zeldathemes
SPECIAL WHEN LIT

+++ YEAR OF THE MAGICAL GIRL Essays. Discussions. Fandom. +++
{ DISCLAIMER }
PART I
This is part two of a series and I in no way suggest you continue reading unless you’ve read the first part, including it’s disclaimer. In the following I refer back to part one explicitly and am relying on you to have retained the information and even particular sentences presented within it in order to explain my thesis. Selfish I know, but help a bitch out. Damn.
In writing this I am taking the assumption that if you are reading this then you are somewhat familiar with the overall plot(s) within the various Utena titles, and if you are not then at the very least you are unconcerned with the “spoiling” of them. A large bulk of my lost essay (RIP) was dedicated to explaining and mapping out the entire plot of the manga, TV series, and film - and I really don’t feel like having to cover all that again, so guess what I’m not going to.
{ BASIC CULTURAL INFO }
In part one of this essay I jumped straight into shojo history and shojo media because that foundation of knowledge is most important, but there are several aspects of Japanese daily life and culture that need to be covered for this part of the essay. Please know that this is a very brief and simple explanation of several important areas of Japanese society and if you want a better, complete, understanding of Japanese cultural modes please try Understanding Japanese Society by Joy Hendry or Modern Japanese Culture by Yoshio Sugimoto.
Two main facets of Japanese culture are the public persona, tatemae, and one’s real feelings, honne.
Tatemae is an individual behaving as they are expected to behave in specific social situations regardless of their personal opinions or desires. Honne is not encouraged to show in public as it is something a Japanese person shows and shares only to their closest friends, certain family members, or when they are very drunk (in which case the other people an individual is with will look the other way and will not publicly “count” any proclamations the drunk person makes or actions they do – as that is the tatemae of that particular social situation).
Giri is an exceedingly difficult concept to explain but for simplicity it can be described as the obligation that arises from a social interaction with another person. This “obligation” is a mixture of consideration for others, moral indebtedness, as well as social and/or community obligation. Ninjo can be described as the human feeling that inescapably springs up in conflict with social obligation, with giri.
Tatemae is not a different word for giri, and honne is not synonymous with ninjo.
Tatemae and honne exist to insert balance and harmony in Japanese life. You deny and hide your own wishes/annoyance/interpersonal self to keep society running efficiently - it is morally good to know your standing within society and to oblige all social expectations. Individuals actively work at keeping balance and harmony, and harmony and balance is (seemingly) maintained because everyone is working within the same understandings of what is good and what is right social behavior.
Tatemae helps make possible the appearance of an amazing degree of social order, the result of which is a phenomena anthropologists describe as consensus decision-making.
An incredible functional ability the Japanese have due to tatemae is that as a people group they will and can accept the reality of a presented new world view for the sake of social harmony. For example; the shojo gender category didn’t exist until 1894 but within a few months THE ENTIRE COUNTRY had effectively, and correctly, incorporated it into their daily speech, lives, and social interactions. Sit and really think about that, because that truly is phenomenal (at least when being observed from Western-based-upbringing).
In Japanese society being just thoughtful and kind is not enough. One must also keep up with one’s sense of moral obligation to be truly accepted. Creating harmonious relations with others through reciprocity and the fulfillment of social obligations (giri) is more significant for most Japanese than an individual’s relationship to a transcendent God(s).
What is also important, very important, to understand is that tatemae and honne do not hinder individuality. A horrible and common misconception about the Japanese is that they all seek to be the same; that being the same is what people strive for and is seen as being good within the culture. Being the same is not viewed as “good” in Japan – individuality is in no way stamped out by parents, teachers, the government, or cultural norms. Some anthropologists (like Joy Hendry) argue that the tatemae/honne system allows the Japanese to be more individualistically oriented then other people groups as it is easier to focus on yourself and your own goals and hobbies when social interactions and expectations are explicitly clear and universally known and followed. People who fail to oblige or learn the intricate “rules” of Japanese society are not shunned because they are seen as individuals - such people are chastised as they are seen as being morally obtuse.   
{ THE UTENA FRANCHISE }
Yes. Revolutionary Girl Utena is a franchise.
There are four (if you want to get technical there are actually seven) distinct, separate, Utena titles. Each Utena title has different characterizations, endings, goals, and themes.  
Typically anime series are based on manga series, and typically the TV show will start to air before the comic is done with publication. Revolutionary Girl Utena was no different - although unusual in the fact the TV series and the comic were conceived at the same time by the same people.
