those princesses, as she had every reason to believe her unfortunate fate was all Anthy's fault ( represented by the backstabbing...maybe ). Utena broke Akio's arrangement by being the first one who realized that her predicament was largely due to her own selfishness -using Anthy to make herself a prince.

It seems to me that every single person in Othori (other than Akio and Anthy, they're hellishly complex) adopted that princess mentality, as they are unable or unwilling to face their situation properly. A miracle, the power to revolutionize the world...these are all instant fixes, much like the Prince originally was. Being a princess is ultimately a passive role - sure, they duel for the Rose Bride, but brandishing your sword around (khm) is much easier than facing your messed up psyche head-on, with the danger of realizing you are in a hell of your own making.

*sigh* I have a tendency to get derailed, it seems...sorry to barge in with my overly simplified guesses guys emot-smile

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#52 | Back to Top10-01-2013 11:33:47 AM

satyreyes
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From: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Snow wrote:

*sigh* I have a tendency to get derailed, it seems...sorry to barge in with my overly simplified guesses guys emot-smile

On the contrary, I think your guesses are on the nose!  (Welcome to IRG, by the way! etc-love)  One of the hardest parts of Utena's personal journey is her growing recognition that her actions towards Anthy have been selfish.  She struggles to figure out how to relate to Anthy in a healthy way.  Is it okay for me to try to change Anthy in the direction I think would be best for her?  Is it okay for me to duel in order to keep Anthy for myself, as long as I also do my best to be a good friend to her?  Anthy has betrayed my trust -- can I really still be her friend after that?...

Utena recognizes her selfishness and, I think, owns that selfishness, but at the same time is capable of self-sacrificing love for Anthy.  As you say, there's nothing in her grappling with these questions that reeks of a "quick fix."  And that clearly does distinguish Utena from the bearers of the million swords, who don't give a second thought to who they hurt with the demands they make of Dios.  Anthy became the target of their selfish and entitled anger -- I'm not quite sure whether "scapegoat" is the right word, but it's in the ballpark.  Whether the million swords at Ohtori are literally the swords or soul-swords of the angry mob, or whether they represent Anthy's emotional reality where she deserves to suffer for locking Dios away, the swords surely are related to the selfishness of the mob and Anthy's willingness to submit to their punishment.

This circles back around to the neighborhood of something I was saying earlier.  From what we hear, Anthy's decision to lock up Dios was morally complicated in a way related to how Utena's decision to stand by Anthy is morally complicated.  On one hand, Anthy is trying to protect Dios from a world that abuses him, and she is motivated partly by love.  On the other hand, she's protecting Dios against his will, and she is also motivated partly by selfishness: Dios has neglected her in favor of the princesses, and she wants to have him to herself.  It seems that the centuries since then have made Anthy cast herself as the villain of the piece, perhaps because Akio encourages her to see herself that way.  Utena may do more than convince Anthy that nobility exists: she may also serve as a role model for how to reconcile selfishness with love, and forgive oneself for one's own past missteps.  When Anthy sees Utena opening the coffin, the swords freeze.  And when she takes Utena's hand, she rejects the idea that she deserves to suffer forever -- and the swords go berserk, with no sacrificial lamb on offer anymore.

Last edited by satyreyes (10-01-2013 11:49:00 AM)

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#53 | Back to Top10-02-2013 01:24:53 PM

Snow
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Registered: 09-30-2013
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

I like what you're getting at here. It's really what I like about this anime, it approaches the subject of self-sacrifice and selflessness realistically, it doesn't force on us perfectly selfless,  incorruptible and pure heroic characters, like so many other series do. I mean there is purity, but a different kind, more realistic and relatable, than what we usually see.

Back to the swords...I remembered that the first time I saw Anthy being impaled by them, it reminded me a bit of the suffering of Prometheus...but I can't find any way this makes sense in the context of the story, so it's probably just a stab in the dark emot-biggrin

(btw thanks for the welcome, i'll try not to dissapoint emot-keke )

Last edited by Snow (10-02-2013 01:26:02 PM)

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#54 | Back to Top10-04-2013 02:13:55 AM

Giovanna
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From: Edmonton, AB
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Snow wrote:

It seems to me that every single person in Othori (other than Akio and Anthy, they're hellishly complex) adopted that princess mentality, as they are unable or unwilling to face their situation properly. A miracle, the power to revolutionize the world...these are all instant fixes, much like the Prince originally was. Being a princess is ultimately a passive role - sure, they duel for the Rose Bride, but brandishing your sword around (khm) is much easier than facing your messed up psyche head-on, with the danger of realizing you are in a hell of your own making.

