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As any Shoujo Kakumei Utena fan should know, sexuality plays a large roll in the show. No character portrays this better than Kozue. As one of the most misunderstood characters, she is also one of the most complex.
It is arguable that Akio sets the sexual tone better, but the two have different reasoning behind their actions. Akio is the wielder of power in all his relations: whether Anthy, Utena, Touga, or even Kanae, he holds power over their actions and emotions. He uses sex as a chain, to bind them to the roles they serve for him. Kozue, however, doesn't expect to gain any form of respect, love, or in a sense, even lust from what she does. All she cares for is the attention she will receive from the one she loves: Miki. When she slides the tie from around her neck, she isn't expecting you to fall for her, or to owe her any favor in return. She doesn't need you to love her, or want her. Power is the furthest thing from her mind at the time. It's the reputation she will earn. It would be much easier to just pin that Kozue loves Miki and wants his attention: in the end, that really is the bottom line. But there is just so much more we seem to overlook.
Kozue and Miki Kaoru are twins: in theory, they should be equal in every sense. While we all know the darker twist behind the brother and sister prodigies, in the world of SKU, nothing is ever exactly as it seems. Kozue claims while talking with one of the Ohtori students that she only played piano as a child because of a love letter she received. This would be the perfect memory to support the promiscuous girl she grew up to be. It is evident, however, through what Miki says that Kozue’s playing was beautiful. Perhaps she did stay for a boy, but we all seem to know which boy that was. But much like the dynamics to Akio and Anthy’s relationship, can we truly say she did what she did out of love? Or is there some level of malice behind it? Perhaps, even early on in life, Kozue felt the pressure to be an equal with Miki; this is near impossible, when you have a genius as a twin. If she did in fact receive a letter telling her how wonderfully she played, then she would have known full well that he really enjoyed Miki’s playing. Once again, he had succeeded where she had failed, and trying to pass credit off on her only seemed to make it worse. The night she had to play alone, she may have realized the truth behind both halves of her feelings toward Miki. In respect to her love, he couldn’t be there for her. In her time of desperation and need, he was unable to come to her rescue. The only prince she had ever really known has shown himself a coward [why yes, I did make a reference to episode 26]. But as far as her hatred goes, she was forced to realize that no matter how hard she had struggled, she would always fall short. Her mirror image had proved that she was just a pathetic little girl once again. To have such strong feelings of both desire and resentment caused the malicious actions that would instill themselves later in her lifetime; after all, “every girl is a Rose Bride”, isn’t she?
Any come-and-go viewer could see that Kozue is not discreet about her love life. She flirts quite openly, and shows no signs of remorse or attachment to any of them. To some, this is Kozue’s means of standing out. When you ride second star to someone as perfect as Miki, it won’t take long for you to fade away, just like the masses of nameless and faceless students we see. In order to prove her worth and individuality, she swallows all pride and goes after anyone. Carnal desires are hardly to blame for this; as stated above, Kozue never shows any sign that she cared for these boys. She barely even seems interested most of the time. She also exhibits disregard for whom she is involved with, and who knows about it.
Girl: So, Kozue, I heard you’ve traded up boyfriends!
Kozue: I don’t trade boyfriends, I just add them.
When a person is in a state of mind where they need the physical love from another to feel special, they usually cling to what they have at the time, and try to cherish it as long as they can. When they are forced to move on, they don’t show much remorse either, but even still, there is too much to suggest that Kozue doesn’t get a kick from someone wanting her. So the question comes back around: Why? For Miki’s attention, obviously. As long as he stays completely focused on her, he won’t have the time to worry over Anthy, or the duels, or the piano…none of those wretched, ugly things. As Kozue herself said, “Miki and I are the only things beautiful!”