Director of the TV series and film and a co-creator of the Utena franchise is one Kunihiko Ikuhara. After leaving Toei Animation and Sailor Moon behind, Ikuhara formed a group called Be-Papas; consisting of himself, the shojo manga artist Chiho Saito, animator Hasegawa Shinya, writer Enokido Youji, and producer Okuro Yuuichiro. All the members of Be-Papas collectively crafted the story and feel of the Utena manga and TV show simultaneously (and later the film).
The manga, lead primarily by Chiho Saito, started publication a year before the first episode of the TV series aired and finished publication months after the anime series wrapped in December of 1997. Saito’s visual style is reminiscent of 70s shojo manga (Riyoko Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles series in particular, especially within Saito’s elongated faces and defined lips) and was a primary reason she was recruited for Be-Papas by Ikuhara. Saito’s designs and initial input on what type of story Utena should tell was perfectly fitting for the type of story Ikuhara wanted to tell - up to a certain point.
If you have ever read the manga and seen the TV series then where the two (one male, one female; one animation director, one comic book artist) differentiated in aspects of their “versions” of the collective story is obvious. The Revolutionary Girl Utena manga is very, very different from the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series (and for the record, just to reiterate, The Adolescence of Utena film is different from both the Utena manga and the anime series AS WELL AS The Adolescence of Utena manga also done by Saito).
The comic book is unfiltered shojo material. The TV series is primarily a meditation on shojo media and the history/then-current state of the shojo genre. The film is a fannish retelling of the TV series. The movie manga is unfiltered shojo material adapted from the fannish film. They are all of the same franchise.
{ A PRESENT CALL TO THE PAST } 
Revolutionary Girl Utena is a franchise where Westerners often assume the two main characters Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya are lesbians when the truth of the matter is that they are engaging in a doesiai relationship, particularly within the manga and TV series. In Adolescence of Utena their relationship is hard to argue as not being sexual – but again the film is a fannish re-imaging of the TV series.
[SIDEBAR: When I say it is a fannish retelling what I mean is that the Utena film is like a love letter to the Utena fans; the film re-envisions the TV series through the perspective of how the majority of fans chose to interpret the material and is then feed back to them within the only aspect that was fully retained from the show; Utena and Anthy’s relationship. Many (Japanese) fans of Utena view Anthy and Utena’s TV relationship as sexual; many (Japanese) fans “ship” Utena/Anthy. Fandom in Japan is not that different than fandom as you, dear reader, may know it. Much like how slashers are aware that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are intended to be viewed as engaging in a close work relationship and friendship but want them to bang each other all the same – so are Anthy/Utena (Japanese) fans aware the two character’s relationship is intended to be doesiai but they want them to bang each other all the same.]
A hefty portion of the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series both pulls from, and reflects on, doesiai relationships: The result is an exceptionally varied group of comments on the Japanese public’s genuine adoration for such stories and relationships as well as the manipulative historical under-tones of doesiai stories. I say “exceptionally varied” because the series does not have any one thing to say about doesiai relationships or stories – the series casts a wide net on what it is “saying about” doesiai anything, which acts as the main catalyst of the series’ ambiguous nature, obviously due to Anthy and Utena being the main characters and their relationship being the crux of the series.
We have to remember that doesiai relationships are not just stories but important relationships actually experienced (either through engaging within them or engaging them through media). Utena relies on the strength and importance of pre-war shojo and doesiai as well as the strength and importance of post-war shojo manga, which we will remember saw a fad of rejection towards doesiai stories. 
Now, I can see where some minds might now drift so I’m going to nip that thought in the pre-cognitive bud:
The conflict within Revolutionary Girl Utena is not “the good” of doesiai versus “the bad” of doesiai. The conflict within Revolutionary Girl Utena is far more simplistic than that at its core while being fantastically complicated on its surface.
When boiled down it is the conflict of honne (true desire) and tatemae (social expectations) that fuels Utena - which is unsurprising as those are the two same things that fuel the conflict in practically all Japanese media and Japanese people’s daily lives. What is important to understand, if you are trying to follow me that is, is that within Utena true desire and social obligation are not just a direct translation of Japanese social practices but rather a large portion of the “true desire” and “social obligation” that appears in the show exists as having been filtered through the shojo genre/gender in an attempt to display and discuss how desire and social obligations pertains to and within shojo media itself.
I understand the possibility that that sounded like complete gibberish so I’ve made a crude visual:


