The Consulting Analyst – Azure Paler Than the Sky

sorta

The intro is here.

Ruka is helpful in the same way gasoline helps a forest fire. If you then used the gasoline tank to kick some trees over for good measure.

Episode Specifics: Shiori is heartbroken over Ruka dumping her, withdrawing from the world almost entirely. And while Jury had been adamant that Ruka stay away, now she demands the he take Shiori back to end her heartbreak. Ruka agrees, but only if Jury can beat him in a duel. Lose, and he earns the right of acting as her bride in a duel against Utena.

No student council this week, though we’re made more aware than ever before of the power (though sheer force of whispering numbers) of the Ohtori student body as a whole. Last episode was about a shifting triad of individuals framed by two similar beings, and this episode throws on an added element of those individuals within a cultural setting (or, “hey look, let’s legitimize Shiori’s terror of acting outside the norm/noticeably by putting her in a position where she is publically disdained/shunned by the populace at large/in effect punished for an overt display of raw and ugly emotions. Because, intentions aside, Ruka is sort of the worst).

gossip
Hi, fandom

Our dueling music this week is about shields; heraldry, rather. Patterns made up of symbols standing, historically, for noble houses (and lower class families might pour a whole bunch of money into GETTING a family crest just to give themselves the appearance of status whatever their day to day life is like). Each crest, in theory (if you have an approved, fancy one), is unique despite being made up of a common set of images. And it becomes both your announcement of self and status to strangers and a beacon of invasion or defense in battle for yourself and those who’re loyal to you. Our little heartbreak trio, fittingly, are high profile (or at least very visible) individuals who present images of their identity to the school at large while protecting their inner “truths.” And despite the nobility of the goals they tell others (and themselves) they’re striving for, they do more harm than good.

Creator Commentary: The boy who does nothing but transfer schools.

The boy who was supposed to be gone, came back.

He was always appearing at the same specific time. Frankly, I don’t like him.  He always…he always prods mercilessly at the exact places I don’t want prodded.

One day, I’d noticed that I’d changed. I’d always hated myself so passionately, but somewhere along the line, that suffering had vanished. Was that his doing? Even if it was, though, I still hate him. And somewhere along the line, he’s left again. People say he changed schools.

At a hospital, I dropped by to visit a sick friend. I overheard the nurses talking. It sounded like one of their patients had died. Apparently at a certain specific time, he always used to slip away from the hospital and go someplace. Where?

He told the nurses, “I go to visit someone dear to me.” And he left a request with his family: “If I die, please don’t tell anyone.”

…It couldn’t be. It couldn’t. I mean, he transferred schools. I’m sure I’m just overthinking this. I’ll be waiting for him, my dear him, to transfer back here.

I created an episode around that incident.

downpour
Does anybody else see the jerk on the astronomy tower up there?

Character Spotlight: Ruka is hard to analyze on the grounds that he’s very nearly not a character at all. He’s so boiled down to trying to make the most of what little time he has left through big gestures that the individual himself almost vanishes inside the shakeups he creates in Jury and Shiori’s lives (the painful, arguable making everything worse shakeups). And in that respect he’s also unique – unlike the other students he doesn’t exist perpetually as an adolescent, and while it’s within interpretable reasonability we’re not lead to think of him as “graduating” either (it’s not that he’s overcome or come to peace with his feelings for Jury, not really – he’s just boiled it all down to one last gambit). He’s not so much a person as he is a force of nature, despite the truth of his feelings for Jury (which she doesn’t even realize, just to make that finale a little more bitter).

He’s the worst kind of mirror for Jury: when she talks about “making Shiori realize her feelings” way back in her first duel, we have the unfiltered ugliness of that thought made action as Ruka’s assault. Her perfectionism as a duelist and disdain for Utena’s prince is Ruka’s hate for Shiori and determination that he can help her find her “true” potential by way of the duels.” They never look at one another, constantly staring in the same direction (particularly during the entirety of the Questionable Carsent Ride). Every time Ruka seems to think he’s helping her, he only becomes a reflection of the worst of her.

