Logo

After the Revolution and the rose with its thorns and petals -The Asian Age


After the Revolution (2018) is a three-part manga that is both continuity and a loose continuity to Revolutionary Girl Utena series written by the original artist and author, Saito Chiho.

It encompasses material from all the incarnations of the series and tries to show what happened to the other characters of the series or rather the most known characters. The chapters deal predominantly with a pair and how they relate to Utena and Anthy.

At the end of the movie, there is a scene where Anthy and Utena are in trouble and the other duelists alongside Wakaba (as a car) come to save them. They say cryptically that one day their chance to go to the outside world will come.

In the end of the anime series, Utena seemingly "dies" in the world of Ohtori but Anthy leaves the academy saying she is alive in the outside world and will search for her.

At the end of the movie and movie manga, Anthy and Utena both reach the outside world. In the original manga, Anthy starts dressing like Utena and being princely in nature and knows she will meet Utena again. She becomes her complete self, thanks to Utena and Anthy's own self perseverance.

One may ask what happens to Akio? In the anime series, Akio doesn't change or awaken. Akio has killed the Dios part of himself and so he wants to continue the duels and Anthy chastises him and leaves, calling him a pretend prince.

In the movie and movie manga, Akio is already a ghost so he tries to stop Anthy and Utena from leaving - he wants them to be corpses and live in the world of Ohtori Academy. However, Anthy and Utena both defeat him.

In the manga ending, Akio finally has a mental breakdown. He does not understand why he cannot be a prince anymore; he is just so shocked and wounded that people discount him as a prince because of his humanity. Shouldn't his humanity make him a prince?

His breakdown is a critique of toxic masculinity and how strong men are made tantamount to deities and if they fail they are not seen as reliable or even useful anymore. This is when Utena gains her prince hood, or its final stage, in the manga.

She says her name Utena means "calyx" or the part of the plant that protects the flower. She volunteers to protect him, aside Anthy, which no one else did before. Akio is moved by her actions and they walk away together - seemingly to the outside world.


Shiori embraces Juri

Thus, Saito Chiho wishes to create a revolutionary ecosystem of people who are interconnected with each other. The outside world or the world where one accepts reality and themselves is not only for Utena and Anthy. It is for everyone and in that way, there is balance. In After the Revolution, or ATR, Utena has supplanted Dios as the prince.

However, she is not the interventionist prince as Dios. She will not wear herself by just saving people; rather, she allows people to reconnect or discover their strength by themselves so that they can move on.

In the very first volume, Saionji Kyouichi and Touga Kiryuu meet each other as adults - Touga hasn't changed at all as in he is still a womanizer and still detached. Saionji, on the other hand, has changed despite still being a bit impulsive he does look now before he leaps.

Saionji doesn't like Touga's flippant attitude and Touga doesn't seem to consider Saionji. Saito Chiho shows that the true reason that Touga denies Saionji is because he has always been afraid of his genuine feelings of friendship, which was a constant in both manga and anime (in the movie they don't know each other).

These feelings of friendship are also hinted to tip towards the romantic side and there were subtle hints that Touga may reciprocate romantic feelings for Saionji. However, he is usually following a societal script so he doesn't know how to show that he loves and cares for Saionji as a friend let alone as a romantic interest.

Touga and Saionji are now art dealers and they are led back to their old school, Ohtori academy. It seems like when people leave Ohtori their memories of the place become distorted or even erased.

They both don't remember the duels or any such knowledge. They meet the ghost of Akio whose painting, The Revolution, they seek. The painting is of Anthy and Akio tells them to protect the painting.

Touga is compliant but Saionji questions this choice and then Touga gets a call from an art dealer, who is also a noted pedophile. As Touga was sexually assaulted as a child, he has become socially detached from the crimes of other people. Saionji is disgusted that Touga can mix with such a person and they duel. However, the prince who descends from the castle to help them is none other than Utena!


Cover of ATR Vol. 3 with Miki and Kozue

Touga looks in a daze at Utena, after all, she was one of the few people he truly loved. Seeing Saionji going to be attacked by Akio, who realises that he is against him, Touga asks Utena for the power to revolutionize the world and protects Saionji.

This is the first time, he has ever been able to show any true feeling towards his friend. Touga then explains to a wounded Saionji that Utena (or that girl) came down to rescue Anthy (the other girl) from the painting. Touga then walks away with Saionji finally accepting he loves him, perhaps even romantically and it could be the start of them becoming a couple.

Touga finally realises he has always loved Saionji and valued him but his experiences intimidated him from saying so. Utena helped him by not intervening but by allowing him to accept his flaws and also his feelings.

The second pair is Juri Arisugawa and Shiori Takatsuki. In the anime series, Shiori seems to have dated a boy she thought Juri loved. She did it to win a rivalry with Juri because she felt bested by her in everything. Only to come to know Juri was in love with her and not any boy.

Shiori struggles with these feelings and she does become a minor antagonist in both the anime and movie due to her internalized homophobia. The fact is, there is a large chance she may reciprocate Juri's romantic feelings but like Touga, following a societal script, doesn't know how to show them.

So, some fans wondered if such obstacles were out of the way could love be possible? Saito Chiho decided to retell the story of Juri and Shiori to show that the way they are, without growth, would be impossible for them to love one another.

Empty Movement fans rightfully pointed out that Juri is passive aggressive and her reluctance to believe in miracles stems mostly from her own stubbornness than any external factors.

The EM fans also pointed out that Juri objectifies Shiori to an extent so Shiori's initial disdain for Juri is not completely unfounded. Juri may remind people of Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, who has a certain subtle aggression and ambitiousness that isn't always healthy.

