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 Top08-24-2011 08:59:55 AM

Registered: 08-17-2011
Posts: 564

Theories of a Black Rose Duelist (who just finished the final episode)

[WARNING: Spoilers and profanity inside, although I cleaned up most of the profanity for this site]

As I write this, I’ve just finished watching the final three episodes of Utena.  My associate Josef and I (because anime is more fun when the experience is shared) have been watching three episodes a week for some time now, the limit the free Megavideo service will allow, and honestly... consider our minds blown .

They don’t do storytelling like this anymore.  The best example of straight-up storytelling I can think of these days is Breaking Bad.  But for the multiple filler episodes and occasional ill-placed gags, Utena is a spectacular example of storytelling... the kind of thing I, as an aspiring writer, hope to achieve someday.

The ending answers... a good chunk of questions.  It still leaves a lot, but some of the things are apparent... the reason Utena was able to open the final door and Akio wasn’t, for example, was because Utena was the prince Akio could no longer hope to be.  The whole correlation between Utena trying to hide herself away in a coffin when she was young to shut out the world, to opening the coffin with Anthy inside.  The way Anthy was finally able to walk out of the Ohtori academy because of Utena’s sacrifice.  Some stuff makes sense.

The big question of what is Ohtori academy... after a discussion with Josef, we came to two conclusions.  For both, you have to take the assumption that ‘Revolutionizing the World’ is code for ‘Getting the hell out’ because on the other side of that ‘door’ is the exit to... whatever.

On one hand, looking at the name of the movie, one can almost assume Ohtori Academy is a symbol for adolescence.  Utena is able to ‘Revolutionize the World’ because she’s willing to sacrifice herself for Anthy, an adult way of thinking, instead of trying to sacrifice everyone else around, like Akio was trying to do.  The power of friendship, and this gift of true understanding, allows Anthy to come out of her metaphoric shell, her metaphoric coffin, and grow up as well, as she simply waltzes out of the academy.

Another way of looking at it, the more popular way apparently, is that Ohtori academy is some sort of ethereal purgatory, and that Utena legit died along with her parents... hence why there were three coffins in the church in the first place.  Akio pulled her out of that third coffin and brought her to Ohtori because he thought she was his ticket to ‘the hell out’.  But she was able to get past Akio’s (read: the devil, as he is the master of illusions and manipulation) temptations and threats, and freed the Rose Bride, screwing with the rules of this purgatory and getting both herself and Anthy the hell out.

Both theories have their flaws, and both have their strengths.  But both explain why the Student Council, the only other ones even cognizant of what’s going on, are stuck at Ohtori after being called there and directed around by ‘End of the World’.  Whether these things keep them there because it keeps them from being adults or tie their souls to purgatory, Josef and I found the best way to describe how Utena is able to defeat them is... and I apologize for my language... ‘Getting their crap together’.

Miki can’t get his crap together because he’s hung up over his sister and his upbringing.  Juri can’t get her crap together because of her relationship issues, mostly stemming from Shiori, and her own lack of self-worth.  Saionji can’t get his crap together because of his obsession with finding something he can control.  Nanami... she’s FAR from getting her crap together, she’s got so many hang-ups.  Ruka, I’m not even gonna deal with, as he was simply a filler match, but you can lump him together with Juri.

Touga, of all of them, seems to be the one who has his crap together most.  Remember how he defeated Utena?  By seducing her and making her ‘lose her crap’.  And once she realized what was truly important to her, she got her crap together again, and beat him.  But Touga’s hang-ups over Utena herself end up being his undoing and his failure when he finally cashes in his rematch clause towards the very end.

The very concept of the Mikage Seminar is Anthy/Mamiya manipulating Mikage into manipulating six people to become the Black Rose Duelists by pointing out and exposing that they don’t have their crap together.

So, working on this assumption, that getting out alive means getting your crap together, I have only one question.  It’s a question I’ve yet to get a straight answer to, but maybe it’s because there isn’t one.

Utena got her crap together and got the hell out.  Doing so empowered Anthy to get her crap together and get the hell out.


First of all, to see where I’m going with this, you have to disregard the fact that he dies in the fire in the manga.  This is simple to do; because we all know that with most anime based on manga... as most anime are, period... they take liberties.  Some of them VERY strongly.

One can surmise Mikage, back when he was Professor Nemuro, couldn’t get his crap together because of his hang-ups concerning Mamiya’s illness and his falling for Tokiko, as well as his leading the study on just how to get the hell out (bankrolled, in a sense, by Akio).  He led 100 duelists who, if you look at the Student Council, could be considered the closest thing to people who have gotten their crap together.  Then Professor Nemuro further loses his crap when Akio, apparently trying to rile him into slaughter everyone else who was so close to getting their crap together, is seen making out with Tokiko.

So everything burns to the ground, and Nemuro becomes the Mikage we all know and love.  Akio, still obsessed with getting the hell out, screws with Mikage’s head and utilizes the fact that he hasn’t gotten his crap together by making him see Anthy as Mamiya and Utena as Tokiko, and using the Black Rose Duelists in the same way Akio is using the Student Council... to test to see if Utena really does have her crap together.  But instead of trying to get the hell out, Mikage is simply trying to deal with his crap.

