Chatty AF 202: Revolutionary Girl Utena Watchalong – Episodes 13-20 (WITH TRANSCRIPT)

By: Anime Feminist March 4, 20240 Comments

Cy, and Chiaki, and Vrai return and dive into the Black Rose Saga, the importance of the secondary cast, and Anthy’s deepening characterization.

Episode Information

Date Recorded: February 11th, 2024
Hosts: Vrai, Cy, Chiaki

Episode Breakdown

0:00:00 Intros
0:02:34 Content Warnings
0:03:09 Note on translation
0:05:05 Catching Up
0:07:00 The economic bubble
0:08:37 Filler
0:11:52 Nanami episode
0:14:22 Anthy
0:24:15 Symbolism
0:26:52 Adult content
0:29:12 Shiori
0:38:53 Wakaba
0:41:00 Saionji
0:46:30 The Onion Prince
0:53:25 The death tower?
0:55:36 Next time…
0:57:34 Outro

Further Reading

Empty Movement

Series Content Warnings List (with spoilers)

Vrai’s Utena Episode Analyses (with spoilers)

Dear Brother Watchalong

VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast and our 200-episode-and-plus spectacular, where we cover Revolutionary Girl Utena with myself, who’s watched it too many times, and my two wonderful cohosts, who are watching it for the first time. Cy and Chiaki, do you want to introduce yourselves?

CHIAKI: Hi, I’m Chiaki Hirai. I am one of the editors for AniFem, business manager, and you can find me at @Chiaki747 on the bird site that is slowly dying—dead bird site—and (terrible moe) at Bluesky, @chiaki747 on Cohost and @chiaki747 on Twitch, @chiaki747 on VStream, @chiaki74— Just cut me off, Peter. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Girl, you have to get— Just get a Linktree! Girl!

CY: I was gonna say, where’s your Linktree or your Carrd, Chiaki? Come into 2024.

CHIAKI: It’s literally

CY: Ah!

VRAI: Fair.

CY: I love that. And I’m Cy. And you can find me @pixelatedlenses on everything, including Twitter because I refuse to update it on my phone and, y’all, it is breaking, but I still got that bird. And that’s what counts.

VRAI: [Chuckles] Counts for something. And I’m Vrai Kaiser. I’m not on social media all that much. I am on Bluesky @writervrai. But more importantly, we have, speaking of Linktrees, consolidated all of AniFem’s links onto And if you’re ever looking for stuff, whether that’s our site, our store, our Patreon, you can find them all there very easily. It’s cool beans!

This week, we are covering episodes 13 through 20, which is the first recap episode and the first half of the Black Rose Saga. As a reminder to folks in the comments, this is a spoiler-free podcast, so everything we’ve covered up to this point is fair game, but please be mindful of other folks who might be watching the series for the first time. Also, general content warnings. This show is sort of pre–regulations about flashing lights, so there are a lot of them, especially during the duel sequences. And also, keep in mind, basically throughout, content warnings for implications of sexual abuse, incest, and of course instances of physical abuse, and lots of child abuse. Am I forgetting anything?

CHIAKI: No, I think that about covers it.

CY: I was just gonna say, I think that covers it.

VRAI: I also wanted to chime in, last— When we recorded the first episode, I was just using my Blu-ray because I’m lazy, but I watched on Crunchyroll this time around. And so, just as a translation watch, from the old DVDs, too, Crunchyroll is in fact using the new, updated Blu-ray translation thread. And one of the more significant changes that I wanted to flag up for folks who may have not watched the updated translation is the newer subs translate “Utena-sama” as “Mistress” rather than “Miss,” which, I feel like, really hammers home the loadedness of the relationship that makes Utena so uncomfortable. So I think it was a good choice.


CY: Yeah.

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah! [Shudders]

CY: I do want to chime in that, for anyone who was concerned and listened to the previous episode, I did watch it in Japanese. Okay, are we all happy?

CHIAKI: Funny story: I watched this over twice to make sure I got it, so the second time, I watched it in English.

VRAI: So you got that Dan Green goodness.

CHIAKI: Yeah, I did. It was pretty good.


CY: Vindication! Aw, yeah. I do think this arc would have not… [Chuckles] I think this arc would’ve sent me on an emotional roller coaster had I watched it in English.

VRAI: I would like to complain that Crunchyroll does not use the actual ending credits. They use the English credits that used to run after all the episodes on the Nozomi DVDs just as an extra little thing. And that’s not the end of the world (heh-heh), but it does bother me. It bothers me a lot, especially once we get to the second ending, which has a really neat story around fandom preservation to it. Yeah. So, yeah! As a general feeler-out, how y’all feeling?

CY: God, they’re children! Oh, they’re children! Oh, God. Where’s an adult?

VRAI: Yep! [Laughs]

CY: Where’s an actual legal adult instead of a middle schooler being like, “I know about adult things like watching people kiss in a movie or… jewelry!” Where’s an actual adult, please?

CHIAKI: Well, have you seen the actual adult?

CY: [crosstalk] And the first one was an elementary school kid!


VRAI: Anthy’s brother is an adult. Yeah, Akio’s an adult.

CY: Okay, let me rephrase.

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] That, too, but also, but also, Mikage’s like… Those guys in Mikage’s office going like, “Hey, uh, I need some help from ya.” You know, those official-looking people.

CY: [crosstalk] Let me rephrase. Where is a safe adult? A safe adult that’s a mandatory reporter, that has to tell the principal, “Hey, there is some shit happening. Did you see that rose club? We didn’t authorize that. Where’s the paperwork?” That kind of adult.

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] I don’t know if the principal would necessarily care.

