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> Virtual Star Embryology: A Visual Analysis

This analysis was donated by Maarika.

     To start off, the ending theme will be analysed from two main aspects: the symbolism and body language. I found it hard to ignore all the body language in this because there appears to be at least just as much body language in it as there is symbolism.

    Also, most of these interpretations are just thoughts and ideas I've got, and in most cases I couldn't even decide which would be the 'right' way to interpret them.

    Another thing, I won't be analysing the song, although I know it is an important part of the ending theme, but here's a link to a nice analysis on that song: I'll be mostly analysing the visuals.


     Firstly, in the beginning of the scene we see Utena standing in the gondola, going up to the duelling arena. If you remember, I talked somewhere about how riding the gondola was a way to represent one of the recurring themes of the show - eternity. Here, however, there's nothing that makes it seem that it represents eternity. This is mostly because in this scene the gondola appears to be going straight up to the duelling arena (more on this later). Of course, it also went straight up to the duelling arena during the show too, but then we were given an entirely different perspective on it.

    Next:

     There is Anthy holding a rose. Two things to note: the rose itself and the body language. First, I'll talk about the body language. The way Anthy is holding the rose looks like she's offering it to someone. This certain gesture here seems to say something like "Would you take this rose?" rather than "Here's your rose", as she's holding the rose like that despite the thorns (hard to tell though, but I suppose every rose has thorns). Remember how Utena was often offered roses like that by other duelists? This made me think that offering a rose is some sort of an invitation/proposal. Anthy is the one who is constantly manipulating Utena and though this scene can be interpreted in different ways, I think here it mostly shows that despite everything, Anthy is the one pulling the strings (well, Akio is too, but they're quite alike and depend on one another).

    As for the rose, it is a constantly used symbol of course. The rose Anthy is offering Utena is pink. The rose Utena wears during the duels is white (except during Touga's second duel), the only pink roses we see during the gondola ride are the ones that sprout from Anthy's clothes. Pink roses aren't as pure as white, but they seem to carry similar characteristics, such as grace and gentle feelings of love. Another parallel to the actual gondola ride is that the roses were shown growing from buds to blossoms, and the similar symbolic theme is used here as well. In this shot, Anthy is holding a rose bud but as you can see, it'll change later on.


     There's a parallel in this one with the actual gondola scene, too, where Anthy changes Utena's outfit. Here Utena doesn't seem to be wearing anything. Nudity is quite symbolic and you can't look past that when you watch SKU. It represents how Utena isn't hiding herself behind any masks and she faces the world as her true self, not as a projection of something. I think it could be considered as one of the purest forms of existence. However, if you take another look at it, you'll notice that Utena has her eyes closed, this shows that she's oblivious about it, that in reality one has to project something out of oneself to fit in their everyday life/situations. In a way, this could be interpreted as a stage of evolution/growth, in which case this image could easily fit into the newborn/embryo stage where one is still unaware of the world but exists nevertheless.

    And about the body language. Utena's arm seems to be held out quite freely, but it also seems as if she's trying to reach out or offer her hand. More on this a bit later, before that there's also this:


     Utena's hand is on Anthy's, and in this context it's mostly reflecting acceptance to Anthy offering the rose. But Utena doesn't take the rose, so it probably means that it wasn't actually the rose Anthy was offering her, but something else instead. Another thought: the rose could also symbolise Anthy. We don't ever really see a specific rose that would represent her. A pink rose would suit her in this certain context, since like I said it's not as pure as the white rose, but it shares similar characteristics. Anthy isn't pure, in fact, she's quite far from being pure. However, here where they're both stripped down to nothing at all, Anthy can be portrayed a bit differently, too. Meaning that her ideas and beliefs also have the potential to be similar to Utena's. And if you take a look at rose again, you'll notice it has evolved a bit compared to the previous shot. Naturally, this contributes to the main conceptual theme of the ending (and the series itself), which is finding one's true self and passing through adolescence to adulthood.


     Moving on, here's the same conceptual shot as the one with Utena above, the only difference is that Anthy is facing in the opposite direction. Everything else is the same. I believe the previous shot and this one here together form a whole. This makes quite a lot sense since Utena and Anthy together complete one another. Also, it seems that Utena is reaching out for Anthy and vice versa, this shows that there's a bond between them. The reason why Anthy and Utena are portrayed on their own like that, is to emphasize that the bond between them does not have to be visible or one that you can easily notice. It's there and that's it. We can't really see their hands linked directly in these two similiar shots, but if you also take the shot with the rose into consideration then they should be linked through the rose. What does that mean? If you look at it from the symbolic point of view, then this is definitely something they both have in common. For Utena, the roses symbolise her prince and the same could be said about Anthy. Ultimately, it was their prince that bound their fate together as it was shown in episode 34.


