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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 Top10-27-2006 11:13:17 AM

ZSPACE
Touga Topper
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 57

Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

Here is something else from numurokinenkan.net that got me wondering. ( i will use many quotes from the essay) Time plays a key role in Utena. Like in episode 36 during the duel with Touga. Utena: How many times have we fought here?  Touga: This is the third. Utena: It seems like we have dueled so many times before. Don' forget about the freeze frame before the music starts during Juri's duel. ( i know it has something to do with time, but i don't know). So is time relaitive or dependent on subjective perception?

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#2 | Back to Top10-27-2006 10:25:30 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

The story makes no sense at all unless we assume that time is non-linear. Perhaps it is dream-time or multiple memories overlaying each other.

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#3 | Back to Top10-27-2006 10:59:40 PM

satyreyes
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From: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

It's possible that Utena's subconscious mind is a lot more perceptive than her conscious one.  Touga has been helping Akio play the Seitokai throughout the show.  Miki, Nanami, and Saionji are all dueling in part because of Touga -- to emulate him, woo him, and show him up, respectively.  He's even gaming Juri to some extent through reverse psychology, by playing up the "power of miracles" theme.  If the Seitokai are Touga's proxies, then in this sense, Utena has dueled Touga many, many times.

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#4 | Back to Top10-27-2006 11:20:36 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

...All that said, yes, time and space are clearly not normal at Ohtori.  I wouldn't be too quick to call "nonlinear time" in the timeframe of the show, except maybe as far as Mikage goes -- but time surely does behave weirdly in the show's past.  If nothing else, time at Ohtori is cyclical; this is far from the first time Akio has tried to revolutionize the world.  Sensitive characters, especially Miki with his stopwatch, seem to have an intuitive but unconscious sense of the wonkiness of time.  If I can follow Gio's lead and invoke Star Trek: TNG: did you ever see the episode where the Enterprise gets stuck in a time loop, and the characters ultimately figure out what's going on through their growing feelings of deja vu?  It's not impossible that this is what Utena is feeling in her last duel with Touga.  I still prefer my Seitokai-as-Touga's-proxies theory, though.

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#5 | Back to Top10-28-2006 08:32:54 AM

ZSPACE
Touga Topper
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 57

Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

There are also many scenes that are used over and over again like the trek to the dueling arena and Anthy drawing the sword.

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#6 | Back to Top10-28-2006 02:54:32 PM

Clarice
Well hello, Clarice...
From: New Zealand
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 3102
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Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

I always took it as being a reference to Touga and Utena's relationship outside of the duelling arena -- when you see them together, they are always sparking off against one another. They are the kind of personalities who rub each other up the wrong way, Touga because of his false chivalry and Utena because of her blunt nobility. They never saw eye to eye on anything, and I took Utena's comment as being a kind of sideways realisation and articulation of the fact she could not trust Touga. Really, what reason DOES she have to trust him? The viewer knows that Touga likely is trying to do her some good at this stage -- partly through his actions, partly through the fact that Saionji actually co-operated as his Rose Bride -- but what assurance does she have? None. And this is echoed in the fact that they let each other go...Touga offered to save her, Utena had no faith in him. So their hands break apart, the rose signets still in place.

Of course the irony is that this hand-letting scene is exactly the same as what happens between Utena and Anthy -- but Utena had to let Anthy go to save her, yes? So perhaps in some way, Touga realised that he had to let Utena go because she had to save herself. Although he then did try his damndest to defeat her to stop her from going to the Ends of the World, so maybe not. emot-tongue I failed mind-reading school, anyhow.


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.

Beyond The Silver Leaves

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#7 | Back to Top10-28-2006 04:48:18 PM

Ragnarok
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Registered: 10-20-2006
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Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

Clarice wrote:

I always took it as being a reference to Touga and Utena's relationship outside of the duelling arena -- when you see them together, they are always sparking off against one another.

That's what I thought too. But to an extent, Utena would see all the student council duels as being Touga's doing. Not on a subconscious level, but because Anthy is the rose bride because of the council's dueling system (From Utena's perspective.) and Touga, being the president of the council, is thereby the most responsible for all those duels.

Plus there's that time she fights Touga's soul sword ("The noblest sword in all the world!") during the Black Rose arc.

satyreyes wrote:

If I can follow Gio's lead and invoke Star Trek: TNG: did you ever see the episode where the Enterprise gets stuck in a time loop, and the characters ultimately figure out what's going on through their growing feelings of deja vu?

Just have to mention I love that episode.