VRAI: I have such bad news for you, Cy.

CY: They’re such little children! [Chuckles painfully]

VRAI: [mournful] Yeah. Yep.

CY: [mournful] It’s sad.

VRAI: Also, Tsuwabuki’s not even a middle schooler. He’s in sixth grade [Editor’s note: possibly fourth grade, so an even tinier child]. He’s a tiny baby. I guess that is middle school in some places, but…

CY: I do love that he was like, “I know about adult things,” proceeds to watch people kiss in movies.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: Like, sweet child! Oh, little baby!

VRAI: He’s so little and also small!

CY: Oh, he’s so small.

VRAI: He’s little.

CY: [crosstalk] None of them are ready. None of them are ready to be adults.


CY: Oh, none of them are ready.

VRAI: You’ve hit upon the theme! [Chuckles] I do— There is an interesting story. So, last time, I read one of the pieces of creator commentary from the booklet that comes along with the box sets, and there’s some interesting stuff in relation to the first Black Rose episode, where Ikuhara sort of talks about what initially interested him when he was writing this arc. 

And I’m not going to read the whole thing, because there’s another one I want to read and this one’s a little long. But he basically talks about discourse in Japan being this very polarized thing where you’re either successful or a loser, you’re rich or you’re broke, you’ve won or you’ve lost, you’re chosen or you’re not, and having this book specifically about the bubble era that really stuck in his mind. Which, he would have grown up during the bubble, and then Utena would have been made after the bubble burst. So I feel like that sort of sense of betrayal is kind of an interesting undercurrent to the series.

CHIAKI: Yeah. I think, just like the 2008 Lehman shock, the Japanese bubble bursting basically traumatized an entire generation of Japanese people. So, absolutely a thing that would kind of shake the very core belief of your place in society.

VRAI: Yeah, the other interesting thing about the Black Rose Saga… For folks who were not around back in the 2000s, around the time, it was not universal but very popular for battle shounen, particularly long-runners, to go one of two ways, where either you would break off from the manga entirely and you would do anime-only material, sort of like Sailor Moon or Soul Eater or Fullmetal Alchemist ‘03, or you would sort of stall and do self-contained anime-original plots while you waited for the manga to catch up, basically. 

These arcs could be frustrating for longtime viewers because they can be interesting and have interesting characters of their own accord but they’re not really allowed to make dramatic changes in terms of long-term character growth or changes to the world because you don’t want to overwrite something that might be disproven by the manga you’re waiting to adapt later. And that was the original, very specific context of the word “filler.” The word “filler” quickly lost all meaning and eventually diffused to such a point that people use it for just any old thing that basically means “episode I don’t like or didn’t feel directly advanced the plot enough.” I bring it up because it was not universal but also not uncommon for people to say that you could skip the Black Rose Saga back in the day—that it was filler between the first and third arc.

CY: [crosstalk] What? What?

VRAI: Uh-huh.

CY: Excuse me? What?! [Chuckles]

VRAI: Uh-huh. I assure you, you cannot do it!

CY: [crosstalk] This is so essential to the show.

VRAI: Uh-huh!

CY: No! No, this is so essential. So many things get opened and we learn so many horrible things about the way Anthy’s whole existence is. What?

CHIAKI: I don’t see this as—

CY: The internet is wrong.

CHIAKI: Yeah, how do you look at this and go, “Yes, this is absolutely filler. This has nothing to do with anything”?

VRAI: I believe the logic… Mostly, this is subjective experience, because I’ll admit that I’m sort of burned out on Shonen Jump and battle shounen generally’s whole thing and pretty cynical about it, but this was a take I mostly saw from people who pretty exclusively watched battle shounen. And I think the logic is that this arc focuses on fleshing out secondary characters a lot and it isn’t explicitly about Utena and the mystery about her prince.

CHIAKI: Oh, I see. So it’s because none of these characters matter.

CY: Excuse me!


VRAI: Yes, Chiaki, you’ve nailed it.

CY: [crosstalk] Ooh, wow, the internet has some…

CHIAKI: [Chuckles] Ah, people are so literate.

CY: It is so wild to me that someone could say you could skip this entire-ass arc that has a lot happening and has some really big emotional moments that definitely are going to alter how Anthy and Utena’s relationship is, going ahead. What? Oh— Mm. Ooh, wow. Oof. [Chuckles] Wow!

CHIAKI: You know what, though? There is some filler in this arc.

VRAI: Uh-huh?

CHIAKI: And it’s the Nanami episode.

VRAI: This is incorrect! Nanami episodes are crucial!

CHIAKI: Are you sure?

VRAI: They are crucial to the overall themes.

CHIAKI: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Yes, they’re crucial to “I need to not break down and cry about these children every five minutes. Please!”


CY: You know what? I will absolutely say—I will die on this hill—that cow episode is essential viewing.

CHIAKI: In a way, yes.

CY: And if you skip it, you are gonna miss a very poignant part of this overall story.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: And also a lesson on how sometimes when you buy a fake or you get somebody else’s stuff, it’s not for you. And I’ll die on that hill. [Chuckles]

CHIAKI: Sometimes you just want to be a cow.

CY: That cow episode is seared into my brain.

VRAI: Mm-hm!

CY: God, sometimes you do just want to be a cow!

CHIAKI: Have you ever heard of furries?

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: You know what? This must have been really— This might have been someone’s awakening.


VRAI: You know what?

CY: [crosstalk] I could just put on a dog collar and just, like… You know?

VRAI: And good for that person.

CY: Shoutout to my furries. Shoutout to my feminist furries. And scalies. Love y’all.

