This is a static copy of In the Rose Garden, which existed as the center of the western Utena fandom for years. Enjoy. :)

#26 | Back to Top03-31-2009 06:29:09 PM

Bluesky
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From: Your window
Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Joking aside, I kind of see him as an over-sized Id, making all sorts of excuses for his hedonistic behaviour, but in the end Ohtori is just a playground for him to live out his fantasies in.


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#27 | Back to Top03-31-2009 07:32:49 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

rhyaniwyn wrote:

The swords are symbolic.  The swords also exist in the story.  You can argue it, but I don't see much genuine support -- you yourself reference a scene with swords that would make no sense if they weren't there except on a symbolic level (and then you shouldn't assume they're actulally driving along in a car and that Anthy is actually crying out in pain for no apparent reason).

This pretty much illustrates why we are having so much trouble. You seem to be pretty smart, but this statement makes me wonder if you even understand the various ways that narrative symbolism can work. Have you never come across the term Ďallegoryí? Structural symbolism? Archetype? And no, acquaintanceship and comprehension are not identical. You donít seem to understand that a storyís semiotic devices, its mise en scene, and even the physical forms of the characters themselves can all be entered into the narrative structure of the textís symbolic system. In fact, if literature wasnít capable of operating this way, everything would necessarily be reduced to non-fiction.

The primary difference between the characters in a story, and the reader who interprets, is that fictional characters exhibit illiteracies of their own symbolic condition. When a character momentarily gains a sense of literacy, in fact, it typically disrupts the narrative as a break in the so-called fourth wall. Itís the sustained and protected illiteracy within the textual space that makes the text possible; itís a shame, however, when the reader also participates in that illiteracy. Iím starting to see why you are so wont to interpret it literally.

Now, Iím not suggesting that you donít understand the symbols, because it seems that you do; only you donít seem to see how the narrative itself can operate as a play on its own symbolic content. This idea you keep reiterating about it Ďall being in someoneís headí is an interesting epistemology, but itís not a necessarily symbolic manner of reading. Reducing the narrative to a dream state has little or no bearing on its symbolic texture; dream and metaphor are not synonymous. Phenomenological reality is a literal concept. In a show like FLCL, which is often interpreted as a phenomenological externalization of male teenage desire, this approach makes sense, but works as a function of subjective reality prior to the effect of symbolism. Likewise, in Berserk, the demons can be looked at as literalized forms of subconscious phenomena, and at the same time they are also morally symbolic. But their origin and their interpretive meaning are not the same.

But this is all becoming pointless anyhow, because this whole thread has essentially devolved into an argument about Ďhowí to interpret, rather than any action of doing so. You still havenít explained to me how a literal interpretation can make sense, inside or outside of my Ďparametersí.

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#28 | Back to Top03-31-2009 09:28:44 PM

Aelanie
Black Rosarian
Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 378

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Allegory? Structural symbolism? Archetype? Semiotic devices? Mise en scŤne?

Forgive me, but I really think you are trying much too hard. When it comes to Utena, there are two extremes that many people make the mistake of falling into:

Camp 1: "It's just random trippy nonsense. There's no way to make sense of any of this." <cops out>

Camp 2: "OMG every single thing that happens is part of an incredibly deep, complex message!" <brain melts trying to come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Utena>

I doubt Camp 1 is much seen on these boards, but Camp 2 seems to be ever-popular among serious devotees of the show. The truth, as usual, lies in the middle.

The single most important thing to remember is that Utena is not, nor does it ever pretend to be, internally consistent. The fatal flaw in your reasoning, as I see it, is that you expect the show to play by consistent rules of depiction and symbolism. That is very, very far from being the case.

Ikuhara isn't trying to be consistent, and he admits it. Listen to the commentary regarding the shadow plays:

Ikuhara: "For example, the story that's told in the series...The drama that's told in one episode gets condensed into this shadow puppet girls scene."

Saito: "Huh? But that doesn't always happen..."

Ikuhara: "And there are times when that doesn't happen! That's a feint! Sporadically we don't do it."

Saito: "Like there're episodes where they're saying something deep."

Ikuhara: "Yes, something deep...and there're episodes where they say absolutely nothing deep!"


In other words, there times when the show uses elements or themes in a symbolic way, but later those same elements might be used simply as a facetious trick or reference.

For instance, the Wakaba Car in the Utena movie. Prior to its appearance, the imagery of becoming a car, as applied to Kozue, Utena and Shiori, has important symbolic elements. But does that mean Wakaba becoming a car is supposed to share in that? Personally, I don't believe it is anything but an amusing visual joke they decided to throw in.

At bottom, both the series and movie continuities are mostly literal stories with mostly rational sequences of plot and pacing, but at the same time they are being "embellished" in a way that creates the possibility for a great deal of personal interpretation by introducing metaphorical and symbolic elements. Just think of the stories as being told by a flamboyantly unreliable storyteller, one prone to opaque non sequiturs and tangental burlesque just as much as they are prone to brilliant and insightful figurative imagery.

The story makes enough literal sense to be enjoyed on that level, while the storytelling injects material for more figurative lines of thought. Again though, the single most important thing to remember is that this unreliable storyteller can't be counted upon to play by their own rules, or to present the "embellishments" they're introducing throughout the tale as having anything resembling a consistent internal logic.