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#8 | Back to Top10-29-2006 01:33:45 AM

ShatteredMirror
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From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 8858

Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

satyreyes wrote:

It's possible that Utena's subconscious mind is a lot more perceptive than her conscious one.  Touga has been helping Akio play the Seitokai throughout the show.  Miki, Nanami, and Saionji are all dueling in part because of Touga -- to emulate him, woo him, and show him up, respectively.  He's even gaming Juri to some extent through reverse psychology, by playing up the "power of miracles" theme.  If the Seitokai are Touga's proxies, then in this sense, Utena has dueled Touga many, many times.

This is a really interesting way of looking at things. I couldn't help but wonder how much Utena's subconscious realized that her conscious mind didn't, because she seemed way more aware than she should have been for what she knew she knew (if that makes any sense).


Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.

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#9 | Back to Top11-06-2006 09:20:17 AM

ZSPACE
Touga Topper
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 57

Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

READ!!!!!!!!
Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

Catharine Bell Wetteroth




All alone in space and time

There’s nothing here but what’s here’s mine

Something borrowed, something blue

Every me and every you.

-Placebo, “Every You Every Me”





There are a few basic questions that can be asked about the nature of time. Some of them are: Is time something that actually exists in an objective sense, or is it totally dependent on subjective perception? Is time uniform throughout the universe, or does it vary? Is time connected to change and motion, something that can pass, or is time static and eternal? Do the past and the future exist? Thus the importance of loss, change, motion, eternity, memory, and subjectivity in discussions of time. These questions and concerns have been answered in different ways by many people. The musings that will be looked at here are from Oliver Sacks, Albert Einstein, Augustine, and the show Revolutionary Girl Utena.

I’ve never analyzed a film or TV series in a paper before, so this is a new experience for me. I was worried that I would have only my memories of the show to use in this paper, and no good way to provide concrete examples from it. I found a way, however. I am using quotes from the English translations of the scripts available online at the Utena Encyclopedia. 

The anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena has time as one of its main themes. In the series, the Student Council members of Ohtori Academy are dueling each other for the chance to be engaged to the Rose Bride, Anthy. The one who possesses the Rose Bride will gain the power to revolutionize the world and grasp eternity. This power is contained in the form of Dios, who is captured in the magic castle suspended in the sky over the dueling arena. A new girl at the school, Utena, challenges one of the Council members when he humiliates her best friend, and in beating him becomes the one engaged to the Rose Bride. She spends the rest of the series attempting to protect Anthy and draw her out of her emotional shell. One by one, the Student Council members duel Utena, but she beats all of them and keeps Anthy.

In the second story arc, a new level of the story opens up. The featured character in this arc is Mikage. Mikage wishes to beat Utena and then kill Anthy, so that he may replace her and make his companion Mamiya into the new Rose Bride. Then he and Mamiya may grasp eternity together. This story arc highlights the importance of memory in the perception of time. It is also in this arc that it becomes apparent that time at Ohtori Academy is not the same as time in the rest of the world. It also introduces Anthy’s brother Akio, the deputy trustee chairman.

Every character in the story has a certain precious memory that they treasure above all other things. This one memory is the basis of their character and provides them with meaning in life. Most of these memories are connected to a certain person that the character is in love with, causing a lot of obsessive romantic relationships in the series. Mikage says to Utena at one point, “I see. It's that memory that's been supporting you up until now. No need to be ashamed. Because the memory you possess is a worthy one. Only those with beautiful memories are allowed to wish, ‘If only those days could last forever, if only I could still be what I was back then.’ I know that you're the same as myself. Your eyes are like those people who can't help wanting to make memories last forever.”

Utena’s precious memory is of her prince. When she was a small child, both her parents died. The prince appeared to her and showed her something eternal, something that allowed her to go on living. He gave her a ring, and told her to always be noble and brave. She decided at that time to become a prince herself, so that she could live up to those ideals. She came to Ohtori Academy in the first place seeking her prince. 

Mikage’s precious memory is of Mamiya and his sister Tokiko. Before he met them, he was a “computer-like man.” The research he was working on at Ohtori Academy, toward grasping eternity, was merely an intellectual puzzle to him. He fell in love with Tokiko, however, and her brother Mamiya. Mamiya was sick and dying, and Mikage wanted to grasp eternity in order to save Mamiya. Then he discovered Tokiko with Akio, and Mikage was devastated. Since then, Mikage has been working for Akio, and organizing the downfall of the Rose Bride. All his actions are based on this one desire of his, to save Mamiya and regain Tokiko, to have eternal love. 

