I just coded all night.
> Sex, Torment, and Body Language

Written by Giovanna.

     You rarely see body language expressed in anime, which is usually produced too cheaply to allow for the subtlety of movement necessary for it. Revolutionary Girl Utena, had a notoriously small budget throughout its airing in Japan; however, it managed to overcome this handicap. The series conserves its frames for specific sequences; often clearly at the cost of the rest of the episode, and where it can't do that, it instead makes masterful use of poses in single cels. Body language is plentiful here, and there's no point in the series where more attention is paid to it than in the sex scene in episode 33 ("The Prince who Runs in the Night").

     This scene is probably the most painstakingly animated sequence in the entire series, and in Revolutionary Girl Utena, that's a red flag. They want you to pay attention to what they've animated so carefully. Especially here, where there's no other obvious reason for it to be animated so well. It's not a duel, and there isn't a ton of movement that needs expressing; they could have spent five cels on the whole sequence and gotten the point across just fine. But they didn't—they want you to pay attention, because they've got more to tell.

     The gist of what's going on is clear enough: Utena and Akio are having, or are about to have, sex. Beyond that the scene is ambiguous in nature; no one ever agrees on precisely what's going on, or what it is that causes Utena's bizarre reaction. There are some people who think it wasn't sex at all, merely 'messing around'. Others think Utena is being raped, and her speech is an escapist reaction. I'm disinclined to either, so here I'm going to go through the scene and pick at the visual cues Utena gives off concerning what's happening and how she feels about it. I'll start right before the scene in question.

      Her fingers are relaxed, lazy.        The first thing you see is a shot of Utena's hand turning the lamp off. (The interpretive relevance of her being the one to do this is a subject all its own, as it's usually Akio's prerogative to dim the lights.) What's of note here is the positioning of her hand. Her wrist is limp, and she pulls the cord with her thumb and index finger. This indicates a languid relaxation of the body at a point in the episode where it's unlikely she's still wondering where the night's going. That she's physically relaxed shows she accepts the eventuality, and she's not in a situation where she feels forced. She doesn't ball the cord into a fist, or pull with her fingertips, which serve to be further evidence of relaxation.

     This is a state her body remains in for the duration of the episode—the stresses are played on her face instead. In body language internal emotional conflicts will be displayed primarily on the face, while reactions to outside stimuli tend to involve bodily behaviors. In this way, we see that Utena's emotional state is, in her opinion, entirely of her own making; she doesn't see Akio as an aggressor or a threat. She certainly doesn't suspect he would be deliberately causing her anguish either, an ignorance we as viewers are led to pity her for.

     Utena isn't afraid to not be facing Akio.The next shot of her starts with her back to the viewer, facing the direction the lamp was in. This is also the direction of the window that looks out on the carnival. (Take what you will from the implied meaning in that she must turn her back on the window and the carnival to look at Akio.) Then she glances behind her, and turns to look at Akio briefly before staring at the ceiling.

     Though not body language, it demands pointing out that up until now Utena's been using chatter to distract herself from the unnerving situation she's in. This is far from new behavior for her where Akio's concerned, though it's most pronounced when she's alone with him. While this episode displays the clearest illustration of said behavior, another example would be in episode 30 ("The Barefoot Girl"). Prior to the big kiss, they're alone in the car together, and she talks at length while Akio says very little. She manages to stay relatively on topic by limiting the subjects to Kanae and how Akio doesn't seem very chairman-like. Maybe kind of bad.

    

     At that point Utena didn't know whether her feelings toward Akio would be requited, and being in denial about it herself, she makes no effort to find out. After they kiss she can no longer dupe herself into thinking there's nothing sexual or romantic going on when they're alone, and it forces her to stop pretending she doesn't see anything happening. This is why her topical yammering in episode 30 evolves into the seemingly mindless drivel of 33. Where earlier there was the opportunity for denial, it's gone now, and she's nervous.

    Her way of handling the situation is far from rare—she's a young and inexperienced virgin with a crush on an older man that's quite willing to accommodate her. Of course, he made the first move himself, something she wouldn't have done on her own. Later he speaks of it like she was the instigator ("I have a fiancee, but that didn't stop you.") and she falls for it, as Utena has a rather overdeveloped sense of responsibility. At any rate, anyone who watched this happen in middle or high school knows she's pretty much following protocol. Young girls blabber when they're around their crush—and some never do break the habit.