This is awesome. I like the idea that the duels are a psychological misdirection. Each duelist is completely externalizing responsibility for a problem that's their own. Utena included. Some of them do it more obviously than others by being specifically after the Rose Bride. Utena, Saionji, and Miki externalize to the Bride herself, both expecting her to provide something they desire and blaming her, on some level, for their needing it in the first place. Juri externalizes to the battle; her internal struggles will be solved or cease to matter if she defeats this opponent. Touga? Do we really want to get into that? He externalizes to absolutely everything with two feet and genitals. ...though it just occurred to me that you could easily approach his relationship with Akio as similar in function to how the other duelists treat Anthy. Akio's his Rose Bride. emot-rolleyes

As for the million swords...hm. The specialness of the people we follow in SKU is strongly stressed by the content, and Akio explicitly points it out also. Some people just plain mean more than others. We could get into the cultural context here, but it is a theme that repeats in a strange way in Penguindrum. People that aren't main characters are literally just greyed out figures you'd see on traffic signs and such. They mean nothing in the context of the story, but by making them all identical, that insignificance is almost suggested to be because they are all so similar.

The million swords of hate are that. People in a mass that don't distinguish themselves in any way.

http://ohtori.nu/gallery/var/albums/series/episodes/Apocalypse%20Arc/39/Series_ep39_065.jpg?m=1380853273

http://ohtori.nu/gallery/var/albums/series/episodes/Apocalypse%20Arc/39/Series_ep39_074.jpg?m=1380853273

They're all drawn to be identical, this after we've seen the soul swords of the duelists and they're all unique to them. They're, like the grey transit figures in Penguindrum, completely interchangeable. I don't remember where but Ikuhara also has made mention more than once of the uniqueness of some people over others being a theme for him. That seems almost silly to say from an American perspective where it's assumed we're all individualistic snowflakes, but in Japanese culture I suspect that being special, making yourself be special, is a more sensational idea.

Why the ordinary as a group turn out to be such raging dicks? Well. Maybe Anthy represented something uncomfortable to them--someone that could survive and was unique without their help. Dios, after all, has a status carried by their enthusiasm for him. Maybe Dios protected the world so much that it lived in a constant childlike state, and upon having that parental protection stripped, they got really mad and attacked the presumed target. Not an uncommon reaction children have to their first encounters with a shitty unfair world.


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
Chiefest of Calamities

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#55 | Back to Top10-04-2013 10:57:38 AM

zevrem
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

I like  Chu..., where they see what happens when a mom shows a blank face to her baby and stops responding to his/her signals. The baby feels helpless and quickly loses control of his/herself.


The real purpose of elections is to make the people hate each other more than they hate their government.

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#56 | Back to Top10-04-2013 06:34:06 PM

Snow
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Giovanna wrote:

The million swords of hate are that. People in a mass that don't distinguish themselves in any way.

Maybe the million swords in SKU are something similar to the orange goo aka the sea of LCL in End of Evangelion, a sort of primordial state without individual consciousness, driven by the basest emotions, such as rage and maybe fear...
Then the individuals who have achieved self awareness ( the special people ) have their swords personalized but, since they're not quite there yet, they still have swords - some base instinct or emotion that drives them, preventing them from seeing clearly and making them open to manipulation ( and, as we see in the Black Rose arc, it can be used without their consent ).
Now the final stage of Ohtori Student Identity Game would be - loosing your sword. Being torn apart to pieces, everything you knew about yourself and life getting turned upside down - a terrible and traumatic event ( as we se with Utena and Nemuro before her ). But after being 'stripped down to nothing at all' the individual is free from the basest instincts and emotions that tormented him/her, and can perceive the world clearly.

The generic swords remind me of generic students, as seen in the opening

http://ohtori.nu/galerie/d/17550-2/Rinbu_Revolution_018.jpg

an amorphous mass of copy-paste people, serving as little more than background decoration. A mob needs someone to lash out at, and Anthy has power - power that the mob lacks, it is afraid and acts instinctively - much like a child would.

(And maybe I just can't write a coherent post emot-frown )

zevrem wrote:

I like this experiment, where they see what happens when a mom shows a blank face to her baby and stops responding to his/her signals. The baby feels helpless and quickly loses control of his/herself.