It is revealed at the end of the story arc that Mikage’s memory was false and he was being manipulated by Akio all along. In truth, the whole thing with Tokiko happened decades ago. Mamiya died at that time. Since then, Mikage has been imagining Mamiya’s presence, and this has been aided by Anthy masquerading as him, and Akio’s ability (at that point unexplained) to manipulate reality on the school grounds. Mikage, Anthy, and Akio have all been there for decades, unaging. Mikage was unaware of the passage of so much time. It is not said how long he thought it had been, but maybe only months, maybe a few years. Tokiko visits the school briefly, and she has aged about 20 years. This is where it becomes clear that time in the outside world and time at the academy are not the same.   

The tragedy of this section is that Mikage had forgotten even what Mamiya looked like. His memories of the real Mamiya, and his death, had been replaced by memories of a false Mamiya, who looked entirely different, and very similar to Anthy. Mikage had transferred memories of certain things he had done over to Mamiya, thinking that Mamiya had done them instead. If he remembered that he had been the one to do them, he would have remembered that Mamiya was already dead at that time. Mikage had been fighting all this time on the strength of his memory, and that memory was false. He did many bad things in order to save a boy who had already died, and whom he had forgotten the truth about.

Mikage doesn’t age because he doesn’t know in his own mind that time is passing. Akio says to Mikage, once he realizes what has happened, “I exploited the illusion you cherished in your memory so much that you even halted your own time. The period where you hid the possibility in your heart, not growing up, was useful.” Time is here presented as a subjective thing, based on awareness and memory. There is no water of life at Ohtori Academy, no way to physically extend the life span. Those who are there do not age merely because they do not feel that enough time has passed for them to age.

Mikage, because his memory doesn’t progress past a certain point, ceases to age. Oliver Sacks, on the other hand, tells of someone whose memory ceased progressing, and yet that did not stop time from having its way with him. Sacks describes a patient of his, Jimmie G., who lost all memories of events after 1945. He thought he was just 19 years old. He was unable to form new conscious memories. He could, however, gain familiarity with the layout of a place, so that he could find certain rooms and objects within rooms. Sacks says, “…none of us had ever encountered, ever imagined, such a power of amnesia, the possibility of a pit into which everything, every experience, every event, would fathomlessly drop, a bottomless memory-hole that would engulf the whole world (p.35).” 

This is a complete loss of long term memory: the inability to store new information for more than a minute or so. Jimmie could not remember the beginning of a conversation once it had been occurring for a few moments. This memory loss did not develop until around 1965, meaning he also retroactively erased his memories. But Sacks was very moved by the way in which Jimmie could still experience deeply affecting moments: when he was in church, taking Communion; and when he was working in the garden. These experiences would remain in his emotions for a while after they had passed, so that although he might no longer consciously recollect them, he was still living within their sphere of influence, still feeling the same things as he had been. This is in contrast to the brevity of the terror he felt whenever anyone would show him something that didn’t fit into his world of the past, such as his own aged face in a mirror, or a picture of astronauts on the moon. These terrors would disappear at the same rate as his memories of the stimuli. But the calm and joy inspired in him by gardening and church would remain after the stimuli ceased.         

For this man, subjective time stopped. And yet objective time continued. The others around him knew that, in reality, time had passed. Jimmie continued to physically age. He was utterly shocked anytime he saw his own face, and couldn’t reconcile that with his perception of self. This moment when he was faced with the truth of the faultiness of his memory, the truth of the passage of time, inspired a reaction in him similar to the one Mikage had when he realized that his memory was false. But the difference between Mikage and Jimmie is that Mikage’s new realization continued, it became a new permanent memory, and all the old repressed experiences of time, and of the things he, not Mamiya, had done, stayed with him. When Jimmie was shocked into the “present” instead of the “past” that shock was brief. The memory of it did not stay with him, and he soon reverted back to his 1945 self.

For Sacks, time is something real. It is an objective fact, and continues to pass, even for those who do not notice its passing. Jimmie is wrong, plain and simple, when he believes that the world is still in 1945. And yet, it can be argued that since subjective experience is the only way a person can know anything, then time, as with all else, actually is as we think it is. When Jimmie experiences it as being 1945, that is the truth. When Jimmie experiences his face in the mirror, and realizes that it cannot be true both that this is his face and that it is 1945, then it is the truth that time has passed. When Mikage believes Mamiya to be with him, and experiences his presence, then that is the truth. When Mikage experiences his memories of Mamiya’s death, then that is the truth. When Sacks experiences Jimmie as someone who cannot remember the present, and forgets from moment to moment, then that is the truth. The question, of course, is where do these experiences come from? What does it mean when two people have differing experiences? How is the truth determined then? We could say that it is the truth that Jimmie has a memory loss, because more people perceive it that way. We could say that it is the truth that it is no longer 1945, because Jimmie can be brought to realize that fact for a while, and Sacks cannot be brought to experience the present as being 1945 (or at least, he is not brought to experience this). We could say it is the truth that Mamiya is dead, but what evidence do we have? The claim of the illusion of Mamiya, speaking directly into Mikage’s mind. Akio’s claim, Tokiko’s claim. Maybe this experience is the delusion? Maybe a true memory is replaced by a false one? How can we tell? Especially in this part of the story, where it is never quite clear exactly what happens, or why.