    However, this sequence finds Utena eerily silent. This is the calm before the storm. She's been using speech to keep from getting nervous and to try and maintain a conversational 'friendly' atmosphere, and here her silence exhibits understanding. She knows what the situation is leading toward, and she isn't trying to talk her way out of it. All this time Utena's been trying not to let this happen. She's wrestled it in her mind against her faithfulness to her prince in hopes that she could avoid having to make a choice between her fidelity and her crush. However, the situation did arrive, and though she wasn't really quite ready to handle it, she's made her choice …and there's really nothing to say about it.

     Her eyebrows alone betray her tension.The expression on her face, though, is hardly one of a relaxed person. She's not in conflict as to whether or not she should go through with this, she's already decided that—she's just (understandably) anxious about the choice she's made. Her eyebrows betray tension, but her eyes are heavy-lidded, which while not necessarily indicative of relaxation, is a sign she's not afraid or apprehensive. Also, she's looking up, and Akio's only in her peripheral vision. While Utena is nervous and tense concerning the situation, she's comfortable in his presence. Were she to perceive Akio as the threatening factor in her emotional state, she would keep her eyes on him as much as possible, though avoiding eye contact. This is repeated later in the car, where she's once again comfortable not looking directly at him.

    Finally, we arrive at the actual sequence in question. Since going through the scene from start to finish will lead to me repeating myself about three million times, I will instead go by body part and gesture. The way the scene is set up, separate body parts are usually relaying specific messages of their own.

     A strangely peaceful shot in the midst of much confusion for her.We'll start with her right arm, which is held up to eye level. By all assumption, she put her arm there, as it's not being held down—we see her move it quite freely. Holding her arm this way, away from her body, with her hand curled naturally (not clenched in a fist) is a very vulnerable posture to have. That she chose to lay this way shows she feels safe in allowing Akio such a powerful position over her.

     Pressing the forehead is a gesture meant to coax thought from the brain.During the first half of the scene, her right hand hovers around her forehead. Most of the time she's pressing the side of her hand against it. This is a thoughtful pose, and it expresses mostly that Utena's mind is running quickly, and she's desperately trying to pick something to say out of the mess. At one point she presses her palm against her forehead in another thoughtful sort of gesture. This gesture is one of stress and agitation, though, and it's no coincidence she does this when she starts mentioning Anthy.

    As time goes by, her hand noticeably migrates closer and closer to her mouth. This progression eventually leads Utena to bite her bent index finger. There's a lot to read into here, both in the general contact with the mouth and the specific way in which she does it. Deliberate touching of the mouth is a telltale sign of one of two things: lying, or sexual arousal. Both are applicable here.

     A lying gesture. A sexual gesture. Both.Lying is the harder of the two to explain, so we'll start there. The subject of Utena's speech is the lunch she has to prepare when she gets home. The lunch is a copout, and we all know it—she's thinking about Anthy. Utena regards what she's doing with Akio as a betrayal of Anthy's trust. She believes family of friends should be off-limits; and that's certainly a good policy, as some of you may know. Believing that as she does, she sleeps with him anyway, making this is a rare event when her ethical conviction falters enough for her to act against it. Still, this is Utena, and act though she has, she feels terrible about it.

     Touching your mouth indicates a lie because the gesture is a subconscious reflex to conceal what's coming out of your mouth. It's part need and part guilt—you're covering the lie so people won't see through it, and you're covering your mouth because you are ashamed of what it's doing. In this dialogue, Utena is expressing concern for Anthy's wellbeing. Obviously, this is not a lie. Keep in mind, though, that at the moment Utena feels she's betraying Anthy. Deep down she feels that the concern she's expressing isn't genuine. Utena's getting what she thinks she wants, but it would seem Akio's price was more guilt than she could take. In this scene you literally watch her building a defensive wall against it. She's claiming adamantly her concern for Anthy. But her subconscious knows this is only a wall of denial against her perceived guilt, and body language being subconscious in origin, this guilt shows through.