Wow. This is pretty interesting. We were all once master manipulators, it seems emot-keke

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#57 | Back to Top10-04-2013 07:10:04 PM

gorgeousshutin
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Snow wrote:

But after being 'stripped down to nothing at all' the individual is free from the basest instincts and emotions that tormented him/her, and can perceive the world clearly.

That, even more than feminism or LGQT rights or quest towards adulthood, seems to be the main core message of SKU - that personal identity (princes/princess/gay/straight/child/adult/etc) can become coffins for people when it limit how they allow themselves to live and think.

More on Topic: going by textual evidence, the swords seem to be that often seen Japanese horror genre element call    
怨念 : strong, malevolent 'thoughts' that lingers even long after the 'thinkers' are gone.  In most horror stories (like the one with the infamous Sadako), these can manifest as crosses between psychic curses and vengeful but incoherent/incomplete ghosts.

Last edited by gorgeousshutin (10-04-2013 07:20:09 PM)


(SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 41 as of June 02, 2017)
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Chu... or  Chu...

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#58 | Back to Top11-22-2013 05:56:13 PM

Orphic Okapi
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Registered: 10-31-2013
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

I really love this discussion. I too have thought a lot about the nature of the swords.

I think the swords can be read reeeeally broadly as "human society." Whenever I try to narrow it down to something more specific than that, I seem to run into complications. But human societies do tend to display a fear of change which often manifests as hatred of the Other, and that's the most basic behavior that the swords (and angry crowd) exhibit.

It's implied that the angry crowd tolerated Anthy and Dios as long as they stuck to their roles (which, interestingly enough, coincide pretty closely with ideal gender roles): as long as Dios was out fighting for justice and Anthy was at home taking care of him when he returned, society was content. But the flashback illustrates, with amazing conciseness, why those roles were impossible for Anthy and Dios to fulfill: Dios's altruism was self-destructive, and his being in constant danger put unbearable emotional stress on Anthy. The roles forced on them by society weren't sustainable. Now here's what's interesting: When Anthy defies her passive role by saving the prince, she's pierced by the million swords. This seems like a pretty straightforward metaphor for the hatred that falls on women who step outside the roles assigned them by society.

This line of thought is leading me away from the topic of the swords a bit, but I think it's interesting that Utena's reason for hiding in the coffin, and Anthy's reason, are not one and the same. Utena really has no experience with society. She has no concept of how cruel the world can be to those who defy gender norms, which is why she's so comfortable dressing in boy's clothing. Her reason for rejecting the real world was simply the fact of death. The core of Anthy's fear, on the other hand, the fear that keeps her in her coffin, is a fear of society, I think, a society that will pierce you with a million swords of hatred if you step out of line. This is probably why she has such a hard time acknowledging her feelings for Utena: loving a girl, for Anthy, means once again inviting the hatred of society by stepping outside her prescribed role. (Notice the dialogue in the final episode when Utena is reaching for Anthy's hand! Anthy is terrified of what? The swords! Anthy knows what happens to girls who transgress gender boundaries, and it's only after she overcomes her fear of the swords that she is able to reach for Utena.)

Really, Utena's revolution is simply helping Anthy overcome her fear of society's hatred. Anthy thought she could never face the outside world again, but Utena shows her a love worth braving a hateful society for.

Sorry if all this stuff has been said a million times already. I'm new. emot-tongue

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#59 | Back to Top11-22-2013 08:22:39 PM

crystalwren
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Hi Orphic, welcome to the forum. You've raised some interesting points.

Orphic Okapi wrote:

I really love this discussion. I too have thought a lot about the nature of the swords.
I think the swords can be read reeeeally broadly as "human society."

This is an excellent interpretation. A mob is the lowest common denominator, and has the collective intelligence of the least intelligent individual. All around the world one of the most enduring themes is the strong adherence to separate and distinct gender roles. Regardless of the culture, regardless of the exact nature of those roles, the roles themselves exist. So violating those roles is invariably going to upset the mob. 

When Anthy defies her passive role by saving the prince, she's pierced by the million swords. This seems like a pretty straightforward metaphor for the hatred that falls on women who step outside the roles assigned them by society.

I'd agree that this is part of the the motivation of the crowd, but I don't think that it's all of it. Taking the prince away from the world is Anthy's primary crime. Violating gender roles is part of that crime- not understanding that her role is strictly as support for the prince for example- but I do think her primary crime is taking the prince away from the princes of the world.

Utena really has no experience with society. She has no concept of how cruel the world can be to those who defy gender norms, which is why she's so comfortable dressing in boy's clothing.