After losing his duel with Utena, Mikage “graduates” from the school. What this means is that he disappears and is never seen again. Not only that, but no one else remembers him. It is assumed that Anthy and Akio do, but they never mention him again after that, so there is no proof. Utena presents time as at once subjective and objective. It is “the truth” that Mamiya is dead, this is made clear in the storyline. And yet, the power of subjective experience is so strong that it can cause people to cease to age. It can cause buildings to appear and disappear, for large groups at once. The place where Mikage’s office is burned down decades ago, and yet to all the students it seems to be there. After he leaves, however, it reverts back to being a burned ruin. So which was true, Mikage’s experience of time not passing, or Tokiko’s experience of time passing?

To answer these questions, in a way, one can turn to Albert Einstein. Einstein views time and space as fundamental properties of the universe. Both are bound together into one continuum, the framework in which the universe is existing. Time and space are created by the presence of matter. They can be measured by coordinate systems. An object’s spatial coordinates change as it moves through, and the object can pass back and forth in many different directions. Objects also move through time, but only in one direction, forward. Or at least, that is how they move from their own perspective. The point that Einstein makes with the theory of relativity is that there is no universal perspective from which space and time can be measured. The system of coordinates and measurement is always made from a certain frame of reference, and what appears to an object from its own frame is very different than what appears to some other object.

Any object can be viewed as being stationary and the center of a coordinate system. Thus, for the sun, the earth and everything else revolve around it. For the earth, the sun and everything else revolve around it. The velocity of the earth as measured from the sun is not the same as the velocity of the earth as measured from Pluto. Time and space flow differently depending on the system of reference. The popular portrayal of this is the spaceship that blasts off from the earth, achieves 99% of lightspeed, and traces out a path that takes it away from the earth for a while and then brings it back. For the people on the ship, only a small number of years will have passed, while for the people on the earth, millions or billions of years will have passed. And if the ship reaches actual lightspeed, time on it “stops.” An infinity of time could happen on earth, and no time would have happened on the ship.

However, when most people imagine time stopping, they don’t actually imagine the absence of the passing of time. They imagine the cessation of motion and change, but still with a sense of time occurring. It’s like when a movie has a frozen frame: nothing moves, but the seconds still tick by in thought. Mamiya says at one point, “Eternity means lasting forever, right? For years, decades, centuries, millennia, eons, and on and on. My life may be just a moment, but… Eternity means that this moment lasts billions of billions of years, without end. I... I... I want eternity.” But this is not how it is according to Einstein. No matter how fast it is traveling according to the earth, from its own view, the spaceship is stationary. Time on the spaceship passes at the same rate for its inhabitants as it always has. Whether one ship-second is “equivalent” (as measured by elapsed time once the ship returns to earth) to one earth-second, or to 100 earth-years, or to one billion earth-years, doesn’t matter. Each and every second on the ship is just as long as every other second on the ship. If Ohtori Academy were a spaceship, the difference in time between it and the outside world could be easily explained by the theory of relativity. Established physics could present it as a fact, described with many equations. The difference between relativity and Utena is that the different time frames in an Einsteinian universe are caused by physical acceleration, while in the Utena universe they are caused by mental or spiritual “acceleration.” It is emotions and desire that affect the rate of time, not velocity. But in each it is a universe of infinite frames of reference, all true and also all false. There is no universal center, no ether that permeates everything and has x-y-z coordinates drawn on it in the handwriting of God.

There may, however, be coordinates draw in the hand of the Devil, Akio. At the end of the series it is revealed that (but not really revealed how) Akio manipulates people’s perceptions of reality through the “Internal Clock, Municipal Orrery” in his observatory. This machine can create the illusions of the dueling arena, the illusions of Mikage’s office building still standing, whatever form of projection Akio wishes. This observatory is also symbolically tied in to Akio’s car, a snazzy red convertible that’s been clocked doing thousands of miles per hour. Akio takes the characters for rides in his car before showing them the Ends of the World, the observatory. With this machine he alters space, and according to Einstein, altering space changes time as well. Akio’s desires and projections might be seen as the “universal reference system” of Ohtori Academy, the coordinates against which all things must be measured. And yet it is implied that maybe somewhere behind his projections is another level, a level of objective reality which he obscures with a veil of illusion. Else, why would he have to project anything? At the very least, there is a world outside the Academy. If there is no objective reality, then at least there are other subjective realities that are just as powerful as Akio’s. Even Akio’s frame of reference is not the ultimate one, in the sense of being the only truth. It is just another object in motion, comparing itself to other objects. And in the end, both Utena and Anthy win free of Akio’s world, like the spaceship breaking out of the earth’s gravity well. Although both the earth and the spaceship have gravity, that of the earth is greater. It does not, however, mean that the greater must prevail. The subjective reality of one does not necessarily destroy the subjective reality of another.