And in a way it’s probably important that he be part of the story. I see none of the longing-realized-too-late from Ikuhara’s commentary in this story, but one part of it does ring absolutely true: we all have at least one figure in our lives who we remember less as people and more as the Big Realization they provoked, or the internalized doubts they roused with their mere presence. And we’re all that person for someone else, leaving ripple effects that aren’t necessarily the ones we meant to impart at all.

shadow girl
I don’t have a quip, I’m just admiring the gorgeous lighting on this scene

Have You Heard: An odd case, this one. It’s one of the only shadow plays that departs from the mechanic of the stage (and the first to take place outside of one of two walls in Ohtori). It helps the undercurrent of alienation: we’re told outright, with all the visual cues to put it together, that what Ruka did was out of an attempt to “free” Jury from the weight of her feelings (and that he did so out of his own unrequited love for her). But Jury doesn’t realize it. The shadow girls don’t know what he wanted to free her from. The only way to put it altogether is to be outside of life altogether, able to look at all the pieces. And none of the “real” people in the world of the story (nor we ourselves in our own lives) will ever be able to zoom out far enough to gain that concrete a level of context on our lives – and on a meta level, we’re deliberately thrown out of the way we’ve been taught to “learn a lesson” by having it no longer presented within the safe confines of the theater.

Meanwhile, in front of where we’d expect to see our play we see Shiori, the “actress” in all this business. Whatever the intention, the message, the what-have-you nebulous idea that motivates the events of this two-parter, the episode takes time to show us that all of that becomes background for the very real person being affected by all this. Shiori’s no saint, as we’ve discussed (starting with her codependency, rock bottom self-esteem, and favoring of emotional torment), but she’s also a kid like any of the rest of them. A real human being that one has to contend with when all the talk of miracles and who deserves who is over.

disinterest
Anthy is finally free to show how many fucks she does not give about the Student Council

Anthy Watch: Predominantly Anthy’s in the background here, though we might take note on how she’s allowed herself to drop the veneer of polite interest when Utena is the only person paying attention to her (she’s distracted or looking out the window or otherwise disengaged pretty much every time Utena gets involved with school life this episode). Her speech about “part of” Ruka’s true feelings is less important for him than for her – she wants very much to trust Utena, and we can see that in how close she comes to confiding in her before drawing back. But feelings are complicated, whether in a “normal” human or someone who’s been made less person than symbol. One positive emotion doesn’t automatically free you from the burden of your pains, fears, and obsessions.

meta sir
No, no, no, you have to let the actor find it on their own!

Themes: Hey, does this writeup seem weird, you might be asking yourself? I cannot lie to you, darling readers. I did not want to write about this one. While it’s an important episode it also stands, hands down, as my least favorite episode in the series. Part of that is admittedly quite subjective: Jury’s character is in some ways the closest to elements of my adolescent experience, and that often puts me defensive on her behalf in watching this one. But on a level that at least pretends to have something to do with critical reliability, this episode is just so damn bleak. Maybe the most so of any of the Student Council duels.

You know what it is? It’s Sartre’s No Exit with anime eyes (to boil it down to The Famous Quotable Bit: “hell is other people”). These three all eschew honest communication in favor of trying to hurt each other, all in some deranged attempt to protect their own fragile hearts, and there’s no outlet for it. Ruka is dead. Jury never realized his feelings (and wouldn’t have reciprocated them even if she had). Shiori still resents Jury, perhaps even more than she did. Everything is more terrible now, and any shred of progress the characters might’ve made is a smoking pile of ashes.