     Throughout the series, Utena's and Anthy's relationship is shown to be very close, but there is still enough room to debate about how far it actually went. In the ending theme, as you can see, they've taken away all borders. This shot here is quite like the other one with the rose, again with some differences to note. This time they have their hands entwined, which is another step forward from the previous shot. The rose is blossoming, it is a symbol of a (r)evolution in this context, which is a major theme in SKU as we know. Then again, here it might also represent Anthy's/Utena's feelings toward one another since it's rather hard to ignore that in these scenes. Or perhaps it's just Anthy's feeling's if the rose in question really represents her. That's because if you take the prince/princess archetypes, then here Anthy could just be trying to be a princess, but you need a prince for that and Utena is here playing that role for her. And for that reason they both are assigned into their roles. They're wearing their clothes again which symbolises that Utena is in her prince role again and Anthy can either be seen as a princess or the Rose Bride or both.


     These are the roles I was talking about and they'll be used pretty much until the end of the ending theme. Now they're both pictured directly together, and Anthy's rose is gone. Instead, we have Utena's rose, which is quite symbolic in many ways. Firstly, the white rose is the symbol of purity and nobility, or in other words - the prince. This is what Utena strives to be. Moreover, this is Utena's rose and I think it's very clearly implied that Anthy wants it. As for the body language, it's quite hard to break it apart and tell what exactly they meant by it but I suppose anyone could tell this shot has some serious sexual undertones. The way Anthy is touching Utena's rose is very delicate, it's a sign of a careful approach and Utena seems to display no resistance. In fact, she even seems to go along with it just as much. Utena's eyes are still closed, which mostly implies how she's about to give herself to Anthy and that she has placed her trust in her.


    The biggest difference between this shot and the previous one is that here we get a better shot of Anthy. We couldn't really tell much about her based on the previous shot, since we only got a shot of her hand, but here we have a better picture of her which shows much more.

    Another thing that immediately strikes me about her, is that this the only shot among these where she's wearing her hair like that. At first when she appeared she had her hair loose, and now she doesn't anymore. If you view this from the series context then this is her regular Rose Bride appearance. Having one's hair tied up in some way is a way of restraining oneself. I've heard that it is believed that hair is part of us where our (spiritual?) energy is stored and by tying the hair in certain way influences the amounts/directions of how that energy will flow. If anything at all, I suppose this supports the fact that tying her hair like that is a way to show that Anthy has restrained herself. This fits very well with the Rose Bride's characteristics too. After all, Anthy is playing the role of the Rose Bride among other things. Her eyes are half closed and she seems to be looking either at the rose or in the distance. This can mean several things. From a physical level, this could be a sign of arousal. But on a more philosophical viewpoint, it may also show how Anthy is never actually there. She's filling her task as the Rose Bride, but Anthy is not, in her essence, the Rose Bride. If you compare this with the previous shot then you'll also notice Anthy's position has drastically changed. She's leaning close to Utena in this one. Although Anthy is often portrayed as a very passive character, she's very passive at the same time, too. The way she has placed her hand on Utena's chest just around the rose is saying something along the lines of "This is mine!". If you go with that interpretation then you also have to take note on how she's almost obsessively looking at the rose. I already talked about the rose symbolism and that it's Utena's rose, but here it is, in fact, Anthy's. She wants to make it her own. And I think this is where the whole "Rose Bride" stuff originates from. Additionally, this is another proof that Anthy really did choose all that for herself.

    As for Utena, she's practically the same as before. Still has her eyes closed too, which can imply that she's unaware of Anthy's manipulation and her true intentions. Her back is still arched and now her fingers are stretched out which seems to be a reaction to Anthy changed position. But she also doesn't seem to mind it a bit. That is because just like in the last shot, she is placing her trust in Anthy.


    More changes.

    This time Utena has finally opened her eyes and is looking straight into Anthy's eyes. Anthy is looking at her in the same way. Both of them have their eyes half closed and have that dreamy, longing look in their eyes. I'm quite sure you don't give that look to just anyone, it's usually shared between lovers. Are Utena and Anthy lovers? It's very hard to ignore all the subtle hints from the previous shots.

