Summary: Beside a sleeping girl prince, Anthy contemplates being stuck in a world with a set number of roles, none of which she fits into. Themes of despair, suicide, and thwarted agency. Minor spoilers for both the anime and the manga.
Revolutionary Girl Utena/Shoujo Kakumei Utena was created and is owned by Be-Papas and Chiho Saito. I am only borrowing the characters.
Note: I once came across a fanfic writer (Buffy/Faith) who would insert pauses with "a beat." I was impressed by the effect of it, and have attempted to borrow it here. Though, I fail to achieve the same magnitude of impact. Their skills as a narrator far surpass my own. (I would credit you if I could recall your pen name.)
On a theme and a fall from the balcony
.:. by DandelionKing November 27, 2013.:.
Utena was like everyone else, Anthy reflected. Potential stifled by the same notion that people had to be princes or princesses, or bystanders-from the villainous to the benign (but always somewhere on the spectrum of the savior and the saved). She was in a queer way, for sure. A prince looking for a prince? She made for an ugly duckling of sorts. Would Utena bloom into the princess she was "meant" to be? As surely as Anthy must have been a princess in the scheme of things within that pink haired head, there wasn't room for two princes. But a prince who was a princess? Anthy thought about this, sifted it for a moment. It could shake the foundations.
But, eventually they would settle. So long as Utena stayed within the available roles. And she would. Roles that don't exist, don't exist. Even two princes in a world limited to princes and princesses (and witches and bystanders)…is not so revolutionary.
Anthy, was not a princess. But in a world where only a certain set of roles existed, she couldn't re-imagine herself with any intelligible affect on others. She'd contemplated this before, endlessly. A person is as they are seen, after all. They are as they are acknowledged. We move as the turbines move, or are left to eulogy when buried. With no one else to see them as they envision themselves, they don't become themselves, only witches. I can only stay a princess or become a witch. It was always one role or another. If both are poisoned, why move from here to there, before I must?
Utena slept. The turbine churned.
And Anthy was an unwilling parody.
Utena was like everyone else. And Anthy hated her, just like she hated everyone else and blamed them. Anthy blamed them all for affixing the cruel shape of this limited, pervasive world, over, and over, endlessly again.
And while all of it was fixed in Anthy's mind, the monotony of it numbed her. Most of the time. When she didn't struggle. A princess who was a prince. Anthy's gaze fixed on Utena's fingers, while her mind re-pondered these many thoughts.
If the world had a narrator… their imagination was, limited.
It did. And more than one. Utena's re-imagining of the same roles was a curiosity. But it was interfering with the monotony. The pain was getting in again. And Anthy hated her. The curiosity wared with the pain. If this is the only way it can be, must it be boring? A small fondness had begun to push through the pavement. She doesn't realize that I'm unwilling.
Utena's novelty smelled like revolution. But it was novelty. She's perfect here. Benevolently offering me a new position within the same role. She fits. And I do not. The fondness was a weed.
The lack of fixity was painful, Anthy reflected. She had begun to imagine herself the way Utena had imagined her. Just every now and then, on rare occasions, but it was starting to happen more often. Utena's kindness began slipping through, even as Anthy knew it was misdirected and hailing from a mis-assumption, that she, Utena, was a prince and that this person, Anthy, was a princess. That she could save and humanize me. But Anthy was parched regardless, and began to let it in, to look for it in various situations and times throughout the day. I can't escape this role. She touches it so gently, she loves me in it. And anyone in any role needs warmth and affection. …And she bathes me with abandon.
Anthy reached for her hand, but stills mid-moment. Utena's affection is genuine but everything else is rigged. And I'm stuck here. Tears pricked at the corner of Anthy's eyes. We're all stuck here. Her brother. Utena. Anthy. The duelists. The students. The teachers. The chairman… Anthy finally closed the distance, entwining their fingers. Gently, she brought Utena's hand to her cheek and cradled it. Feeling it's warmth. She doesn't stand a chance. Not when her revolution couldn't see itself for what it was, not a revolution at all, merely a readjustment. Not that Utena's narrative wasn't gravitously charming and appealing. But Anthy knew what was coming, the bloodbath, the debasement, dreams turned on end to show the nightmare contained there within. It would come for her as it came for everyone. It clawed at Anthy's insides. Not her. Courage, empathy, compassion, _naivety. Utena. I would be your prince, Utena! Anthy squeezes her hand tighter, the tears brimmed and fell. It was a treacherous thought. Anthy wasn't a prince, wasn't a princess. She knew you couldn't save a person from the confines of the game by reinforcing the rules. But,
I can refuse to play.
Anthy was tired of playing, so tired. And in pain. And she couldn't save others from themselves. She'd already tried that. A few times. But that was different. They weren't her. How many more children would Anthy lead to the slaughter on this alter? (If not me, it will be someone else.) She'd played this game so many times. She'd never found a way out.
Eventually pain dictated that she had to stop looking, if only to go numb for a while. To pause the pain. There was no one to look with me, and if there was no one to look with me then there was no one to look at me. I could not exist here. Nothing exists without a reflection, save for in a world without light. In this world, Anthy knew was she could be, abused, hated, idolized, suspected, bullied, treasured, loved… And she doubted she could be loved without being known. But, if she could be loved…? It was never love, it was always a violation!
Anthy pulled the hand from her cheek, she wouldn't kiss it. There wasn't consent. So, Anthy let go of it, gently, to leave the bed. Utena stirred for a moment, reaching for fingers that were no longer holding hers. Anthy stayed frozen and held her breath. Utena's fingers flexed before her arm relaxed, returning to rest. Anthy quietly stepped away.
She gazed at Utena from the balcony. It is impossible to be a coward, in an impossible situation, with no good options.
Anthy briefly contemplated her life. All of the duels. All of the duelists. Her brother, the chairman. The other students. It continued back through time, endless, unstoppable. Horrible. Every thought, every limb, every moment. Violating and invalidating. And so she climbed over the rail.
Anthy's breathing became rapid. Her heart thudded and the blood rushed through her ears. This is it. This was the end of hope. The despair of remedies. The death of curiosity. I will live or die by my own definition. She had been denied the first of these.
She took in a deep breath, savoring the influx pressing her lungs. She centered herself. Anthy's heartbeat steadied. The dead have no need of validation. They feel no broken bones, hear no insults. She closed her eyes to the night sky; I always hated the projections. Anthy could hear sheets rustling behind her. She felt one lone, thin note of longing tremble her heart,
and she let go of the railing.
But, there would always be a prince or a princess there to catch her, to interfere with Anthy's attempts at agency. They didn't mean to be villains. But what else could they be, when the number of roles here is so limited?