Monday, January 14, 2013

UTENA ESSAY: Beyond the Shell – The Outside World "outside" of the World of SKU

Link to In the Rose Garden's thread here:

Actual document after cut:

Beyond the Shell – The Outside World "outside" of the World of SKU

“That person (Utena) hasn't vanished. She's merely left your world.”Anthy, in her final confrontation against Akio in Ep 39

For years, I’ve read fan view after fan view saying that Akio’s World is Ohtori Academy, which they define as a “horror fairytale prison for kids”.  By the end of the show, when Utena “vanishes” off Ohtori, she has actually left “Akio’s World”, and is now out in the “Outside World”.  But where does Akio’s World end, and where exactly does this Outside World begin?

“It's alright now. Please go on playing make-believe "Prince" in this comfortable little coffin forever.  But I must go.”

Anthy’s parting words to Akio lead most fans to equate Akio’s world as one that is coffin-like: closed off, filled with “fairytale illusions” to fool the “naïve-minded”.  Folloing what they believe to be the story’s context, most viewers immediately associate it with Ohtori Academy Campus – a boarding school that seems to fit, at first glance, the definition of a small, secluded world.

”No matter where you are, I'll find you for sure. Wait for me, Utena.” - Anthy, before stepping past the campus front gates, and towards where Utena should be waiting.

Only . . . is Ohtori Academy Campus really as cut off from the outside as most fans would automatically assume?  More importantly . . . is Akio’s “magic/projections/influence” really limited to only Ohtori Campus?

Most of the wealthy Student Council members (Touga, Nanami, Miki) are shown living at their grand homes off campus: it is off campus where Miki’s Dad had Anthy by his side as his “new wife”, and it is off campus where the Kiryuu Manson gets infested with picture-framed shadow girls.  This is significant in that the “elite” of Ohtori – the Duelists (and family) who are most caught up under Akio’s control – actually spend far less time on campus than those of the regular, less-involved students of the school.  Also off campus is Tokiko and Mamiya’s old home -- where “time” is shown unnaturally slowed; the church hosting Utena’s Parents Funeral is also one where Akio can cast projections/add coffins freely.  And most importantly, the prominently featured Roads to the Ends of the World where Akio traumatize his students are off campus.  If location really is important to what degree of power Akio can exert, then how come Akio has to take the trouble to drive Utena to the outside world, where she gets seduced and ultimately deflowered?  Why not just deflower her right in the Planetarium, where most of the Akio sex scenes are going on anyway? 

There is a lone-fan theory going on that the off campus spots where Akio’s magic seems prominent (highways, deflowering hotel, Kiryuu Manson) are actually “on campus spots disguised under Planetarium Projections”.   On top of this theory being speculation-based only (and is frankly too mind-screwy even by SKU’s standards IMHO), I find it at odds with a crucial scene: the church hosting Utena’s Parents Funeral, the one where Akio can add projections/coffins freely.  How could Utena’s Parents’ funeral spot possibly be held inside Ohtori Campus, being that they should be people from the outside world?  Okay, one can say that the coffins there have rose motifs . . . but that could just mean that the church is at a spot where Akio – operating outside Ohtori – is controlling at the time.  If the church exists inside Ohtori Campus, wouldn’t Utena be shown at least going there once or twice to angst or something?  Plus, there are no clergy members ever shown on campus through the entire series, so the possibility of the Tenjou’s funeral being held inside Ohtori Campus is too remote to float in my book.

Yet . . . supposing Akio’s influence is not limited to Ohtori Academy Campus alone, how far does it reach?  Where does it end?

Where is that Outside World beyond the Ends of the World, where Utena supposedly is located post show?

“This device paints the illusion of fairy tales for those with naive wishes in their hearts...who say they wish something eternal existed, who say they wish the power of miracles existed.  But, there's no place higher than this room. This room is the summit of Ohtori Academy, and of the world.” – Akio to Utena, Ep 38

While the young Duelists and their manipulation by Akio make up the major plotlines of SKU, reviewing the series, it is not hard to spot the group whom Akio can exert even greater control over than the kids – the adults.

On top of Miki’s Anthy-marrying Dad, there are Mrs. AND Mr. Ohtori, Tokiko and Nemuro (yes, Mikage is really an adult), and the faculty members with speaking parts (Old Main teach, Vice-Principal): they all are directly controlled/manipulated by Akio to varying degrees.  If Akio’s illusions are supposed to be child-targetting, then how come the ones who fall the deepest into his webs are the grown ups? 