In the end, Mikage realizes that he was the one who set the fire, through the manipulations of Akio (however much of a part that played), and that Mamiya was dead all along.  Realizing what had really happened, and getting over that hang-up, you could surmise that in the end, at the end of the final duel of the Black Rose arc, Mikage finally got his crap together.

Now, working on the assumption that getting your crap together is the precursor to getting the hell out.  One might be able to surmise that you can’t get out of Ohtori Academy, be it purgatory or be it adolescence, by dying (This makes more sense if you assume it’s purgatory).  Hence why, if Nemuro really did die in the fire, he became Mikage instead of dying.  Dying might not be an option.  Either you get the hell out or you’re stuck.

But what about the 100 boys?  There are a couple of ideas there.  One is that they, being the team that finally figured out how to get the hell out, got out themselves.  This ties into what happens when you get the hell out... I’ll be covering that in a bit.  The other theory is that they’re only dead in body, and not in spirit... which makes more sense if you’re chaining their souls to the black roses and black duelist rings.  Meaning they’re still burning down there.

If Akio, being the all-powerful master of illusions that he is (evidenced by the dueling arena, the upside-down castle, etc), brought Professor Nemuro back as Mikage or brainwashed him into becoming Mikage... if Nemuro truly left the Ohtori Academy at all through death, if that’s possible.  So, when Utena was thoroughly tested by the Black Rose Duelists, and Akio is done with him... if he can’t kill him to get rid of him, what then?  How does he get him out of his way and essentially make him forgotten?

Here’s where everything ties together, and it involves the very end of the series.

When Utena finally gets the hell out, people begin to forget about her.  The conversation between what we assume are the Shadow Girls indicates that once you finally get the hell out, you’re forgotten.  When the Mikage Seminar arc is over, Mikage is literally completely forgotten about.  We’ve established that at the end of his duel, he probably had his crap together.  So does that mean he got the hell out?  If you go by what Akio said (and it’s kind of hard to go by what Akio says) about the dueling arena and the Chairman’s planetarium being the same place, the door was right there.  Could, after finally getting his crap together, Mikage have finally gotten the hell out, and that’s why he’s been forgotten about?

The 100 boys is the one wonky spot in my theory.  If you follow that logic, you can almost look at the 100 boys in a similar light.  This one is a further stretch, granted, but if you follow the theory, the whole purpose of having the Mikage Seminar could be not only to expose people who don’t have their crap together, but to see if one of their hang-ups matches one of the 100 boys’ hang-ups.  When a Black Rose Duelist loses their ring and rose by losing the duel... a ring that once belonged to one of the 100 boys... the duelist forgets everything about the experience.  Maybe it’s because getting over that hang-up, with Utena’s help, allows that spirit to finally get their crap together, as their crap matches the crap of the duelist they’re paired up with.  Much like the brides concept of the “Ghostride the Whip” arc.  When Mikage runs out of rings and roses, it means everyone else got their crap together except him.  In that vein, helping the other 100 boys get their crap together first is like an act of penance for setting them all on fire in the first place.  It can almost be seen as noble.  Almost.

The question then becomes, if all 100 boys end up getting their crap together, why do we only see six duels involving Black Rose Duelists?  Simple... either their previous duels were with the Student Council that we didn’t get to see, happened before the arrival of Utena, or the reason they were in on the project in the first place... if their hang-up was figuring out how to get the hell out in the first place, figuring it out allowed them to get their crap together.  This would help make sense in why Akio manipulated Mikage into burning the place down... if everyone in Ohtori Academy figured that out, people would be trying to get the hell out in droves.

But if there were other 100 boys duels in the effort to get all of the 100 boys the hell out, then why does nobody remember them or bring them up?  For the same reason that nobody remembers Mikage once he gets the hell out.  For the reason people begin to forget Utena when she gets the hell out.  Because when you get your crap together and get the hell out, people forget you.  Full circle.

Supposedly Anthy, as the Rose Bride, is vital to being able to ‘Revolutionize the World’, which we’ve established is getting the hell out.  If that’s the case, then why was Mikage able to leave without her?  Simple.  Mamiya was essentially his ‘bride’.  And Anthy was posing as Mamiya.  So Anthy was essentially on his side all along, guiding him into helping release the 100 boys through the last of the Black Rose duels.  Sure, he was never the actual champion, but Anthy was his bride, essentially.

So... what role does Anthy play in this theory?  She’s Akio’s ‘fix’.