{ “THERE ARE RULES IN THE FORREST. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE?” } 
Utena sets up its own world of princes and princesses and witches and magic that comes along with its own set of social obligations. These elements are simultaneously Japanese culture and shojo media derivative. All major and minor aspects of Japanese culture prop up the series throughout episode to episode and saga to saga as being filtered through the shojo genre and gender category: All the character’s actions and language correspond with Japanese social norms but are simultaneously heightened and created to be the most intentionally shojo-esque thing humanly possible.
In Revolutinoary Girl Utena the pre-war patriarchal government sanctioned shojo duels with the post-war 1960s through 1998 female lead shojo. Pre-War shojo is preoccupied with defining girls and girlhood while post-war shojo is preoccupied with expressing girls and girlhood. The tricky bit, as I mapped out in part one of this essay, is that even with these key differentiating aspects in mind shojo is not two clear cut separate ideas but is actually one bulging, evolving, overlapping, self-subversive category (and if you’re very clever “the point of Utena” might now be clear).
The setup of the series is thus a conflict rooted in tatemae and honne, and as such the conflict(s) of the show are personal; every character clashes at some point with the social definitions found within the world of Utena (and the culture that created Utena) and their own desires. These various conflicts concerning the characters is not stagnant within the world the series creates but is a shifting entity comprised of the actions and motivations of the characters – and then particularly within how each character goes about navigating the world of Utena (and then of course the culture that created Utena).
{ “BUT WAS THAT REALLY SUCH A GOOD IDEA?” }
Hold on to your red spankies, we’re going in for some brief character analysis.
Anthy and Nanami are potentially the same girl just as Utena and Juri are potentially the same girl. Their biggest differences in their characteristics (not personal history) are that Anthy is navigating the world of Utena correctly whereas Nanami is not and Juri is navigating the world of Utena correctly while Utena herself is not. This is not because Anthy represents pre-war shojo and Nanami represents post-war shojo or anything like that at all so don’t even let your mind wander there.
All the characters within Revolutionary Girl Utena have aspects of themselves that are post-war and pre-war shojo oriented and none of the characters lean with their actions or desires in either a complete post-war or pre-war way: Thus conflict arises. The best (ie most simplistic) example of this conflict is seen over and over again throughout the Student Council Saga/episodes 1-12.
Within the world of Utena men are princes. In the very first episode Utena is insulted when a nameless basketball player says she acts like a guy. At the end of this exchange of dialogue Utena states she wants to become a prince and save princesses, but at the same time Utena herself wants to be saved; she wants to be sought after; she wants to be chosen by someone (and it is also worth reminding everyone that her quest to be a prince is fueled by having been chosen) – and Utena’s inner conflict is what Touga capitalizes on to defeat her in episode 11. Utena expresses her desire to be a prince openly and conducts herself time and again as a prince within the world of Utena would (fighting on Wakaba’s behalf; saving Anthy at the ball) but she is also drawn to Touga for his displays of “princely-hood” (stopping Saionji from hitting Anthy; saving Nanami from the runaway kangaroo). This may not seem like CONFLICT! in the sense of plot but please please please remember that while Utena is a series that has interpersonal conflict it is deeply rooted in internal, personalized, conflict.
Utena does not conduct herself in the way that is expected of her in a multitude of social situations, her actions steam from her personal opinions and desires - this is most evident in her constant rejection of the dueling system (which ends with her being rejected by the system, no longer being able to exist in a place where it does). Juri on the other hand has the same nobility and strength as Utena but she works to keep her desires private while up holding what is socially correct. Anthy is the strictest to do what is socially demanded of her - and in turn we discover this is of her own doing in several ways - which is why Anthy’s personal desire and individual self is strongest in the series. The conflict of tatemae, honne, giri and ninjo that Anthy finds herself in is much stronger than that which Utena experiences and is why Utena can help Anthy in ways Anthy cannot herself. 
{ PINK HAIR, WESTERN CASTLES, AND MONKEY-MICE }
Utena looks the way it does because it is trying to be as shojo-typical as it possibly can be (brightly colored hair, European architecture, lengthy lithe bodies surrounded by flowers and stars and hearts and bubbles), we get that now. But why?
Remember that shojo (media) has become explicitly about the visual representation of shojo (gender) emotions and desires. As previously-previously stated the 49er’s work is a visual accumulation of the images and narratives found within pre-war shojo magazines while simultaneously rejecting the crafted government sanctioned relationships and “proper shojo reading material” found within them.
Utena looks the way it does because it is trying to vividly SHOW how girls experience and navigate the rocky path of social expectations amidst personal goals and growing sexuality. Utena uses the 49er’s techniques for altering pre-war shojo material (visual emotional representation + controversial subject) but the show places these techniques within the context of pre-war shojo ideals, ie “Pretending to be a prince when you are not and pretending to be innocent when you are a witch are things that you should not do”.{ “DID YOU KNOW? HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS?” }
And this is where I stop. The biggest part of Utena is of course you as a individual and how you understand and interpret the material, but; hopefully the cultural information and brief explanations given should help to shed light on any aspects within the series that seem overtly puzzling or even contradictory if you are a Western viewer. 
Just to reiterate:
The intensity found within Utena roots from Japan’s pre-war era ideals of female adolescence and the birth of shojo both as a gender category and as a story telling genre actively being compared and contrasted with the contemporary state of the shojo genre and gender.
How is this being done exactly? Well, pre-war shojo is centered around explaining what girls should be while post-war shojo is centered around showing what girls feel and want. 
Honne and tatemae are the backbone of the series’ conflict; the social obligations (tatame) of the series – such as Princes save Princesses - is crafted after pre-war shojo magazines patriarchal overtones while the series visuals are crafted after the post-war shojo manga depiction of emotions. As such the overt visual depiction of character’s personal emotions (honne) conflicts with the reality of the dueling situation (tatemae). 

