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

#1 | Back to Top06-18-2017 01:53:27 AM

Wakaba Wrangler
Registered: 05-21-2013
Posts: 19

What if Utena never forgot her original purpose for becoming a prince?

I haven't frequented this forum in years, but upon rewatching this series (up to episode 35 as of typing this post) I felt a sudden urge to make a new thread here.

One of the strongest aspects of the show is how it seamlessly illustrates the poison and malignancy of misogyny. Misogyny, not only in the hatred of women, per se (though that's certainly one part), but also the restriction of them through rigid roles places which society shapes itself around. Much of the main conflict of the overarching arc - Dios's fall into Akio, Anthy's "witchiness" and whether Utena is a prince or not - can all be traced to the notion that girls must be helpless princesses who are simply too fragile to bear the world's harshness on their own; they need a man, a prince who can save them! Therefore, a girl who takes her fate into her own hands must either be a delusional idiot who needs to embrace her princessness already or an evil, wicked, whore witch! 

Dios would have never been overworked had his kingdom's people taught their daughters to be self-reliant and not overly dependent on the Prince in the first place.

Anthy would not have been despised and skewered as a mere child.

Utena's strength of character wouldn't hinge on a presentation of becoming like by nameless Prince who supposedly saved her, because she was already that noble in the first place. She would not even have to call herself a prince, because boys are not and have never been the only people who could be brave and heroic.

And it saddens me more than it ever has that Utena's motive for becoming a prince decayed from wanting to save a suffering girl to a saccharine, more "palatable" narrative revolving around the man who HE HIMSELF admitted couldn't save Anthy - couldn't save anybody. And that's no fault of her own! It was a combination of time and the sexism of society that degraded that memory. Even so, Utena herself hasn't degraded, and that's why she's the one who will bring the Revolution, and not Touga like Akio seems to want. Her arc as a character, after all,  is all about dealing the juxtaposition of herself and the arbitrary hyper-sexism of Ohtori (and the more subtle sexism of the rest of the world).

Still... it's Anthy's unbelievably sad, "Who are you?" at the end of ep. 34 that makes me wish for an AU where she never forgot that little witch from the beginning.

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."



#2 | Back to Top06-18-2017 10:44:51 PM

Postmistress Elf of Subtext
From: North Carolina
Registered: 11-17-2006
Posts: 5086

Re: What if Utena never forgot her original purpose for becoming a prince?

Very well-written post and a great read! I don't really have anything to add about how much of the suffering in the main characters' backstories and even present canon is rooted in a family-unfriendly fairytale gender dichotomy and some good old fashioned real world misogyny, but you pose a good question to ponder on: How does Utena change, as a character and as a story, if she remembers Anthy and Dios more accurately from the beginning?

I guess the short answer is, we very well may avoid most of Akio's interference if this is the case, but that's not a guarantee. He would certainly still have the same (or at least a very similar) relationship toward Anthy, and presumably Anthy toward him. While it's definitely possible that Akio could still manage to manipulate Utena based on his own exceptional charm and ability to play the part she needs to see-- just spitballing here, but rather than playing Utena's prince he may actually be more direct (with a sympathetic spin) and present himself as a tragic fallen prince who failed the one he loved most, as the shadow of Dios who yearns to make this world right, and this may still allow him to suggest and shape her actions to some degree-- I would still say it's a pretty good guess that with a true memory of Anthy in her mind, Utena would not be quite so easily tempted into a princess role in Akio's arms. He doesn't necessarily need to seduce her to use her, however, and she can still serve some purpose as a pawn even if that pawn never wears the dress.

What about Anthy? Unless I'm overlooking a scene that suggests otherwise (and please do let me know if that's the case) it seems implied that Anthy is quite aware that Utena does not remember how they really met and that she is chasing a false memory, but if she were confronted with Utena's devotion to saving her knowing the horror she lives with and knowing this little girl in the coffin had committed her life to helping her escape her own coffin, instead of seeing a kind-hearted but foolish and naive "prince" who doesn't understand everything that she has already sacrificed for a prince, would Anthy be swayed by Akio's manipulation or Utena's fealty? Would Akio even be able to get her alone after dark in this version of the story, to forcefully pull her into him and give his next instruction without question that they would be followed? Knowing her true motivation to become the prince doesn't necessarily mean that Utena sees Dios and Akio for what they truly are, and so I can't quite decide how trusting she would be of Akio, though I do think he's capable of putting on a less menacing and more pitiable persona if it would allow him to keep his power behind the curtain; Anthy on the other hand is in a position to see even more of the whole story this way, and to perhaps make different choices. Would she? Or is the extent of Utena's ignorance irrelevant to Akio's hold on Anthy? Is Akio's power over her even less relevant than her power over him, and the state of her own deeply damaged psyche after dying as the martyr and being forced to live on as the witch would create the sadomasochistic codependency with Akio no matter what Utena knows/does?

Ahh, so there's my additional question following your initial one-- How do Utena, Anthy, and Akio change if Utena remembers what really happened? Do they change?

