Chatty AF 203: Revolutionary Girl Utena Watchalong – Episodes 21-27 (WITH TRANSCRIPT)

By: Anime Feminist March 17, 20240 Comments

Vrai, Cy, and Chiaki return to cover the conclusion of the Black Rose arc, the beginning The End of the World, and Akio being both the worst and relentlessly sexy on convertibles.

Episode Information

Date Recorded: March 12th, 2024
Hosts: Vrai, Cy, Chiaki

Episode Breakdown

0:00:00 Intros
0:01:03 Content warnings
0:02:08 Feelings
0:05:59 Keiko
0:09:46 Mikage
0:22:45 The End of the World Arc
0:29:02 Akio
0:32:36 Cycles of abuse
0:35:49 Kozue and Daddy Longlegs
0:41:30 Anthy and Utena
0:45:17 Nanami
0:49:10 Touga
0:56:34 Ohtori’s OSHA compliance
0:59:12 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 back to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast and our Revolutionary Girl Utena watchalong. My name is Vrai. I’m the daily operations manager here at AniFem. And with me, as always, are Chiaki and Cy.

CY: Okay, so, hey, y’all. I’ve descended from the battle arena to come and say hi, my name is Cy, and I’m an editor here at Anime Feminist. And you can find me online at @pixelatedlenses on most platforms.

CHIAKI: And I’m Chiaki Hirai, one of the editors for AniFem. I’ve decided to truncate this section to just say go visit my socials at

VRAI: Which is a really, really good URL.

CY: It’s superb.

VRAI: Alright, so, this time around, we are covering episodes 21 through 27 of Utena. That’s the end of the Black Rose arc and the very beginning of the End of the World, or Akio Ohtori, arc. Just as a reminder for folks at home, this is a first-time watchalong podcast, so please be mindful of spoilers, both for Cy and Chiaki’s sake and for anyone who might be following along for the first time themselves. As always, we have a comprehensive list of content warnings for the show at large, with spoilers on the episode information page. But just right up front, I need you all to know that from this point, from the episodes we’re going to talk about now through the end of the series, grooming, sexual abuse, and sexual assault are going to be increasingly major themes for this show. So, just be aware of that.

CY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

CHIAKI: [dreary] Yay.


CY: Yeah, it sure is prevalent. Whew! Wow!

VRAI: [Snickers] Yeah, how you feeling? How’s everybody feeling?

CY: I have such complex feelings because you have this horrible grooming and sexual assault happening, but then I’m like, “Damn, Akio really got that eight-foot vertical leap over the windshield of a car! Like, oh, my God!”

CHIAKI: I think that just makes him worse. He’s not a safe person to be around!

CY: No, but he does make riding on the hood of a convertible that you’re not controlling look sexy, and I think that’s what makes him all the more horrifying, because how did he get a driver’s license when he does that?

VRAI: Yeah, the trouble with Akio, one of the many, many troubles with Akio, is that he’s very hot. He’s very hot and he’s got Jurota Kosugi’s voice and that’s doing a lot of the lifting.

CY: Oh, my God, the high school version of me inside… oh, the fraughtness, the problematic love I have for him. But then I’m like, oh, he’s a very bad man! Very bad man!

VRAI: Yeah, and I kind of think it’s one of the brilliant things about the show that it threads that so brilliantly. Like, no, you totally get— Like, as a former teenager who consistently got crushes on teachers, no, you nailed it, but also he’s terrible. He’s the worst.

CY: The worst.

CHIAKI: I can’t believe that Utena invented ghost riding the whip.

CY: Ha! Oh, my God, it did!

VRAI: That’s right, you are a car girl who likes car anime. So, the new arc must be very exciting for you.

CHIAKI: This isn’t even a car thing. This is a rap thing! This is a Bay Area rap thing!

CY: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, get with the times, Vrai! Come on!

VRAI: I’m too white and too East Coast.


CY: Oh, my God. Yeah, no, I mean… It’s definitely ramping up. The start of this arc was like, “Okay,” and now I’m just like, “O-okay!” And I’m just like, “Where’s the school counselor? God, where’s the school counselor?”

CHIAKI: I think Akio just fired him—or her.

CY: Yeah, this is like… I’m just like, what are the normal kids experiencing? Are they just like, “Huh. Sure is some weird stuff happening around the school. Like, I was out last night and Miki… pulled a sword out of his sister’s chest one day. And then she pulled some mess and fell off a building? Wow!” It’s just wild. This whole show is wild, it’s escalating, and it’s so good! It’s so good!

VRAI: There are no normal children in this show. There’s just time bombs waiting to go off, which is, I suppose, the essence of adolescence.

CY: But it’s good.

VRAI: I knew this episode was going to be slightly awkward to split because there’s too much in Black Rose to put it all in one episode, but once you get into the Akio shit, you really don’t want to talk about anything else!

CY: Oh, yeah. But I do—

CHIAKI: Is this why Black Rose Saga is considered filler?

VRAI: Well, I mean, perhaps subconsciously. I think it’s people miss— I think truly what it is is that technically everybody loses their memories of what happened at the end of this arc, and so people are like, “Oh, so it didn’t matter.” No! No, it did.

CY: [crosstalk] No, it super did. I can conclusively say after having seen this arc, if you think the Black Rose arc is filler, I think you really need to evaluate your thoughts and your feelings because it’s very essential viewing.

VRAI: Yeah, so let’s go over the last few episodes that we didn’t get to last time. First, before we get to the grand finale, we have Keiko’s episode, and she is one of Nanami’s lackeys. And this—I don’t know about y’all—this was the first time that I had seen a show do the “Hey, what about that rando background character? What’s her deal?” gambit.

