It’s been a long week. All I could think was, “man, that birdhouse looks comfy. And it might be the only building in this school up to OSHA standards.”
Episode Specifics: It seems that Kozue is actually a human shaped people with feelings, and parents exist in this world! They only exist to crush their children’s emotional stability, though. Sworn off of ever trusting adults, Miki is nonetheless sweet talked into reentering the dueling arena – this time accompanied by his very own Bride.
Today’s duel music starts with a good long list, because my brain had grown lax not having to sort out which words rank higher on the scale of interpretive meaning. For today, we’ll note that they’re all primal ideas, fitting in with Kozue’s ideas about “wild animals,” before moving on to artifice: alchemy being the attempt to create something from something wholly unrelated – insert joke at your analyst’s expense here – and the “creations” that litter the rest of the song are all false in some manner. If we were truly talking about a natural world rather than the illusion of one, it would be impossible to stop time. Additionally, every supposed opposition the lyrics offer has a common base: waterfalls and oceans are both water, boats and coaches are both transports, eggs and beds are both places of birth and security – and the idea of ‘seemingly different but really the same’ is at the heart of Miki and Kozue’s relationship this episode.
Those look like swell, sturdy walls. I know a questionably German
fantasy village that can take that down for you in no time. Steam powered and everything
As for the student council, they’re playing a game of musical chairs. But while we’ve suddenly got a multitude of seats, including that really nice massage one, the table is missing entirely: in other words, while the duelists are free to move about and assume a different position (or a point of view, or an argument) there’s no common place for them to come together. Like with Mikage’s duels, they’ve been thrown into chaos with no common reference point and no means of coming together to pool their knowledge. They’ve been caught going round in the cycle again, once more in the dark until it’s very nearly too late.
Creator Commentary: I read in a book once that wild animals have a mother-and-child ritual of “bite parting.” Once the child has stopped breast-feeding, the mother suddenly bites, attacks, and chases child out of her territory. Apparently, they do this instinctively to avoid inbreeding.
Now, let’s try taking “End of the World” as a metaphor for real society (though now this seems like one of those demonstrational programs on TV). A certain girl says she’s got a new brand-name handbag out of a one-night stand with “End of the World.” Here’s what she says:
When everything around you is impure, you’ll have to become impure as well.
The only way to get what you want is to lose your purity.
Why don’t they bite each other, right?
Why do they remain there?
Could that place that will never lose its purity hold “their own, personal eternity”?
“…maybe don’t stick around for the disemboweling. Those beaks are sharp!”
Character Spotlight: Kozue claims to be someone who never hides her feelings, but we know from the very start of this episode that that’s untrue (she’s cool, but sometimes she “acts weird”). Her mentality this episode is ‘become impure to get what you want,’ but at the same time she seems to value purity in Miki. Her put-downs of their missing parents seem to be a vocalization of the things Miki ‘wants’ to say (meanwhile, Miki goes out of his way to be agreeable and softspoken, only to passionately declare that he hates and mistrusts the actions of adults), but at the same time she cuts Anthy off just as she’s about to explain about attempting to return the baby birds to their parents (perhaps already knowing how savage that would be, and wanting to shield Miki from it). The cinematography foregrounds Kozue’s wounded ankle in this scene, drawing attention to how visible she seems to make her ‘wounds’ and grievances. The costuming too seems designed to contrast the twins, with Kozue in her fairly revealing gym clothes and Miki in his head-to-toe duelist uniform.
But hand in hand with protecting Miki’s ‘purity,’ Kozue has only come more to the idea of using people as objects, only to be used herself. She calls Akio “daddy long legs” when speaking with Nanami, indicating that she’d somehow heard about the StuCo conversation (perhaps part of Miki’s conscious effort to communicate more from the last time we checked in with them) and has made a conscious decision to approach him. It’s possible she even knows him to be End of the World, and thinks she’s ‘wild’ enough to seduce him out of whatever power he wields. If Miki (who isn’t so above the people-as-objects thing either, as he slides back into the argument of ‘taking’ Anthy as a thing he wants under the influence of the Questionable Consent Car) is the Champion duelist that puts both of them out of the reach of their parents, of adults, and anyone who might try to change them. The two ultimately fail as a dueling team by becoming objects even to each other – seeing Miki as The Duelist rather than the brother who needs her support, Kozue moves in to take power for herself and dooms the both of them.
As an aside, this episode is perhaps the most interesting use of their status as fraternal twins, regarding how they’re pushed to use others: Kozue seduces others into acting on her behalf, becoming an object and mirror of the desires and interpretations of others while believing she’s secretly the one in control; Miki is pushed to declare his victory over others through brute force, taking objects for himself as a sign of his own worth as a human being. Both lack the emotional maturity and context to grasp anything like the big picture of the game that has thoroughly played them.