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



#3 | Back to Top06-18-2017 11:17:21 PM

At Times, Love Is
Touga Topper
Registered: 04-29-2016
Posts: 59

Re: What if Utena never forgot her original purpose for becoming a prince?

Well, besides what dollface said, episode 11 would have gone very differently.
Episode 7, too, I think. A big part of what provoked Juri into challenging Utena was her frustration that Utena's prince persona was all for "some boy."



#4 | Back to Top06-19-2017 07:21:02 PM

Bare Footman
Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1325

Re: What if Utena never forgot her original purpose for becoming a prince?

redRogue wrote:

awesome post

Your post totally got me posting here in this thread too emot-biggrin

I think it's worth mentioning how the side effect of the rigid female role is the rigid male role: all males must be strong and handsome and rich and oung to fit the "Prince" male ideal.   Failing that, they become lesser, darker things because that's the only other choices society offers males.  Just as girls who cannot become princesses have no choice but to become witches, boys who cannot become princes also have no choice but to become monsters.  Akio, who failed to stay as Dios, became the Morning Star/Devil/manipulative-boytoy whose worldly status rest on Mrs. Ohtori's whims; Saionji, who believed he failed in matching Touga in showing GirlInCoffin eternity, became a girl-hitter, etc.  Both genders are equally "oppressed"   

As for supposing Utena remembers her original purpose . . . I agree with others that she would still end up falling pawn to Akio.  Remember, while Anthy was the one to keep Utena out of the coffin, it still was Akio/Dios who initially drew her out by being - in child!Utena's words - "pretty." 

As a child and as a teen, Utena is attracted to princely beauty aka Japanese conventional male beauty - the tall slender sweet smelling bishonen. She loves Anthy as a person, but desires Akio as a romantic/sex object -- so much so, that she goes against her own principles ("he's engaged!") to have an affair with him.  And there's her again growing soft towards Touga in the Apocalypse Arc, even after having seen how vicious/cunning he could be earlier on.   Utena is vulnerable to handsome faces, and this weakness of hers is not gonna change just because her memories are unaltered. 

Plus I doubt Akio really wanted Touga to win: I think TV!Duels is similar to Manga!Duels in that Utena has always been intended as the final winner to fall prey to Akio.  He and Anthy sees her as the only one noble enough to produce the "right" soul sword to unlock Dios' sleeping power. 

Bonus: My take on Akio being angry at Utena winning the Duels without Sword of Dios here: … rd-the-why

Last edited by gorgeousshutin (06-19-2017 09:07:04 PM)

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#5 | Back to Top06-21-2017 10:40:44 AM

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

Re: What if Utena never forgot her original purpose for becoming a prince?

Excellent post, RedRogue. I agree with most of what you said. As far as Anthy's cryptic, "...who are you?" it is actually an incredibly important statement, because it proves that Anthy also has no memory or knowledge of Dios' visitation of young Utena, which solidly disproves some of the more depressing and cynical readings of that scene. I quote myself:

I take the scene of young Utena's visitation from Dios at face value, when so many people seem to want to turn that scene into just another piece of Akio's plan. To me that scene was meant to stand apart from almost every other moment in the show, because it shows the objective truth of what really happened. It is not a scene of any character remembering something or having something be revealed to them - on the contrary, it is a peculiarly (and starkly) disembodied scene in terms of viewpoint, divorced from the slant or bias of any character's perception of it. It is something being revealed solely and directly to us, the viewers, while the characters themselves remain ignorant of it.

We know from Akio's sardonic "conversation" with Dios in episode 13, as well as certain events during the finale, that some shadow or specter of Dios must remain vaguely on the fringes of existence. That night, it really did reach out to a young woman and showed her something eternal, the eternal suffering of Anthy, in the hope that she could be saved. Akio takes credit for this, but shows no detailed knowledge of what actually happened; this claim is just another of his many lies. He had no hand in it. (Incidentally, despite being a hugely important element of the scene, Anthy is even more clearly shown to have absolutely no knowledge, remembrance, or awareness of it ever having occurred.)

This is how I have always viewed that scene, and I honestly feel like people who want to attribute it to Akio grooming Utena years in advance are overthinking it, having fallen into the trap of wanting even more cynicism from the show than it actually already possesses, as well as attributing to Akio far-reaching supernatural powers that he is shown not to possess outside of what the Projector is capable of.

If it had been such a thing, Anthy would remember taking part in it, or - even assuming Akio pulled it off on his own - would know about it as having happened. Neither is the case. That three-word question (in both Japanese and English, as it happens) by Anthy is what establishes the veracity of the scene as presented, as well as Anthy's innocence in regard to it. She genuinely does not know Utena or understand her motivations. Given the alternative, this is very much for the best.

As such, I would never call the question "sad", because what it reveals about the earnestness of both that scene and Anthy's view of Utena are both very positive things. The only downside is that Utena's response to the question, if any, is unrecorded.

Last edited by Aelanie (06-21-2017 10:47:00 AM)



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