CY: They sure did. They sure did. And it’s just like, wow, this child is so sad. [Chuckles] Like, wow! Oh, this child’s got some trauma.

CHIAKI: Yeah, this was the first duel where I was like, “No, she should have won.”

CY: Yeah. Mm-hm.


CY: Yeah, I’m with you on that, yeah. Yeah.

VRAI: You’re rooting for her? You believe in her?

CHIAKI: I believe in her.

CY: I feel like she just deserves so much more. And I mean, Nanami is a lot to put up with. Let’s be real. You know, as a high school educator, I do believe that all students matter, but if I had to deal with a Nanami on a daily basis, I would want to swordfight.

VRAI: She is about the distillation of all the worst things about a 13-year-old.

CY: Mm, she sure is. And, like—

CHIAKI: I mean, there’s two people dedicated to her.

CY: And she’s great. She’s great. Nanami is a fun character, but it was really interesting to see Keiko wrestle with this intense jealousy, of “I am so ignored, and I’m just here, but I have my own internal life and I have my own existence.” I really liked it.

VRAI: Yeah, it’s… You know, doing the seasonal grind and then going back to watch older shows like this, I keep coming back to “Man, these are things you can only do when a show has more than one cour to breathe.” I think a lot of shows… when they try to do this jealousy and social hierarchy manipulation between girls and adolescent girls, I think it can come across as representational, like, “Oh, you know how girls are. They’re fighting. They’re fighting and backstabbing.” But this show has spent 20 episodes exploring a lot of different kinds of relationships between girls. And so this is just— It’s what we talk about with representation all the time. This is one of many, not “the thing that girls do.” And I think that really makes it a lot richer. I like it. It makes me sad.

CY: [crosstalk] It really does. Yeah, I couldn’t imagine a modern series with 12 episodes having any time to delve into anything like this. It’s just not feasible; it’s not realistic. But I really liked it.

VRAI: And it really drives home— I think this one more than any of the other Black Rose duels really drives home that for each of these duelists, it’s not really about the other person. They think it is. Maybe they even sincerely think it is, but it’s not. It’s about his sword, man. What does that sword do?

CY: It absolutely is about the sword. It’s always about that sword. Yeah, I will say it would have been nice if Keiko had actually won, but I know why that can’t have happened. I just want justice for Keiko.

CHIAKI: There should be, like, a— This should’ve gone to civil court.

CY: Yeah. Right.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CHIAKI: Small claims?

CY: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah. No, I believe in this. We can parse out ownership of shitty teenage boys.

CHIAKI: [Chuckles]

CY: And boy, are there some shitty teenage boys in this show.

VRAI: Yeah! So let’s unpack Mikage. We didn’t do that at all last episode, so…

CY: [crosstalk] Whew! Wow!

VRAI: So, yeah! Let’s do that.

CY: Wow, wow, wow.

CHIAKI: Mikage was also justified, but also fuck him.


CY: I was gonna say, no, he’s not justified! Fuck this guy! Fuck this guy! Fuck this guy. Also, side note: I really love that, in his backstory episode, that little Windows 98 hand kept pointing out the symbology. Very funny. Very funny. Incredibly funny.

VRAI: Uh-huh! It’s my favorite thing.

CY: But fuck this guy! Fuck him!

VRAI: Oh, no, I’m gonna have got to defend my sadboy! Oh, no!

CY: Okay. Mm, okay, let’s hear that defense, Vrai. Let’s hear that defense. Mm.

VRAI: Well, here’s the thing, here’s the thing. Everyone’s already dead. Well, they’re not dead but they’re not moving either, so…


CY: [crosstalk] Mm-hm, okay. This is some very tepid defense starting out.

VRAI: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

CHIAKI: Are you saying, like, don’t desecrate dead bodies, or it’s okay to desecrate dead bodies?

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: Yeah, Vrai, what exactly are you saying?

VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, no, no, listen! Listen, he did very much kill 100 people. But, you know, at the very least, he made me happy.

CY: [Wheezes in amazement]

CHIAKI: I’m happy for you.

CY: Oh, my God! He can’t be bad because they’re already dead, so, like, YOLO!

CHIAKI: Because he killed them.

CY: Yeah, Vrai…

VRAI: Listen! Listen, listen, listen.

CY: Vrai, like, I feel like I know you well, but dude, come on! Come on!

VRAI: Were those boys really real anyway?

CY: They were before they died! [Chuckles]

VRAI: [Laughs]

CHIAKI: I mean, they sucked, but they were real.

CY: Yeah, Vrai!

VRAI: Cannot a small, sad bisexual do a couple of human rights crimes in his time?

CY: Vrai.

CHIAKI: He can. But I’m just saying he needs to, you know—

CY: Maybe atone.

CHIAKI: —face the music.

CY: Yeah.

VRAI: Oh, he did, though. He’s dead.

CHIAKI: Yeah, he’s dead, but I’m just saying, like, you know…

CY: Yeah, just because you’re bisexual does not mean you get to violate the Geneva Convention, Vrai.


VRAI: That’s not what it said in the newsletter.

CY: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God! [Chuckles] I do really like his character, though. I like that symbolism and the fact that time has been standing still because he just cannot move forward. It hit really hard. It hit really hard. And I like that he is Utena’s mirror, but creepier. He’s like real fucked up, and I love that. I love a fucked-up boy.

CHIAKI: I was likening him—

VRAI: Okay, but— Oh, go ahead, go ahead.

CHIAKI: Oh, okay. I was likening him to that high school teacher who peaked in high school.

CY: Yeah! Oh, my God, Mikage super peaked in high school! [Laughs]

CHIAKI: He’s super cool when you look at him, and when you’re a teen you’re like, “Wow, this guy is so cool!” And then you grow up,10, 20 years from then, and you look back and go like, “Man, that guy was 20 years older than us and he really wanted to be our friend. That’s a little weird.”