     There's also a lot being said by the specific gesture. The way she bites her finger is blatantly sexual, especially coupled with the way her eyes move while she does it. Biting your own body, usually a finger, knuckle, or lip, is a bracing reflex done during or in anticipation of something physically or emotionally jarring. (Pain or pleasure. Or both. Lots of people confuse the two, after all.) Depending on what you bite, the gesture can mean many other things, too: biting the lip can be a stress reflex in some people. Flirtatious women will bite their lip or finger to send a sexual message. However, Utena is not a stress biter, and she's certainly not a flirt. She doesn't know why she's biting her finger, but it's clear enough to anyone watching her. She's responding to something sexual, and it's not hard to imagine Akio coming into contact with something more vital by now.

     Utena arches her back, pressing her head into the pillow.Another feature that evolves over the scene is Utena's eyes. Early on she blinks frequently, and glances back and forth too quickly to focus on any one thing. For all this brisk glancing, her eyes rarely look beyond a small window of space slightly to her right, just out of eye contact with Akio. Glancing back and forth is what people usually do when something major is about to happen within a perceived short period of time. It's not specifically a sign of fear, anger, or tension—it's a sign of agitation, which can occur during a lot of events, not all of which are bad. Right now her concern is for a single, defined moment that's fast approaching, and she's getting freaked about it. However as the seconds crawl by, the sexuality of the situation is starting to hit her, and her glancing jitters slow down and she gets increasingly heavy-lidded, starts biting her finger, and maintains looking directly to her right.

     Looking slightly away from Akio was nervousness less for what was coming up than for the situation. Utena's never been in a sexual situation before and she doesn't know exactly what to do. She's confused, agitated, maybe even a little shy, and because of all that, she has a hard time maintaining eye contact with him. That he's not sharing her agitation and she recognizes him as much more experienced only worsens this. As time goes on she begins to gaze to her right. (Out the window. Loss-of-innocence symbolism perhaps.) This coincides with her hand getting closer to her mouth, and most obviously is a means for her hand to reach her lips. It also shows that once again, she's comfortable being unable to keep a visual tab on Akio. This willingness to be vulnerable to him is also hinted at by her bared neck; people will cover their neck and/or tense their shoulders around someone they don't trust.

    This brings us to eyebrows. Utena's eyebrows, as they usually do, serve mostly to expand on what can be read from her eyes. The expression maintained by her eyebrows, though, is static throughout the scene. While a good amount of worry for other things is shown through here, her eyebrows are curled up mostly in acknowledgement to her defenseless position, and what she knows is happening. Many better prepared virgins will find their eyebrows telling of a similar state of mind, so it's really no surprise that Utena, who is biting off more than she can chew by being here, is worried. This tension in her eyebrows is present even at the very beginning of the scene, where otherwise Utena looks totally relaxed and serene.

     Bracing, in pain.As I've mentioned, I assume most of the scene to take place before the actual sex starts. Her behavior matches an innocent about to have sex, except that her behavior changes wildly in the last few seconds of the scene. Utena begins to face further away and her eyes squint. This looks like someone in pain, and probably is, but it's also a classic example of the pained expression many women make in response to sexual pleasure. Her head rises a bit, demonstrating an arched back; a sign that also can indicate pain or pleasure. This looks like the beginning of intercourse. A few seconds later, she gasps and begins to twitch. This is probably the point at which her hymen is broken. Twitching of this manner is also not uncommon during an orgasm, though her behavior just a few seconds before makes this seem unlikely. Instead, it's purely a pain reaction. Twitching in pain is far from ordinary, but this is vaginal pain. Because that's an extraordinarily sensitive area, especially during arousal, sensation from it often comes in waves in rhythm with blood flow. (This is the feeling of 'throbbing' that erotic fiction writers like stress to the point of absurdity.) There's nothing emotional to read into here. These gestures are entirely sexual in nature.

     Her hair is suddenly messy, as if she's sweating.Utena's pain reaction is brief, and seems to depart with the initial shock. A few short seconds after the big moment she's been dreading, she spins her head to look up at Akio and asks an odd question for the situation: What is eternity? As she does this, her hair becomes quite disheveled and falls over her face, which manages to change her whole demeanor. Utena looks like she's having sex. At this point Utena is looking straight at Akio, really the first time she does so in the scene. She glances at him briefly a couple times earlier, but never holds his gaze and never straightens her neck; she knew before she looked at him that she'd turn her head away. Here she's turned around to meet him, and you get the feeling by the sudden urgency in that action that Utena won't look away anymore. The moment she was so concerned about has come and gone, and it's become moot to continue agonizing over her feelings. At least for now. Instead, she asks a simple question, and then says nothing.