    Anyways, that's not a very simple question to answer because as a lot of other things, it can be interpreted in many ways. Here's what I made of it in this given context. The Anthy we see here is the Anthy that Utena sees at that moment. Anthy's hair is loose again and she isn't wearing her glasses anymore. Think about the prince/princess archetypes again. Here they are both put to these roles; Anthy has shifted from being the Rose Bride into her princess role and Utena is continuing playing the prince. That makes a nice premise for them being lovers, doesn't it? But I feel I have to stress it once again: they are both merely playing the roles of a prince and princess - it is just an act. The prince and a princess are fairytale, they're fake and therefore Utena and Anthy cannot really be what they think they are. I'll come back to this a bit later.

    I also wanted to point out how Utena has placed her hand on Anthy's cheek and seems to have taken a hold of her. That's such a dominant gesture coming from Utena. In all the romantic/sexual situation throughout the series she's portrayed as the submissive one (or maybe she just happened to get involved with the most dominant guys in Ohtori), but here she seems to be dominating Anthy. And it seems completely natural if you think about the archetypes I mentioned earlier. Sort of ironic though, I've always considered Anthy as the dominant one of the two. Then again, Utena could only be dominating Anthy because Anthy wants it. Anthy is the reason why Utena decided to become a prince and Utena is Anthy's prince.

    And to finally answer the question, Utena and Anthy can, indeed, be lovers in this given context.


    So here's a picture of them kissing. You have to be pretty blind to deny that they have no romantic/sexual feelings in these scenes. The question is, was this what happened during the actual series, too? I think if it had happened then it would have made things even more complicated. And if it had happened then we would have seen it because there really is no point hiding it. So no, I doubt it really happened during the series. But then why? I believe Utena and Anthy kissing in this picture is completely symbolic; as is the entire ending theme.

    And now on to the details. Without a doubt, they both are playing their part very well and seem to be enjoying it just as much. Utena has wrapped her arms around Anthy to pull her closer to her and it also appears that she was the one who made the first move, too (especially if you consider the previous shot), since Anthy is a "helpless princess". And Anthy reacts in a natural way. Two things to support that. Firstly, she has placed her hand on Utena's shoulder as if taking a hold of her (possibly a hint to her possessiveness?). Anthy most likely considers Utena to be hers. And secondly, her expression (even though we never really see her expression in the actual ending theme) doesn't reflect any surprise/dislike etc, she's going along with it without any objection.

    Another thing, it may seem as if Utena is taking advantage of Anthy, but I think it's not true at all. In fact, Anthy appears to be taking advantage of Utena. Yes, Utena is kissing her, but considering all the previous scenes and never forgetting what sort of person Anthy is, it's safe to say that things are going just the way Anthy wanted.

    There's a parallel of this in the manga too, if you've read it. The manga's storyline was a bit different but even so, Anthy kissing Utena was part of a ritual ceremony, meaning that it was in a symbolic nature, just like it is here.


    This scene is very interesting in so many ways. I'll start by drawing a parallel from the series. This shot resembles quite a lot to the sword pulling scenes before the Akio Arc. Anthy has leaned over just like she did when someone was about to draw the Sword of Dios from her. Utena has raised her left arm like she normally did before she drew the sword. And now the interesting details. When someone was pulling the Sword of Dios from Anthy, and before she leaned over, then whoever was there held out their right arm to support Anthy. Here there's no such thing. Furthermore, I have no idea where Utena put her right arm or why. And that's why Anthy has no other choice but to float. To be honest, I have no idea why she's floating like that. However, if we draw another parallel from the manga again (I don't especially want to mix the series and the manga‚Ķ) then it might make a bit sense. After Anthy had kissed Utena in the manga, Utena fell in some sort of trance and she was floating just like Anthy is in this shot. The point was that she was completely under Akio's and Anthy's power. If this is not what they meant by it here too, then I've got no clue.

    Anyway, you can also see Utena leaning over Anthy, but it's hard to say whether she is kissing her or not (most likely yes, since it seems to be the continuation for the previous shot) and this is also similar to the actual sword pulling scene. Except then she never kisses Anthy, but there are plenty of subtle hints that could suggest that.