VRAI: He’s not, though! He’s 17! He’s the same age as everyone!

CY: Okay, he’s been 17 for like a kajillion years, though.

VRAI: True.

CY: This boy is Japanese Edward Cullen, and I will hear nothing against it. This guy has been in high school for forever, he’s got the pink hair, he’s got the ooh-ah that the girls like, running his weird seminar. I’m sorry. High school is the best time of his life, and he deserved what he got. That’s my spicy hot take.

VRAI: No, wrong, he’s Japanese Eli from Let The Right One In who’s just been hanging out at the same age, not progressing or learning anything or maturing. It’s like he’s living the same day over and over again.

CY: That is the only correction I’ll allow.


VRAI: [Chuckles] Okay, but— Listen, he did deserve everything he got. But I am semi-serious when I say I’m not 100% sure those 100 boys were real, because there’s such a device, and the thing that Mikage, or Nemuro, is so upset about and can’t move past is Mamiya’s death. That’s the thing all of the rest of it spins out of it and all the rest of this delusion and the sudden shift to deciding that actually he’s going to research what eternity is and dip-tip into extremism if that’s what it takes. 

And I don’t think this is a concrete, 100% correct reading. I think it’s just plausible, because the whole thing of his character is that he never really reaches any kind of self-awareness, that he’s sort of stuck between these two people that he loves very much, this sort of older authority figure who was motivational and sort of a guiding principle for him when he felt like he was just this aimless, emotionless computer, and her brother, who… you know, every time they’re together, the Windows 98 pointer loudly points at the symbolism: “Actually, these are the leaf scenes! This is what he’s actually about!” So, I don’t know. I think that’s— To me, it’s that he can’t get over this kid’s death, and everything else is just all debatably part of that illusion. And I think one could argue that I’m wrong, but… I don’t know. He’s sad. He’s sad and he fucked up a lot.

CY: Well, and I suppose within that argument, if we’re going with that, it doesn’t matter if the bodies are real or not; the damage he did is real and the things he did to manipulate people are still real. And I think that that is kind of where you can kind of put aside that divide between reality and what is perceived reality. At the end of the day, he still chose to be cruel within his extreme and very understandable sadness. Death is a really hard thing. And sometimes— I’m someone who believes that we never really move on from death. We just kind of grow around the instance that it happened. And he, in his sadness, decided to be cruel. And while understandable, it also is a decision, and whether or not he hurt these other people, yeah, doesn’t really matter. It’s that he chose to hurt the people that we know he did. Like, those coffins very well could have been empty. But the cruelty he chose to enact… Yeah.

VRAI: Yeah, whether those students were real, the Black Rose duelists are real. Yeah, you’re totally right. Which I think… You know, you sort of mentioned that he’s very obviously Utena’s mirror in a lot of ways, but he has connections to Touga in that way, too, in that he is this damaged person who, in pursuit of that, goes on to perpetuate that cycle of abuse.

CY: Yeah. And I mean, he pays what for humans at this time is the ultimate cost, which is your life. You cease to exist. You don’t get to continue. He does pay that cost, but it’s just like, dang, was it worth it to hurt so many people along the way? And I think the answer is no. But, you know, he did it still. And that’s what makes him really complex and interesting, I think.

VRAI: Yeah. Yeah, I guess that was my question to you. What did happen to him at the end? He’s gone but what does that mean?

CHIAKI: It seems like they completely just wrote him off, in a way that… You know, he’s written off in a meaning… not a meaningful, but he’s just gone. Right? He’s not acknowledged. He’s completely missing from everyone and everywhere. So, I do wonder: he hurt people, but did it actually matter in the sense of… you know, are people still there to reflect on the hurt that he caused, aside from the viewer? He’s meaningful to the viewer but not meaningful to the world.

VRAI: Yeah, yeah. Like, “Do the duelists he tormented sort of retain that soul-searching that they went through even if they don’t remember why it happened?” is an interesting question.

CY: I think that there is a certain amount of… Oh, I just learned this word the other day. I think it’s the word “sonder.” And “sonder” is like… it’s like the feeling of realizing that everyone has a life fulfilled, but a life fulfilled by their own path, and everyone is living their own existence. And I think that’s kind of what this leaves us with, is this feeling of: we know that these characters are not gonna remember this, but we can never forget this. And it does impact how you view every single character going forward. You cannot… Unless you’re a goofy goober and you skipped this arc, it permanently affects how you view the show. And I think that’s the real impact, and that’s kind of what actually is important, is that you the viewer can never forget that this happened. And so, as these characters are moving through their lives, you’re like, “Oh, I remember when this horrible thing happened to you, and you’re still behaving with that impact even if you don’t consciously remember it.”

CHIAKI: Always gonna be looking at Keiko.

CY: Oh, God. Yeah.

VRAI: I do— So, I can’t read all of this because it is intensely spoilery, but in light of that, I do want to read you a little bit of the director commentary from this last episode, because I think you might find it interesting. So, he starts out talking about how the original version of that final scene with Akio on the phone was him talking to the older Tokiko and telling her that, you know, “It’s finally time for you to come pick up this loser,” and essentially that he would be released from the illusion that he’s been frozen in. And he decided that that wasn’t really working, and he kept rewriting and rewriting the scene up till, like, right before it needed to be finalized. 