For the sake of her undeniable love, Kozue does whatever she can to catch Miki’s eye. She has long come to realize through the years of mental abuse that she will never be able to accomplish something ‘good’ or ‘righteous’ that Miki wouldn’t be able to outdo. She has no advantage over him, because there is no way for her to shift the power. So she turns the attention she craves to a negative state of mind. By turning herself into the town whore, she can keep him up late thinking of her, rather than simply showing her how she could have done it better, as he may have with piano or school work. But why does this plot even come to existence? There is enough symbolic proof in the series to suggest that when young, Miki and Kozue may have experimented sexually. While at the time they didn’t know what they did was wrong, they were curious. This could have left an emotional scar on Kozue and Miki, but in different ways. For Kozue, this was a time when they were equal. She had something to offer him that was completely different from what he could offer her, and there was no way he could better her. He could only use his difference to compliment her. This set the scale so neither of them was favorable. In fact, if one were to be in the position of power or superiority, it would undoubtedly have been Kozue. For Miki, though, it was a time when he was vulnerable. When he began to mature and understand, he realized that it was a time when he was not so pure and innocent as he likes to dream: surely his ‘shining thing’ could not have been something so animalistic. What hurts most is how much he desires to go back to that time and place. This is why Miki does not object verbally or physically to Kozue’s actions; while he shows the best he can that he disapproves, in the end she has no reason to stop. It torments him deep inside and she fully uses this to her advantage. It is the only time a machine of a man can be open to emotions.
So does Kozue want Miki to spend sleepless nights fantasizing or agonizing? Does she intentionally strike his sore spot in order to make him reach out for her once more, or to give him a glimpse of the pain she felt all throughout childhood? There is evidence to support both. In episode 15, Kozue is seen chatting closely with a male student. Miki notices the two, and watches her, his eyes reflecting anger and disgust. Kozue meets his glance, and simply brushes him away, pulling the boy closer. By seeing the pain in his eyes when she flirted with other boys, she amplified his apparent heartbreak. Did she enjoy seeing him hurt? While this could easily be the answer, the moment Miki’s attention drifts elsewhere, Kozue shoves the boy away. The cause of this so happens to be Miki’s music teacher trying to get fresh with the 13 year old boy. By having it implied that Kozue made an attack on his life by pushing him down the stairs, two things become apparent. Either Kozue has an extreme dislike of pedophilia, or she is angered by another trying to move in on her brother. Judging by her treatment of Anthy, I’d say it’s the latter. While one could say that Kozue only puts Miki through such torment to keep his attention, it must be questionable considering the nature of SKU. It’s just a simple matter of likeliness, and by default there is almost always a double meaning behind a character’s actions. Surely she must not want to cause Miki pain just to keep his eye; she wants his concern, she doesn’t want him to suffer. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Kozue wants to make things easy for her brother. I really don't find it to be out of the question that Kozue would pull a slight bit of enjoyment from his discomfort. She may not like to see Anthy or the piano teacher causing Miki pain, but the idea of a smudge against his perfection isn't such a bad picture. She wants to be the one Miki thinks about, good or bad. So long as she is the only one evoking such emotions in him. This is what leads me to believe in the love/hate relationship we have become accustomed to in the show.
So, can this matter be broken down any further? Come on, of course it can. This is Ikuhara we’re talking about. If Kozue both loves and hates Miki…what leads her to feel this way? Resentment could easily stem from her time living in his shadow; the twin factor usually plays out in such a manner. Take Juri and Shiori for instance. Shiori could love Juri for being so magnificent, but could also hate her for it. She dwarfed in the shadow of the one she was meant to feel safe with. It’s understandable to love someone when they have never been anything but perfect, but it’s also easy to hate the fact that you can’t be like that. The malice Kozue feels is simple to define. But just like in life, how can her love be pinned? What exactly can make you fall in love? How can you really tell? Miki is the mirror image of Kozue. Her opposite and yet her equal. When Kozue had a problem, it’s safe to assume Miki was there to fix it. When their parents divorced, the two were so young. They were confused and afraid, and could only find solace within each other. At that time, to Kozue, Miki was the only boy she would ever love. He was her prince, and he kept her safe in the garden, their kingdom. Before she was able to hate, she was forced to love.
