Utena is the perfect example of shÅjo anime. The film is complete with a naive fantasy of princes, princesses and teenage girls with big eyes, flowing hair and magical powers. The ShÅjo themes remain clearly present throughout the film. It includes intensely emotional scenes overflowing with roses and relationship conflicts. But this story is not a traditional shÅjo tale. Utena is unique because the plot openly shows shÅjo using her abject female identity to exceed patriarchal societies’ expectations of the ideal woman.
Utena looks similar to a normal fairy tale on the outside but is clearly different underneath. The fairy tale is used to criticize the illusions found in fairy tales (Napier 176). As in a classic fairy tale, Utena arrives at a castle-like academy dressed as a prince and must fight other duelists to save the Pink Bride, Anthy. But Utena deviates from the normal fairy tale because Utena is a woman and the academy and castle-like princes are just illusions. Utena and Anthy created the illusion when they denied and rationalized the negative aspects of the identities of their principles. After their idealized fantasy is shattered, Utena makes the revolutionary decision to leave their current fairytale world with Anthy. After leaving, the fairytale academy shows itself as a dark, empty place filled only with straw dolls. The world is destroyed once Utena and Anthy decide to leave it behind as it was a fantasy supported only by their imaginary ideals of a patriarchal fairytale land.
Utena really brings home the idea of shÅjo and the possibilities available to abject female identity because Utena uses her identity to bring about an apocalypse of the world of fairy tales. According to Frenchy Lunning, shÅjo is the perfect vehicle to potentially create new female social identities because it is able to escape the expectations of a patriarchal society woman by moving from the image of an innocent girl to a mature woman (Lunning). Utena is a unique shÅjo because she consciously recognizes her potential to change the world. Utena carries out in the plot what Lunning claims that the shÅjo does through repeated manifestations in our society. Shes takes it one step further by seizing the opportunity created by her identity she abject of her to create a new identity. She does this through the conscious rejection of patriarchal ideals. Utena and Anthy reject the existence of principles and the idealized woman by deciding to leave behind the role of the oppressed Rosa Bride and the false memories of their principles. Utena used the potential of her teenage and not quite set shÅjo identity to pursue new identities and a relationship with Anthy. Utena takes shÅjo’s story one step further because she is a shÅjo character herself but she actively uses her identity to create new possibilities for herself.
Lunning, French. “Under the Ruffles: ShÅjo and the morphology of power”. Meccademia,
2011: 3-19. Spiderweb. DOI: 10.1353 / mec.2011.0021
Napier, Susan. Souls from Akira at Howl’s Moving Castle. New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
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