And so, the way it finally ended up in the version that it was… “I tried making the person on the other end of the phone line Mikage himself. ‘The path you must take is no longer prepared for you. Now graduate from this place.’ Those who reject that place are, conversely, rejected by it as well. This is the nature of systems: the moment you reject them, you’re forced to realize that they’re the very ground you’re standing on. Mikage noticed the trick behind the system, and he hurriedly attempted revisions. But the adult who’d created this system just said, ‘Let’s not,’ and unilaterally brought the curtain down. The system of illusion was finished. Mikage could no longer exist there. That’s why he disappeared from the memories of those who’d interacted with him. People’s happiness or unhappiness shouldn’t be determined by struggles over the device called ‘the Rose Bride.’”

CY: I like that. I like that. Yeah.

VRAI: Ikuhara loves to talk about systems. If you ever recover from this podcast and we do get to talk about Yurikuma, it’s just him hurriedly trying to boil that down and stuff it into 12 episodes.

CY: I don’t know what you mean [by] “if I ever recover,” because my hunger for more of this guy’s work is immense. I want to go to the Golden Corral of Ikuhara works.

CHIAKI: Oh, no.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: Like, feed me more. I’m ready.

CHIAKI: Oh, no.

CY: I’m saying that now, not knowing how the show is gonna end and how wrecked I’m potentially gonna be. So, here’s to future me!

VRAI: [Chuckles] Hooray! Alright, so, I think, just for time’s sake, we had best move on to our next set of episodes, starting officially with “The End of the World,” or the “Oh, sweetie, you almost got it” arc, as I quietly call it to myself, where we meditate on the subject that kind of started with Mikage, of: what does it mean to become an adult? And I think I’m going to need to check in with y’all every episode going here on out: how’s Anthy doing?

CY: Ooh! [Chuckles] I mean, she’s becoming more of a person! But also…

CHIAKI: Happy for her! But also…

CY: Yeah! I love that she laughed, but also when Akio looked at her like he was gonna hurt her, I was like, “Oh, maybe I didn’t love that she laughed!” [Chuckles] And, yeah, I love that she’s becoming a more full-fledged human, but also, I have big fears for her! And those fears are: oh, no, my sweet child is gonna get hurt. Mm-hm, mm-hm! Mm-hm.

CHIAKI: Anthy needs to run.

CY: Far.

CHIAKI: She needs to run real far.

CY: Far away.

CHIAKI: I’m also a little… I’m confused by her a lot. Like, I’m not sure what the heck is going on with her half the time at this point, because she seems to be everywhere and anywhere at the same time.

VRAI: Yeah, yeah. In a universe that defies logic to a certain extent, she is the most that.

CY: Mm-hm, mm-hm. Mm-hm, mm-hm. I find her really interesting in her personhood, because— I had this thought while I was watching this arc, of… It continues to be really fascinating because this is an all-Japanese cast. Not even the voice actors, but I’m talking like: in world, everyone is Japanese except for Anthy, who is biracial. And so, there’s still this interesting dynamic of having Anthy on this pedestal as the only darker-skinned character, but there’s also something deeply fascinating about her reclaiming personhood through one of the characters who kind of have this domination over her willingly forgoing that and just being like, “I would just like to be your friend. That would be nice.” And it leads to a lot of good stuff about consent! Anthy’s learning consent! It’s so beautiful! Aw, but it’s so fraught! It’s so fraught! [Chuckles] Oh, no, it’s so fraught!

VRAI: Yeah, I mean, can Anthy and Utena really have an equal relationship at this point when…? Technically, if Utena ever decided to, it seems in every way like that’s not something that interests her, but she can pull rank, as it were, at any time. She can take away the equality of the relationship and have the right to do so within the confines of the Rose Bride system.

CY: And I’m not gonna lie: there is still this lingering fear. I don’t think Utena, as we perceive her right now, would, but I would be lying if I didn’t say there’s this lingering fear that she could. She could, and within the system it’s very justified. Now, is it ethical? No. But is it justified? Yeah, in this system it certainly is.

CHIAKI: I mean, you know, given the fact that Utena might feel inclined to use that power for what she believes is just, for Anthy, might come and bite her ass, too, right?

CY: Yeah.

VRAI: Mm. How proactive do you see Anthy as being? Because clearly, she is instrumental in upholding, we’ve seen at this point, some of the machinations that Akio has going on in the background, you know, whether that’s being an illusion of Miki’s new mother or acting as Mamiya, and presumably other things also.

CY: I think Anthy’s in this really interesting place where she’s being torn between upholding a system, because it’s kind of all she knows, but also she makes the choice to throw herself in front of Utena. She makes that decision. And that is a really powerful… I got up and you would’ve thought a touchdown happened, because I was like, “Oh, my God! Utena! Anthy! Yeah!” because she makes that choice to do that and, by all means, did not have to. That is not within her role. Standing there looking pretty, holding a sword and that cleavage, that’s her role. Right? That is what has been laid out by the structure of the system. And she throws herself bodily and is like, “Uh-uh! No, no, no. Not my Utena!” 

And so, it’s really complex in a very human way because I think— I mean, I think this is something that is not uncommon when it comes to people who have survived sexual assault, have survived really horrific traumatizing situations that involve the taking of bodily autonomy, is that you’re torn. There’s this kind of inner fight of regaining your autonomy within a system that does not necessarily want that for you, but also discovering what it means to have autonomy in the wake of surviving something. And I see that a lot in Anthy: she is fighting to figure herself out, but she’s still locked within the system. So how do you do that?

VRAI: We do get a little tiny glimpse here of… It’s “blink and you missed it.” I don’t know if you two noted it, but Anthy briefly having a flashback of herself as a little kid, her and Akio, and saying, “You know, it’s us against the world.”

CY: Mm-hm. I don’t like Akio. That dude can go— He can run his car off a cliff.

CHIAKI: He will!

VRAI: [crosstalk] He’s terrible!

CY: He’s horrible!

CHIAKI: He will, driving like that on the hood!

CY: I mean, every time he flips over it, I’m just like, “This fucking guy.”