{ DISCLAIMER }

PART I

This is part two of a series and I in no way suggest you continue reading unless you’ve read the first part, including it’s disclaimer. In the following I refer back to part one explicitly and am relying on you to have retained the information and even particular sentences presented within it in order to explain my thesis. Selfish I know, but help a bitch out. Damn.

In writing this I am taking the assumption that if you are reading this then you are somewhat familiar with the overall plot(s) within the various Utena titles, and if you are not then at the very least you are unconcerned with the “spoiling” of them. A large bulk of my lost essay (RIP) was dedicated to explaining and mapping out the entire plot of the manga, TV series, and film - and I really don’t feel like having to cover all that again, so guess what I’m not going to.

{ BASIC CULTURAL INFO }

In part one of this essay I jumped straight into shojo history and shojo media because that foundation of knowledge is most important, but there are several aspects of Japanese daily life and culture that need to be covered for this part of the essay. Please know that this is a very brief and simple explanation of several important areas of Japanese society and if you want a better, complete, understanding of Japanese cultural modes please try Understanding Japanese Society by Joy Hendry or Modern Japanese Culture by Yoshio Sugimoto.

Two main facets of Japanese culture are the public persona, tatemae, and one’s real feelings, honne.

Tatemae is an individual behaving as they are expected to behave in specific social situations regardless of their personal opinions or desires. Honne is not encouraged to show in public as it is something a Japanese person shows and shares only to their closest friends, certain family members, or when they are very drunk (in which case the other people an individual is with will look the other way and will not publicly “count” any proclamations the drunk person makes or actions they do – as that is the tatemae of that particular social situation).