In an Einsteinian universe, time is tied to motion. It flows and passes. This is quite different from a perception of time as Eternity, which is persistent and static. Time is related to loss, Eternity to permanence and keeping everything, because nothing is destroyed and all times are always present and existent. In time as a flow, the future isn’t real, can’t be, because it hasn’t happened yet, and the past can never be retrieved, either from being destroyed or merely moved beyond reach. In Eternity, the future, the present, and the past are all equally real.

Augustine examines time as a thing that passes, and questions what its nature could be as such. “What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not: yet I say boldly that I know, that if nothing passed away, time past were not; and if nothing were coming, a time to come were not; and if nothing were, time present were not. Those two times then, past and to come, how are they, seeing the past now is not, and that to come is not yet (p. 40)?” Augustine wonders where the future is before it becomes the present, and where the past is once it has ceased to be the present. He concludes that, in time, neither the past nor the future really exist. And since the present is all that ever is, how can we measure duration? Any measurement of time is based either on memory or expectation, but both the memory and expectation only exist in this moment of the present. Thus time cannot be measured, for as something that passes it is always only one moment. “We measure neither times to come, nor past, nor present, nor passing; and yet we do measure times (p. 50).” Even though time does not exist, cannot exist, and cannot be measured, we measure and experience it. “It is in thee, my mind, that I measure times. … In thee I measure times; the impression, which things as they pass by cause in thee, remains even when they are gone; this it is which, still present, I measure, not the things which pass by to make this impression. This I measure, when I measure times. Either then this is time, or I do not measure times (p. 50-51).” Time, then is all in the mind.

Time is in the minds of humanity, and Eternity is in the mind of God. “Certainly, if there be a mind gifted with such vast knowledge and foreknowledge, as to know all things past and to come, as I know one well-known Psalm, truly that mind is passing wonderful, and fearfully amazing; in that nothing past, nothing to come in after-ages, is any more hidden from him, then when I sung that Psalm, was hidden from me what, and how much of it had passed away from the beginning, what, and how much there remained unto the end. … Far, far more wonderfully, and far more mysteriously, dost Thou know them. For not, as the feelings of one who singeth what he knoweth, or heareth some well-known song, are through expectation of the words to come, and the remembering of those that are past, varied, and his senses divided, -not so doth anything happen unto Thee, unchangeable eternal, that is, the eternal Creator of minds (p. 53).” In time, only the present exists; in Eternity, all times and all presents exist. Nothing is dependent on memory or expectation, for all is there.     

Eventually the human mind shall fail, and death shall come. “Thy years neither come nor go; whereas ours both come and go, that they all may come. Thy years stand together, because they do stand; nor are departing thrust out by coming years, for they pass not away; but ours shall all be, when they shall no more be (p. 40).” And thus the human mind, too, longs for Eternity. But one cannot gain Eternity in the passing of time. “Who shall hold it [the human mind], and fix it, that it be settled awhile, and awhile catch the glory of teat ever-fixed Eternity, and compare it with the time which are never fixed, and see that it cannot be compared; and that a long time cannot become long, but out of many motions passing by, which cannot be prolonged altogether; but that in the Eternal nothing passeth, but the whole is present; whereas no time is all at once present: and that all time past, is driven on by time to come, and all to come followeth upon the past; and all past and to come, is created, and flows out of that which is ever present (p. 38-39)?” In Augustine’s view, Eternity and the Eternal are the Creator of time, and thus when joined with the Creator a person ought to be able to reach Eternity. Maybe during life, maybe not until after death, I don’t know.   

The characters in Revolutionary Girl Utena wish to grasp eternity. It is the over-riding preoccupation of many of them. A great many of the characters also want to return to the past, when things were better than they are now, and they still had the shining, beautiful things they have now lost. The characters try to preserve their precious memories at all costs. They wish to live the “Utopian-Past-Tense Incantation”-- (“Time Machine/To the past, to the future, whoosh, zip, zoom!/Time Machine/To the time of all my dreams and wishes/…/These are all my soul/Oh, my dream machine.../…/To the faraway ancient me/Ten, two, one, zero... Take off!”). But in the end, only one can be engaged to the Rose Bride, revolutionize the world, and ascend to the castle where eternity dwells. This is why they duel.