The fix is in, essentially.  She’s there to make sure nobody gets the hell out which he doesn’t want to get the hell out in his grand journey to get himself the hell out.  Akio, in his own twisted desire, has gone from wanting to help Anthy, the Rose Bride, to just wanting to get the hell out.  When she’s engaged to Saionji, she’s his ‘someone to shove’, distracting him from being able to get the hell out by becoming the embodiment of his hang-up and fueling his obsession.  When she’s engaged to Touga for all of one episode, she distracts him by fueling his hang-up with Utena.  But when she’s working with Mikage, she’s simultaneously becoming his hang-up by posing as Mamiya and urging him towards getting his crap together concerning helping him get the 100 boys the hell out, and testing Utena in the process.  She’s Akio’s doorman in that essence.  Because, at that point in time, and for a majority of the series, she has no will of her own.  And towards the end, she realizes that Utena really is the tool that she could use to get herself the hell out.  But she’s scared that when she finally gets the hell out, bad things are going to happen to her all over again.  Hence why she stabs Utena in the back and hands her heart’s sword to Akio, knowing full well he doesn’t have his crap together.  It’s sabotage.

The swords of hatred?  The easy answer is that they’re leftovers from the world before/outside of Ohtori Academy, and tie more into Anthy being a witch than anything else.  They could symbolize Akio’s hang-up in what his sister has done for/to him, or Anthy’s hang-up about not being able to deal with the outside world.  Because I don’t remember there being any farmhouses or angry villagers in Ohtori Academy.  They probably go after Utena because she’s trying to free their original target, Anthy.  But by then, Utena’s already gotten her crap together and gotten the hell out.  Or, since Anthy was still in the coffin when it collapsed into the ether, the swords were still trailing after her after Utena was forced to let go, and they simply went through/past Utena on their way to get to her.  The swords’ ripping either girl apart lends more credence to the ‘dying isn’t a way out’ theory.

And please don’t give me crap about Nanami going to India to get spices, or the whole cow pasture thing, etc.  Those are gag episodes used as filler by tired writers who tried to stretch this concept over 39 episodes, and realized there’s not enough frosting to cover the whole cake.  Also, I’m not a fan of the super-simple explanations (Ohtori academy is all an illusion made by Anthy to shield herself from the real world a’la Alessa from Silent Hill, Akio created everyone and everything because he’s the master of illusions) because from the complexity of the story itself, especially in the final six episodes, the show doesn’t seem to go for the easy explanations.

So Utena got her crap together and got out, and in the process, helped Anthy get her crap together (her major hang-up being the fear of stepping out into the world that, last time she was fully immersed in it and spoke her mind, met her with a truckload of swords) and get out.  In the end, did Mikage get his crap together and get the hell out?

I like to think so.

One last thought... if Mikage got the hell out, what happened to him?  If you believe that Ohtori Academy is purgatory and that the afterlife is on the other side, you have to question if the actions you take in purgatory are taken in account, how culpable Akio was in the fire, or just your actions in life, what Mikage did before entering the academy and/or your belief in whatever God you follow.  That’s for more religious minds than me to decide.  But if you believe Ohtori Academy is adolescence and that outside is the real world... I get the weird feeling Mikage is probably leading some political think tank.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Can anyone at least see where I’m coming from?



#2 | Back to Top09-03-2011 03:26:55 PM

Juri Jeerer
From: Spain
Registered: 02-10-2010
Posts: 49

Re: Theories of a Black Rose Duelist (who just finished the final episode)

I like your idea of Utena and Mikage, saying that they both ended the same way... Probably it happenned, it reminds me to episode 23 Mikage's sentence:

Nemuro:  I'm not going to do anything like dueling.

But at the end he's involved in a duel, so maybe there's some evolution in this character.

However... Akio is the one involved in this "evolution", and I don't think Akio would like to expel anyone out of Ohtori... And there is also the problem with Akio's sentence:

Akio:  But now, he doesn't exist in this academy.
Akio:  No, never has he from the beginning.

Maybe he assumes that, since he doesn't want to set a precedent in the academy (?) I don't know...

Last edited by Leeg (09-03-2011 03:28:01 PM)



#3 | Back to Top09-03-2011 03:39:28 PM

Registered: 08-17-2011
Posts: 564

Re: Theories of a Black Rose Duelist (who just finished the final episode)

But that's probably just Akio's cockiness surfacing.  If Mikage didn't exist from the beginning, then how could he, as Professor Nemuro, have engineered the way out in the first place?  And if Akio had the power to 'expell' someone, IE: getting them the hell out, he would have used it on himself (and MAYBE Anthy) long ago.  That's supposedly the whole goal anyways.

EDIT: I just finished some cake and had a revelation.  Remember Cowboy Bebop?  There's inferences that Spike was 'never really alive', after the whole incident with the Syndicate and Julia.  It's moreso saying that he's lost the plot.  One could argue that happened to Mikage as well... too obsessed, thanks to Anthy in disguise, with defeating Utena than he is getting the hell out.

Last edited by wblstudios (09-03-2011 03:43:54 PM)



#4 | Back to Top09-05-2011 09:39:20 PM

Android raptor
Rose Smilee
From: North GA, USA
Registered: 08-11-2009
Posts: 126

Re: Theories of a Black Rose Duelist (who just finished the final episode)

I don't think Mikage/Nemuro ever found the enlightenment Utena is implied to. Quite the opposite. I don't have a lick of hard evidence to back it up, but personally I think Nemuro is either dead (possibly committed suicide) or in something like a mentasl hospital because of what he did, and Mikage is essentially the ghost doomed to pursue what he never finished.



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