CHIAKI: [Laughs]

CY: This fucking guy, thinking he’s hot shit! Driving his convertible that… How does he even have a license? He’s not 20! [Chuckles]

CHIAKI: Isn’t he, though?

VRAI: He’s older!

CY: Oh, God, he is older than that! I forgot he’s not a high school student and… Ah, gross!

VRAI: Nope!

CHIAKI: I mean, that’s part of the reason why everything is so— That adds the extra skeeve factor in everything, in Akio being like the only adult in this entire series.

CY: Akio, bro, ew, gross! [Chuckles] Nasty! I hate it, ew! Ew! Ew, ew, ew! Ew!

VRAI: [Laughs]

CY: Ah, God. Nasty man.

VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah. Yeah, the car. How you feel about the car?

CHIAKI: It’s a nice car.

VRAI: It’s a very shiny car.

CY: Okay. I have to ask. Are the cars a euphemism for the gayest scenes ever? Because every time, every time Akio is in this car, it’s man pecs out, it’s glistening, it’s hair in the wind, and it feels very queer coded. [Chuckles] It feels—

VRAI: I would go so far as to say that it’s slightly more than coded! I don’t know if you noticed at the end of the episode, with Akio and Touga just rolling around on some sheets, in places.

CY: I sure noticed it, Vrai! [Chuckles] And I was like, “Whew! There is no heterosexual explanation for this!”


VRAI: Nope!

CY: Like, wow! I mean, they pulled out the Egyptian cotton for this one! Whew! Oh, my God. This is so sexual. I’m so uncomfortable. [Chuckles] Because—

VRAI: Yeah, yeah, and it’s only— Uh-huh!

CY: Like, Akio also pulling people back into his machinations… Stop it, you bad man! Let them be free of the duels! Stop it!

VRAI: Yeah! Are you beginning to see why I feel sort of sad about Saionji even though he’s a dickweed who deserves to have terrible things happen to him?

CY: Oh, my God, he gets pulled back in. Akio wines and dines him, takes him around like he’s Fast and Furious, rolls around on some sheets with him, and he’s like, “Maybe fighting wasn’t so bad actually! Maybe this was pretty good!” And you’re like, no!

CHIAKI: And then he gets destroyed again.

CY: Saionji, no, you big idiot! [Chuckles]

CHIAKI: Look, he doesn’t have a lot of good role models in his life.

CY: Yeah, oh, you got that right!

CHIAKI: I mean, if this is all he’s getting in terms of attention and affirmation and need for him, this is what you’re gonna get.

CY: That is true.

VRAI: Uh-huh. Touga is literally the only friend he has. Well, and also I headcanon that he and Nanami are pretty close because she’s the only one who calls him by his first name, but that’s just background. But yeah, just… Ah! That makes me sad about cycles of abuse and stuff, because Saionji is terrible, and I think the reason that we keep seeing him as the training-wheels guy is because, after Touga, he’s sort of the closest person to the heights of societal privilege, but he keeps getting closer to getting out of it and then no. No. He’d be so much happier if he could just admit he was gay!

CY: I mean, I mean, wouldn’t we all, right? We would all be happier with him. It’s so interesting, because it feels so obvious that, like… Dude. Dude, dude, dude, come on, dude. Dude, you’re not heterosexual, dude. And we all—

CHIAKI: Are any…? Anyone? Is anyone?

CY: Right? We all come to it in our own time. I do understand that. You know, I, too, once thought I was a straight, but also I’m not under that delusion anymore and it didn’t take me doing reckless driving— Are they even wearing seatbelts? Because I don’t think they are, which makes it—

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] No. That car’s too old for that.

CY: Oh, yeah, yeah, I forgot there was a time before we valued the safety of a vehicle. And I mean—

CHIAKI: Seatbelts were like a 1980s thing.

CY: That is true. And I’ll give it to you: driving without a seatbelt in anime? Oh, that’s sexy. Driving without a seatbelt with an adult-ass man? That’s not hot. That’s just dangerous and scary.

CHIAKI: Oh, actually, one quick note. If you’re in Japan, you didn’t have to wear a seatbelt in the backseat until like the 2000s.

CY: God, that’s so—

VRAI: Really?

CY: That’s so fucking frightening. [Chuckles]

CHIAKI: Yeah, no, my uncle and cousins made fun of me for it when I got to Japan and I was riding in the backseat and I’d put on the seatbelt immediately, and they were like, “Why are you doing that, you nerd? You scared?”

CY: Because you value your existence!

CHIAKI: “You scared of dying? What is this?”

VRAI: I mean, when did we start requiring seat belts for children? It wasn’t that long ago in America!

CHIAKI: It was like 1982 or something.

CY: And people complained about it. They were like, “My child’s okay. My arm will catch ‘em!” And then it’ll break, and then your child will still go through the windshield. So, yeah, I just… Akio is just sex on wheels, literally, literally, and I don’t like it. I also didn’t like that he got Miki and Kozue in. And I was like, “I don’t like them being in this car! This is bad. It is very bad.”

VRAI: It’s very bad.

CY: These children—

CHIAKI: Especially meeting with Kozue.

CY: Oh, yeah, these don’t need a taste of sex to exist in this world. Let them retain some of childhood.

VRAI: Yeah, with Kozue, I have to stop and pull the podcast over for a detour, that that episode makes a reference to Daddy-Long-Legs. Which, are either of you familiar with that?


CY: No.


VRAI: [Laughs]

CY: Is this an internet thing?

CHIAKI: No, it’s an old young adult fiction thing.

CY: Oh, oh, okay. Because I was like, “Why are they talking about the creature in nature?” [Chuckles]

CHIAKI: It was a creature alright.

VRAI: [crosstalk] So, it was originally this 1912— Certainly a creature. He’s got legs!