VRAI: Yeah. I think that’s nice. It’s also really funny to me that people get really confused by the Nanami episodes when, at least to me, they have the most straightforwardly written moral parables about them, as such.

CY: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, they do.

VRAI: Like, a lot of wacky stuff happens in that episode, but it pretty on-the-nose tells you that pretending that you know something when you don’t will probably make you look foolish.

CY: Yeah. I do love, in that episode, though, that another lesson is that Utena could also speak Spanish because she does hit that “¡Ole!” She hits it like perfectly, and I was like, “Okay, Utena! A woman of many talents!”


VRAI: This is an important detail. [Chuckles]

CY: It really is. Also that Anthy can knit. I stan a fiber art queen.

VRAI: She has so many talents.

CY: And so much trauma!

VRAI: [crosstalk] How are y’all feeling about Anthy, by the way? I feel like I should check in with y’all on that every week.

CY: Wow. Um… I really want Anthy to get therapy and emancipation from everything.

CHIAKI: Yeah. Well, she’s in such an environment where she doesn’t recognize that everyone around her is terrible. And it’s very difficult… Like, unless somebody suggests she gets therapy, she’s never going to get it, and I don’t think anyone within this group of people will ever suggest that. So, you know, she’s probably going to be a little trapped there. And, you know, this is where fanfiction would come in, where you just insert yourself and you go, “I am taking Anthy to a psychiatrist. A therapist.”

VRAI: If only there was somebody there who could save her from the situation.

CHIAKI: Or Utena was a little bit more aware of how to handle something like this normally instead of having duels.

VRAI: Yeah…

CY: Granted, she’s a middle schooler, so I don’t blame her for not knowing how to handle this. Which, I did say multiple times that these are children. Wow, are these children.

VRAI: Yeah, it’s sad and extremely frustrating in such a real way that Utena is not picking up any of the bad vibes around this very cool adult.

CY: Uh, yeah, um… Can we talk about him?

VRAI: No, yes, please!

CY: Are we going to go episode by episode, but can we…?

VRAI: I have this structured episode by episode, but we can also just vibes. Yeah, no, please, do tell me your thoughts about Akio.

CY: Oh, wow. So I was vibing and I was like, “Ah, he seems like a decent guy.” It’s interesting because Akio is kind of the only darker-skinned SEA (Southeast Asian) marked character, coded character that has some level of power. And then I found out why he had some power, because I was like, “Oh, no, is that why Anthy’s going to visit her brother? Oh, no!” And I got really scared because I had a sudden realization that maybe there’s some incest in this series, and maybe that’s very bad! Oh, no, Akio, you suck.

VRAI: I did warn you about the incest.

CY: Oh, and now I understand, because all these years I’ve seen a picture of this brown-skinned guy with this brown-skinned girl, and I was like, “Oh, well, they’re a couple.” Uh, [breathes frantically] they are and it’s the worst!

VRAI: [Laughs]

CY: It’s forced. It’s bad. [Chuckles] It’s not good! Ah!

CHIAKI: Just coming in, with everything going on, I just assume he’s the worst person. I have no idea. I have no real understanding of how he plays into this in the endgame, but I’m just looking at him like “I don’t trust you. You are absolutely on a list.”

VRAI: Yeah. And this is a good reminder, folks at home. If you are watching along, do not skip the recap episodes, because (A) they’re a nice refresher, especially if you’re us and a lot of things happened, and so this episode is being recorded a couple months after the last one. But also, they tend to drop useful little tidbits. Like, we do in fact see Dios and that he and Akio have some kind of relationship in the midst of “Also, here’s what happened in the last arc.” So, just something to keep in mind going forward. 

But I think… Yeah, you mentioned— I do have our notes here, episode by episode. Let’s start with Akio’s fiancée, Kanae, because I think her duel, as I think y’all have noted here, really does kind of set the tone for how the rest of these are going to work.

CY: Kanae just seems like such a sweet girl, and then she goes into the Black Rose interview and she is just like, “I’m a hater. And I hate my fiancé’s sister with a vengeance. Something ain’t right about that girl, and I don’t like her.” [Chuckles] And you’re like, “Kanae! God, Anthy’s having such a shit time. Could you hate somebody else?”

CHIAKI: Okay, here’s the thing, though. I understand totally where she’s coming from because these things are innocuous issues that people have with other people that kind of blossom into full-blown hatred because people don’t want to deal with it and people assume that, you know, it’s just gonna get better because the assumption is, for Kanae, Anthy is a decent person so obviously Anthy will act in a way that a decent person will act. And Anthy doesn’t. And for anyone out there, it doesn’t have to be Anthy. It could have been anyone else. They are not going to act exactly as what you expect. 

And, like, oh yeah, if you give somebody a scarf and they use it as something to clean their glasses, well, people just use their scarves to clean their glasses. It’s not like they were trying to insult you. But these things kind of roll up into a huge deal, and this primarily happens when you just don’t talk to people or have an opportunity to really be frank with each other, and that can harbor that whole hatred.

CY: I do wonder what Kanae’s relationship to Anthy would actually be like if she understood the lack of personhood that Anthy has so ingrained in her. And I wonder if she would actually not be envious or jealous but actually quite understanding of the fact that Anthy might seem like this very perfect person but that is because she has been molded to be what people want her to be. It’s actually deeply sad.

VRAI: That’s what all these monologues come back to, right, is that all these people are blaming Anthy for whatever problem is ripping them up, but they’re just reflecting what they’re upset about onto her without actually considering who she is as a person. Yeah, and especially with the female characters. I think, as you sort of nodded toward, there’s a lot of issue of internalized misogyny in those conversations and the fact that women are set up to be competition to each other.