Eh...I do think that part of the reason Utena found it so easy to play a prince is because she (initially) found it easy enough, but I think she would have been playing prince regardless of how well or how badly society would take it. She has strong motivation and ideals and the drive to express those ideals. I think that she would have been fighting society either way. And probably winning. She's stubborn enough.

Her reason for rejecting the real world was simply the fact of death.

Truth.

The core of Anthy's fear, on the other hand, the fear that keeps her in her coffin, is a fear of society, I think, a society that will pierce you with a million swords of hatred if you step out of line.

I disagree here. I think that the core of Anthy's fear is change. It's significant that Anthy wasn't able to take Utena's hand and be saved; Anthy has spent a lifetime avoiding change. Utena shows her the potential of changing herself, which is something that has never occurred to Anthy before.

These are great thoughts; welcome. emot-smile

Last edited by crystalwren (11-22-2013 08:43:14 PM)

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#60 | Back to Top11-23-2013 02:25:33 AM

Orphic Okapi
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Registered: 10-31-2013
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Thanks for the welcome! I really appreciate you engaging with my ideas here.

I'd agree that this is part of the the motivation of the crowd, but I don't think that it's all of it. Taking the prince away from the world is Anthy's primary crime. Violating gender roles is part of that crime- not understanding that her role is strictly as support for the prince for example- but I do think her primary crime is taking the prince away from the princes of the world.

Analyzing the flashback with Anthy and Dios is tricky, because it's hard to say how much, if any of it, is meant to be taken literally. My instincts tells me to believe Akio when he says, "there was never a prince in the world to begin with." Dios tried very hard to be one, but ultimately he was a failure; he couldn't keep up with society's demands on him. I think the situation in the flashback is presented as a Catch-22: if Anthy had done nothing to save her brother, it's strongly implied that he would have died, and Dios would have vanished from the world anyway. At worst her "crime" was to delay the inevitable death of Dios.

I'm not sure if you're trying to argue that her punishment was justified for the crime of sealing away her brother. If so, I think that's insane. Even if her motivation was somewhat jealous and possessive, I don't think trying to save the one you love is in any way deserving of eternal torment.

But, uh, to return to the swords, in this scene they represent the way society places women in an impossible situation: they must either remain totally passive princesses, incapable of saving anyone, or else they are vilified as witches.

Eh...I do think that part of the reason Utena found it so easy to play a prince is because she (initially) found it easy enough, but I think she would have been playing prince regardless of how well or how badly society would take it. She has strong motivation and ideals and the drive to express those ideals. I think that she would have been fighting society either way. And probably winning. She's stubborn enough.

I'm not saying she would've given up playing prince if she had been exposed to society at large. I agree that she would be stubborn enough to resist. I'm just saying she spends almost the entire series being extremely naive about how gender roles work outside of Ohtori Academy. When people ask her about the boy's uniform, she's just like, "I want to be a prince, duh," but then she gets angry when people compare her to a boy. She has literally no idea that "prince" is even a gendered term. She has no reason to fear society's rejection because she's never experienced it, while Anthy, who has experienced it at its very worst, does.

I disagree here. I think that the core of Anthy's fear is change. It's significant that Anthy wasn't able to take Utena's hand and be saved; Anthy has spent a lifetime avoiding change. Utena shows her the potential of changing herself, which is something that has never occurred to Anthy before.

After my first viewing of the show, I think I would have agreed with you totally. After all, fear of change is a natural enough quality in human beings; it almost doesn't require further explanation. But when she was younger, Anthy didn't fear change so much that it stopped her from changing her and her brother's fates forever. Why would she fear change so much now as to remain in a twisted, abusive relationship with Akio for probably hundreds of years?

On my second viewing, I started to wonder if maybe the swords of hatred were the source of that fear, and now everything seems to fit. Society's hatred has given her good reason to want to maintain the status quo. Her betrayal of Utena makes a lot more sense in this light, too. Think about it: Utena states clearly in Episode 38 that she is trying to save Anthy and become a prince. Well, Anthy tried to escape her feminine role and save someone once, too, and what happened? She wound up enduring eternal torment as the Rose Bride. I think Anthy believes that if Utena tries to save her, Utena will take her place as the Rose Bride and be forced to endure eternal punishment. In a way, Anthy's betrayal could almost be seen as a sacrifice identical to her original sacrifice for Dios: by stopping Utena, she is taking the swords of hatred for the one she loves.