Giri is an exceedingly difficult concept to explain but for simplicity it can be described as the obligation that arises from a social interaction with another person. This “obligation” is a mixture of consideration for others, moral indebtedness, as well as social and/or community obligation. Ninjo can be described as the human feeling that inescapably springs up in conflict with social obligation, with giri.

Tatemae is not a different word for giri, and honne is not synonymous with ninjo.

Tatemae and honne exist to insert balance and harmony in Japanese life. You deny and hide your own wishes/annoyance/interpersonal self to keep society running efficiently - it is morally good to know your standing within society and to oblige all social expectations. Individuals actively work at keeping balance and harmony, and harmony and balance is (seemingly) maintained because everyone is working within the same understandings of what is good and what is right social behavior.

Tatemae helps make possible the appearance of an amazing degree of social order, the result of which is a phenomena anthropologists describe as consensus decision-making.

An incredible functional ability the Japanese have due to tatemae is that as a people group they will and can accept the reality of a presented new world view for the sake of social harmony. For example; the shojo gender category didn’t exist until 1894 but within a few months THE ENTIRE COUNTRY had effectively, and correctly, incorporated it into their daily speech, lives, and social interactions. Sit and really think about that, because that truly is phenomenal (at least when being observed from Western-based-upbringing).

In Japanese society being just thoughtful and kind is not enough. One must also keep up with one’s sense of moral obligation to be truly accepted. Creating harmonious relations with others through reciprocity and the fulfillment of social obligations (giri) is more significant for most Japanese than an individual’s relationship to a transcendent God(s).

What is also important, very important, to understand is that tatemae and honne do not hinder individuality. A horrible and common misconception about the Japanese is that they all seek to be the same; that being the same is what people strive for and is seen as being good within the culture. Being the same is not viewed as “good” in Japan – individuality is in no way stamped out by parents, teachers, the government, or cultural norms. Some anthropologists (like Joy Hendry) argue that the tatemae/honne system allows the Japanese to be more individualistically oriented then other people groups as it is easier to focus on yourself and your own goals and hobbies when social interactions and expectations are explicitly clear and universally known and followed. People who fail to oblige or learn the intricate “rules” of Japanese society are not shunned because they are seen as individuals - such people are chastised as they are seen as being morally obtuse.   

{ THE UTENA FRANCHISE }

Yes. Revolutionary Girl Utena is a franchise.

There are four (if you want to get technical there are actually seven) distinct, separate, Utena titles. Each Utena title has different characterizations, endings, goals, and themes.  

Typically anime series are based on manga series, and typically the TV show will start to air before the comic is done with publication. Revolutionary Girl Utena was no different - although unusual in the fact the TV series and the comic were conceived at the same time by the same people.

Director of the TV series and film and a co-creator of the Utena franchise is one Kunihiko Ikuhara. After leaving Toei Animation and Sailor Moon behind, Ikuhara formed a group called Be-Papas; consisting of himself, the shojo manga artist Chiho Saito, animator Hasegawa Shinya, writer Enokido Youji, and producer Okuro Yuuichiro. All the members of Be-Papas collectively crafted the story and feel of the Utena manga and TV show simultaneously (and later the film).

The manga, lead primarily by Chiho Saito, started publication a year before the first episode of the TV series aired and finished publication months after the anime series wrapped in December of 1997. Saito’s visual style is reminiscent of 70s shojo manga (Riyoko Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles series in particular, especially within Saito’s elongated faces and defined lips) and was a primary reason she was recruited for Be-Papas by Ikuhara. Saito’s designs and initial input on what type of story Utena should tell was perfectly fitting for the type of story Ikuhara wanted to tell - up to a certain point.

If you have ever read the manga and seen the TV series then where the two (one male, one female; one animation director, one comic book artist) differentiated in aspects of their “versions” of the collective story is obvious. The Revolutionary Girl Utena manga is very, very different from the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series (and for the record, just to reiterate, The Adolescence of Utena film is different from both the Utena manga and the anime series AS WELL AS The Adolescence of Utena manga also done by Saito).