CY: It’s interesting because Anthy is kind of an interesting look at the “Not like other girls” trope, only it’s played out in the most horrific way. Like, she isn’t like other girls because she doesn’t have any innate desire, thus far, to be like anyone at all. And it kind of sucks from the perspective of an Anthy-lover to see this poor child just get hate hurled at her when we know, as the viewer, Anthy has done nothing to deserve this. However she became the Rose Bride, didn’t deserve that either. Just sucks. And the one person who should care for her, her brother, aw, he super sucks. She’s only got this one person in the world, who’s got a very fraught relationship with her, and that’s kinda it. Oh, I’m sorry, and Chu-Chu. I can’t forget the little monkey, can’t forget my boy. But even he’s not nice to her! Bro be eating her cake all the time. That is not right. Let Anthy have a slice.

CHIAKI: He’s a monkey. [Chuckles] Monkeys gonna do that.

CY: Chiaki, are you telling me not to turn my ire against an animal? Because I will not be stopped.


CY: You can’t silence me.

CHIAKI: [gentle] Okay, okay.

VRAI: I mean, would Anthy approve? This is the girl who keeps snails in her pencil box.

CHIAKI: That’s true.

CY: Well, she doesn’t have enough of a personal opinion to approve, though, Vrai! And it hurts! It hurts so bad because it just sucks. It sucks. Although she does show some emotion this watch through, and woof, when she does it’s because she’s in fear for her life. It’s like, oh, okay!

VRAI: She’s having a bad time.

CY: Yeah! Constantly, and she doesn’t deserve it.

VRAI: Mm-hm. I love her.

CY: Nor does Kanae, honestly. None of the girls in the series deserve to have a bad time, and I do mean “none,” because they’re also being manipulated. And they’re being manipulated by men, by pretty—and I’m gonna take us back to the 2000s—by some bad boy bishies.


VRAI: That’s appropriate for the convo.

CY: [tut-tutting] Mm-mm-mm! Mm-mm-mm! Yeah.

VRAI: I think, Chiaki, you made the note about the butterflies in our notes here?

CHIAKI: Uh… I don’t know, was that?

VRAI: I think? Or Cy, was that you?

CY: That was me!

VRAI: That was Cy! Yeah, thank you for pointing that out, because that’s the other reason that I wanted to talk about that the Black Rose Saga is really important, and that’s gonna get way more pronounced to a basically comical degree, is that the Black Rose Saga is here so that you’ll be able to read the end of the series, which is way more surreal, where this is kind of mostly structured like normal episodes but were also loudly including bits of symbolism where, look, as they get more desperate and down to their most base and vicious desires, the butterfly regresses into a caterpillar larva. Look at it!

CY: Yeah. And I think at their lowest emotional low during the seminar, it becomes a leaf, so it’s not even a creature; it is just organic matter.

VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah! Yeah.

CY: And, like… Yeah, yeah. I’m looking forward to that surrealism because I dig it.

VRAI: The third— The Apocalypse Saga really is stupendous, but I also like Black Rose a lot, too. Actually, you know, I made some notes about Mikage here, but I think we should leave him for next time, because we’re about halfway through and he’ll have some backstory episodes so we can talk more about him then.

CHIAKI: We didn’t really get a lot of him this arc anyway, right? I mean, yes, he was around, but… yeah.

VRAI: But he’s mostly, you know, machinating in the background, being a teen genius who is terrible and a foil to Utena.

CY: Horrible, horrible bedside manner as a therapist. Elevators as your office? Worst idea. Super uncomfortable. [Obscured by crosstalk]

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] You know, I mean, there’s lawyers that drive around in a limousine. Why not a therapist in an elevator?

VRAI: Was that a Cosmopolis reference, Chiaki? Was that just for me?

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] No, that was The Lincoln Lawyer.

VRAI: Fair. Fair.


CY: I mean, I get that he’s trying to escalate the situation, but… I don’t know. I wouldn’t trust a guy who was like, “Get in my elevator and talk to me.” Uh-uh. No! Granted, the one person that also is like, “This doesn’t seem trustworthy,” Mikage is like, “You’re too good for this place. Get out!”


VRAI: Oh, we’re gonna talk about that. We’re gonna talk about that.

CHIAKI: I appreciated that.

VRAI: Yes.

CY: Yeah. [Chuckles]

VRAI: Let’s see. We sort of talked about Nanami and Tsuwabuki. The only other thing I want to highlight from Tsuwabuki’s episode is the “These are all children” element of attempting to mirror behavior from fiction, like with the kissing scene. I feel like that’s a relevant theme throughout, is all these children are playing pretend at things that they do not understand but have really serious consequences for them.

CY: It is so funny to me that Tsuwabuki went and got the school’s collection of French films so that he could watch kisses and he was like, “Yes. I understand adulthood.” And it’s like, no, sweetie, you are in sixth grade. You don’t, and that’s okay. Don’t be in a rush to throw away childhood, because once childhood is gone you can’t reclaim it. You can reclaim aspects, but once you’re an adult you’re an adult, and it kinda sucks.

VRAI: Mm-hm.

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Yeah.

CY: Also, kissing is not sex ed, Tsuwabuki.

VRAI: It’s not, bud, it’s not.

CY: It’s not. It’s not.

CHIAKI: But you know, it’s very adult. It’s very mature.

CY: It is. It is.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: And I guess when you’re a kid, that’s what adulthood is, is it’s these shows of physical affection that you see with adults like kissing and like swiping a credit card to pay for a meal instead of going Dutch and, you know, these small hallmarks. Also, I just want to chime in with “What the heck did Anthy mean by ‘Mistress Utena, we’re also adults, too’?” Girls?