So, in the retelling Shiori seems to love anyone who is princely thus Juri learns fencing. Eventually, she catches Shiori's eye and Juri is overjoyed because her love has accepted her. There is only one problem, Shiori is supposedly betrothed from a young age to a Ruka Tsuchiya. This makes Juri hate Ruka with a passion and it affects Shiori who feels like she is a prize to be won in some regards.

As they grow in adults, we come to know that Ruka has passed away, however, whenever Juri duels with a fierce opponent in fencing she always imagines Ruka and hates it that he comes between her and Shiori. Eventually, Shiori reveals she is engaged again but Juri sees even this new man as Ruka.

This obsession with Ruka and Juri losing her temper makes Shiori say she can't meet her anymore when she acts like this. In the series, Ruka was an ambiguous character, who loved Juri but sleeps with Shiori to publicly humiliate her afterwards by dumping her. Of course, this was in poor taste and was a commentary on toxic masculinity (he thought he was doing Juri a favor). In the ATR manga, he operates a bit like Touga did in the movie and movie manga.


 Utena and Anthy always together, shining endlessly

Juri has a locket with Shiori's picture in it (in both the anime and ATR manga) only to see it stolen by Ruka. She finally reaches the duelling arena with the inverted castle and is ready to set her score with Ruka. Though, she is very disturbed seeing the Rose Bride is Shiori. She fights but is losing until Utena appears.

Utena tells her to remember and help herself and so she does. One day, Juri was admiring Shiori from afar when they were teens, only for Shiori to fall in the water. Juri went in to save her love and is successful in doing so but was unable to save herself. She was surely to drown only for Ruka to risk his life to save her and drown in the process.

Juri was angry that Ruka died and what's more Shiori mourned his death. She felt guilty and angry at herself. Ruka and she stops fighting and he tells her he has always loved her, despite being engaged to Shiori, and that Juri is Lily, the goddess of battle. She is always a fierce warrior so she forever has his love and respect.

Juri is finally able to let go of her jealousy and guilt and win her final fencing match. She is embraced by Shiori who still loves her but Juri says she will continue fencing and stop chasing Shiori. She has also accepted some of her feelings for Ruka, which may be semi-romantic. However, she won't objectify Shiori anymore.

If a relationship is meant to happen between them she knows Shiori and she will end up together. She won't think of Shiori as just some princess to be won anymore. When she opens her locket now she sees Ruka has engraved in it "Fight Juri." And she accepts that she will. She knows as long as her love for Shiori is true they will end up together as a romantic couple.

The last pair is the twin brother and sister, Miki and Kozue Kaoru. In almost all the incarnations, Kozue seemed to be an antagonistic person who had incestuous feelings towards her brother. Fans could hate her a bit seeing she even once held a razor to her brother's throat in the movie because she felt he had betrayed her.

Many people may not like Kozue but they cannot deny her drive in the entire series is one to be admired. In contrast, Miki is shown to be pure and prodigious and also someone who can be considered the "best" individual amongst the duelists.

However, Kozue, like Chigusa Sanjouin who is the main antagonist of the video game, is not completely evil. In fact, Saito Chiho shows that Miki's denial to grow up and be an adult and always lusting after their childhood serenity had made Kozue the way she is.

If Dios is a fallen prince, Utena a noble prince, Juri a graceful prince then Chigusa is a corrupted prince and like a corrupted prince Kozue seems to do horrible things to escape being fettered by labels and also make Miki shine.

Kozue's treatment also shows society's love and care for the male prodigy and its disdain for free thinking women (witch burnings come to mind). So, Kozue plays the part of the temptress and witch because she knows society accepts her to and in some way so does Miki.

Miki was featured in Juri's story as her supporter, which is a constant in the series. In a class reunion, Touga notices someone playing the piano. Miki is a well renowned pianist now and people believe it is him playing the piano.

Though Touga notices it is Kozue - Kozue is supposed to be in a coma. In actuality, as Empty Movement people translated, Miki wants to believe Kozue is in a coma because he is responsible for her situation.

Kozue married an abusive man and instead of helping her get support Miki wanted her to go back to him. At this moment, Kozue claims she loves him and goes to kiss him.

For a moment, Miki is going to kiss her back hinting that he may have harbored feelings for his own sister as well. Instead of accepting this he easily attacks Kozue for all their problems, which becomes the final straw for Kozue and she goes into a sleeping sickness.

Utena makes Miki realize that he has always found it easy to blame Kozue for his own shortcomings. Even still, Kozue is playing a song that he has had trouble writing. Miki is ashamed and he accepts that he has been seduced by his own male ego and has neglected his sister.

He starts playing alongside her and Kozue wakes up from her sickness. The siblings have accepted each other. When Kozue asks, what are they to each other Miki says their relationship is evolving. Meaning he won't let her go anymore. She is priceless to him.

Utena uses the music as a pair of stairs and meets Anthy again. They are as children but they embrace. As if Saito Chiho was saying, romantic and/or platonic there is something sacred and visceral between Anthy and Utena, which will never be erased. They will always meet each other and save each other, inspire each other and ultimately be together.

  Like the twins, like Juri and Shiori and like Touga and Saionji, Anthy and Utena's relationship is always evolving and will keep on because that is the reality of relationships that Saito Chiho has presented with a fairy tale. There is not one large happy ending.

There are sad endings, ambiguous endings and happy endings and new beginnings. Real people always are evolving in their friendships and relationships and the RGU characters are also doing the same.

Overall, Utena is a fairy tale experience that subverts its tropes and looks at the connections people have and how shortcomings can be overcome if one accepts them. And, in almost everyone lies a princess, prince and a witch. Humanity has the capacity to be multiple things - it is the rose that has its thorns and petals.

All the images are courtesy of Empty Movement.

The writer is a copy editor at The Asian Age