Of course it's fun, and perfectly reasonable, to speculate on what individual elements might symbolically mean within the overall framework. The problem comes when you begin to believe everything has to tie together in a cohesive way in order to have value, and gets worse as you begin to believe the creators meant it to be so.

Down that road lies Camp 2 and madness. school-freud

On an unrelated note:

The series deals quite a bit with gender misidentification, which is an interesting literary theme. Iím not really saying much here aside from the fact that I think Tenjou misidentifies herself as a prince, rather than a princess.

That's no misidentification. It has to do with transcending the gender expectation of those roles. Utena chooses the role of the prince not because it's a male role, but because it's an active, independent role. She rejects princesshood not because she doesn't identify as female (she does), but because the stereotypical role of the princess is one of passivity and dependence. To me, one of the bedrock concepts of Utena is that Utena shatters everyone's expectation that she could never be a prince because she was female. Even Anthy thought so in the end, but Utena shows the world that "female prince" is not a contradiction in terms. The role of the "prince" embodies a greatness of soul that is just as much within the reach of women.

But that's a whole other topic...

Last edited by Aelanie (04-01-2009 12:44:51 AM)

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#29 | Back to Top04-01-2009 03:33:50 AM

Bluesky
Chpn Dlst
From: Your window
Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Aelanie wrote:

Allegory? Structural symbolism? Archetype? Semiotic devices? Mise en scŤne?

Forgive me, but I really think you are trying much too hard. When it comes to Utena, there are two extremes that many people make the mistake of falling into:

Camp 1: "It's just random trippy nonsense. There's no way to make sense of any of this." <cops out>

Camp 2: "OMG every single thing that happens is part of an incredibly deep, complex message!" <brain melts trying to come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Utena>

I doubt Camp 1 is much seen on these boards, but Camp 2 seems to be ever-popular among serious devotees of the show. The truth, as usual, lies in the middle...

>.>
<.<
-_-;

Oh crap.....
But I so agree with you on this, by the way, even if I'm erring a bit too close to camp one for comfort. On the other hand, just to play Devil's Advocate, there's literary concept called the Death Of The Author, which I'm not going to attempt to summarise here because I'll mangle it horribly, but basically means you should view a work as existing outside of the author's intentions (and comments on it) and audience interpretation is as valid as author interpretation.
(TV Tropes explains it cohererently, check it out there XD).
So yeah, just another point of view. But down that path, as you say, lies madness. emot-tongue


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#30 | Back to Top04-01-2009 08:24:36 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Ummm....so what you're saying is...in a story with symbolic meaning...no buildings exist within the fictional world.  You can't base your analysis of the characters off of the assumption that, to the characters, a building physically exists.  You have to try to interpret the characters' actions and words as if the building does not physically exist.  I mean, it can't physically exist within the story because it is a symbolic building in an allegorical story.  It is naive to assume that the building can be symbolic to the viewer (and creator) and that this is expressed by way the characters interact with the building and the things the characters say about the building, but take at face value that to the characters in context the building is real.  In fact, you have to assume the building does not exist, even to the characters inside it as the story takes place, to ever hope to understand what the building means.  Because allegories do not treat symbolic objects as if they are real or personify concepts as characters in order to communicate with viewers.

That's absolutely fascinating and makes so much sense.  No wonder I'm not confused and you are.

It's really kind of you to explain all this to me.  I feel so embarrassed and it's ever so kind of you to say that I'm smart.  That's just you being nice.  This thread is just proof of how silly I really am!  I just can't keep up. :-(  I think it's time to retire my copy of SKU and my keyboard.  Triplerock will reveal to all of us how naive our interpretations are and explain to us the literary and theatrical devices we are overlooking in our ignorance.  Stand back, everyone!  Just back up and give Triplerock room to work.  You might occasionally throw some ideas out so you can watch them be torn to shreds!  Even an artist such as Triplerock needs material to work with, after all.

I know I'm stupid because personally I've always thought that if an anime shows a character being stabbed in the face with a sword.  And then another character says, "Oh shit, you just got stabbed in the face with a sword!!"  Then I can safely assume that in the context of the story someone got stabbed in the face with a sword.  Now, if at the same time, I as a viewer am aware of various other facts that make the act symbolic I can interpret the sword and stabbing based on those facts.  That does not change the fact that someone got stabbed in their face in the narrative.  Nor does the fact that someone got ACTUALLY stabbed in their face in the narrative change the fact that the sword and the act of stabbing can be interpreted as symbolic.  Like say the stabber symbolizes Winter and the stabbee symbolizes Summer.  OMG it's an allegory of the seasons.  Someone still got stabbed in their fucking face.

Last edited by rhyaniwyn (04-01-2009 10:58:02 AM)


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#31 | Back to Top04-01-2009 11:39:41 AM

Bluesky
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Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

rhyaniwyn wrote:

Someone still got stabbed in their fucking face.

emot-rofl
On this note, I think you have two choices how to watch things like SKU. You can watch it as a story, see the characters as characters and the face-stabbing as face-stabbing. Or you can watch it as an allegory, see the characters as devices and the face-stabbing as whatever face-stabbing symbolises today (on past form, I'd say anything from the futility of trying to bend gender constructs to penis). Or maybe a mixture of both.
But the point is, you have a choice. I don't feel like my viewing experience is less valid or meaningful than somebody elses because I choose to view it literally. I mean shit, I'm aware that Akio's tower closely resembles (and here we are again) a great, big penis, which could represent his (highly sexualised) dominance over the campus. But  for me, that's not really important. I care more what goes on in the tower, what the characters, as people, do. THe symbolic (penis) value of the tower doesn't change anything that goes on inside it. I can completely ignore it and still enjoy the series quite fully. 
Does that make me, or other viewers who view in this way, stupid, or somehow not as good as the others? Well, I certainly hope not. emot-biggrin  Again, if people want to analyse it and find different, additional meanings, that's cool. That's a choice. But at the end of the day, it's entertainment, as as long as you're entertained one way or the other, what's the beef?
Sorry if I restated anything you said, rhyaniwyn. Just thought I'd throw in my two penny here. emot-smile


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#32 | Back to Top04-01-2009 04:47:20 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

rhyaniwyn wrote:

Ummm....so what you're saying is...in a story with symbolic meaning...no buildings exist within the fictional world.  You can't base your analysis of the characters off of the assumption that, to the characters, a building physically exists.  You have to try to interpret the characters' actions and words as if the building does not physically exist.  I mean, it can't physically exist within the story because it is a symbolic building in an allegorical story.  It is naive to assume that the building can be symbolic to the viewer (and creator) and that this is expressed by way the characters interact with the building and the things the characters say about the building, but take at face value that to the characters in context the building is real.  In fact, you have to assume the building does not exist, even to the characters inside it as the story takes place, to ever hope to understand what the building means.  Because allegories do not treat symbolic objects as if they are real or personify concepts as characters in order to communicate with viewers.

Hmm, I donít think it was my intention to suggest any of that . . . but after reading it I guess you might be right. Maybe I am going too far with it. Hereís the original quote I was working with (kind of plagiarizing actually), itís from a book by Yale Sterling Professor Peter Brooks: ďThe sign imprints the body, making it part of the signifying process. [This] signifies its passage into writing, its becoming a literary body, and generally also a narrative body . . . On the plane of reading, desire for knowledge of that body and its secrets becomes the desire to master the textís symbolic system, its key to knowledge, pleasure, and the very creation of significance . . . Narrative seeks to make such a body semiotic, to mark or imprint it as a linguistic and narrative sign.Ē

So yeah, going with that, I am kind of wont to read literature as a semiotic process of signification rather than a literal narration of actual events. Maybe thatís dumb, Iím really not sure now. I donít know if itís that we have different interpretations of how literature works, or if Iím just wrong about the whole thing.

See what you make of that quote, maybe you can explain it to me in a way thatís different than how I understand it. And by calling you smart, frankly, yeah I was trying to be a little condescending because I felt like you were mocking my interpretation in your last post, but truth be told I really am impressed with a lot of what you write. I just canít understand why you are so angry at me for disagreeing with your interpretation.

I donít have time to write any more right now. Though I do want to get to Aelanieís analysis, because I think itís interesting how sheís working from a different school of feminism than I am.

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#33 | Back to Top04-01-2009 09:14:23 PM

Aelanie
Black Rosarian
Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 378

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Though I do want to get to Aelanieís analysis

Please, don't bestir yourself on my account... >_>

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#34 | Back to Top04-01-2009 11:15:28 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Iíve had a little time to think about it, and, I donít know why I didnít come up with this earlier, but Iíve realized some very simple examples I can use to illustrate the point Iíve been trying to make. A few very simple examples from anime in particular.

For instance, itís pretty often that in anime we will see a large bead of sweat appear on the side of a characterís head. Now, you know what this symbolizes, but my question is this: Are we supposed to take this as a literal event? Is there literally a large bead of sweat forming on the side of this personís head, or is it merely a semiotic device that signifies a particular emotional state in a way that is purely symbolic? Another: We often see a teenage boyís nose start to bleed profusely in certain given situations, only to all the sudden disappear the next second without a trace. Again, was this meant to be viewed as a literal nose bleed, or simply a signifier for an emotional state? We see this in western television/movies as well. If a characterís eyes pop out of their head for a few seconds, and then retreat back in, is that meant to be viewed literally? If cupid shoots an arrow through a manís heart, do we expect that man to die? Does he literally have an arrow stuck in his chest?

Iím going to assume that youíll say no, these things arenít meant to be taken as real events. And so, the point is obviously that semiotic devices are clearly able to indicate emotional states in ways that are purely symbolic. They are events that appear to us in physical form, but have no literal meaning. So, now, if we take a girl who has a million swords stuck in her that act as a semiotic device to signify her suffering Ė this may not be an established trope, but it is capable of being regarded as a semiotic device, and semiotic devices are capable of being purely symbolic.

Furthermore, if a man is shot in the heart by cupidís arrow, even though this physical event is purely symbolic, it doesnít immediately render absolutely everything else present in the scene as having no literal essence. Everything else still operates as normal. Likewise, just because the swords are semiotic devices doesnít mean that Akio and his car and the road and the streetlights and everything else in the scene are semiotic devices as well. You seem to be taking the logic of my approach and bending it to an extreme position that makes it seem ridiculous, though thereís really nothing that unusual about it.

I mean, If Anthy has a million swords stuck in her, why is she not dead? You could argue that itís because sheís magical or immortal or something, but you could also just argue that itís for the same reason that the guy with cupidís arrow in his heart is not dead. Also, if Anthy has all these swords stuck in her all the time, why is it that we can only see them on the occasions when they are specifically referenced by Akio? Even then we see them one second, but the next second they arenít there anymore. You could argue that itís because thereís some kind of magic spell hiding them or keeping them within her, and Akio has the power to unleash them or something, or you could just say itís for the same reason that we see blood coming out of a teenage boyís nose one second, and no evidence of it the next. It just simply represents an emotional state with no literal meaning necessarily having to be attached to it as well. This type of symbolism is very much possible, and I think the quote I posted above from Peter Brooks indicates that virtually all semiotic devices can be interpreted this way.

Given how long this argument has been drawn out, I wouldnít imagine that you should like to interpret the events this way, but I donít see any reason why they canít be.

Aelanie wrote:

Though I do want to get to Aelanieís analysis

Please, don't bestir yourself on my account... >_>

I donít get this. Besides with rhyaniwyn, who I have admitted Iíve been rude to, and I feel stupid about it, I have treated everyone on here with respect. I havenít mocked anyone elseís opinions, gotten rude with anyone, and I havenít blown up on anyone or torn anyoneís interpretation to shredís. Now, I have disagreed with some and offered my own analysis, but Iíve also agreed with some, and several of the ones I didnít agree with I still said I liked a lot and appreciated. Iíve made it clear that Iíve gotten a lot of help and that I appreciate whatís been said on here. Iíve apologized, almost profusely, for the way I initially came across, and tried to be as amiable as possible about it. Plus Iíve made it clear that I respect and appreciate everyoneís ideas, even if I donít agree. Not only all that, but Iíve admitted on several occasions that I understand that my interpretation is only a product of my own bias, and that I might very well be wrong. Rhyaniwyn keeps insinuating that I view my own ideas as infallible, but Iíve never said that, and in fact, everything I have said suggests that I feel otherwise.

In fact, if you read through my posts, I think youíll see that rhyaniwynís interpretation is actually the *only* one that I have said that I donít like and/or agree with. Every single other interpretation thatís been offered to me in this thread I have actually agreed with, or said that I liked and appreciated even if I didnít agree.

I havenít had time to respond to everything, so yes, some have been passed over, but itís due to lack of time and space rather than concern. For instance, Hakuís suggestion that Akio is using fantasy to escape reality is an interesting theme to me that I agree with completely, I just havenít had time to address it. I also like the ĎDeath of the Authorí approach that Miss Bluesky brought up, because itís a very appropriate viewpoint for analysis. And, like I said, I also really like your interpretation of what Tenjou represents in terms of feminism, even though itís from an opposing school, I think it opens up room for an interesting debate. I actually had a lot of positive things to say about it, believe it or not.

So, going back through the thread, Iím counting seven interpretations that I like and/or agree with, and only one that I donít. So it just seems strange to me that I have only actually rejected one idea here and Iíve been respectful to everyone, and yet Iím being facetiously accused of totally disrespecting everyoneís ideas, even though if you read my posts you will clearly see that is not the case.

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#35 | Back to Top04-02-2009 01:16:46 AM

Aelanie
Black Rosarian
Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 378

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

It's not about agreeing or disagreeing. I just don't feel like having my opinions undergo the..."rigor" with which you undertake your examination of others' views. I'm not interested in seeing them washed through different schools of feminist theory, compared to the written works of notable names in the literature of the field, placed under the lens of semiotics so that you can isolate the iconography by which I came to that conclusion, or similar.

As I said, I think you are trying far too hard. To me, it is what it is, and what it is is really quite simple and self-evident - so much so that I really don't have too much more to add; that single paragraph managed to encapsulate my views quite satisfactorily, to my mind.

So please, by all means, agree or disagree with whatever you like. I just don't want to read a discursive critical essay on what you think about what I think.

Last edited by Aelanie (04-02-2009 02:07:45 AM)

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#36 | Back to Top04-02-2009 05:44:10 AM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Fair enough, but do you mean to say that anime is too primitive or too stupid an art form to be dignified with an academic level analysis? If thatís what youíre saying, then yeah, okay, Iím trying too hard to understand a simple cartoon show for teenagers. I can live with that. Frankly, youíre probably right. But, on the other hand, if you arenít suggesting that anime is that primitive or stupid, then Iím not trying too hard, Iím just doing something you arenít interested in. And thatís fine to. I canít very well hold it against you for not being into literary theory.

Also, to be fair, I do realize that this forum is geared towards casual discussion, not literary analysis. And so, in that respect what Iím doing is sort of inappropriate and out of place. So you are very much in the right here. Itís just that I have found people willing to go into this level of discussion on sites like this before, and I figured Iíd give it a shot here as well.

Last edited by Triplerock (04-02-2009 05:50:34 AM)

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#37 | Back to Top04-02-2009 06:32:39 AM

Aine Silveria
Pumpkin Bride
From: Allegan, MI
Registered: 11-03-2006
Posts: 2098

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock wrote:

Also, to be fair, I do realize that this forum is geared towards casual discussion, not literary analysis. And so, in that respect what Iím doing is sort of inappropriate and out of place. So you are very much in the right here. Itís just that I have found people willing to go into this level of discussion on sites like this before, and I figured Iíd give it a shot here as well.