VRAI: Girls, you’re 14.

CHIAKI: Middle school.

CY: What? You’re children.

VRAI: [Chuckles] I do have to wonder if… And maybe it would have just been the same because it’s funny this way, but this show did also premiere in a primetime slot the year after Evangelion did all the things Evangelion did, and they wrote a whole new slew of broadcast standards!

CY: Oh! See, I know so little about Evangelion. But that does make sense. Okay.

VRAI: This is me conjecturing, waving into— Like, I think that is plausible, but I do not have explicit notes about that, so… Anyway, let’s talk about Shiori, because I’ve always sort of intellectually understood her but I felt like I really emotionally connected with her this watch, and also people fucking hate her, so I want to know how you’re feeling.

CY: What would help is: can you explain why people hate her? Why?

VRAI: For manipulating Juri. Like “Isn’t she a cold heartless bitch who’s mocking this poor lesbian who is in love with her?”

CY: See, because that’s— Okay. I didn’t hate her. If anything, I felt this very human… like, oh gosh, this poor girl who’s made this horrendous mistake thinking she was getting someone who was clearly the object of her affection’s attention and instead has ruined that star-crossed lover ever happening. I didn’t hate her.

CHIAKI: Yeah, I see her definitely more tragic than someone who imbues evil or gross teen attitudes or whatever. I mean, it is still kinda gross teen attitudes, but that’s just forgivable.

VRAI: Oh, yeah, she’s a mess but an understandable mess.

CHIAKI: Yeah. I mean, my notes are definitely… I was angry at Shiori because I did definitely say, in my notes, “Shiori, you dense motherfucker.” But—

VRAI: Yup!


CY: Yeah, you’re not wrong.

CHIAKI: But given everything, she’s probably just as confused as anyone here, and her lashing out is perfectly understandable.

CY: I mean, these sapphics be wilding!

VRAI: I feel like the Ikuhara special is characters who you want to hug and shake simultaneously. Like, my favorite character in Sarazanmai is Enta, and he fully fills the same role as Shiori.

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah. Yeah, okay. Yeah, that’s fair.

CY: Yeah, I felt for her but I did want to shake her. I was like, this is not a good friend thing to do! Being a bad friend, Shiori!

CHIAKI: I’m not sure she’s trying to be a friend at that point. It’s just like [she’s] lashing out and is bitter and doesn’t know how to deal with it.

CY: Yeah.

VRAI: And I think— This is one where I wanted to read the full thing from the booklet. Which, you know, some of these are just Ikuhara doing musing or writing weird pieces of fiction. Some of them are like little pieces of character prose. And I feel like Shiori’s is really illuminating in a way that maybe people don’t read her episode. I know it certainly changed how I looked at her. 

So, the commentary for her episode is: “I finally realized the truth. To think that she loved me back! What a miracle! But… ‘The loser in love is the one who lets their heart be ruled by it.’ Everyone’s adopted a provocative attitude towards someone of the opposite sex that they like at least once or twice to get that person to notice them. So it’s okay if I do that. This love will crumble if we touch. But when people don’t touch, the love eventually dies away. That’s why I decided to keep your love prisoner. To make sure that you love me forever. That game will make our love ‘eternal.’ I’m sure of it. We were ‘lovers lost from the beginning,’” which is a reference to a ‘70s film.

CY: Yeah, I mean, that to me is not a hateable character; it is a very desperate character. Who, once again, is a child! Just gotta say: still a child. [Chuckles]

VRAI: That’s so poignant to me. These characters are all coming back to this childish idea of wanting something that’s eternal, that lasts forever, which of course nothing in life does, and that’s not always bad. But the idea of once you fall in love, the honeymoon phase eventually ends, but if you just ignore somebody, they lose interest. So, trying to keep somebody in love with you, like eternally pining, which, especially with sapphic characters, is very interesting to me. The pining lesbian is such a fucking trope, but Shiori is hurting herself, too, by doing this because she’s also in pain and not really getting to love someone. And it’s fucking sad, you guys!

CY: Oh, it’s so sad. I knew from the moment that that bird flew into the glass and died. I was like, “So did their love.” They’re never gonna have… It’s just never gonna be. And the moment she opens that fucking locket and it’s a picture of her, I was like, “God damn it, Shiori. God damn it, Shiori!” [Grunts in frustration], because it’s just like, “Oh, you didn’t have to hurt each other like this,” but also, I think they did, because also it’s kind of a commentary on, like, yeah, society is not really geared toward sapphicism. It just isn’t, right? And it just hurts, it hurts so bad and so good and so bad all again.

VRAI: Yeah, and I—

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] You know what this school needs?

VRAI: Uh-huh?

CHIAKI: Not the confessional therapy room but a proper—

CY: Like a Pride flag?

CHIAKI: —LGBTQ rainbow clubhouse. It just needs one of those.

VRAI: And everyone would be in it, except—

CY: Oh, my God, can they still ascend up that infinite staircase so that banger of a song…?


CHIAKI: I don’t know if that’s ADA accessible, though.

VRAI: There’s an elevator.


CY: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You just go up and the song is just muffled and then it’s blasting once the doors open.


VRAI: You know what else-else fucks me up about Shiori is the fact that it’s so popular now, decades later, to not have characters get together but just load a show with shipping fodder and not be committal.

CY: Time to send a postcard and meet me at the tower!


CY: No, it’s really sad, and I could understand how if I were a teenager who also didn’t understand my identity, I could hate Shiori. I absolutely—

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, I feel like she’s a character you understand more as you get older. Sorry, please go on.