The comic book is unfiltered shojo material. The TV series is primarily a meditation on shojo media and the history/then-current state of the shojo genre. The film is a fannish retelling of the TV series. The movie manga is unfiltered shojo material adapted from the fannish film. They are all of the same franchise.

{ A PRESENT CALL TO THE PAST } 

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a franchise where Westerners often assume the two main characters Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya are lesbians when the truth of the matter is that they are engaging in a doesiai relationship, particularly within the manga and TV series. In Adolescence of Utena their relationship is hard to argue as not being sexual – but again the film is a fannish re-imaging of the TV series.

[SIDEBAR: When I say it is a fannish retelling what I mean is that the Utena film is like a love letter to the Utena fans; the film re-envisions the TV series through the perspective of how the majority of fans chose to interpret the material and is then feed back to them within the only aspect that was fully retained from the show; Utena and Anthy’s relationship. Many (Japanese) fans of Utena view Anthy and Utena’s TV relationship as sexual; many (Japanese) fans “ship” Utena/Anthy. Fandom in Japan is not that different than fandom as you, dear reader, may know it. Much like how slashers are aware that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are intended to be viewed as engaging in a close work relationship and friendship but want them to bang each other all the same – so are Anthy/Utena (Japanese) fans aware the two character’s relationship is intended to be doesiai but they want them to bang each other all the same.]

A hefty portion of the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series both pulls from, and reflects on, doesiai relationships: The result is an exceptionally varied group of comments on the Japanese public’s genuine adoration for such stories and relationships as well as the manipulative historical under-tones of doesiai stories. I say “exceptionally varied” because the series does not have any one thing to say about doesiai relationships or stories – the series casts a wide net on what it is “saying about” doesiai anything, which acts as the main catalyst of the series’ ambiguous nature, obviously due to Anthy and Utena being the main characters and their relationship being the crux of the series.

We have to remember that doesiai relationships are not just stories but important relationships actually experienced (either through engaging within them or engaging them through media). Utena relies on the strength and importance of pre-war shojo and doesiai as well as the strength and importance of post-war shojo manga, which we will remember saw a fad of rejection towards doesiai stories. 

Now, I can see where some minds might now drift so I’m going to nip that thought in the pre-cognitive bud:

The conflict within Revolutionary Girl Utena is not “the good” of doesiai versus “the bad” of doesiai. The conflict within Revolutionary Girl Utena is far more simplistic than that at its core while being fantastically complicated on its surface.

When boiled down it is the conflict of honne (true desire) and tatemae (social expectations) that fuels Utena - which is unsurprising as those are the two same things that fuel the conflict in practically all Japanese media and Japanese people’s daily lives. What is important to understand, if you are trying to follow me that is, is that within Utena true desire and social obligation are not just a direct translation of Japanese social practices but rather a large portion of the “true desire” and “social obligation” that appears in the show exists as having been filtered through the shojo genre/gender in an attempt to display and discuss how desire and social obligations pertains to and within shojo media itself.

I understand the possibility that that sounded like complete gibberish so I’ve made a crude visual:


{ “THERE ARE RULES IN THE FORREST. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE?” } 

Utena sets up its own world of princes and princesses and witches and magic that comes along with its own set of social obligations. These elements are simultaneously Japanese culture and shojo media derivative. All major and minor aspects of Japanese culture prop up the series throughout episode to episode and saga to saga as being filtered through the shojo genre and gender category: All the character’s actions and language correspond with Japanese social norms but are simultaneously heightened and created to be the most intentionally shojo-esque thing humanly possible.

In Revolutinoary Girl Utena the pre-war patriarchal government sanctioned shojo duels with the post-war 1960s through 1998 female lead shojo. Pre-War shojo is preoccupied with defining girls and girlhood while post-war shojo is preoccupied with expressing girls and girlhood. The tricky bit, as I mapped out in part one of this essay, is that even with these key differentiating aspects in mind shojo is not two clear cut separate ideas but is actually one bulging, evolving, overlapping, self-subversive category (and if you’re very clever “the point of Utena” might now be clear).