And saddest of all is the way it incorporates the use of the dueling system. Akio and Touga do almost nothing this entire episode, beyond giving the bare minimum of “cue” lines. Ruka and Jury do all the talking to push themselves into the car, into the duel, into their mutual torment. They’re so enmeshed in the damaging mentality of the dueling system (which, amongst all the other things that it represents, reduces human beings into binaries of winner/loser, victor/prize, good/evil, and so on) that Jury’s first instinct is to challenge Ruka to a duel to sort out their conflict. It makes sense on a mundane level in that they’re both in the club, but going deeper it’s almost frightening – taking part in the system isn’t limited to its obvious trappings anymore, but clearly evident in the day to day actions of the characters. For all that the duelists say they’re creating a revolution, they’re truly being taught, over and over again, to become parrots of Akio’s view of the world. From the structure of the world down to the minutiae of one on one interactions. Any hope they might’ve had of growing up, becoming better people, is utterly hopeless as long as they keep relying on that system. And that’s almost too heartbreaking to bear.

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10 comments on “The Consulting Analyst – Azure Paler Than the Sky

  1. vilsal says:

    The write-up does feel weird, because as far as I can see, this episode is actually No Exit with a happy ending (achieved through appalling means). The punchline in that play is that despite being offered the chance to leave, the characters choose to stay in their private Hell tormenting each other. Even if it involves death, public humiliation and a complete loss of one’s motivation in life, at least Ruka, Shiori and Juri are freed of theirs. Juri and Shiori’s future appearances even suggest they come out of the experience as happier and better people; Shiori stops building her sense of self-worth on popularity and torturing Juri and tries to re-establish their relationship, and Juri gets over her obsession with Shiori and rejects Akio’s system by ripping off her own rose in the duel. The next time we see her properly she’s an almost serene figuring offering Utena support and wise advice. Or do you see those things completely differently?

    • Vrai Kaiser says:

      That’s a fair alternate view, I think. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say they’re HAPPIER, but there’s a sense of victory in being at least that much more aware enough to be a bit honest with themselves. Perhaps that’s victory enough.

  2. Iggy says:

    I’ve been waiting for this write-up! And I’m very surprised you would hate the episode so much. Like Vilsal above, I see it providing a happy ending (achieved through unpleasant means) to Juri (and Shiori at a lesser degree), and I also like how that arc mirrors so closely the underlying fairytale story.
    In the end, Ruka wanted to be Juri’s prince, more than lover or friend or anything else. He’s still, in a way, childish in his attachment. His absolute selflessness is the only thing that prevents him from being the absolute worst character of the show, and transforms him into the character closest to Dios the series have seen until now. Which is, in a way, an improvement…?

    I think the big overarching question of the episode is “who is crying at the end?”.
    It rains. Something very sad and painful just happened. The rain is tears. It falls from the castle. Dios sleeps in the castle.
    So the rain could be Dios crying over Ruka’s sacrifice. After all, he used to be running around on his white horse, saving girls from a grim fate, and ultimately lost his life for it. Maybe he’s sad because he sees his own story being played for him by actors (which could also explain why the shadow girls had to take a second job this week).
    But the thing is, the salvation of Juri is all but certain. It is, as we have seen, hugely debatable whether the outcome helped Juri or left her deeply wounded. Even if she’s saved, she’ll carry the scar with her. We don’t know if Dios helped people against their will, but at the very least we’re told the girls were “saved” afterwards (now I think of it, people rarely call for help with Ikuhara, they either save themselves or just scratch their wounds to make it worse).

    However, we know one person in the show that has tried to save someone who didn’t want to be saved, at least not like “that”, and especially not by that person. Anthy. And I feel Ruka’s role is closer to hers than to her brother’s.
    While Dios didn’t really seemed like he loved anyone, both Anthy and Ruka loved someone who couldn’t return their love. They decided to give their own life (pretty much) to save that person, even though that was the last thing Dios/Juri wanted. Other people were hurt by this decision, and they didn’t care at all. The salvation aspect was debatable. And regardless if their plan worked or not, they ultimately lost the person they loved.
    Since the reversed castle is fake anyway, and Anthy is the one sleeping in Dios’s tomb, I think the person crying is actually the real Anthy. She makes so much effort through the episode to broadcast that she’s not interested in the Juri/Ruka situation to not be hiding her feelings, or protecting herself. She tried to be, in the end, the Prince of Dios, and only became a Witch because she failed.

    Finally, Ruka trying to be Juri’s Prince echoes the problem of Utena trying to be a Prince like Dios, and we know that’s not the way to solve the Anthy problem. Maybe because he’s such a condensed character, there’s a little bit of all the major roles in Ruka. He’s a Prince, similar but not the same as the other Princes of the show; he accepts to become a Witch (or a demon, a wizard, whatever: a bad guy) if it allows him to reach his goal… He just didn’t get to be a Princess. In the end, no one, not even Shiori, tried to save him or even cared that he needed saving. He’s the closest to an archetypal male in the show, strong, bold, defiant, and archetypal males don’t need saving. So they die, unsaved.

  3. […] Episode 29: Azure Paler Than the Sky […]

  4. Jenna says:

    Hi Vrai,

    Love your in-depth and insightful analyses; thanks! 🙂 I have a question that I need to ask for your opinion on: do you think that Juri is in love with Ruka by the end of episode 29? I have a few pieces of evidence to point to this: (1) Juri’s recollection of fencing with Ruka at their secret location and the figures of their sitting closer and closer to each other as the practice goes on in Episode 28; (2) Juri’s first words in that episode, “Feelings I can never put into words. But my heart always keeps on whispering. And…you too…” coupled with the image she sees of the single orange spinning rose at Ruka’s empty seat on their bench (note: this rose is of a much brighter orange than the peach-colored roses Juri sees when her Shiori-lenses are on*); (3) Juri bites her lip at Ruka’s mention of his illness during the Student Council meeting; (4) Juri stops struggling during her and Ruka’s kiss for a moment before she pushes him away (and there are no words in their exchange until the locket comes up in the moment after); (5) during the Akio car ride, Ruka reveals that Juri was the one who had originally said (to him?), “Believe in miracles, and they will know your feelings” in the past (perhaps alluding to her past feelings for him?); (6) Ruka, not Shiori, is Juri’s bride and the one to pull her soul sword (noting the caveat that for all except the Rose Bride, one can only be a bride to a duelist if there has been a significant amount of emotional involvement between the two that is consensual/reciprocal in nature–I would even stretch this to say that the duelist must in some way love the bride, and Ruka does “love” Shiori by extension of his love for Juri, even if it means he treats them both with cruelty); (7) Juri knows that Ruka is the only one who understands her feelings, as she looks towards his chair as she is repeating his words, “It’ll be all right, huh?” after her second duel; (8) Juri’s chair is now turned towards the place where Ruka’s chair was at the end of Episode 29. Finally (and I have thought about this for a long time), I believe that Juri has been in love with Ruka this whole time, and she refused to see this because of the masochistic obsession with Shiori that she had developed, ostensibly during his absence (and quite possibly to fill the void that he had left–there is a similar sense of lack of fulfillment for her with both her legs of the triangle). Also, this makes the meanings of their confrontation pre-Ruka’s sexual assault in Episode 29 all the more layered and tragic: Ruka’s quip of, “You don’t need to know” to Juri’s angry query of “What gives you the right to hurt her?” obviously refers to his love for Juri, which he does not need to be known. His “And what about you? Presuming to order others around?” to her jab of “How low you have sunk” right before she begins her punches could refer equally to her behavior towards him or towards Shiori, whose memory she is clearly manipulating into