CY: Yeah, I feel like as a 31-year-old I am like, “Wow, I have been and have seen so many queer people across my 31, almost 32 years of life, but have done things like this because it is a lashing out. It is very reminiscent of the sapphicism in Dear Brother

VRAI: [whispering] A little bit!

CY: —where characters also lashed out and just did silly stuff. But you’re also a kid. You’re a kid and you’re trying to figure all this out.

VRAI: I feel like I undermined [Kozue’s] episode a little bit because the bit from the booklet that I read on our last episode talking about the fascination with brother–sister incest as like “We’re not really separate. We’re two halves of the same person. We’re not really two separate people in a relationship,” that comes from her duel episode—and the struggle that they’re having of they’re going to grow up and be different people and they’re not going to have the safety of that relationship anymore. You know, she even looks visibly upset when she’s thinking about Utena telling her, “You know, if you weren’t a girl, I wouldn’t be able to tell you and your brother apart!”

CY: Oh, the heartbreak in her eyes!

VRAI: Like, no, puberty!

CY: Yeah. That one also kinda got me because… [Sighs] It’s just so sad because… I don’t have siblings, but I can only imagine the feeling of having been likened to a sibling all your life and then suddenly you two aren’t the same people, because it’s interesting because they sleep in the same room. And I was like, “This room is pretty big, which probably means the house is pretty big. Y’all could’ve had separate bedrooms,” but maybe they didn’t want ‘em.

VRAI: But they still sleep in tiny infant beds.

CY: [Laughs] They do sleep in those tiny twin beds! And then Miki brings them milkshakes every night, which I love. I did wonder, did he throw away hers when she denied it that first night when she was like, “No, too mature for your… milkshake”? Yeah, because she even fights with her brother’s battle stance.

VRAI: Yeah, all of the Black Rose Duelists use the person they take from’s sword and style.

CY: Which also… gosh, does it look painful to draw the sword from someone who’s not supposed to have the sword inside them. Um… Does Anthy feel that pain? We’ll never know. Or I suppose we might. Oh. Oh, no.

VRAI: Lot of assault imagery this arc!

CY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

VRAI: So, yeah, should we just get to Wakaba? Because I feel like that’s the set of episodes that just comes along and smacks people in the face with a two-by-four, around the midpoint of the show.

CY: [crosstalk] Yeah, I really think we should.

CHIAKI: Let’s go.

CY: I think we really should. Yeah.

VRAI: Go for it. Tell me your feelings.

CY: Oh, God! Oh, gosh, wow.

CHIAKI: There’s a twist.

CY: Oh, gosh.


CY: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I felt so sad for her, because I was like, okay, she’s gonna get out of this relatively unscathed—kinda like Tomoko in Dear Brother!

CHIAKI: [Laughs]

VRAI: No, no! Ikuhara looked at Tomoko and he was like, “No one at this school would be that well adjusted. This is a lie!”

CY: Yeah. I mean, the reveal that [Laughs]… the reveal that she’s just been keeping homeboy in her bedroom is like, wait, what? Excuse me? Wow, just the… Oh, my God. And the pain in Utena’s eyes when she has to fight her best friend, who, first of all, does not wait for Utena to draw her sword. She’s just like, “En garde, sis!” And that’s not nice. That’s not being a good friend. I do know, you know, Black Rose, little bit of different personality, but that’s still not kind. And it’s sad. Oh, it’s so sad. Oh, Wakaba. Oh, girl, you didn’t deserve this. But also, her feelings feel very valid in a really painful way.

CHIAKI: I mean, going back to the fact that she initially really did have a crush on him was a good point. It’s hard to shake those feelings sometimes.

CY: Yeah. And the fact that he just uses her so callously. Just like… [Sighs]

VRAI: [crosstalk] Saionji’s so interesting in me in those episodes because I feel like he’s not consciously using her; he’s just a shithead in the way that I think particularly cis teenage boys can be, where he keeps apologizing and genuinely trying to leave as he’s imposing on her, and then when he gives up the leaf, he’s like, “Oh, well, I wanted to give a thing to say thank you. But this’ll help me, so I’ll just get her a better, more expensive thing later.” And she’s shown nonverbal signs that this is important to her, but she hasn’t overtly said it, and he’s an oblivious teenage shithead, so it’s just sad! It makes me really sad how decent he is, and then he goes right back to being a fucker.

CY: It’s so sad. Oh, my God, when he walks into school and everyone’s like, “Wait, how did he get past being expelled? Hold up. Wait a minute. What? He’s back? He’s back?”

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] I mean, that’s what you do.

CY: And I’m like, yeah, he’s back!

CHIAKI: That’s the kind of gossiping you’ll do when you hear about the one kid that got expelled coming back.

CY: Yeah. And it sucks because he does show that he has the capacity to be a better human being. And he’s like, “But what if I wasn’t?” And it’s just like, no! But what if you were? What if you were?!

VRAI: And I feel like the reason I can feel sad about Saionji, despite the fact that he physically abuses Anthy and he’s kind of an oblivious shithead to all the women in his life, is that the show… He seems like he can get better, and when he’s not under pressure from toxic masculinity he does, but also the show just relentlessly dunks on him. Like, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re directly reusing the stills from his introduction in the very first episode during the gossip scene…

CY: [amused] I did notice that, and it was so—

VRAI: … and then just layering on dialogue of everyone talking shit about him while he’s just trying to regain… when he thinks he’s like, “oh, yeah, I’ve got this handled.” No, bud! You suck and you’re sad!

CY: It’s like when you watch A Muppet Christmas Carol  and Scrooge is out in the street and they’re like, “There goes Mr. Bitch! There goes Mr. Suck-Ass!”