I think I just blew my own mind with that sentence. I really wasn't expecting to arrive at that conclusion at all, but it makes a certain amount of sense. And in a way, her sacrifice for Utena's sake is greater than her sacrifice for Dios, because she knows what's coming. She knows she'll have to endure an eternity as the Rose Bride to save Utena from the same fate. Of course, her logic is flawed: she is still trapped in her coffin, in a fatalistic mindset where escape for both her and Utena is impossible. She sees human society, in the form of the swords, as a force that cannot be defeated; no matter what, someone must bear their hatred.

It's hard to say if she's right, considering how open-ended Utena's fate is. Also I'm venturing pretty far afield of the topic already. But I feel like I'm on to something here. I dunno, what do other people think. Am I way off base?

Last edited by Orphic Okapi (11-23-2013 02:28:41 AM)

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#61 | Back to Top11-23-2013 06:36:52 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Hi Okapi!  Thanks so much for sharing your ideas!

Orphic Okapi wrote:

I'm not saying she would've given up playing prince if she had been exposed to society at large. I agree that she would be stubborn enough to resist. I'm just saying she spends almost the entire series being extremely naive about how gender roles work outside of Ohtori Academy. When people ask her about the boy's uniform, she's just like, "I want to be a prince, duh," but then she gets angry when people compare her to a boy. She has literally no idea that "prince" is even a gendered term. She has no reason to fear society's rejection because she's never experienced it, while Anthy, who has experienced it at its very worst, does.

I'm not sure if you mean the word "literally" literally, but if so then I don't think that part is right.  Utena knows that "prince" is a gendered term; it's just that she doesn't see why it should only be boys who get to be strong and noble and save people.  Otherwise it wouldn't make sense that she explains her boys' uniform in terms of wanting to be a prince, as you point out.  That said, I think you're spot on that Utena can afford to be iconoclastic because she hasn't faced serious repercussions for it.  As a matter of fact, most of the girls at Ohtori adore her for wearing boy clothes and doing boy things, and she soaks up that attention.  The tension between being a prince and being a girl becomes steadily more prominent in Utena's psychodrama as the show goes on, especially as she grows closer to Touga and then Akio -- but even there, their efforts to make Utena a princess only give Utena trouble because Utena herself already kind of wanted to be a princess.  So I agree with your conclusion: Utena has not faced significant social rejection the way Anthy has.

I think Anthy believes that if Utena tries to save her, Utena will take her place as the Rose Bride and be forced to endure eternal punishment. In a way, Anthy's betrayal could almost be seen as a sacrifice identical to her original sacrifice for Dios: by stopping Utena, she is taking the swords of hatred for the one she loves.

I think I just blew my own mind with that sentence. I really wasn't expecting to arrive at that conclusion at all, but it makes a certain amount of sense. And in a way, her sacrifice for Utena's sake is greater than her sacrifice for Dios, because she knows what's coming. She knows she'll have to endure an eternity as the Rose Bride to save Utena from the same fate. Of course, her logic is flawed: she is still trapped in her coffin, in a fatalistic mindset where escape for both her and Utena is impossible. She sees human society, in the form of the swords, as a force that cannot be defeated; no matter what, someone must bear their hatred.

It's hard to say if she's right, considering how open-ended Utena's fate is. . . .

You're touching on what has become one of our favorite things to argue about on IRG: whether Utena dies, becomes a Rose Bride, or what.  emot-biggrin  But if it's true that Anthy believes Utena will become a Rose Bride, then the last few episodes are pretty hilarious, what with Touga and Anthy and Utena all fighting about who gets to take the swords for everyone else!  I myself don't believe that Utena becomes the Rose Bride, for reasons I've talked to death already in this thread and a couple others -- for thematic reasons, for plot reasons, and because I don't think her sacrifice for Anthy is quite parallel to Anthy's sacrifice for Dios -- but it's a sustainable interpretation.  And maybe that is what Anthy believes, which would mean, in her fear-twisted mind, that killing Utena before she can open the Rose Gate is an act of love.

That's a very sweet idea.  But if that's what Anthy thought, then why did she end up taking Utena's hand?  She should have refused the change Utena was offering to the very end.  If we accept that Anthy thinks that she's the only person standing between Utena and the swords, then we have the strange character development of Anthy acting unselfishly at the end of Episode 38 but selfishly at the end of Episode 39.  I'm not saying we can't explain that, I'm saying we're still missing a piece of the puzzle.  Does Anthy stop believing that the swords are an ineluctable force sometime during Episode 39?