Mamiya: “Eternity means that this moment lasts billions of billions of years, without end. I... I... I want eternity.” Saionji: “No! I am the one who will save her this time. The castle said to contain eternity... the power to revolutionize the world... will all be mine.” Mikage: “Eternity is right here before my eyes! I'll defeat you and grasp the power to change the world with these very hands!” But does the revolution of the world bring Eternity to all, or only to one? What is the true nature of Eternity, after all?   

After her parents die, the child Utena hides in a coffin next to theirs. She is found by young Saionji and Touga. Utena: “Why does everyone go on living knowing they'll end up dying anyway? I wonder why I never realized that until today. Eternity couldn't possibly exist, could it? And so, it's all right now. I will never leave this coffin.” Touga, despairing of any way to help her, turns to leave. Saionji cries, “Wait! Don't you think she might do something stupid if we leave her like that?” Touga responds, “Then, why don't you show her something eternal?” Since then, Saionji and Touga have longed to know something eternal. Now, they are duelists at Ohtori Academy.

Utena was indeed shown something eternal, after they left. Dios came to her, and showed her the eternal suffering of the Rose Bride, imprisoned and tortured for taking her brother out of this world and away from the demands of those who wanted him to help them, despite his being worn down by constantly protecting everyone. He was Dios then, and now he is Akio. Utena resolved to become a prince, so that she might free Anthy from her suffering. That memory has since faded with time, and she now thinks she only wants to be a prince because the one that rescued her was noble and brave. She no longer remembers ever having seen Anthy before. So none of the duelists know that the eternal thing in the castle they are trying to reach is a thing of pain.

However, the eternal suffering of Anthy is not Eternal. It endures, and lasts and lasts throughout time, but is still within time. It is a durational suffering, not a timeless suffering. So what, then, is Eternity?

There seem to be three main ways of grasping Eternity: nirvana, the Redemption of Time, and the single Now. The third, the single Now, can be illustrated with Sack’s patient Jimmie. Sacks describes Jimmie taking communion in church, “…I was moved, profoundly moved and impressed, because I saw here an intensity and steadiness of attention and concentration that I had never seen before in him or conceived him capable of. ... Fully, intensely, quietly, he entered and partook of the Holy Communion. He was wholly held, absorbed, by a feeling. …he was no longer at the mercy of a faulty and fallible mechanism- that of meaningless sequences and memory traces- but was absorbed in an act, an act of his whole being, which carried feeling and meaning in an organic continuity and unity, a continuity and unity so seamless it could not permit any break (p. 37-38).” Without memory or expectation, time flows continuously through the Now, and all that is perceived is the Now. This Now may still be ever-changing, but without memory or expectation, no change is noticed. There is always only one moment. If change is not perceived, then it does not exist. This is not the kind of Eternity that seems to be portrayed in Utena.

Eternity may also be seen as nirvana. In nirvana, time ceases to exists. Although, in most Buddhist texts, nirvana can only be explained through negation, so time does not exist, it does not not exist, it does not neither exist nor not exist, nor does it both exist and not exist. It is the same for all other things: space, objects, the self. Thus, the precious things, the memories, cannot be kept. It differs from mere loss of memory or living in the Now because there is no self to experience the Now.

There are ways to interpret Utena to show that this is the type of Eternity in the show. In Buddhism and Hinduism, the phenomenal world, samsara, is composed of maya, illusion. In Utena, the world of Ohtori Academy is composed of Akio’s illusions. Thus, it is more correct to refer to him as Maya, the demon of illusion and desire, than as the Devil. He creates perceptions of the world using his orrery. He manipulates people through sex and other forms of temptation. He promises what someone desires most, and then fails to deliver. Since perception is the only way to gain knowledge of the world, when Akio manipulates seeming he also manipulates being. He can alter time, space, and reality. How can we ever know the truth in a world of error? Buddhism and Hinduism teach that it must be recognized that the world is error and illusion, and then we know the truth. Thus, once we realize time is all in the mind, we can change our minds so that we no longer have time. Mikage changes time with the power of his mind, but he did not grasp Eternity. Even though his time was different, it still existed.

At the end of the show, Utena frees Anthy from her suffering. Then the spirit-swords that have been tormenting Anthy all fly at Utena. Just as they reach her, the scene cuts out. Life at Ohtori Academy is continuing, and Utena is no longer there. The students are all forgetting her. It is just like what happened to Mikage. Akio thinks he can start the whole process over again, grooming another noble soul to use so that he can regain the power and status he once had as Dios. Then Anthy walks into his room and tells him goodbye. She leaves the Academy, setting out into the world to search for Utena. Did Utena reach nirvana? She may have. But no one else in the show did. In this case, Eternity would only be gained by one person. Utena clearly won free of Akio, realized all he did as manipulation and illusion. She may be said to have vanquished Maya. It is, however, uncertain whether she truly surpassed the entire world. She probably just left the Academy.