Akio’s illusion encompasses more than just childhood desires (fairytales), but also adult desires - Mr. Kaoru’s desire for a woman that leads him to knowingly pain Kozue and Miki, Mrs. Ohtori’s desire for a man that leads her to cheat on her husband and daughter, Mr. Ohtori’s desire for Mrs. Ohtori that leads to him losing everything to Akio through her, Tokiko and Nemuro’s desire to prolong Mamiya’s life that leads them to hurt each other and more, the faculty’s desire for the promotions Akio could give them that turn them into his drooling dogs . . . etc. 

Being that Akio, who can move outside of Ohtori to create magics and miracles that can effectively ensnare both children and adults.  It would be unrealistic to assume that his world – his scope of influence – will not touch the towns and cities and provinces and countries of this world, no? 

Then . . . just where exactly is the Outside World outside of Akio’s World?

“Now it's my turn to go to you. No matter where you are, I'll find you for sure.  Wait for me, Utena.

It is the visual clues provided at the show’s ending that give the first hints of what kind of a world that is:

Note how, in all the shots beyond that of Ohtori’s gates, there are never any people, cars, buildings, man-made structures being shown?  Even the path shown is a dirt path without pavement – and Anthy is not shown stepping on it, but rather, right on the wild grass.  The places in which Anthy intends to find Utena are neither cities nor towns nor even boat harbors – it is the wilderness beyond human civilization.

Has Akio – worldly to the core with his cars and wines and cultured sophistication – ever been shown appearing at any truly wild, uncivilized locations untouched by men?

The closest instance I can find is Akio riding on a horse “saving” Utena in Ep 35.  However, is someone riding a tamed steed on a small tree patch beside a horse track really out in the wild?  I don’t think so.

“What're you talking about? W-wait a minute!”Akio, baffled by Anthy unto the end.

Thus how I came up with the following conclusion: Akio’s World is the Human World, and his influence/knowledge is limited to known civilization.   Utena needs to be away from civilization – away from all people – in order for her to remain completely outside of the Ends of the World’s machinations.  Devil god Akio may have his pick of any of the “foolish life forms” (quoting his label for Utena in Ep 38) on Earth working for what his treats, but not even the most resourceful of humans can effectively find someone completely removed from known civilization.  Having lost all ties to her schoolmates, and with no parents to go back to, Utena no longer have ties to society or civilization or the Human World at large: she is truly beyond the ends of the world as is known to men.  Kudos to Anthy for trying to find someone so difficult to locate: let’s see if they can finally unite by ten years’ time.

In-Show Hints in Support for Theory:

SKU is a show about people being revolutionized (bettered); to be exact, it is mostly about Anthy being revolutionized by Utena.  Let’s look at the one main thing that Utena has repeatedly wanted to change about Anthy: her being antisocial.

Ep 3
Anthy:  But I feel it's hard for me to deal with a place where there are so many people.
Anthy:  Somehow, they all start to look the same, and that frightens me.
Anthy:  Now, it's your turn, Chuchu.
Utena:  Well, YOU should go. You OUGHT to go! You need friends!
Utena:  Well, you count, but... You should make a lot more friends!



Wakaba:  Mark the ones you like. I can get someone in the Photo Club to make copies.
Utena:  There aren't any with Himemiya in them.
Wakaba:  Well, she's so unsociable.
Wakaba:  She almost never go to events or anything.

Throughout much of the show Utena has either actively or passively tried getting Anthy to befriend others, and gets distressed when she sees the latter making no progress on that count.

The “Opening of the Rose Gates/Anthy’s Coffin” is seen as the point where Utena changes Anthy in a way that is radical and miraculous – to the point that Anthy is no longer a “witch”, to the point she can finally leave Akio for good, to the point of having been revolutionized.

Then . . . how come Anthy is shown not interacting with any of the Duelists as she leaves? Why is she not shown interacting with anyone she meets outside Ohtori?  Why is she being depicted as being an antisocial entity unto the end of the show, with only Utena to befriend/love/fixate upon?  Doesn't Utena want her to have lots of friends all along?  Why hasn't that happen after "revolution"?

My take is that Anthy has no need to be social at that point: the once-popular, now forgotten (or, according to the Shadow Girls, dismissed as irrelevant) Utena has since fallen out of the norm and into a cozy new place, a place where it is one-on-one between the girls(unless one counts Chu-Chu too) with no one else to get along with, where issues like social vs antisocial, popular vs unpopular shall be irrelevant.  This does seem like the kind of world that Anthy - the one with the power - would want for herself and Utena; not to mention this two-person world will mirror the one anime SKU is frequently compared to: NGE (Evangelion), where Shinji and Asuka end up as the only two people left in their world.

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