Anyway, speaking to an earlier point, I don't know whether Anthy fears change, but she certainly does fear people.  Someone -- I wish I remembered who! -- discussed how we get a brief POV shot of Anthy in Episode 3, during the ball, that very clearly shows her agoraphobia.  And it's easy to draw a line between that and her encounter with the villagers in the distant past.

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#62 | Back to Top11-23-2013 10:36:47 AM

Orphic Okapi
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Registered: 10-31-2013
Posts: 15

Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

satyreyes wrote:

Hi Okapi!  Thanks so much for sharing your ideas!
I'm not sure if you mean the word "literally" literally, but if so then I don't think that part is right.

I did not use the word literally literally. emot-tongue I know that bugs a lot of people, sorry. Anyway, I think we basically agree on this point. I also think you are very right about her awareness of gender roles increasing later on in the series as she experiences more conflict over her gender identity.

You're touching on what has become one of our favorite things to argue about on IRG: whether Utena dies, becomes a Rose Bride, or what.  emot-biggrin  But if it's true that Anthy believes Utena will become a Rose Bride, then the last few episodes are pretty hilarious, what with Touga and Anthy and Utena all fighting about who gets to take the swords for everyone else!

I don't think Anthy believes that Utena will become a Rose Bride until Episode 38 at the earliest. It's not until she witnesses the fight between Utena and Akio that the reality hits her and she realizes that Utena really might be able to save her. That's the point where her fear sets in, I think, and she decides she has to sabotage Utena's success. I don't know if Anthy actually intends to kill Utena, just incapacitate her so that she is unable to stop Akio. But like you said, Anthy probably imagines than even death would be a better fate than the Rose Bride's eternal suffering.

I myself don't believe that Utena becomes the Rose Bride, for reasons I've talked to death already in this thread and a couple others -- for thematic reasons, for plot reasons, and because I don't think her sacrifice for Anthy is quite parallel to Anthy's sacrifice for Dios -- but it's a sustainable interpretation.

I don't believe that Utena becomes the Rose Bride either. Honestly I have not thought deeply enough about what becomes of Utena to really have an opinion on that subject. But I definitely think Anthy is trapped in a fatalistic mindset wherein the swords are an unstoppable force and a Rose Bride must exist to endure their hatred. She thinks her present situation with Utena is another Catch-22 like her situation with Dios, and is blind to other possibilities, until...

That's a very sweet idea.  But if that's what Anthy thought, then why did she end up taking Utena's hand?  She should have refused the change Utena was offering to the very end.  If we accept that Anthy thinks that she's the only person standing between Utena and the swords, then we have the strange character development of Anthy acting unselfishly at the end of Episode 38 but selfishly at the end of Episode 39.  I'm not saying we can't explain that, I'm saying we're still missing a piece of the puzzle.  Does Anthy stop believing that the swords are an ineluctable force sometime during Episode 39?

I think she does. Bear with me here, because this is far from a perfect argument, I'm still working through all of this stuff in my head. A few changes have taken place in Episode 39 which might make her able to overcome her fear. First of all, when Anthy gives herself up to the swords of hatred, she knows she loves Utena, but she doesn't know if Utena feels the same way about her. In fact, Utena is still all about "saving" Anthy by defeating Akio; she's still stuck in the naive dueling mindset. However, after being betrayed, Utena finally admits her love: she confesses that the times she spent with Anthy are the only times she's ever been truly happy. This in and of itself changes quite a lot, I think. But then on top of that, Utena finally demonstrates a selfless love for Anthy that has nothing to do with ego; even after the betrayal, even after the duel with Akio has become irrelevant, she still struggles to alleviate Anthy's suffering.

I think what Utena's done here is finally demonstrated that her love for Anthy equals Anthy's love for her. They're each willing making tremendous sacrifices for each other. They are equals. That's a kind of love that Anthy has never known with Dios or Akio, and now she knows for certain that it's real.

Next, Utena tells Anthy that she shouldn't be afraid of the outside world, because it's the only place they can meet. At this point I think Anthy is willing to trust Utena enough to believe that if she doesn't leave her coffin, she and Utena will be unable to have a real relationship. It doesn't hurt that Utena demonstrates a total lack of fear despite the threat of the swords. (Once again, notice that her actions support her words.) Anthy warns her repeatedly, but Utena clearly doesn't give a shit: she only cares about Anthy. Utena's bravery inspires Anthy to also be brave (after all, they are equals, capable of the same feats), and in spite of her fear, she reaches for Utena's hand.