what she wants it to be (especially since he is in this moment expressing his disdain for the pitiable state of self-induced addiction into which she has fallen). Furthermore, she would not have challenged him to a duel, knowing that he was already going to get back together with Shiori, had she not also had some desire to be with him, if only on a subconscious level (and not only to prove herself as a better fencer, for despite her pride, she is not overtly arrogant of her abilities). If her purpose had been to humiliate him or bring him down to her level, she could have easily done so by taunting him as Shiori does to her or using her leverage over him in a different way (for, though she arguably did not know his true feelings at the time, she could still have used him easily, just as he did with Shiori), but she instead chooses the realm of equals in the dueling arena, I argue, as a test of his love for her. She was fully conscious of the fact that he would likely best her, as he had already been doing in the fencing club practice sessions, and I believe she actually hoped for that outcome, because just like she deep down wanted miracles, she also deep down wanted to have a relationship with Ruka. Moreover, Ruka won the duel because his love for Juri was more true than hers was for Shiori, as it hinged on his very real sacrifice of time, effort, and care he invested into her growth as a person, while Juri was more in love with the idea of Shiori than the actual person, which I think she did intentionally, on some level, to protect herself from further heartbreak. In this way, through his very real love for her, Ruka was the personification of miracles to Juri (though obviously not in the way in which she expected), and her realization of this (and her acceptance of her own belief in miracles via her reciprocal feelings towards him) is what caused her to move past her stymy as a character, for it allowed her to accept that her feelings could be returned by someone whom she loved (gender identity notwithstanding). Had the “miracle” been obvious, such as in the form of a cure to Ruka’s supposed illness, it would not necessarily have resulted in Juri’s character development, for she probably would have continued to refuse to acknowledge his love for her for as long as he was there (and, if we buy into the whole “illness” backstory, his return to the school a few days prior to his death, in and of itself, was already a major miracle!). His disappearance after the breaking of the locket was therefore a crucial last step, for she could have easily chosen another love object (and not a relationship with a real person) to continue the same cycle of self-destruction, had he not intervened. The question, then, is why did she try so hard to ignore her feelings for him, if she did have them? To most fans, it seems that Juri simply has no feelings for Ruka, but I am more in favor of the interpretation that more is there than meets the eye. After all, given that theirs is almost an exact parallel of the love triangle from Juri’s flashback sequences, there must have been a stronger pull on Juri’s heart this time around from the non-Shiori party to cause a completely opposite outcome for her. I have heard theories that Ruka’s extended absence from Ohtori Academy in the past precipitated her distrust of him, as it probably took on a similar form of rejection as Shiori’s transfer to another school with the brown-haired boy, and made it difficult for her to believe that he truly loved her. However, this time, his disappearance, or “death,” provides a confirmation of his love for her, instead of a negation of it, because the duel has shifted her attitude so that she finally starts to accept that miracles might exist. 🙂