Miki always dreams about his ‘shining thing’. More than an actual object, I feel his shining thing was the feeling he had when the two were young. While it’s true that he tried to use Anthy to fill this gap, it’s safe to assume he has feelings toward Kozue that many viewers will deny to no end. Each person duels not for revolution, but for power. The power to break away from the chains that bind them. Ironically, the things they fight to break free from are the very things that will keep them forever as duelists, and never as revolutionaries. For Miki, he wants to bring the memory and feeling he had as a child back. This new, REAL world is full of darkness and fear, things Miki cannot handle. He longs to have his world of purity and innocence back. The thing that stands in the way of this is Kozue. She gave up their seemingly perfect world. But is that really true?
Kozue: I want everything to disappear!
Kozue: This world is so ugly! Miki and I are the only things beautiful!
In the time period that Kozue was most vulnerable, she was made into a Black Rose Duelist. Just like Miki, she can never win because of the selfish fears that bind her. In her duel, she says that Miki and she are the only things beautiful in the ugly world they lived in. This doesn’t sound like the thoughts of someone who truly wants to throw away her pure memories. By wishing “everything would disappear”, she is clearly stating how she may have the same dream as Miki: she wants to go back to that time, in the garden. Even her duel song is evidence of this. It speaks of a time machine, taking her back to childhood. Kozue’s real wish is the same as Miki’s. So what is stopping them? Kozue knows that this beautiful memory also comes with pain. She doesn’t want to continue living as runner up to Miki’s brilliance. She is so afraid of taking what she wants because of the drawbacks. She can’t escape her own mortality no matter what: to live with an unmet desire, or to risk being hurt again. People claim Wakaba is the closest you will ever get to a normal girl, but I think in mentality, Kozue is right up there.
But if Kozue misses the life she used to have, then why does she push Miki into dueling in episode 26?
Kozue: If everything around you is dirty, don't you have to get dirty too?
Kozue: You've got no choice but to get dirty and then get what you want.
If Kozue really wanted to bring back their pure world, why would she try to force impurity on him? I’ve thought for a long time about this particular scene, and finally, two solutions have come to mind. One way to look at it would be that Kozue is indeed afraid of going back to the time when she wasn’t Miki’s equal, but she still misses being together like they were. So she’s attempting to recreate the memory in her own way. If there’s one thing Kozue knows, it’s impurity. She may be trying to make Miki more like herself, rather than trying to become what she used to be for him. They could regain their closeness in an even closer way.
Logical as that may seem, there is so much implication that Kozue loves Miki for his purity, and the honest heart that she can never possess. It almost seems improbable that she would try to change him so. The second idea I was able to create was reverse psychology. Kozue loves Miki as he is. She wants him to give up on Anthy, and the duels. By hammering it into his mind that the only way to get what he wants is to take it, she sets him up for the perfect fall. By catching his attention while moving in on Anthy’s “amazing power”, she ensures his failure. Perhaps after seeing how he could not grasp eternity with his own hands so recklessly, he would realize the life he would be able to have with Kozue. He could make the step that his innocence holds him back from, and grasp his true shining thing.
This brings to mind another scene that is sometimes questioned: Kozue and Anthy’s relations during Miki’s duel. Why did she do this? Was it really just a notch in the plan stated above? Or perhaps she couldn’t resist the resentment in the back of her mind that urged her to do what she did in the car. It is said that the movement of the car around the arena is symbolic of the outcome of the duel. That is why cars may sometimes come from all directions, putting Utena’s life in danger [such as in Touga’s third duel]. But for the most part, they seem to only move in a circle. That is perhaps some of the most powerful symbolism in the entire show. Their attempts to bring revolution and gain the power of Dios are in vain; Utena is the only one who fights out of sheer nobility. Love, admiration, attachment…in the eyes of a prince, those are selfish reasons to fight. Even Miki is trying to obtain the world he longs for where he can stay warm and safe. Where he can shine forever. He is no longer fighting to free Anthy, or to make life any better for the world. His world will have no dragons he must slay, and no princesses he must protect. He only has to live for himself. Therefore, his car will run in an eternally circular motion, never ending. To End of the World, this duel is lost before it begins. This may be how Kozue sees it as well. She may wish to have their world back out of her love, but her hate may drive her to act out maliciously, just to watch him squirm. She knew that trying to move in on Anthy just like she did with all those boys would distract Miki so much that he couldn’t possibly focus on the duel. The outcome she anticipated played out perfectly. Miki faltered, and lost. Her eyes were so clouded by her anger that she didn’t realize that she had lost as well.