VRAI: [Laughs]

CY: And Saionji’s acting like he’s hot shit and they’re just like, “Ah, this fucker again.”


CY: And then they do reuse that still, and you’re just like, this is so funny. This show does not like this guy! [Chuckles] It’s what he deserves.

VRAI: He does deserve it, is the thing. He does.

CY: It’s what he deserves.

CHIAKI: No, I mean, Saionji has always been on the top of my “This motherfucker” list. And honestly, I was more angry at Wakaba for still being hung up on him. Understandably. Like, I understand: if you have a crush, you have a crush. You do stupid things, especially when you’re young and you don’t understand. You can fix him, for sure, for real, for real. But no, he sucks so bad!

CY: Oh, he sucks so bad.

CHIAKI: Even if there is that glimmer of hope, none of these people should be giving him the time. He needs to get better on his own, away from here. He was expelled for a reason. He needs to find a better place for himself just as much as be away from these people that he’s harmed.

VRAI: Right. Yeah, every time he backslides, it becomes a problem of a woman near him.

CY: That’s the thing, too. I mean, because the women in this show… their backs must be aching, because they are carrying every single shitty man in their high school and middle school. And Saionji especially does make it the problem of literally any woman in proximity. He just sucks!

VRAI: Now there is one—

CY: I hope he gets better, but, you know, I’m not gonna hold my breath on that one.

VRAI: There is one boy in this run of episodes who mostly doesn’t suck. And that would be Tatsuya, the Onion Prince.

CY: Oh, my God, the fact that they keep that running gag every time Wakaba’s like, “My Onion Prince will save me,” he’s like, “Whuh?” And then when he goes to confess and she’s like, “Off to see my prince!” he’s like, “What?” [Chuckles] This poor— I mean, do you know how nice you have to be for the Black Rose Circle to be like, “Actually, we’re not taking any new clients at this time. So, you should go”?

VRAI: So, I think that there’s two different ways you can read that scene, which I find really interesting. So, this is the other episode that I wanted to read the full note from Ikuhara for, which is: “Why is it that ‘the path he must take does not lie here’? In any other show, a character like Tatsuya probably would have been designed to gain the audience’s sympathy. However, this is Revolutionary Girl Utena, and the Black Rose arc no less. Anyone to open the door must be baptized. There are many things in this world that don’t go the way you want them to. But even so, the onion girl is trying to be someone special. She’s fighting. Isn’t that exactly the story that the Black Rose arc is trying to tell? That’s why there’s no path here from the boy who’s decided to just pray for her happiness from the sidelines. In most cases, the things that don’t go the way you want them to have been decided by a system. How should we fight when we’re up against a great power, one difficult to oppose? That’s why there’s no path here for the boy who’s quit opposing it and decided to just pray for her happiness from the sidelines.”


CY: Mm.

VRAI: Right?

CHIAKI: Okay. Yeah!

CY: Yeah, yeah! That actually… Yeah! Okay.

CHIAKI: That makes a lot of sense.

VRAI: Yeah. I liked that reading a lot, and it’s interesting that that’s sort of the intended take on the episode, but it did also strike me, rewatching, that he’s also the only character who blames himself rather than someone else. He’s not actively fighting for something, but yeah, he says, “What’s wrong with me?” He doesn’t say, “What’s wrong with her?” He’s not fighting it for change against a— Fighting for change against a system is hugely the theme of the show, but he’s also not becoming part of the machinery that keeps the duel system running. He accepts that he has a role and she had the right not to choose him.

CY: Yeah, it’s a really self-aware moment that he has, because he really just comes to the Black Rose Circle’s little one-on-one seminar. He just kinda comes to vent, because he apologizes, he’s like, “I’m so sorry I barged in, but I just really need to talk to somebody.” And then they’re like, “Mm, okay. Um, so, actually, you’ve kind of talked to yourself about the problem. You’re not really what we’re looking for because you are a little too self-aware.”

CHIAKI: [Chuckles]

VRAI: “Please go.”

CY: “We need someone who’s in the throes, and you’ve gone through it. So, just dust off the chair. Sign out. Go back. Don’t miss curfew!”


CY: But I kinda like that that’s how it resolves. Right? It’s nice to see a character that understands that maybe they are also part of the problem that they are feeling and that part of the tension they have with Utena and Anthy might actually come from themselves.

VRAI: Mm-hm. Did you have any more feels about…? Because you mentioned up top, when we were talking about Anthy, that she really shows some real emotion in that scene.

CY: Oh, I just— So, that scene, where Wakaba draws on Utena and is just on the attack and Anthy screams and is begging her to draw the sword and fight back, hit me because we’ve gone through a series of episodes where we have now seen other people have a sword drawn from them, and it is extremely painful. There’s a lot of things you can liken it to, but the one thing that connects every scene is it is a viscerally uncomfortable and incredibly violating thing. Which makes me wonder, does Anthy feel that and she’s just masking it? Because she’s this special vessel and she’s a special person, and the fact that she was begging Utena to draw the sword and screams and is frightened and is watching as Wakaba holds Utena at the blade’s edge and is willing to kill her, it makes me wonder what other emotions Anthy has been hiding for the sake of her role as she kind of starts to reveal more and more emotions through her connection to Utena.

VRAI: Yeah, because their relationship has really come along and changed. Utena isn’t actively trying to push her to be quote-unquote “normal” in some ways. Their relationship changes a lot this arc.

CY: Yeah. It’s super interesting, too, because Anthy is starting to have some autonomy. Like, she goes out on her own. I mean, you know, of course, it’s to go to her brother that abuses her, but [Chuckles] she does go shopping on her own and that’s nice! And she has a little TV that she watches TV and eats her little chips in front of, and that’s super cute.