So Anthy changes her mind about the swords for two reasons: she realizes that she and Utena share a real love that she would risk leaving her coffin to pursue, and then she sees Utena being brave in spite of the danger, telling her not to be afraid. Bam. Convinced.

Anyway, speaking to an earlier point, I don't know whether Anthy fears change, but she certainly does fear people.  Someone -- I wish I remembered who! -- discussed how we get a brief POV shot of Anthy in Episode 3, during the ball, that very clearly shows her agoraphobia.  And it's easy to draw a line between that and her encounter with the villagers in the distant past.

Thank you thank you thank you for pointing out this detail. You are absolutely right, and it's an amazing connection. Just goes to show the ridiculous attention to detail that was put into every level of the series.

Last edited by Orphic Okapi (11-23-2013 10:45:00 AM)

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#63 | Back to Top12-07-2013 07:30:09 PM

Orphic Okapi
Wakaba Wrangler
Registered: 10-31-2013
Posts: 15

Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Brain blast!!!!

If the swords represent society, what if Utena isn't pierced by the swords at the end, becoming another Rose Bride, but rather becomes one of the swords herself? Her disappearance would then symbolize being absorbed into society, becoming another face in the crowd, or another sword in the storm, if you will. At first this seems like a depressing prospect, but note what happens after Utena has disappeared: the swords destroy the room that Utena hated so much, the room Akio used to control everyone. It's a bit of a stretch I suppose, but the ending could indicate that Utena, by joining the swords (society), was able to redirect their anger away from the prince, away from the Rose Bride, and toward an actually worthy target: the power structure creating the illusions that oppressed people.

This makes more sense to me than any other theory I've come up with about what happens to Utena after the swords get her.

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#64 | Back to Top12-09-2013 01:26:03 PM

Snow
Troublesome Insect
From: in the wolf
Registered: 09-30-2013
Posts: 642

Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Orphic Okapi wrote:

If the swords represent society, what if Utena isn't pierced by the swords at the end, becoming another Rose Bride, but rather becomes one of the swords herself? Her disappearance would then symbolize being absorbed into society, becoming another face in the crowd, or another sword in the storm, if you will. At first this seems like a depressing prospect, but note what happens after Utena has disappeared: the swords destroy the room that Utena hated so much, the room Akio used to control everyone. It's a bit of a stretch I suppose, but the ending could indicate that Utena, by joining the swords (society), was able to redirect their anger away from the prince, away from the Rose Bride, and toward an actually worthy target: the power structure creating the illusions that oppressed people.

Now that's an interesting one!  There are theories upon theories on what happens in the last episode, and what happens to Anthy, but few on what the hell happens to Utena herself post-series. I personally tend to just leave everything at 'she got out, all is well' , but the exact nature of her metamorphosis (and I'm pretty sure one did occur) is not something I've really thought about.

Utena being absorbed into the swords/society makes a lot of sense, and she, as a strong willed, unique individual, would no doubt have the willpower necessary to sway the swords in the right direction - thus making herself a leader of a revolution, in a way.
If we interpret the swords as society, or 'Real Life', it could be said that Utena becomes one of the ''movers and shakers'', someone with the ability to change things in the world, even if she is a normal person now, with no special powers or a pre-written destiny.
If interpreted that way, I think it doesn't go against the 'some people are just more special than others' mindset that pervades Ikuhara's work.

One can dislike the mob-mentality the swords appear to symbolize, but that is something so deeply ingrained in the human nature that we can't really expect it to go away just yet, it's something that must be dealt with .
Plus the swords being purely EVIL! would be too easy for a complex and morally layered series like this.
All in all an interesting  theory, worth thinking about  some more emot-dance

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#65 | Back to Top12-09-2013 02:59:17 PM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 682
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

Orphic Okapi wrote:

It's a bit of a stretch I suppose, but the ending could indicate that Utena, by joining the swords (society), was able to redirect their anger away from the prince, away from the Rose Bride, and toward an actually worthy target: the power structure creating the illusions that oppressed people...

Awesome idea!  I like that one.  Or, if one wishes to be cloying, she inspires change. 

Interesting angle to think that she manages to change the world by being part of it.

Last edited by rhyaniwyn (12-09-2013 02:59:34 PM)


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#66 | Back to Top12-11-2013 08:46:03 PM

Katzenklavier
Wondrous Sexual Eggplant.
From: Back of your thoughts.
Registered: 09-13-2008
Posts: 1120

Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

End of the Tour: Hmm, the swords do whirl around destructively a lot before actually focusing on Utena.  Maybe the reason they don't focus on Akio is that he, er, had gotten the fuck out of there by then?  I mean, we don't see him anywhere in those shots near the end, do we?