    Here we have Utena and Anthy just standing in the gondola going up to the duelling arena. They're holding hands which is fitting, considering everything else that had happened before this. There is not much to analyse here from the body language aspect because there's nothing out of ordinary here. But I'd still like to point out how they're again portrayed as a prince and princess. This is probably the way Anthy would like to see themselves. I guess you could say the same about Utena if she'd get past that "I have find my prince!" thing and actually started being a prince on her own. According to SKU logic, girls can only be princess because of the prince, so this is what Anthy would most likely dream of even though she's the Rose Bride in 'reality'. If Utena was her prince then she could be a princess. Is this the sort of "happily ever after" that Anthy wants? Possibly yes, until both of them realise that what they're dreaming about is just a fairytale and that reality is a whole different deal. Along with that comes the realisation that one doesn't necessarily have to play certain roles that are meant for them or set by society, but that they can create their own identity.

    On a bit different angle, this shot shows again how Anthy and Utena are meant to be together. By that I mean they are considered to form a whole. I'd say you can choose whatever way you want to look at them from this point of view, since the whole thing is still left very ambiguous and open to interpretation (just like the creators wanted it).


    And the last one.

    The last scene we get is of a bird flying towards the castle. Not so exciting I suppose. But utterly symbolic.

    Anyway, the whole break the world's shell motif gets the answer here. I'll try to explain it a bit more. The bird struggling out of the egg is a symbol of breaking away from all things that restrain ourselves. By "all things" I mostly mean society, ethics and morals and everything that shapes us to what we are; it's quite a wide definition since countless factors influence how a person can turn out. In reality, it is not possible to completely get rid of all these things, but in theory, however, if such a thing was to happen, we would go back to our true essence. I can't say become our true essence, because our essence is the base of our existence - this is from where we start shaping our identity. Which means the essence is always there, as is our true self. But in time it gets buried so deep under all the layers that have been imposed on us that we may not even find the way back to it. This is just what happened to Anthy (Utena too and the others, but I think Anthy is the best example) from a philosophical aspect.

    [There is a philosophical theory that claims otherwise; that our essence is based on existence. I thought it would be easier to explain it if I used it the other way around.]

    Anyway, the bird flying freely towards the castle represents that true self of a person. Nothing binds it and it can soar in the skies where ever it wants. The bird doesn't think of becoming a prince or a princess because it only knows of being a bird - and that's exactly what it is! Also, while the bird is flying towards the castle, it loses some of its feathers. This is an allegory to peeling off the layers from ourselves to reveal the core - that essence I was talking about. What is that essence like? I'm thinking that the Buddhist beliefs can explain it quite nicely. In our essence, we are uncorrupted, pure, and part of the whole entity that is formed from all living beings. That's because in that state we have the potential to make anything out of ourselves. Also, I believe it's impossible to go back to our essence all the way because we inevitably lose some of our purity but we can get closer to it which is still good. For that we need to throw away all the lies and standards set by society. This is what Utena and Anthy did. Utena realised she couldn't be a prince so she gave up on attempting to be one. Just the same way, Anthy threw away the Rose Bride/witch/princess stuff by seeing that she wasn't like that in her essence. If a bird finally struggles itself out of the egg, we can say it was born, and in the same way we can say how Utena and Anthy were either reborn or awakened. This is also what the [r]evolution ultimately meant.

    And so there's left one last thing - the castle. The inverted castle is a fairytale symbol, I think it's inverted to make the viewer feel that something's not right about it. Simply put, it should show that fairytales that several characters chase are wrong. I'm not getting into depths about this because it should be quite easy to understand, especially since it's constantly being used as a symbol of an illusion throughout the series. However, the irony of it lies in the bird itself. None of the duellists, including Utena herself and Anthy and Akio who were the ones running the whole game behind the scenes, were able to reach the castle where eternity was supposed to be dwelling. And here we have a bird who is able to reach something like that only because it can fly. Again, this can be interpreted in numerous ways, but what I instantly thought of, was the fact that the bird can achieve its dreams (if reaching the castle could be considered its dream) just by being a bird and it doesn't need to hide behind masks to be able to do it.

    Lastly, the bird flying to the castle seems to bear a connection to Hesse's "Demian". I was thinking about the quote "The bird flies to God. That God's name is Abraxas.". This exact quote never actually used in the series (instead there is "For the sake of revolutionizing the world!"), but the concept remains the same and should be relatively easy to understand along with what I was talking about previously.

Essays
Personality + Relationship + Narrative + Miscellany + Music

Context
Introduction + Characters + Reference + Submission

Go Home
Analysis of Utena + Empty Movement

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