CHIAKI: [Laughs]

CY: Okay, so it’s from 1912, which means is definitely gon’ be fucked up.

VRAI: Yeah, well, the original novel is— Yeah, the thing is the original novel is comparatively less fucked up.

CY: Okay.

VRAI: It’s this sort of young adult novel, but it’s about a 17-year-old who is an orphan, and she is told that a mysterious benefactor is going to provide the funds to send her away to a girls’ college, and all she has to do is write him back once a month because mystery dude believes it’ll help her to become stronger as a writer. And obviously, she already knows this dude in real life, he’s 14 years older than her, and they do get married at the end.

CY: Ew!

CHIAKI: [Laughs]

VRAI: But for the time— For the time, it was still seen as this kind of revolutionary novel that was encouraging women to go and get an education and better themselves, even if she ends up with this way-older dude who’s sort of mentoring her at the end, so it’s contextual for the time. But it sort of made its way over into anime. Like, there are references to it in Glass Mask, which is from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and then it had a Masterpiece Theater anime in the ‘90s, in 1990, which I think might be the version that specifically Utena is mad at, because in that version, she wasn’t 17 and going to college; in the Masterpiece Theater anime version, she goes from 14 to 17 [sic] and they still get married at the end.

CY: Ew! [Chuckles]

CHIAKI: Just for reference’s sake, yeah, Daddy-Long-Legs is a very common story for young girls to read in Japan back when I was growing up, maybe around ‘90s or so. So it was a very— Everyone who was a girl—and some boys, too—pretty much knew about that story.

CY: Okay, because, like I said, I was like, why are they referencing the little critter?

CHIAKI: It’s kinda like Little House on the Prairie reading for Japanese kids, yeah. Sort of like Heidi of the Alps.

VRAI: Anne of Green Gables.

CHIAKI: Anne of Green Gables, yeah.

CY: Okay, okay, okay.

VRAI: So, yeah, it’s specifically referencing a story about a handsome, beneficent older man who turns out to be your one true love. But actually, it’s just Akio! Surprise!

CY: Yeah, and Akio’s the worst. I’m just going to return to: he’s the worst. He is the worst. Absolutely the worst. And—real talk—very hauntingly predatory in a way that is so distinctly uncomfortable. Inclusive of whatever gender you are, there is something about him that is tantalizing in a very frightening way because he draws you in because he’s so charismatic, and he is such a malicious person. He kind of revels in pulling people into this really painful world that everyone in the duels exists in, and it’s really… I don’t know. It’s so malevolent in a very human way.

VRAI: Mm-hm. Yeah, and it’s especially painful to put him next to Miki and Kozue, I think, because they’re both characters who ostensibly are like, “Adults are the worst and we hate them!” but they both think they’ve got it handled in a way that they don’t. Like, Kozue thinks that she is totally in control of this adult that she’s quote-unquote “seducing,” whereas Miki is not-dealing with his neglectful parents by pretending he’s totally cool and being very adult about it. And they’re these two sort of mirror refractions of kids who think they are being adultlike but really just showing that gap in maturity.

CY: Yeah. And I do feel bad for Miki and Kozue because, whew, I thought that they were out of it and then, boy howdy, they are not out of it. There is no out for them.

VRAI: I’m gonna go ahead and spoil you on some future episodes because I don’t know if you noticed this. There’s a slightly ritualistic bent to how this series is structured. Every single one of these episodes is gonna be like that!

CHIAKI: I noticed. I mean, that is the Ikuhara way of doing things.

VRAI: Yeah, like, you mentioned the new, different sword-pulling, Cy, but that’s the biggest change with these duels, is that Utena is no longer taking somebody’s sword out of Anthy. We have consensual sword-drawing, everybody.

CY: [crosstalk] It’s great!

CHIAKI: [Chuckles]

CY: I did— The first time I saw it, I was like, “Oh, my God! Anthy’s a consensual sheath!” And then I was like, “Maybe I should rephrase that…”


CY: “Given the nature of this show, maybe that should be rephrased.” But she is consenting to this engagement. And that’s revo— I mean, dare I say, that’s revolutionary.

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] That’s a revolutionary girl?

CY: Ha-ha, yes! It is! It is. And it’s shocking! I was like, “Whoa! Let me rewind, Crunchyroll,” because it’s kind of jarring, because you don’t expect it. But she’s consenting and it feels good. Yay, consent.

VRAI: Yeah, those drawing sequences, I really am very fond of. They feel genuinely intimate even if they’re very theatrical and exaggerated.

CY: It feels like mutual trust. Whereas before, Anthy was just kind of trusting Utena to use her in the least brutal way, now it feels like there’s a conversation of, like, “We are in this together.” And that is a big dynamic. And I mean, they’re still at a point where they can’t have a relationship that is completely 100%, 100% “Each of us are fully invested,” because of the nature of Anthy’s trauma, but this is the foundation of a change. This is the foundation of them being in unison and in conversation with the way Anthy has been treated and “How do we… not reshape that, but how do we move through that as a pair, with that in mind, to build a better relationship?” And then there’s fucking Akio just waiting in the wings, like, “Huh! You thought you could have a good life? You thought? Mm.”

VRAI: [Chuckles] Wrong. Yeah, I feel like Miki’s duel really underlines… As Anthy and Utena get closer, Miki and Kozue really get close to that mutual trust. Like, they put up the bird feeder together, they both understand that they hate adults, even if they come at it from different ways and they’re deluded about themselves in different ways, and then it falls apart and they lose because they haven’t managed to get through the issue at the heart of their relationship conflict, and so they’re not close anymore after they lose.