    *”While orange roses celebrate new beginnings, pale peach roses celebrate the closing of a deal.” Coincidence? I think not. 😉 Karma is real.

  5. jennazhu says:

    Hi Vrai,

    Thanks so much for your insightful, in-depth, and well-done reviews! I have a question that I need to ask for your opinion on: do you think that Juri is in love with Ruka by the end of episode 29? I have a few pieces of evidence to point to this: (1) Juri’s recollection of fencing with Ruka at their secret location and the figures of their sitting closer and closer to each other as the practice goes on in Episode 28; (2) Juri’s first words in that episode, “Feelings I can never put into words. But my heart always keeps on whispering. And…you too…” coupled with the image she sees of the single orange spinning rose at Ruka’s empty seat on their bench (note: this rose is of a much brighter orange than the peach-colored roses Juri sees when her Shiori-lenses are on*); (3) Juri bites her lip at Ruka’s mention of his illness during the Student Council meeting; (4) Juri stops struggling during her and Ruka’s kiss for a moment before she pushes him away (and there are no words in their exchange until the locket comes up in the moment after); (5) during the Akio car ride, Ruka reveals that Juri was the one who had originally said (to him?), “Believe in miracles, and they will know your feelings” in the past (perhaps alluding to her past feelings for him?); (6) Ruka, not Shiori, is Juri’s bride and the one to pull her soul sword (noting the caveat that for all except the Rose Bride, one can only be a bride to a duelist if there has been a significant amount of emotional involvement between the two that is consensual/reciprocal in nature–I would even stretch this to say that the duelist must in some way love the bride, and Ruka does “love” Shiori by extension of his love for Juri, even if it means he treats them both with cruelty); (7) Juri knows that Ruka is the only one who understands her feelings, as she looks towards his chair as she is repeating his words, “It’ll be all right, huh?” after her second duel; (8) Juri’s chair is now turned towards the place where Ruka’s chair was at the end of Episode 29. Finally (and I have thought about this for a long time), I believe that Juri has been in love with Ruka this whole time, and she refused to see this because of the masochistic obsession with Shiori that she had developed, ostensibly during his absence (and quite possibly to fill the void that he had left–there is a similar sense of lack of fulfillment for her with both her legs of the triangle). Also, this makes the meanings of their confrontation pre-Ruka’s sexual assault in Episode 29 all the more layered and tragic: Ruka’s quip of, “You don’t need to know” to Juri’s angry query of “What gives you the right to hurt her?” obviously refers to his love for Juri, which he does not need to be known. His “And what about you? Presuming to order others around?” to her jab of “How low you have sunk” right before she begins her punches could refer equally to her behavior towards him or towards Shiori, whose memory she is clearly manipulating into what she wants it to be (especially since he is in this moment expressing his disdain for the pitiable state of self-induced addiction into which she has fallen). Furthermore, she would not have challenged him to a duel, knowing that he was already going to get back together with Shiori, had she not also had some desire to be with him, if only on a subconscious level (and not only to prove herself as a better fencer, for despite her pride, she is not overtly arrogant of her abilities). If her purpose had been to humiliate him or bring him down to her level, she could have easily done so by taunting him as Shiori does to her or using her leverage over him in a different way (for, though she arguably did not know his true feelings at the time, she could still have used him easily, just as he did with Shiori), but she instead chooses the realm of equals in the dueling arena, I argue, as a test of his love for her. She was fully conscious of the fact that he would likely best her, as he had already been doing in the fencing club practice sessions, and I believe she actually hoped for that outcome, because just like she deep down wanted miracles, she also deep down wanted to have a relationship with Ruka. Moreover, Ruka won the duel because his love for Juri was more true than hers was for Shiori, as it hinged on his very real sacrifice of time, effort, and care he invested into her growth as a person, while Juri was more in love with the idea of Shiori than the actual person, which I think she did intentionally, on some level, to protect herself from further heartbreak. In this way, through his very real love for her, Ruka was the personification of miracles to Juri (though obviously not in the way in which she expected), and her realization of this (and her acceptance of her own belief in miracles via her reciprocal feelings towards him) is what caused her to move past her stymy as a character, for it allowed her to accept that her feelings could be returned by someone whom she loved (gender identity notwithstanding). Had the “miracle” been obvious, such as in the form of a cure to Ruka’s supposed illness, it would not necessarily have resulted in Juri’s character development, for she probably would have continued to refuse to acknowledge his love for her for as long as he was there (and, if we buy into the whole “illness” backstory, his return to the school a few days prior to his death, in and of itself, was already a major miracle!). His disappearance after the breaking of the locket was therefore a crucial last step, for she could have easily chosen another love object (and not a relationship with a real person) to continue the same cycle of self-destruction, had he not intervened. The question, then, is why did she try so hard to ignore her feelings for him, if she did have them? To most fans, it seems that Juri simply has no feelings for Ruka, but I am more in favor of the interpretation that more is there than meets the eye. After all, given that theirs is almost an exact parallel of the love triangle from Juri’s flashback sequences, there must have been a stronger pull on Juri’s heart this time around from the non-Shiori party to cause a completely opposite outcome for her. I have heard theories that Ruka’s extended absence from Ohtori Academy in the past precipitated her distrust of him, as it probably took on a similar form of rejection as Shiori’s transfer to another school with the brown-haired boy, and made it difficult for her to believe that he truly loved her. However, this time, his disappearance, or “death,” provides a confirmation of his love for her, instead of a negation of it, because the duel has shifted her attitude so that she finally starts to accept that miracles might exist. 🙂 How does this compare with your theory of Ruka as the brown-haired boy from Episode 7?