The History Channel is already calling them with a reality show contract
Have You Heard: Well, that last sentence summed it up pretty nicely, actually. Gambling is a nice stand-in for a thing you know, theoretically, to be bad. A thing that you hate, even, for whatever reason (as the twins hate their parents). But it’s easy to be talked into the idea of the thing, and the potential award (gambling and money, adulthood and power/autonomy). You rush in with everything you have on the chance of a big win only to crash and burn spectacularly…never once suspecting that things were rigged against you from the start, designed to take what the dealer wanted from you and leave nothing behind.
Anthy “seriously, fuck humanity” Himemiya
Anthy Watch: Nervous tics! Anthy rubbing her hands (the current most intimate mode of contact she has with Utena) is a big deal – it’s one of the first times we’ve seen outward physical action that’s not only not advantageous but an outright danger to her, as Akio’s response proves. To drive it further home, we have the breaking of the teacup: you may recall that there was a great deal of reflection imagery (usually in teacups) tied to Anthy in the earlier episodes, acting as a representation of who she appears to be versus her ‘real’ self. In this scene the two merge, breaking the cup and destroying its ability to be a useful tool (though it could be reshaped into any number of things, as long as we’re spinning metaphors). This also prefigures the Very Important tea conversation between Anthy and Utena, tied both to the toxicity of the past and present and the hope of the future.
Outside of Utena, though, Anthy seems to have no qualms about continuing her task of wounding the duelists as necessary to move them into position. To her, after what might well be countless rounds of this game, they’re likely less flawed individuals (and children) not yet able to overcome their individual flaws and more pawns who will act in the same predictably petty and cruel ways if pushed in a certain direction. And if one lives not only being dehumanized, but literally separate from the false body that interacts with those people, it makes it all the easier to dehumanize them in return.
Themes: So, “wild animals.” Keeping on with the idea that our duelists are ‘flawed’ versions of Utena, Kozue and Miki are both trying to break free of the power influence that they feel has abused them and let them down – just as Utena has begun to realize she must, for herself and for Anthy as well. In Kozue’s case, it’s by defining them as something special (wild animals, self-sufficient and slightly dangerous). But there’s a place for that in the system – subhuman. Ikuhara’s commentary wonders why they remain in such a situation, willing to become impure or to deny reality and support in the face of pursuing that purity. But all of this is tied around Miki for a reason – he’s the youngest Council duelist (Nanami is a special case, let’s remember), the most seemingly untouched by the physical signs of adulthood, the most emotionally vulnerable. Like those chicks in the condemned tree, both Kozue and Miki need support and guidance if they’re going to grow up. For all that this series deals with the toxicity and damaging influence of corrupted adulthood, it’s never been so clear that it is also necessary – or at least, a support network is (there’s hope for the chicks via the next box, after all, nodding toward the saving power of the found family over solely the biological one). And it’s clear that the twins are too alike to be that to one another, emphasizing each other’s worst traits and holding onto their half-preserved memories rather than being able to encourage growth (how can you guide another person to grow if you’re still doing it yourself?).
I wonder if background artists speak of this series in hushed tones
“Yes, they actually linger on scenery shots! And it MEANS THINGS”
On that note, Utena’s line about “expecting more” from the Sunlit Garden. Much of Miki’s story is about how he defines others through the lens of his idealized memories, holding them to unachievable standards destined to end in disappointment. But people often don’t realize that the more you focus on the past, the more it not only defines how you see the world but how others come to see you. Utena has heard so much about this garden, totally defining what she knows of Miki’s music career and his relationship to his sister and it’s…just a patch of grass ravaged by time. The danger of getting caught up with memories, then, is that even capturing them exactly will never truly convey their importance: Utena can see the garden, but she can’t feel Kozue’s fear or uncertainty all those years ago, or understand Miki’s obsession by objectively observing what went on. To slip a bit into an Evangelion mindset, while people are indelibly shaped by their pasts we can’t truly understand one another through that lens(foreshadowing that Utena can’t ‘save’ Anthy by undoing what has happened to her but by opening a door to the future for them together) but only by going forward together.
Interesting that in the first Arc only Miki had his Dual be a two parter, while in this arc he’s the only one who’s Dual isn’t a two parter. Besides Siaonji who merely the prelude both times.
I wonder what that tells us about Miki?
Practically speaking I imagine it’s to vary up the structure – but it is quite interesting. He is the duelist who (at this stage/cycle if you read it that way) has issues most centered in his worldview rather than his relationship to others (like Saionji and touga to an extent, who also don’t really get two parters) so it makes sent to come down to a singular episode over a two-parter (since Jury’s episodes are about relationships with others and obsession etc.).
I came across your posts via tumblr – they are super insightful! I’m currently rewatching Utena, and I’ve loved reading your commentary after watching an episode.
Sorry to resurrect an old post, but do you have any thoughts on the scene where Miki is on the phone with his father, and Anthy is also there with him (his father)? This scene has always puzzled me a bit. Is it just meant to reinforce how much there is to Anthy behind her face value? Was she really with Miki’s father? Or is she just representing an image of a stepmother in Miki’s eyes? This latter idea seems strange to me, given Miki’s fondness for Anthy thus far and his explicit distaste for adults and their manipulative behaviour. Just begs the question of whose persective we’re looking into when we see Miki’s father and Anthy together.