The explanation that seems more in line with the series is that Eternity is rather like how Augustine describes it. Instead of being no-time, or one time, it is all times. All times are always existent, and the world forms a static whole. Thus, nothing can ever be lost, since everything always exists. Furthermore, the show gives the impression that Eternity is the true reality, what everyone is living in, and the flow of time, the very existence of Time, is an illusion. Not an illusion perpetuated on others by Akio, an illusion perpetuated by everyone on themselves, including by Akio on himself. There is no need to “grasp” Eternity, because it is already here. We only need to realize that that is the case. There are not really many clues to this view in the dialogue of the show. The closest anyone ever comes to saying something of the sort is when Utena and Touga duel for the final time. Utena asks, “How many times have I fought with you here?” Touga answers her, “This is the third.” “How strange...” Utena muses, “it feels like we've fought so often...” This dialogue occurs while the screen is a frozen frame. It is the use of cinematographic tools such as this that give the show the feeling of Eternity.

The entire show is full of frozen frames and repetitive scenes. Single scenes appear over and over again. Flashbacks abound. One scene is cut off in the middle, another is acted out, and then the earlier one is finished. Certain patterns and motifs occur multiple times. It is often easy to know what will appear next, although hard to tell what will happen next. For example, in the Black Rose arc, all the duels are set up the same way. The arena is covered in desks, with a certain symbolically important object on each desk. The floor is covered in outlines of fallen bodies, like at a crime scene. When someone loses the duel, the desks all slide together on the sides, and the person falls exactly on one of the outlines. This is a very shocking and frightening scene when it first occurs. But in later episodes, the viewer knows exactly what will happen. The details are, of course, always different, such as what is on the desks. This provides a sense of newness and discovery with each episode. There is also a duel pattern in the Student Council arc, and in the Akio Car arc. The effect is the same.

Beyond these general patterns, there are certain scenes that occur exactly the same many times. These include the Student Council members reciting a certain credo before each meeting, Utena and Anthy going to bed in the third arc, the “Absolute Destiny: Apocalypse” song and entrance scene to the duel arena, the bells ringing at the close of a duel, and the scene where the Sword of Dios is magically pulled from Anthy’s heart before the duels. For the Sword, the same footage is used each time it occurs in the first arc. These are clearly conscious stylistic choices of the director, and they seem to be designed to cause a feeling of something beyond just the linear motion of time. The repetitive patterns could be seen as indication of a cyclical view of time, but they are also constantly evolving, and do show time as something that flows past hurriedly and is gone. This is evident in the preoccupation with memory, and trying to hold onto a vanished past. The past is clearly passed and gone, never to return again in time.

Why am I arguing that the past is gone? That is the nature of time, but not of Eternity. Eternity, with every moment still existent, is often likened to a series of photographs: each Now frozen forever as a moment, all moments present, spread out like pictures in an album. In this view, all moments are separate. The image of the frozen frame is very important in Utena. One of the more striking and exaggerated examples is when Juri duels Utena in the Akio arc. Ruka acts as her Bride, and when he pulls her spirit-sword from her heart in preparation to fight, the picture of the two of them is turned into a still, drawn in an intensely detailed and shaded style different from that of the general animation. It looks like a painting suddenly added into the show. The picture remains on-screen for almost a minute. This is the most artistically set-apart example, in that the drawing style differs from the rest of the show, but it is only barely longer than many of the other frozen frames.

The height of the action of the show is probably the duel scenes. They are not necessarily the scenes most important to the plot or characterization, but they are action. And in general, in a duel, one would expect to see a lot of fancy sword-play and impressive feats of motion. This is not how the duels are. The actual techniques of fighting are less important than the song playing at the time. The climax of the duel is when someone cuts off the rose fastened to their opponent’s chest. This scene is never shown as a scene of motion and action. The two duelists run at each other. The scene is frozen as a silhouette, it is impossible to see who is doing what, and the only motion is stylized roses whirling in the corners, acting as a frame. The moment has no duration, internally. To the watcher it still does, of course.

The final shot of the show is Anthy walking away from the audience. However, she is not really walking, in the normal sense. There is a static background, a road running through hills with sky above it. She is not part of the scene, though. She is just a flat picture in the upper right hand corner, a figure whose legs move up and down repeatedly. But she does not change position compared to the scenery, or the TV screen. She does not diminish in size. Is she walking or standing still? Is time passing or not?