The setup of the series is thus a conflict rooted in tatemae and honne, and as such the conflict(s) of the show are personal; every character clashes at some point with the social definitions found within the world of Utena (and the culture that created Utena) and their own desires. These various conflicts concerning the characters is not stagnant within the world the series creates but is a shifting entity comprised of the actions and motivations of the characters – and then particularly within how each character goes about navigating the world of Utena (and then of course the culture that created Utena).

{ “BUT WAS THAT REALLY SUCH A GOOD IDEA?” }

Hold on to your red spankies, we’re going in for some brief character analysis.

Anthy and Nanami are potentially the same girl just as Utena and Juri are potentially the same girl. Their biggest differences in their characteristics (not personal history) are that Anthy is navigating the world of Utena correctly whereas Nanami is not and Juri is navigating the world of Utena correctly while Utena herself is not. This is not because Anthy represents pre-war shojo and Nanami represents post-war shojo or anything like that at all so don’t even let your mind wander there.

All the characters within Revolutionary Girl Utena have aspects of themselves that are post-war and pre-war shojo oriented and none of the characters lean with their actions or desires in either a complete post-war or pre-war way: Thus conflict arises. The best (ie most simplistic) example of this conflict is seen over and over again throughout the Student Council Saga/episodes 1-12.

Within the world of Utena men are princes. In the very first episode Utena is insulted when a nameless basketball player says she acts like a guy. At the end of this exchange of dialogue Utena states she wants to become a prince and save princesses, but at the same time Utena herself wants to be saved; she wants to be sought after; she wants to be chosen by someone (and it is also worth reminding everyone that her quest to be a prince is fueled by having been chosen) – and Utena’s inner conflict is what Touga capitalizes on to defeat her in episode 11. Utena expresses her desire to be a prince openly and conducts herself time and again as a prince within the world of Utena would (fighting on Wakaba’s behalf; saving Anthy at the ball) but she is also drawn to Touga for his displays of “princely-hood” (stopping Saionji from hitting Anthy; saving Nanami from the runaway kangaroo). This may not seem like CONFLICT! in the sense of plot but please please please remember that while Utena is a series that has interpersonal conflict it is deeply rooted in internal, personalized, conflict.

Utena does not conduct herself in the way that is expected of her in a multitude of social situations, her actions steam from her personal opinions and desires - this is most evident in her constant rejection of the dueling system (which ends with her being rejected by the system, no longer being able to exist in a place where it does). Juri on the other hand has the same nobility and strength as Utena but she works to keep her desires private while up holding what is socially correct. Anthy is the strictest to do what is socially demanded of her - and in turn we discover this is of her own doing in several ways - which is why Anthy’s personal desire and individual self is strongest in the series. The conflict of tatemaehonne, giri and ninjo that Anthy finds herself in is much stronger than that which Utena experiences and is why Utena can help Anthy in ways Anthy cannot herself. 

{ PINK HAIR, WESTERN CASTLES, AND MONKEY-MICE }

Utena looks the way it does because it is trying to be as shojo-typical as it possibly can be (brightly colored hair, European architecture, lengthy lithe bodies surrounded by flowers and stars and hearts and bubbles), we get that now. But why?

Remember that shojo (media) has become explicitly about the visual representation of shojo (gender) emotions and desires. As previously-previously stated the 49er’s work is a visual accumulation of the images and narratives found within pre-war shojo magazines while simultaneously rejecting the crafted government sanctioned relationships and “proper shojo reading material” found within them.

Utena looks the way it does because it is trying to vividly SHOW how girls experience and navigate the rocky path of social expectations amidst personal goals and growing sexuality. Utena uses the 49er’s techniques for altering pre-war shojo material (visual emotional representation + controversial subject) but the show places these techniques within the context of pre-war shojo ideals, ie “Pretending to be a prince when you are not and pretending to be innocent when you are a witch are things that you should not do”.

{ “DID YOU KNOW? HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS?” }

And this is where I stop. The biggest part of Utena is of course you as a individual and how you understand and interpret the material, but; hopefully the cultural information and brief explanations given should help to shed light on any aspects within the series that seem overtly puzzling or even contradictory if you are a Western viewer. 

Just to reiterate: