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> Analysis of 'I Can't...'

This analysis was donated by Nicolas.

    The song "Rondo-revolution" is an exceptionally intelligent and beautiful piece. It’s a song that holds a lot more meaning than many would assume. It is impossible to write about this song and not write about the anime is was written for; "Shoujo Kakumei Utena" because Makkun (Masami Okui) plays the part of its lead character "Tenjou Utena" in the song, and its related works in a truly extraordinary way. I will try and explain why I believe this is so.

The Title

    To understand this song and its title you have to understand the anime it was written for; "Shoujo Kakumei Utena". This is rare. Even for an anime song, considering they usually have a relevancy outside of the story they were written for. As is natural when making music, you have to have some degree of mass-reliability in the lyrics.

    At first glance, you'd think "What a pointless thing to do!" - but I think any song written for the anime "Shoujo Kakumei Utena" (from now on referred to as "SKU") is the exception. Most fictional stories are written in an 'outside-in' structure, drawing people into the stories and creating their own worlds. SKU is uncommon because it is very much an 'inward out' story, relating its own events to those in the lives of the audience. To be blunt, it may even be pushing it to call SKU a fiction, as it’s a show about the process of human growth or the 'cycle of life' with fantasy and Christian symbolism thrown into the mix. Because the story is so real it is possible to write a song totally dedicated to the story and still have it work on a mass-level. Whether or not Makkun wrote it with 'mass' as well in mind, I do not know. But either way, it works as a 100% "SKU" song and 100% "mass song", like the anime works as a fantasy fiction and documentary.

    So let’s look at the title:

    "Rondo-revolution" can have 3 meanings, none being particularly wrong as such, although there is one I believe to be the most official of the bunch. But more on that later.

    It’s worth making note now that Kanji for "Rinbu" is used to represent "rondo", so the song is supposed to be called "Rondo-revolution". It’s not a tragedy if the spelling "Rinbu-revolution" is used because in the end the name is almost interchangeable, as I will cover. But we know the song is "Rondo-revolution" due to Makkun saying "Rondo-revolution" herself and indicating in furikana that the kanji "Rinbu" is said "Rondo" in a personally written liner-note for the single. (Thanks for indicating that Kata.)

    So why didn't Makkun just be direct? She certainly could have called the song "Rondo-revolution" in three different ways and in two languages. "Rinbukyoku-revolution", ("Rinbukyoku" being the Japanese word for Rondo), "RONDO-revolution" (RONDO being rendered in katakana / which is to write a foreign word in a Japanese text - because 'rondo' itself is not a Japanese word), or in English, 'Rondo-revolution". But she didn't. She chose the kanji "Rinbu". Considering that she had several ways of making it very clear the song was called "Rondo-revolution" she seems to have deliberately chosen to use the kanji "Rinbu" doesn't she? That is because the title is supposed to have another dimension. The word "Rinbu" means to 'dance in a circle'. I'm sure you all have seen various types of circle dancing, more common a couple of hundred years ago in aristocracy at balls or parties, and of course not forgetting various tribal dances. By adding this meaning to the title Makkun is referring to the characters in SKU using a circular dance as a metaphor for the endless struggle of their lives, or the endless cycle of life itself.

    So, the 'revolution' in the title must seem fairly straightforward in comparison? It certainly appears so, but that starts to crumble a bit when you consider how many meanings the word' revolution' can have.

    1. To change/destroy/break/revolutionize
    2. To turn, to revolve, one turn, turning and so on..

    Therefore the title in full can have four separate meanings!

    1. 'The revolving circular dance'
    2. 'Repeat of the repeating tune'
    3. 'Revolutionizing the circular dance'
    4. 'Revolution of the repeating tune'

    As you can see, the 'revolution' in the title is also rather layered, if not more so than 'Rinbu/rondo'. Now as I said, I don't think there is a general 'one single right meaning' of the title but that there is one that is readable as the overall main meaning, with the others left open. I think that overall meaning is 4. "Revolution of the repeating tune"

    It’s using 'repeating tune' (the 'rondo' part) as a metaphor for the endless repeat of human life (a strong theme in SKU) and using 'revolution' in the sense of it being 'changed/broken'.

    When broken down, "Rondo-revolution" means: 'Changing the endless cycle of life'.

    In the end, this interpretation song title is the story of SKU more or less, which is why I am confident in this interpretation. It’s no coincidence. (Please note, it is changing the cycle of life in terms of 'altering its pattern' - not changing to totally 'wipe the cycle out', to create something else.) Interestingly, I think this title doesn't bear much relevance to the lyrics. (of course, its not to the point of irrelevance - it simply employs a nice separation of 2 things Makkun wanted to illustrate).

Main Lyrics

    I think Makkun played the role of Utena in this song, the Promotional Video and single jacket quite clearly indeed.

    In the verses, we're listening to Utena basically chatting to someone she cared for who she has behind. I'm inclined to say Anthy - as Utena references looking at a photo, its likely Utena and Anthy took snaps during times they were having fun. I'd never rule out Dios. I also have wondered if it might not also about the relationship between 'Miki' and his sister, though that’s not as likely.

    There are numerous reasons why you'd think that Makkun started to play Utena referring to the past during the choruses. On first appearances it appears that Makkun is playing the Utena 'mid-way' in SKU but it is later revealed that this, like the song in general, is the 'adult' Utena talking. She talks of using her past to help her strip away her old self and be a free, strong adult. She repeats the interesting statement that 'If we are ever separated I swear I will change the world' - which sounds like Utena talking to "Dios" or "Anthy" in her past, but it could also be Utena saying this to herself. If she ever gets separated from her past, all the development and memories that have made her what she is, she will still carry on moving and progressing. That is the theme of the song. Utena looking back on the entire story... and hints that reaching adulthood is merely another revolution on an endless wheel of life, as she talks of changing the world or revolutionizing again. As I covered in the title itself, the infinite cycle of birth, growth, death is the root of SKU, so this makes perfect sense.

    Can't we say that, without a doubt, Makkun knew the story of SKU comprehensively before writing this song? I wonder if she spent time with Ikuhara or Saito. I'd certainly like to know more about this song's production.

The Promotional Video

    On first glance the "Rondo-revolution" PV seems to be a fairly standard promotional video. Shot in an eye-catching location (New York) with Makkun singing the song. This PV is not simple at all. Makkun is playing the role of Utena as the adult Utena who has broken out into the world and is living naturally. Why?

    New York represents the 'big open world' to most humans doesn't it? It’s not a particularly sheltered environment. Does Utena not go out into the big wide world in the end? Would it not be vibrant, busy and free? There's no coincidence – the setting was carefully planned out. Why is Makkun doing so many 'everyday' things in this PV? I think the level at which Makkun looks 'everyday' is more than just a stylistic whim but almost necessitates the fact that she is meant to be living there. She rides the subway, buys food, buys and reads the paper, flips through magazines, putting make-up on at a dressing table, gazing out of a window as she writes to someone… These things are not something you do unless you are living somewhere, at least for a while. The part where Utena is writing to someone is something I can't settle on. I immediately think it’s someone in Utena's past - but I can't decide who or what it represents to a high enough degree. The PV as a whole, however, is excellent.

    I think Makkun also appears as Utena on the single jacket. Of course, the pink sweater is obviously a SKU reference. However, I don't think it ends there. Colours are important in SKU to a degree that goes beyond superficial colour/personality-type psychology. Pink, of course, is Utena's 'colour' (as is white) – it’s a statement that is bold in the series, understanding this makes it clear Makkun is appearing as "Utena" – not as severe as 'I am her!' of course. But in a cool, gentle, proud and responsible manner. Just like Makkun.

    So, I have come to the end of my article, which has become very long! I hope it both illustrates the exceptional level of skill Makkun employed in the song in both relating it to SKU so carefully in the title and in her great success playing Tenjou Utena. It really is more than just the 'catchy opener'.

Personality + Relationship + Narrative + Miscellany + Music

Introduction + Characters + Reference + Submission

Go Home
Analysis of Utena + Empty Movement

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