CY: Yeah, because it was really jarring at the end. They see each other and Kozue calls him a coward. Kozue is not happy. And it’s really sad because these two kids are trying so hard and yet it’s just not in the cards. It’s just not in the cards! They are not having a good time. And it just kinda all falls apart. But hey, at least there’s Nanami.

VRAI: Who I love! How you—

CY: Oh, my God, this little dum-dum. [Chuckles] Nanami! Nanami, sweetie. Oh, Nanami, sweetie. Oh, my God.

CHIAKI: So, this was like a metaphor for menstruation, right?

VRAI: Yes.

CY: Yeah, absolutely.

CHIAKI: [crosstalk] Okay.

CY: Absolutely.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: I mean, it was some Mean Girls–level “If you have sex you will die” sex education that Nanami got, because, like, girl, you don’t have a literal egg when it happens. When… as I say, when the blood moon rises, you don’t have a Grade A pop out.


VRAI: Bad sex education kills!

CY: It really does. And I love that Nanami has the wildest episodes, because it really parallels her larger-than-life personality, but it also really serves for how much of a child she is. This is right up there with the cowbell episode, I gotta admit. This is Nanami’s finest moment, carrying around that egg, singing into it, taking a bath with it.


CY: Oh, sweet little dum-dum. Human don’t have egg.


CHIAKI: They have bowling balls.

VRAI: But what if?


VRAI: The shining spotlight of Touga being the world’s largest hypocrite in this episode, also.

CY: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Lecturing his sister about the importance of heterosexuality.

CY: Ugh. Gross.

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: I just… I really love that Nanami brought some levity, because this was a lot to take in this arc, because whew! Yikes! Everybody needs therapy.

VRAI: Nanami is so important. She is so important. And also, she’s only in the anime.

CY: What?

VRAI: Which is why the other versions aren’t as good.

CY: Yeah, okay, Nanami is quintessential to this anime. Nanami is necessary.

CHIAKI: How do you do this show without Nanami?

CY: Where am I gonna get Nanami being afraid when those three boys eat some egg?

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: And they’re like, “Mm, delicious!” and Nanami’s just like, “My son!” Where am I gonna get that?

VRAI: [Chuckles]

CY: Quality.

VRAI: Nanami and the army of farm animals who are also all named Nanami.

CY: I feel so bad because this keeps happening to her. And I’m like, could we choose a different name for some of these animals, please?

VRAI: Ah… Mm. Now, you’re sure this is all on accident? You’re sure that that’s the thing that’s happening, accidentally, every time?

CY: [Chuckles] No, I do think it’s very intentional. It’s very funny.

CHIAKI: I see a cow, and I just think Nanami. I see a chicken… Nanami. An elephant… Nanami.

CY: [Chuckles]

VRAI: I was knitting this red sweater, just happened to be out here in the cow fields. The timing just worked out.

CY: [crosstalk] The funniest. The funniest. Shoutout to Cowstian Dior.

VRAI: Yeah. My—

CY: Gucci and Hoofbana.

VRAI: My personal—


CY: Oh, my God.

VRAI: Yeah, I guess the only character we haven’t really talked about is… He keeps being in the background of places, partly because, as I mentioned last time, his voice actor was out sick for a good, long while. But I want to know if you have thoughts on Touga, because he’s also a lot and he’s sort of the most opaque of the student council members.

CY: Sure is. I also keep forgetting he’s there because there’s just so much happening. There’s so much happening! But also, he was in the car with his beautiful hair, too!

CHIAKI: Every time he shows up, I’m just like, “Oh, what is he going to say now? What am I going to be frustrated at now?” And he does not disappoint.

CY: Oh, he’s super doesn’t.

VRAI: Every time!

CHIAKI: Every time. Every time he opens his mouth.

CY: Just sucks.

VRAI: Mm-hm! He is like the epitome of teens who think that they’re running the system. He is going to tell you about “the game.”

CY: [Chuckles] He really is! I had the thought while watching. I was like, “Maybe he’s an asshole, maybe it’s Maybelline,” because this guy… I mean, Akio is a whole level of suck, but this guy just… This guy just sucks. He just sucks.

VRAI: Something that’s going to make Touga kind of frustrating to talk about—and I’m going to go ahead and spoil this for you now in vague terms—he’s the only student council member we don’t really get any backstory for, outside the coffin scenes—unless you count the movie, which people debate.

CY: Okay. Okay, that’s fascinating. Yeah, because I feel like he’s got some complexity to him. Like, who hurt him when he was a child? But I have no clue. I just know he needs an attitude adjustment, because much like Britney Spears’s song “Toxic,” he’s toxic and I’m slipping under because he’s full of bullshit. He’s a bad boy.


CHIAKI: Yeah, no, I would just say that, you know, it’s the system. It’s the system that makes him bad. But also, he’s just a shitty person, because there are people out there who went through the same system and didn’t turn out as bad.

CY: Exactly. He’s just a bad boy. I mean, and I shouldn’t say he’s just bad, because when you are operating in a system that features cycles of abuse, you are not inherently bad for being the abused or the abuser. I do think there comes a point where you are engaging in that system and doing bad, but I think it’s also more complex than good and evil, or good and bad, right? And I think [that] to take the show and say, “Oh, these characters are just straight-up evil…” Even Akio I don’t know is straight-up evil. I think it’s complex and his maliciousness is really horrific, but I think there’s… I don’t know the full story, but I think there’s something bigger going on.

CHIAKI: I would say, with Touga, I think he’s just being enabled. That is the big thing.

CY: He got in that car, and that car… was a sin wagon. [Begins tut-tutting] Mm-mm-mm. Mm-mm-mm.

VRAI: Yeah, the only authority figure in his life is the one who is validating all of the worst traits in him. And he doesn’t have anybody else who’s a modulating influence on him. Like, Nanami and Saionji both love him, but he, at this point in his life, does not respect their opinion, clearly. And that makes me a little sad for him, but also he sucks.

