In real life, and in Revolutionary Girl Utena, people always turn out the way they do for a reason. A certain event or environment, especially during a person’s youth, can determine how they turn out in later years.
Shiori’s problem is one of the most common issues that girls face in our society. She grew up being exposed to an image of perfection that was impossible for her to match, and it left her with low self-esteem, which led to her desperate attempt to do whatever she could to change that.
Juri is not perfect, but she is, as Akio put it, one who is chosen for a special destiny. During the time when the two of them were still friends, Juri was talented, beautiful, popular with everyone, and Shiori was completely oblivious to her only weakness. We can assume that their friendship first began when they were still very young. At that age, Juri had not yet developed her beauty or talent, so the two of them were still equals. As they got older, Shiori turned out to be a girl like any other, whereas Juri was far from average.
As we see in episode 16, there are times when Juri really stands out in a crowd, making even Nanami go completely unnoticed. In that episode, Juri walks into a room full of people, instantly catching everyone’s eye. When Miki asks her where she got the necklace that she is wearing, she casually explains to him that it was given to her by a famous designer for some modeling she did. All the while, Nanami becomes noticeably aggravated to see that Juri is getting more attention than herself. Filler episodes such as this one generally shouldn’t be taken seriously, but it isn’t difficult to paint a similar picture with Juri and Shiori.
Shiori grew up having everything about herself compared to Juri. Think about how the media affects girls. On TV and in magazines, women have perfect hair, stylish clothes, and a perfect figure. Most people can only dream of looking that way, yet girls everywhere are expected to be just like them. In order to meet these impossible expectations, they often make desperate and unhealthy attempts to live up these standards, such as excessive dieting. Like these girls, Shiori could only view herself as plain and useless when compared to Juri.
“We were more than childhood friends. Juri and I really grew up together. Juri was always so wonderful. So strong, so imposing. She always protected me. Juri was my only friend. She was the only person I could ever depend on with all my heart.”
If that’s true, then just why is it that she was so willing to throw all of that away?
“Juri was always so kind to me… But she was just making a fool of me! I thought she was being kind to me out of sympathy for not being as great as she was! That’s what I thought! It seemed so pathetic!”
Shiori’s friendship with Juri wasn’t as glamorous as one might assume. Shiori did care about Juri, and that was the problem. She couldn’t understand why someone as amazing as Juri would want to hang around with someone such as herself for any reason other than pity. She thought that the only person she had ever really cared about was only pretending to like her. We can tell just by looking at her expression in episode 7 that she wasn’t entirely happy back then. The facial expression she wears mimics the expression of present day Juri, and had it been taken only seconds sooner, the picture inside of her locket would have been of a very depressed-looking Shiori.
She was living a miserable life in the shadow of Juri’s brilliance. Juri always outdid her at everything, making herself seem dull in comparison, and as hard as she tried, she could never be her equal. It may even be that Juri subconsciously tried to make these qualities more noticeable to impress her. Shiori was completely unaware that Juri had feelings for her, and that her innocence was cruel to Juri. Just as Shiori’s innocence was cruel to her, Juri was unintentionally cruel to Shiori, just by being herself.
Though it was Shiori’s inferiority that made her wonder why she wanted to be friends with her in the first place, it was the change in Juri’s behavior once she developed feelings for her that confirmed her suspicion. Juri had her own internal conflicts to deal with, which is why it’s likely that she became distant and reserved when she was around her, rather than openly flirting. With such a negative change in behavior towards her, it isn’t surprising that Shiori never realized her friend’s true feelings.
The coming of that boy into their lives complicated things further. A potential lover can ruin things between even the best of friends. Some people forget about their friends after they begin a new relationship, and Shiori already felt as though Juri was continuing to be her friend just because she felt obliged to do so. The one time we see him, he shows that he shares Juri’s interest in fencing, and all the while, Shiori can only watch the two of them from afar. She thought that if Juri had him, then surely she would forget about her. If that happened, then she would have no one left.
She doesn’t care what most people think of her, but what she can’t stand more than anything is the idea of being pitied by Juri. She thinks that it’s pathetic to be thought of so lowly by her only friend, and she feels as though there’s nothing that she can do about it. What their relationship lacks is communication. In episode 7, at one moment Shiori looks sad, but the moment that Juri looks in her direction, she has a smile on her face. It seems as though both of them were hiding their feelings from each other. She thought that Juri would never be able to understand the way she felt, and would only pity her further because of it.
What Shiori did was her own desperate attempt to do whatever she could to put herself on the same ground as Juri. By stealing that boy from her, she set herself as the better choice in the eyes of someone she really cared about, and at last, she had finally beaten her at something. It also established hate between them. If Juri hated her, then she would have no reason to feel sorry for her.