Kozue: You'll lose if you don't keep your eyes on what you're doing.
That’s right Kozue. This line has a double meaning for her actions as well. She couldn’t control her own emotions long enough while in that car to see what she was doing to them both, what she had done to the future they could have reclaimed. She had too much pride to stay true to someone she will always feel has betrayed her. In the end, she will always lose.
But is her jealousy really that strong?
Miki: What’s with you?!
Why did Kozue call Miki a coward if she knew what would make him lose? Perhaps, in her heart, she had hoped that his desire to be with her again would be strong enough to keep his eyes on the prize. Instead, he got caught up worrying over his “princess” Anthy, and lost their chance at revolution. He could not let go of his purity and innocence the way she told him to. He couldn’t “get dirty to get what he wants”, and because of this, Kozue will continue to always hold some form of resentment. Only the weak fall in love. It’s no wonder she can hold fast to her hatred so well. After all, she took the risk to reach for their world, only to come in second once again.
It is often said that even after Utena brought the revolution, Kozue didn’t seem as though she had changed at all. I must admit, in the very brief moment we see Kozue after the revolution occurred, she doesn’t seem different at all. She watches Miki and Mitsuru from the piano bench, leaning against it in a way that implies she really isn’t fond of her surroundings, but she’s still comfortable. Her pose suggests how you would behave while visiting your old house; it isn’t as though it’s not nostalgic, but you still act as though you would be fine anywhere else. Giovanna is the expert on body language though, so I may be interpreting that incorrectly. Her tone of voice also sounds rather distant, almost sarcastic in a way. Overall, she doesn’t appear too thrilled to watch Mitsuru and Miki from her standpoint. While Miki may not be falling in love with Mitsuru, he is treating him as a priority, which is the original concept in how he treated Anthy. We all know how that resulted (Mikage). But if you take a second look at the broader view, you may see how much Kozue truly did change. Almost more so than any other character. In the entire series, you see Kozue in the music room three times prior to this scene. The first occurs when Kozue is leaving the room in episode 5. It’s implied that she had just had sex with Touga. The second time is at the end of that same episode. She is playing the piano (quite poorly I might add) while chatting with another female student. She says that she never had talent, and only played because of the letter she received. Both of these instances make references to Kozue’s capricious love life and lack of purity. It shows that Kozue has no shame over the life she leads, and no remorse over the life she had. That is the Kozue most SKU fans know. But the real Kozue appears in episode 15, her third time seen in the music room. She is playing Hikaru Sasu Niwa, and the sound is just breathtaking. This proves that Kozue can indeed play the piano just as well as Miki, but obviously does not care for this relic of her memories anymore. Before the revolution came, the only time Kozue is ever in the music room with Miki is when she draws his sword. That is the pure malice that Kozue retains. Just as she withholds her musical talent, she also hides her dark heart. So, to see Kozue sitting casually in the music room, at the piano no less, with Miki is astounding. This means that Kozue has finally become comfortable in her relationship with Miki enough to spend time with him in the very place that had torn them apart. Also, the fact that she sits far away from Mitsuru and Miki shows that she has lost her possessive demeanor. She is able to let Miki interact with another human being without trying to monopolize his emotions…or push Mitsuru down a flight of stairs. Utena did not revolutionize the world; she revolutionized the people in it. They were not granted their wishes, but they did gain strength to cope.
So, did revolution bring Kozue to terms with her love, or her hate? That’s one interpretation I’ll leave up to you.
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