I really hate to just jump in with a tangent, but thanks for giving me that mental image. I just pictured Akio getting this "oh shit" look on his face before gracefully swan-diving off the edge of the arena. Or, even better, his car zooms up and turns into a sexy red helicopter. He leaps in and flies off with all the pizzazz of a Batman villain, exclaiming that he'll "get Utena next time, mwaha."


We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

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#67 | Back to Top03-27-2017 03:06:42 PM

LadyButterflyNebula
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From: Arkansas
Registered: 03-23-2017
Posts: 73
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

SleepDebtFairy wrote:

The swords of hatred is my favorite image in SKU ever, but I'm almost at loss for what to think about them because they're so mysterious. I'll try, though.

I really never saw the swords of hatred as being directed toward the prince at all, only the rose bride. The swords of hatred represent the people's... well, hatred out of fear, but in an almost misogynistic way their hatred is only directed at Anthy, the hated witch who dared to take the prince away from all of the other girls who aren't witches, but submissive princesses who needed to be saved. One way I view a modern-day witch myself (as I kind of am one) is self-empowerment, and a witch is often seen as a role of feminine power. In society there is still that stigma of the much-hated witch who is a hag and casts curses and is cast in the darkness and judged as a villain because her self-empowerment is feared and resented. That is how the townspeople are judging Anthy. She took action into her own hands and chose to save the prince herself, taking on a role of power for a woman. The "witch" accusations fit with this because the townspeople hate and fear what she is doing and isolate her from "normal" girls by labeling her as the villain/witch.

Another thing I've noticed is that in the very beginning of the series there are two or three different scenes where something happens to Touga, Saionji, or Miki and Nanami's henchwoman (before they are her henchwoman I guess) all gang up on Anthy at various points and blame it all on her. To me this was like forshadowing of the swords of hatred, or some kind of reality/less symbolic version of it in a way. They were being hateful toward Anthy for basically taking away their "princes." Every single time Anthy was seen as the one to blame even though by appearance alone she would just seem like a quiet shy girl who didn't deserve that kind of treatment. It is as if all/most of the girls (princesses) have some kind of internal hatred/fear toward Anthy because they know what she has done.

I'm sure there are other views of the swords of hatred, but that was just one way I saw it.

I'm sorry if that was a little muddled. I really need to do a rewatch soon too. (:

Quick side track from the swords to Anthy as a Witch-

I've always viewed the SKU presentation of the Princess or Witch as the age old paradigm of the Virgin or Whore.  Anthy is decked out in red for passion/lust and is very clearly not a virgin.  This goes toward what you were saying about Anthy being empowered (at least when she "saved" Dios). -- I'm actually working on a whole chunk of my thesis on this.

As for the swords- I'm out of time to post this but I'll add my two cents in later. (weak sauce I know).


Usubeni midarete manatsu no yo no yume yume
Tobitatsu kagerou koi kogarerou
Anata wo omoeba yume ni yume ni yume miru
Afureru yorokobi towa ni towa ni

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#68 | Back to Top03-29-2017 06:46:53 AM

Ashnod
La poétesse revolutionnaire
From: Missouri, United States
Registered: 03-01-2007
Posts: 1227
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Re: The Million Swords & Their True Nature

LadyButterflyNebula wrote:

Quick side track from the swords to Anthy as a Witch-

I've always viewed the SKU presentation of the Princess or Witch as the age old paradigm of the Virgin or Whore.  Anthy is decked out in red for passion/lust and is very clearly not a virgin.  This goes toward what you were saying about Anthy being empowered (at least when she "saved" Dios). -- I'm actually working on a whole chunk of my thesis on this.

As for the swords- I'm out of time to post this but I'll add my two cents in later. (weak sauce I know).

Hmmm...having not read your thesis, I would be wandering into unfamiliar waters here. This is not a dichotomy I've ever tried to marry with the Princess / Witch variation on faerie tales that Utena's narrative focuses on.

I'm not saying you're wrong; the very nature of Utena's symbolism begs for individual interpretation, but I find myself skeptical. It's very tempting, in my opinion, to try applying the Virgin / Whore dichotomy onto a woman's role that is largely symbolic and also has a two-sided split, but I don't think the Princess / Witch dichotomy is similar or equivalent.

Curious to see what parallels you draw.


Flowers without names blooming in the field can only sway in the wind. But I was born with a destiny of roses, born to live in passion and glory.

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