    *”While orange roses celebrate new beginnings, pale peach roses celebrate the closing of a deal.” Coincidence? I think not. 😉 Karma is real.

    • Vrai Kaiser says:

      Hoooooly wall of text, Batman. I mean, you’re obviously quite passionate about it – I think there’s a basic misreading in that I quite firmly DON’T think that Ruka was Jury and Shiori’s mysterious childhood friend (her feelings simply don’t make sense in such a case). And thus things like the “believe in miracles” conversation they would’ve had was more than likely Jury trying to pass on what Shiori told her to someone else as a means of comfort (it’s clear she is quite oblivious to Ruka, but supportive of her fellow club members even as she hides her internal struggles). Items such as the Bride thing, as well, have an element of force – they are well matched (again, as I mentioned) because they are similar in drive and passion but (like all other the opponent pairs) have a critical flaw. In this case, it’s the blackmail underlying their partnership rather than mutual respect or trust.
      And while I think Jury came to respect Ruka because of the realizations he helped her come to about herself and the futility of the dueling games (she tears off her rose, indicating how she no longer wants to fight for impossible miracles – and on the subject of “new beginnings” she explicitly GET RID of the rose, reading as her refusal of such a restart), and wishes him well in the unrequited feelings he’s talked about. The irony of it is that she still doesn’t know who those feelings are for (and given that she reads as the most exclusively queer of the main cast, it’s of debate whether she would return those feelings more than platonically even IF she knew).

      • jennazhu says:

        Good catches on all of these, especially the bride ones–great point! And my apologies about the misunderstanding; it was another reviewer who had proposed the Ruka as BHB theory. Most of my argument also contradicts that, as well. 🙂 The main reason I came up with this explanation was in attempt to understand Ruka’s and Jury’s behavior in these episodes, which seemed at times bizarre and difficult to fully explain (some of which could also be attributed to the relatively short length of Ruka’s story arc). For example, they both already know about Jury’s feelings for Shiori from the get-go–it is the only reason Jury even gives Ruka the time of day, not to mention the subject of all of their conversations–and yet they never explicitly talk about them in those terms until their duel, during the course of which it becomes immediately and painfully clear how much Ruka knows. This sudden, dramatic, and sharp shift in tone is so indicative of the depth of their complex and many-layered relationship, which makes it so interesting. My initial reading of Jury was also that of a canon lesbian, even after the introduction of Ruka’s character and the completion of his arc (I more or less saw everyone else on the show as bi, although I also admit to possessing often-inaccurate gaydar). However, there were two outstanding questions for which I could find no other explanation besides potentially Jury harboring (primarily subconscious) romantic feelings for Ruka: (1) why did she challenge him to a duel to force him to get back together with Shiori (especially since he was about to go do it, anyway)?; (2) what did her chair facing his former spot at the end of Episode 29 mean, if not that of a broken leg of a former love triangle? Everything else seemed to be able to be accounted for with the standard explanations, but these two things continued to bother me as I reviewed the plot developments… the reasons that you intimated above of the power of the oppressive system for the first question and a platonic appreciation of his sacrifice for the second do answer them satisfactorily, but the prospects depress me so completely that my eternal optimist is crumbling a bit at the soul-crushing thought (and I do have a habit of reading love into the subtext wherever there is gray). Perhaps that is the larger question here: are they capable of having meaningful relationships with themselves and others at Ohtori Academy, or will they forever be trapped for as long as they are there? Thanks again for your thoughtful responses!

        • Vrai Kaiser says:

          I think it’s ambiguous enough to leave room for a bit of affection, perhaps – certainly this episode is the one I have the loosest grasp on, and other folks in the comments have pointed out all KINDS of interesting things I didn’t really dig into properly. Headcanons for everyone!

  6. jennazhu says:

    Also, although this is transcript from the manga (the seiyuu recorded certain parts of the drama for select CDs), I found this illuminating about Jury and Ruka’s relationship: http://ohtori.nu/audiology/translations/ActVIII.txt

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