If you hit the right topics and find the right people, yes, we do go into deep theoretical discussions about the series, but in many case when I read your posts, they seem very single minded to me, as though you must prove your point to all of us as being acceptable. Granted, I misinterpret things a great deal of the time, but perceptions are a lot to do with how willing we are to share our ideas.


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#38 | Back to Top04-02-2009 03:45:28 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Lady Chani wrote:

as though you must prove your point to all of us as being acceptable.

I guess youíre kind of right, in a sense. Though, it isnít that I feel the need to prove Ďmyselfí to you guys, or to prove that Iím Ďrightí, but I do feel the need to utilize evidence to prove that my interpretation is *tenable*. An interpretation being tenable doesnít mean that it is the one and only Ďrightí interpretation, it just means that it is an interpretation that holds up. And I do kind of feel the need to prove that my interpretation holds up. I think where the confusion is coming from is that my proof of Ďtenabilityí is coming across as a proof for Ďrightnessí.

Rhyaniwyn has actually already told me that you guys donít need this proof; that youíre perfectly happy just hearing my interpretation without me having to back it up. I guess I should have listened, then maybe I wouldnít be giving you guys such bad vibes.

My writing is just a reflection of my reading. I read a lot of literary criticism, and literary critiques invariably necessitate evidence to substantiate the reading. Thatís just what Iím used to, and so thatís how I write. I apologize if that comes across the wrong way to you guys; itís just a bad habit I guess. Well, itís actually a good habit if Iím writing a paper Iím turning in for a grade, but on here I guess itís unnecessary and inappropriate. Lesson definitely learned.

Last edited by Triplerock (04-02-2009 03:49:25 PM)

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#39 | Back to Top04-02-2009 07:05:32 PM

Aelanie
Black Rosarian
Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 378

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock wrote:

Fair enough, but do you mean to say that anime is too primitive or too stupid an art form to be dignified with an academic level analysis? If thatís what youíre saying, then yeah, okay, Iím trying too hard to understand a simple cartoon show for teenagers. I can live with that. Frankly, youíre probably right. But, on the other hand, if you arenít suggesting that anime is that primitive or stupid, then Iím not trying too hard, Iím just doing something you arenít interested in.

The truth, as usual, lies in the middle...

90% of anime (just like 90% of anything) definitely is not worth being "dignified with an academic-level analysis". Just so we're clear, this is coming from an anime fanatic who has spent thousands of dollars indulging in the medium. It's not like I hate anime, I just see it for what it is: Commercially produced entertainment that does not usually strive to be anything more than that.

There are of course exceptional exceptions to that rule. Utena is such an example; it has greater aspirations and is worth a deeper look, along with others such as Haibane Renmei, Simoun, and Millenium Actress, to name a few. However, "a deeper look" does not mean taking it the the extreme level that you seem to want to reach for.

The situation is analogous to an art critic examining a painting, "Colored Triangles on White Canvas #12", and declaring that its abstract concept is a summation of the failure of the postmodern movement as evinced by its flat yet multidimensional contortions, which suggest the vacillating ennui that is a pandemic among those who have striven and failed to create a truly postmodern mental space from which to transcend and ultimately obsolesce the superannuated pathways of modernist thought and expression.

At which point, the painter shows up and announces pleasantly that the design was taken from one of her grandmother's quilting patterns. It is meant to represent birds in a snowfield, flocking together for warmth in the cold of winter, just as the quilt was meant to keep her grandchildren warm during the winter.

So, it's not as though "Colored Triangles on White Canvas #12" meant nothing. There is meaning there, and there is figurative imagery at work. Even so, there is such a thing as a disproportionately complex response to those elements, in my opinion.

Now of course, this is where "Death of the Author" is supposed to come in and chide me for making the creator's influences and intentions a factor, let alone an overriding factor. I could address this, in fact I meant to do so, but this is off-topic and I have other things I should be focusing on, so I will simply say that I don't agree.

In the end, it's fine to take it to the level you're taking it, as long as 1) you consciously recognize that you're doing it, and 2) you also recognize that this type of approach may seem disproportionate and cumbersome to others. Namely me, in this case. emot-tongue

Last edited by Aelanie (04-02-2009 07:26:50 PM)

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#40 | Back to Top04-02-2009 07:25:26 PM

Bluesky
Chpn Dlst
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Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Aelanie wrote:

Now of course, this is where "Death of the Author" is supposed to come in and chide me for making the creator's influences and intentions a factor, let alone an overriding factor. I could address this, in fact I meant to do so, but this is off-topic and I have other things I should be focusing on, so I will simply say that I don't agree.

May I let it be known at this point that, being a bit dim generally, I probably couldn't marshall a half-decent counter-argument if I tried emot-biggrin Also, although I think the 'Death of the Author' theory is interesting and was relevant to some stage of the discussion, I wouldn't personally apply it to any of the media I enjoy because it seems that when there is an author, it seems a bit churlish to just disregard their opinions as if they had no imput in the work whatsoever and it just popped up from the hammerspace for us to pick to bits.
(Also, my anime viewing habits are usually more along the lines of 'HOSHIT skewlgirl lezbians lololololol' or 'holy shit, did she just get stabbed in the back? BAAAAAWWWWW'. As stated before, I'm about as deep as a puddle emot-biggrin).