     Utena being drawn unusually maturely.Closing the scene we see the road scrolling 'stop' at a speed that doesn't slow down. After all, Akio's no more inclined to follow traffic laws than he is moral or ethical ones; a suitable point to make at that specific moment. Finally there's the shot of Utena slightly from the side, which may be the only shot in the episode not from Akio's point of view. Her hair is messy, in threads curled and strewn about. In the bottom right corner, Akio's holding her hand. ("My, what big hands you have!") Why? Because she needed it. This whole scene has gone by with no direct evidence of what Akio's doing, and certainly nothing to indicate he's easing the experience for her. Yet, as it turns out, he was holding her hand all along. Don't bother going 'awwww' though, Akio put forth the bare minimum needed to keep Utena from freaking out entirely.

    Why would he do so little to ease Utena's nerves? Because they amuse him. They entertain him. Hell, they probably turn him on. While her nervousness at this point doesn't really serve his purposes, it doesn't hinder them either, so why not enjoy it a little? It wasn't necessary to have Utena be a mental wreck during the fact; things would have gone quite fine if he'd relaxed her and let her pick up the agonizing in the morning. But Akio enjoys the suffering he causes in people, and he won't reject an opportunity to observe it when he can. Especially this. It's a pretty nasty thing to do, even for Akio. So while Utena is tortured quite of her own accord, Akio's hardly running to the rescue. He's too busy enjoying the show.

    All said and done, about half of the body language Utena conveys here directly refers to her feelings toward her oncoming loss of virginity. There's still a lot going on in the background, but for the most part it's eclipsed by the surge of emotion that typically comes with this event. Once it's over and gone, we see a whole different side of Utena. In the car she looks relaxed, is quiet, and quite feminine in demeanor; both in how she's being drawn and in her body language. Also, unsurprisingly, she looks exhausted. Chances are it's exactly that—her exhaustion—that's relaxed her so much. She hasn't forgotten her feelings about what she thinks she's done to Anthy and Dios, but those emotions are temporarily muted. She's too tired to worry about it, and too stunned by recent events to think about much else. After all, she really didn't expect to have sex with him.

    Still, she feels like she's betraying Anthy, Dios, Kanae, and perhaps on some small scale Wakaba. She wasn't psychologically prepared for this. Sex means more to Utena than perhaps it does to most—she has her prince to think about. Girls will say they're saving it for the right man, but they haven't met that man. Utena has. And she's betraying him with the brother of her best friend. Someone who has welcomed her into his home under the pretense of *family*. Someone who is engaged and stands as her superior. Someone Utena knows deep in the pit of her stomach she shouldn't mess around with. Nevertheless, she ended up in bed with him, and gave him something she was saving for her prince. This means much more than just the sex to Utena. In true virginal fashion, Utena doesn't separate sex and love, and can't differentiate between love and lust. She's finally admitted to herself that she loves Akio, and she's come to a situation where she can show it. So she does. That's what two people do when they love each other. Right?

Essays
Personality + Relationship + Narrative + Miscellany + Music

Context
Introduction + Characters + Reference + Submission

Go Home
Analysis of Utena + Empty Movement

Akio is no rapist, he is just an opportunist that makes his home a school full of emotionally compromised teenagers. This frame is actually pulled from the Metropolitan Museum of Art archives.
I considered making this a time gif that would occasionally flash Dios as having a ponytail. Then I got lazy.
I know this layout is sort of a spoiler, but so was the closing of the first season, so suck it.
This is far and away the most complex layout I have coded, and I know it does not look like it.
So are they waltzing or foxtrotting or what?
Because according to Ikuhara, if it were Akio, they would be doing the lambada.
These swords ended up looking like the crosses in Evangelion. I left it on purpose because hellz yeah.
I wanted this layout to look like a fairy tale. It ended up looking like a French textile exhibit. Oops.
Polly want some C4? Sorry, coding and Colbert do not mix.
It is March. It is snowing. It is Canada.
You know what is an awesome idea? Coding on your rag. That is smart.