CY: He really does. He really does. No, it’s all very interesting. And I continue to find myself getting more and more invested in the show as we’re going on. I know we don’t have a lot of it left, which makes me so sad—


CY: —because I’m really genuinely like, “Wow, this is really good.”

CHIAKI: Mm-hm.

VRAI: Yeah. That makes me so happy.

CY: Yeah, I feel sad that I’ve missed out on something that— I understand now why people like this show so much. I really, genuinely do. And that feels really wonderful, to have that insider knowledge now and be like, “I get it.” I get it. Now, I do want to reiterate to all y’all out there like, [Assumes a whiny voice] “You don’t need to watch the Black Rose arc,” it’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay! It’s okay to be wrong. We all—

VRAI: That’s powerful and magnanimous of you.

CY: Yeah, we all have been wrong about something in our life.

VRAI: How are you hanging in there, Chiaki?

CHIAKI: Oh, I’m doing all right. I mean, you know, this is interesting. I am watching it with more of a surgical, removed sense of enjoyment. You know, I’ve gotten the gist of how Ikuhara works, and I’m just looking forward to how this all comes crashing down.

VRAI: I’ve given up on finding an anime that will make you cry, because at this point, at this point, even if you were inclined to at some point, it’s a point of pride that you won’t.


VRAI: But I am glad to hear you’re having an intellectual enjoyment.

CHIAKI: Mm-hm. Yeah, no, it was always something that… I knew that it would activate my neurons in some way or another.

VRAI: This is good.

CHIAKI: [Chuckles]

VRAI: Put that on the box!

CY: Genuinely love that.

CHIAKI: “Activates the neurons!”


CY: Genuinely love it.

VRAI: Well, now that we know that long COVID is causing brain bleeding, perhaps this is the cure that we need!

CHIAKI: I don’t know if I want to watch this with brain fog, though.

CY: Oh, my God. If you watched Utena with brain fog, it would feel so unreal.


CY: Yeah, maybe don’t watch this with brain fog. Let your brain recover. Watch something nice and sweet like Keijo. You know.

VRAI: [Laughs]

CY: Something chill.

VRAI: Something wholesome.

CY: Yeah.

CHIAKI: You know, I’m just gonna smoke a blunt and go play Robert Yang’s Stick Shift instead of… If I had that kind of issue going on, I wouldn’t be watching the Apocalypse Saga; I would be playing Stick Shift.

CY: [Chuckles]

VRAI: You know what? Yeah, well, I think we can close. I think we can close on that beautiful recommendation. Unless… Were there any last thoughts either of y’all wanted to touch on, that we didn’t get to in this weird, wide-ranging discussion?

CY: I just want everyone to be okay, but I think my wish is not going to come true right now.

CHIAKI: Do you want Akio to be okay?

CY: I mean, I would be okay with “him falling down the Grand Canyon” okay. Is that—

CHIAKI: And fall down those stairs?

CY: Yeah, just… I would love for Utena— No, I want for Anthy to trip him, and then he falls down the stairs, and there’s goofy tuba music playing as he falls, and it’s very mortifying.

CHIAKI: Mm-hm. Oh, I will say one thing I’m so happy about. I’m glad that they finally installed an elevator.

CY: Oh, my God! The way I was like, “Fucking finally! Some accessibility in this. We are following some ADA!” Because the 1000 stairs were not it. They were not it.

CHIAKI: That looked so exhausting [obscured by crosstalk].

CY: [crosstalk] Oh, my God. And I’m just imagining Utena walking up them, and the song has to play like three or four times because it just takes forever to walk up those stairs!


VRAI: They’re very long!

CY: Yeah, and they put in that elevator— Now, the elevator? Um, it’s not OSHA compliant. It is just a platform.

VRAI: OSHA doesn’t really have guidelines about girl roses. This is an oversight of [obscured by crosstalk].

CY: [crosstalk] Yeah, I was gonna say it’s an oversight, because at least put a waist-high barrier. You don’t want to die before you fight! I’m just saying.

VRAI: So true.

CY: But, you know, I mean, OSHA does what OSHA does. But yeah, they put an elevator in and that’s great. It’s great. And then we get to see the transformation, and it’s like, ooh, sick, love it! Yeah! It’s great.

VRAI: Yeah! It’s very good and I love it. And we’re out of time, so next time I’ll have to tell y’all about the new ending theme, which is very good and gives me fuzzies.

CHIAKI: I’ve been enjoying that, too.

CY: Oh, yeah.

VRAI: Yeah.

CY: Just a little teaser for next time, everyone.

VRAI: Speaking of next time, we will be covering episodes 28 through 34. And y’all at home know what that means, so spare a thought for these two, won’t you?

CY: I’m scared.

CHIAKI: [Indifferent] Mm.

VRAI: [Chuckles] Alright. Thank you so much for joining us, AniFam. If you like what you heard here, you can find more podcasts and written content by going to! You can find cool merch that’s about trans magical girls or how you should watch more shoujo by going to

You can also find all of our socials by going to That’s our Linktree, which has all of our socials: Bluesky, TikTok, Instagram, Tumblr—where we have quite a collection of Lupin fan art, by the way.

But if you really want to help us out, please consider tossing a buck a month over on our Patreon,, or our Ko-fi,, because those are the things that allow us to pay our transcriptionist, and honestly we’d like to start paying our podcasters as well because these are a lot of work and we love to do them but also we all have day jobs and we’re very tired.

Thank you so much, AniFam. Take care of yourselves and remember to take even better care of your eggs.

CY: Meet you in the convertible next time.

CHIAKI: Vroom-vroom.

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