TL;DR I ain't gonna argue with you, and I really like schoolgirl lesbians and this smiley (emot-biggrin)


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#41 | Back to Top04-02-2009 07:28:59 PM

Aelanie
Black Rosarian
Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 378

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Cheers. emot-biggrin

Last edited by Aelanie (04-02-2009 07:32:58 PM)

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#42 | Back to Top04-02-2009 07:50:54 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 589

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Well, Utena is worthy of being subjected to high-octane literary analysis although I personally don't have the background to participate in it.

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#43 | Back to Top04-03-2009 12:27:30 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

I'm a terrible mod for not poking my nose in here sooner.  At this point it looks like the damage is done, and I'm sorry for not being here when it happened. 

So listen.  Part of what's going on here is that Triplerock is putting a number of forum members on the reverse side of an argument we're used to being on Trip's side of: how seriously Utena can be taken as a work of literature.  This is a fascinating discussion and one that to my memory we've never had before.  It's natural that we old hands on the forum should feel a little uncomfortable at finding the shoe on the other foot, and it's also natural that Trip, who feels that serious literary analysis needs to be conducted formally and within established academic schema, should feel a little surprised that most of us don't feel the same way.

But this doesn't excuse incivility, not on this forum.

Triplerock wrote:

rhyaniwyn wrote:

The swords are symbolic.  The swords also exist in the story.  You can argue it, but I don't see much genuine support -- you yourself reference a scene with swords that would make no sense if they weren't there except on a symbolic level (and then you shouldn't assume they're actulally driving along in a car and that Anthy is actually crying out in pain for no apparent reason).

This pretty much illustrates why we are having so much trouble. You seem to be pretty smart, but this statement makes me wonder if you even understand the various ways that narrative symbolism can work. Have you never come across the term Ďallegoryí? Structural symbolism? Archetype?

Totally unnecessary, Triplerock.  You can make your point without belittling people who disagree with you or don't think the way you do.  Rhy knows pretty damn well what allegory is, but even if she didn't, this post would be totally unhelpful in doing anything but excluding her from the conversation.  I'm picking on this example because you're directing it at a specific forum member, but a number of your comments have had the effect of saying "you had better have a graduate degree in literary criticism if you are going to have an opinion about Utena," which is the opposite of how general-audience art is supposed to work and is certainly not the purpose of this forum.  You can do all the theory-driven deconstruction of Utena you like here, if you can find anyone who can and wants to talk about it with you, but save your contempt of people who have never heard of Jacques Derrida for coffee conversation with other literary criticism fanatics.

rhyaniwyn wrote:

It's really kind of you to explain all this to me.  I feel so embarrassed and it's ever so kind of you to say that I'm smart.  That's just you being nice.  This thread is just proof of how silly I really am!  I just can't keep up. :-(  I think it's time to retire my copy of SKU and my keyboard.  Triplerock will reveal to all of us how naive our interpretations are and explain to us the literary and theatrical devices we are overlooking in our ignorance.  Stand back, everyone!  Just back up and give Triplerock room to work.  You might occasionally throw some ideas out so you can watch them be torn to shreds!  Even an artist such as Triplerock needs material to work with, after all.

Same goes for you, Rhy.  Make yourself known civilly.  You're eloquent when you want to be, so I know you can say "I'm frustrated because you're doing X, I think that's wrong because Y, and that makes me feel Z" without resorting to sarcasm and nastiness.  Like Triplerock's post above, this reads a lot like trying to exclude someone from the discussion because they're not arguing the same way you want to argue.  I read Triplerock's wall-of-text posts on the first page and thought Trip was being fair if overzealous; if you think Trip's arguing in bad faith, explain why without being abusive.

Emotions got high.  That happens.  But next time, both of you, step away from the computer for as long as it takes to converse calmly, okay?

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#44 | Back to Top04-03-2009 10:36:22 AM

Hiraku
Easter Elf #40
From: Singapore
Registered: 02-21-2007
Posts: 6342
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

I need to visit the analysis threads more often. So many posts to digest, but at least I managed to read through it.

First and foremost, I want to stay on topic somewhat and answer the question you [sort of] directed toward me, Trip. Whether or not you should take those scenes at face value, in my opinion, that is entirely up to you. While the author himself may have a whole different purpose in presenting certain things, I think if it works for you, then it does. My English teacher once told me that literature is art, and art invokes different emotions/ideas/inspirations within people. It's what art does, it draws out the things that's inside of us that makes us individuals in the first place.

The way you worded the question as to your indecision between taking the scenes at face value or something deeper, it sounds like you have an answer already. I'm inclined to think that you're leaning toward Akio's ambition rooting in fantasy, but I'm not certain.

I remembered that Ikuni said in the interview that he'd be happy to see if his fans can delve into Utena series more stuff than he himself could have done, so I doubt the author himself would say if what you said is "wrong" or "right".

As for "Academic value" in entertainment. Again, art draws out different things from people. My English prof told us that one of his former students did a brilliant comparison between Shakespearean sonnet and Mariah Carey's song. I like to believe that things do exist with a certain value, and whatever you make of it, it will still be there; like all living creatures, regardless of what others say of its significance, it will still be standing. (<-I can't help but felt that one of the Seazer songs talked about this)

In another note, watching Utena series twice is more than enough, in my opinion, to form good arguments and thoughts about the series. I've really only watched it once. Later on, when I went on to this site, I saw essays people wrote, and it's others' inputs that add dimensions to the series for me, moreso than what I could've done alone.