All these stylized shots and scenes, these frozen frames and repetitions, serve to build up the sense that all moments are still present, always present, in Eternity. I don’t think, however, that the overall effect is one of Eternity as an infinitude of disconnected snapshots. I think that rather, Eternity forms a seamless whole. For how can there be separate moments, when a moment is a now, and now is only there in the flow of time? How can even the flow be turned into these ultimate pieces, these atoms of time? Whether time flows, or whether Eternity is present, it seems it must be a single, indivisible unity. All moments, all places and times, all objects and people, all relationships, always there, always static and unmoving, yet always vibrant and in motion, for all motion is always there too. No need to weep over lost loved ones, no need to fight so hard to get back the past, for it hasn’t gone anywhere. If time, as so many seem to agree, is only our perception of it, then all we have to do to grasp Eternity is to change our perception. Does this mean that Eternity is true and time is false? Or does it mean that both are true? Or is time the truth, since it seems to be the experience everyone has? 

If desire and emotion can truly shape the world, as is shown in Utena, then the question of truth is less important. What one wants, what one has, are true. When the things we wish would remain, love, friendship, the good times, all pass away, and the things we would rather not have, the pain and suffering, remain and endure longer than we would like, we do not want that to be the truth. It is this experience of time as loss and suffering that leads us to desire to grasp Eternity, to call out “...for the revolution of the world!”   



 













Works Cited






Augustine. “Some Questions About Time” from The Philosophy of Time. ed. by Richard

M. Gale. New Jersey, Humanities Press, 1978



Einstein, Albert. Relativity: The Special and The General Theory. New York: Three

Rivers Press, 1961



Sacks, Oliver. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. New York: Harper & Row,

1987



Utena Encyclopedia: www.duellists.tj Scripts translated by Robert Paige and Yasuyuki

Sato, from the series created by Chiho Saito and Kunihiko Ikuhara

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#10 | Back to Top11-13-2006 11:41:14 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

At the end of the series it is revealed that (but not really revealed how) Akio manipulates people’s perceptions of reality through the “Internal Clock, Municipal Orrery” in his observatory. ... This observatory is also symbolically tied in to Akio’s car, a snazzy red convertible that’s been clocked doing thousands of miles per hour.

Really? I never noticed either of those things!

The final shot of the show is Anthy walking away from the audience. However, she is not really walking, in the normal sense. There is a static background, a road running through hills with sky above it. She is not part of the scene, though. She is just a flat picture in the upper right hand corner, a figure whose legs move up and down repeatedly. But she does not change position compared to the scenery, or the TV screen. She does not diminish in size. Is she walking or standing still? Is time passing or not?

This came up on alt.fan.utena and I still think that they were simply running out of animation budget by that point.

Interesting essay. I don't know if this is pertinent but I remember that C.S. Lewis said something to the effect that Eternity is most like the present and least like the future.

Last edited by brian (11-13-2006 11:49:40 PM)

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#11 | Back to Top12-12-2006 02:04:09 PM

StarlightArcher
Miki Molester
From: Texas
Registered: 12-06-2006
Posts: 30

Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

Clarice wrote:

I always took it as being a reference to Touga and Utena's relationship outside of the duelling arena

I too considered their conversation about dueling many times to concern their interactions throughout the entire series. Just about every time they speak, one of them is the offensive and the other the defensive- just like in a regular bout.

Because of their contrasting personalities, they are naturally are often naturally inclined to cross verbal swords when encountering each other.

Thus, considering the number of times they've debated and argued, I can understand how Utena would consider them to have dueled far more often than the three times shown in the series.

And yet perhaps, those two times before were so significant to her that they have grown in her mind to become something more than two sword fights. And in her own way, she would be right to. The first time, she faced who she thought was her prince. The second time, she fought to reclaim something she thought was gone.

So, is it a reference to Touga & Utena's antagonistic relationship? Or is it Utena musing over the importance all these duels have been to her?

Personally, I'm inclined to think it's the first option.


Why yes, I am made of Fabulous!

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#12 | Back to Top12-12-2006 03:34:58 PM

Blade
Sunlit Gardener (Finale)
From: Darkest Canada
Registered: 12-01-2006
Posts: 181
Website

Re: Is Eternity Within Our Grasp?

Just for the record, while time is slowed down or altered for particular people in Utena, I believe that for the world as a whole it undoubtedly passes in a linear fashion. Neither Anthy nor Akio could possibly affect the world as a whole; you need the Power of Miracles for that. Mikage can stay young forever within Ohtori, but Tokiko, who left, continues to age.  Everything that happened in the series happens in time, including all the events of the Black Rose Saga (many of which are referred to explicitly or obliquely later). Memories can be altered, but events still happened.

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