VRAI: [crosstalk] She watches the home shopping channel! She has the most—

CY: I love that Anthy watches QVC.


CY: I love that in an arc where there’s a giant MLM, Anthy sits down and she’s like, “You know what? Let me just watch some QVC. I could use a new robe.” I love it for her.

VRAI: Anthy has the most middle-aged auntie hobbies. It’s a beautiful character trait that I love.

CY: Yeah. Walking around knitting a red sweater, watching QVC while eating her little chips. Looked like she was eating either some just regular salt… Maybe she gets mild salt because Anthy’s very conscious of her cholesterol. You know, cooking. I do like that there is one point where she’s like, “Oh, maybe I could make some curry again,” and Utena’s like, “No, no, no. Shut that down. No.”


CY: Like, one of the credits scenes. You know, it’s just very… She’s starting to develop a personality, and I like who I think she has the potential to be. I just worry that she’s going to have to go through so much to get there—so much more to get there.

VRAI: Yeah.

CY: Yeah. Because how many episodes is this anime again, Vrai?

VRAI: It is 39, and we have watched 20.

CY: Oh! She’s gonna have to go through a lot more to get there. Mm, boy.

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] And there’s a movie.

VRAI: There is also a movie, but the movie’s kind of a sequel.

CY: Okay.

CHIAKI: Yeah, but I mean, she also has to go through the movie.

VRAI: She does, she does.

CY: Okay, so, one day Anthy will be happy and have some autonomy. Y-Yay.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: Yay.

VRAI: Was there anything you wanted to hit on, Chiaki, that we haven’t covered?

CHIAKI: You know, actually, just one thing about the whole Black Rose Saga, in the very first instance of discussing that tower and just casually mentioning that 100 people have just died there.

VRAI: Yeah!

CY: Oh, my God, yeah. And they have the shoes!

VRAI: Yup! Yeah.

CY: And am I correct that once they take the ring they’re just cremating them? They’re like, “Oh. Yeah, [obscured by crosstalk].”

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] I mean, they were dead already!

CY: “You’re dead, but you’re deader than dead, bruh. Super un-useless.” It’s, uh, [Speaks in singsong] pretty sad.

VRAI: Yeah.

CHIAKI: Little fucked up there, bro.

VRAI: Well, this is the man who would use the sarin gas attacks as a thematic motivator for the series he made after this. So, yeah.

CHIAKI: Ah, fair.

CY: Wait, what series came after this?

CHIAKI: Penguindrum.

VRAI: [crosstalk] Penguindrum, which is actually the only one of his series I’ve not watched.

CHIAKI: It’s got penguins!

CY: I’m gonna tell you, after— I doubt it’s about penguins, Chiaki! Don’t you— Nope, it’s not about penguins!

VRAI: It does have penguins in it.

CY: I will say, this has definitely made me want to watch Yurikuma Arashi. And I will say, between the recording of the first episode of this series and this one, I did see the opening and whoa, oh, my God! Was that allowed to be on TV?

VRAI: Yurikuma’s horny!

CY: Jesus Christ!

CHIAKI: So, Yurikuma got in trouble, from what I understand.

CY: Really? Because it’s super horny! It’s super horny in that opening and I was like, whoa.

VRAI: Yeah, yeah, hold off on that. We’ll podcast about that if y’all are game, because you have no idea how much I’d love to hear your thoughts on Yurikuma.

CY: Oh, gosh, I was like… What is the joke, “Kuma shock”? I was having some kuma shock!


CY: I was like, oh, my God! Whoa! Yeah, so I’m getting that he’s kind of a freak of a creative. He kind of a freak and I kinda like that.

VRAI: [Chuckles] Alright. Alright, so, for the next episode of the podcast, we will be watching episodes 21 through 27, which is the rest of the Black Rose Saga and just sort of touching our toes into the Apocalypse Saga. Yay!

CY: Ooh!


CY: Yay!

VRAI: So you will get to have a little bit of that good, good surrealism, Cy.

CY: I’m excited.

CHIAKI: Excited.

VRAI: Yeah! Folks seem to be really, really enjoying y’all’s reactions, and that makes me so happy. It really does. It’s been such a joy to do this.


CY: Oh, I’m so glad people are enjoying us react to this genuinely good show that I’ve never known I needed.

CHIAKI: I’m enjoying it.

VRAI: [Chuckles] I think that this Utena show might be good! No, but really, I’m really glad that you’re genuinely enjoying it, outside of content reasons. That makes me super happy.

CY: I will say, the one bad thing to come out of this watch is that I keep going around my house singing the song! In the background, I’m like, [Sings] “Zettai unmei moku…” [Laughs] I’m just going around the house and I’ll just be like, [Sings] “Darkness in the light!”


CY: Every time I walk up the stairs it starts playing, so that’s probably not a great habit I picked up. But it’s a banger. It’s such a banger!

CHIAKI: It’s a good song.

VRAI: It is, is the thing.

CY: [whispering] It’s a good song.

VRAI: Alright.

CY: And the lyrics exchange a little depending on who it is. Yeah, it’s great.

VRAI: They do, they do. There’s a special insert song for every duel that always is both a bunch of nonsense words and also broadly thematically relevant, like Wakaba’s song talking about Pyrrhic victories. Yay, it’s sad!

[Dark chuckling]

CY: Love it.

VRAI: Anyway, thank you so much for joining us, AniFam. As I mentioned up top, if you liked this, you can always find all of our links now on our Linktree, /animefeminist. Or if you want a list the old-fashioned way, you can check out our website or, where we have cool merch that tells people that they should watch more shoujo, for example, or be a cute trans magical girl.

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