Bottom line, if "right/wrong" is an issue, don't let it be. And, don't be too uptight with what you've learned before. Much of what I understood was a combination of the analysis essays and my own life experience. (Yes, I'm encouraging you to "live out" your own Utena moments because it's fun that way)

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#45 | Back to Top04-03-2009 01:53:20 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

satyreyes wrote:

Totally unnecessary, Triplerock.

I completely agree, and I sincerely apologize. Also, I realize that rhyaniwyn seems to be a long time, well respected member here, so, in light of that, I genuinely appreciate your fairness in addressing the issue, as well as your fairness and objectivity in your reading of my posts. I think you're right on the mark. Thanks, and sorry, it wonít happen again.

Now, I want to address Ďcolored trianglesí, even though it is pretty off topic. Hell, no rules against hijacking your own thread, right? emot-tongue

Aelanie wrote:

create a truly postmodern mental space from which to transcend and ultimately obsolesce the superannuated pathways of modernist thought and expression.

I understand that youíre trying to portray this line of thought as a bit cheeky Ė and Iím no art history buff by any means, so correct me if Iím wrong Ė but isnít that actually a more or less pretty accurate description of the philosophical rift between modernist and postmodernist sentiments in the visual arts?

Itís a good point and a good example (pretty funny actually), but even as ridiculous as it may seem, I think thereís a good amount of validity even to an interpretation that is that eggheaded. This type of criticism isnít informed by the criticís personal proclivities or understanding of the artist as much as it is a reflection of the cultural landscape and rich tradition of art history in which the painting is inevitably situated.

My understanding is that modernismís over-intellectualized high art snobbiness fueled the reactionary sentiment and the cultural irony that paved the way for postmodernist art to come into play. So, "Colored Triangles on White Canvas #12"ís (Iím just playing along) inspiration being Ďgrandmaís quiltí can very well be interpreted as playing into the postmodernist deconstruction of so-called Ďhigh artí. Even if the artist himself isnít really aware of this cultural influence on a conscious level, he is, if nothing else, aware that his painting wouldnít have been taken seriously if he had produced it a few decades ago. In that respect, the painting *is* inevitably a reflection of the societal forces our egghead critic describes, even if that wasnít the artistís intentions, because it couldnít legitimately exist as art outside of that cultural sphere. 

So, two things about our pretentious egghead criticís analysis, 1) itís more or less factual (I think), and 2) itís pretty damn interesting as an art history analysis. This type of criticism implies that no art exists outside of a social context, and attempts to subsume it into that cultural atmosphere that informed it and, indeed, made it possible. This is what literary theory does with Ďcultural studiesí as a specific discipline and itís what I like to do with my analyses. Again, if itís not what you like, itís not what you like, and thatís cool. But to me, I think itís interesting to look at how the art, the artist, and the Ďreaderí are all connected that way on a social level, regardless of what the artistís intentions are.

And, well, I have a good feeling that Iím not telling you anything you donít already know, since you seem to know more about this topic than I do. I just wanted to fill in the blanks, because I think that type of analysis is legit, even if a little cumbersome to most people. And I also realize that Iím probably being a little bit on the fair or lenient side with your criticís painting analysis; I do see how ridiculous it is, and I do get your point.

Hiraku wrote:

I remembered that Ikuni said in the interview that he'd be happy to see if his fans can delve into Utena series more stuff than he himself could have done, so I doubt the author himself would say if what you said is "wrong" or "right".

Absolutely. And that brings us back to the Death of the Author approach. Nathaniel Hawthorne once said something very similar: ĎNobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed.í

To be honest, Iím not constitutionally rigorous about observing or applying the method. I donít really care to hear the author opining about their own intentions, but I do like to know the history of how stories come into being. For instance, knowing that Spirited Away was inspired by Miyazakiís encounter with a spoiled little girl is really insightful. Iíve been reading a lot of critical analyses of Hawthorneís short story ĎThe Birthmarkí lately, and finding out that Hawthorne wrote this story (about newlyweds) around the same time he was just married is, again, really insightful. So, any information regarding the history behind the story which allows us to put it under the lens of contextual experience is, for me, very useful information, because being able to frame it that way helps us understand it better. For instance, if I was to read Donneís poetry without understanding his playful, teasing relationship with his wife (the absolute love of his life), I might actually interpret his poems as being the ramblings of a dirty, cynical old misogynist. So itís good to know a thing or two about the author, and in that sense Iím against the Death of the Author approach. But on the other hand, I donít really want Hawthorne to explain Hawthorne or Miyazaki to explain Miyazaki, and thatís where I support it.

Hiraku wrote:

it sounds like you have an answer already. I'm inclined to think that you're leaning toward Akio's ambition rooting in fantasy

Yeah, youíre right. My personal feeling is, yes, that itís based on fantasy, and my personal feeling is also that SKU is a lovely series that speaks to the social, sexual, and existential dilemmas that probably most everyone experiences to a certain degree or another in youth. If I was to list my personal favorite anime, SKU would definitely be in my top five. However, if I was a professional anime reviewer, and objectivity was important to me, I donít think SKU would end up in my top five highest rated, simply because the series has a lot of technical problems with the plot and other things, imo, and I donít think ratings should be based entirely on personal bias, though I donít mind seeing a tilt. The thing is, I *want* to be able to rate it highly because I like it so much, so thatís why I was trying so hard to work out the issues I see with the plot. Which is just my silly bias trying to solve a problem that is better left alone, I see that now because you guys have helped me see that. And thatís why I came on here to begin with Ė it just ended up taking a little nonsense to work it out.

Aelanie wrote:

Just so we're clear, this is coming from an anime fanatic who has spent thousands of dollars indulging in the medium.

So, yeah, I donít mind deferring to your opinion then, because you obviously know more about anime than I do in that case. Itís really only a mild interest for me, and, to be honest, my tastes are kind of on the snobby side.

See, SKU was originally sold to me as basically being ĎEvangelion for girlsí, and so thatís the easiest line of comparison for me. In Eva the symbolism works so well that the plot and the protagonist essentially become analogues of one another. Itís a highly structured system in which the structural and psychological elements play off of their respective literariness in a way that melds theme and narrative into a single cohesive literary unit. Itís really pretty amazing, to me anyway. (Where Anno ultimately screws up is when he decides to underestimate our literacy levels by berating us with an ostentatious lecture rather than allowing his symbolic vocabulary to resolve itself naturally.) SKU, on the other hand, deals with roughly the same themes as Eva, and it perhaps deals with them more naturally, more effectively, and more poignantly than Anno could ever hope to. That is Ikuharaís strength. His weakness seems to be that heís, well, basically lazy and canít be arsed to make his symbolism work the way Anno does. So, something gained, something lost Ė neither show is perfect, but I love them both.

Last edited by Triplerock (04-03-2009 02:09:48 PM)

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#46 | Back to Top04-03-2009 02:25:52 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock, as far as the original topic of the thread goes, you might be interested to hear an interpretation of Akio's attacks on the Rose Gate that has been going around the forum more or less since we started up.  That interpretation is that Akio does not actually want to surpass the gate.  His highest ambition is to remain in the fantasy world of Ohtori, king of that bubble as he is now; he wants nothing more.  The entire series -- the dueling game in particular -- is orchestrated so that he can appear to Anthy as though he's trying to regain his princeliness.  As long as Anthy believes that, or even pretends to believe that, Akio is master of all he surveys.  He's not worried about eventually succeeding in opening the gate; after all, supposedly only the sword of a prince can open the gate, and Akio doesn't believe in princes.  So he keeps up the charade for Anthy's benefit, and Anthy pretends to be taken in, and Akio knows she's only pretending but pretends he doesn't know, and Anthy knows that Akio knows...

I'm not sure what Akio thinks is literally behind the gate, apart from the notion of princeliness.  In those last couple episodes of the series, reality and symbolism are hopelessly conflated, and if you want to think of that as sloppiness on Ikuni's part that's your right.  Certainly Ikuni deploys a lot of new symbols in that episode without clearly explaining what they mean or why they work that way, which is one reason we're all here talking about them.  My point here is that it's not really important to Akio what exactly is behind the gate, and he may never even have given it serious thought.  He's just playing out his part, which is why there's such a staged quality to how he attacks the gate with Utena's soul sword, and how he casts it aside when it breaks to dramatically soliloquize "When will I ever attain the power of Dios?"

Of course, it turns out you don't open a door by hitting it with a sword; you open it by clawing at it, on your hands and knees if necessary, using your sincerity, determination, and love as fuel, until at last you pull aside the seal and look at what's behind it.  If Akio understood that he'd already have the power of Dios.  Indeed, he might never have lost it.

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#47 | Back to Top04-03-2009 03:40:59 PM

Hiraku
Easter Elf #40
From: Singapore
Registered: 02-21-2007
Posts: 6342
Website

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

satyreyes wrote:

If Akio understood that he'd already have the power of Dios.  Indeed, he might never have lost it.

Or maybe for that reason, he'd lost since the beginning. Do you think him as Dios could have understood such thing then, though?

Utena is trying to be like Dios, but she's not Dios. Maybe there's something in her that she's lacking, or maybe what Dios himself is lacking instead, that led her to what really lies behind that gate.

Last edited by Hiraku (04-03-2009 03:42:17 PM)

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#48 | Back to Top04-03-2009 04:28:01 PM

Bluesky
Chpn Dlst
From: Your window
Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

(Removed)

Last edited by Miss Bluesky (04-03-2009 07:57:18 PM)


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#49 | Back to Top04-03-2009 06:51:37 PM

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

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Hiraku wrote:

satyreyes wrote:

If Akio understood that he'd already have the power of Dios.  Indeed, he might never have lost it.

Or maybe for that reason, he'd lost since the beginning. Do you think him as Dios could have understood such thing then, though?

Utena is trying to be like Dios, but she's not Dios. Maybe there's something in her that she's lacking, or maybe what Dios himself is lacking instead, that led her to what really lies behind that gate.

Mmm hmm, right you are.  If Dios had understood what kinds of actions go along with caring about someone, he would have spent more time with his sister and saved fewer damsels in distress.  He might have been Dios, but he wouldn't have been an archetypal prince in the sense of the series.

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#50 | Back to Top04-03-2009 07:32:18 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 589

Re: Are Akioís ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

I don't know how or if this fits in to this discussion, but when Akio strikes the gate Utena cries out in pain as if he is striking her. Since Anthy is inside this may mean that Utena is finally living up to her name - Utena, the calyx that protects the blossom.

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