Revolutionary Girl Utena Newbie Recap: Episode 10, “Nanami’s Precious Thing”
"Maybe a girl really can't become a prince..."
Well. I’ve been flip-flopping on Nanami episodes as of late, and guess what? This latest episode makes me change my mind again, but also has me wondering about the extreme messed up psychology underpinning and deepening what could’ve been a much sillier show.
First off: It makes me incredibly happy that Wet Blanket/Budding MRA Saionji is finally out of the picture. (Or is he???) As his expulsion is made public, he slinks out of the school, but not before bumping into his “BFF” Touga, who says he’ll help fight this expulsion as much as he can. In exchange, Saionji gives his precious exchange diary with Anthy over to Touga—who later burns it.
To note: this is a line of Saionji’s dialogue.
Later, the student council gets a new End of the World letter. There’s to be a duel in a day, but as Touga’s still injured, who’s to fight it? Miki and Jury argue over who will replace him when Touga drops a bombshell: a new, mysterious duelist is in the picture.
At the same time, Nanami confronts Utena in the greenhouse and slaps her over “causing” Touga’s injury.
The exact moment my blood pressure rose.
Utena normally would kick Nanami’s ass, but instead, she just takes it, saying that Touga’s injury is indeed her fault. (Giiiirrrrrl.) Nanami’s about to escalate her pouty beatdown when Touga himself comes in and offers to play the knight to Utena’s, not Nanami’s, lady.
At her home, Utena is in a full-on emo pose (knees folded, dark corner) when Anthy appears to come in to comfort her.
I wasn’t exaggerating.
Utena starts to destress, then realize Anthy’s talking to a stray kitten she’s brought it. But, the purple-haired space cadet has a rare moment of sage advice: she tells Utena to bring flowers to Touga, as there’s nothing wrong about doing that for both an injured man and a man who got injured for you.
At this moment, we’re hit with a flashback: during one of Touga’s birthdays, Nanami brings in a stray kitten as his birthday present. The rich adults around them pull their rich adult moves, acting disgusted by an adorable ball of fluff, but Touga both accepts her gift and kisses Nanami’s tear, telling her that she gave the best gift of all.
At this moment, I felt like I was expected to “get” her then: that Nanami treasures these tender moments with Touga and believes she is the only one with a right to them. But, I don’t quite buy it—it’s one thing for someone to be obsessed with their sibling. She takes it as far as it can healthily go, and then it slips away from her.
In the present, Nanami sees Touga practicing with a kendo stick outside of their (shared???) residence. He, of course, is shirtless and bandaged up, in full shoujo prince splendor, which would be alright if he weren’t framed and drawn as such in the eyes of his messed up sister.
And boy: Nanami pleads with Touga to stop training, and when he seems bemused by her concern, she asks him for a kiss. He’s rightly a little disturbed, but instead of telling her off, he brushes her away. Then: another flashback, of a taped box by a river’s edge.
The next day, Utena and Anthy visit Touga’s school office (lol), where they’re told that he may not be attending classes, but he’ll be hosting a party at his place tonight. Turns out, it’s none other than a birthday party, and when Utena finally apologizes to Touga, he’s tickled by her disclaimer-heavy apology.
Touga? Laughing at something other than Nanami’s charming and lovable personality??? She shows up and slaps Utena’s flowers out of her hands, publicly blaming her for Touga’s injury. Anthy then tries to explain Saionji’s part (go Anthy!!!), but then NANAMI. SLAPS. HER. (There is no faster way to make me full-on hate a character than for them to slap Anthy.) Anthy’s present falls to the ground—and meows.
Very unrelated: that’s a pretty cute dress.
Despite this obvious callback, Nanami continues to shout that Utena’s butting into Touga’s business, which the rest of the party attendees take to mean that Utena and Touga are together. I’m pretty sure this exclamation, which didn’t have much effect over the course of the episode, will find its way back to Utena later in the show.
As Nanami goes outside to sulk, Touga and Utena have truce tea. He explains Nanami’s feelings away as just a product of their sibling closeness (choosing to neglect their continued history of said “closeness”), and tells Utena about the kitten present, as well as the fact that it later mysteriously disappeared. Right after he tells that story, Anthy finally gives him her present, which is of course a kitten. And, within earshot of Nanami, Touga tells Anthy that this kitten is the best. present. ever.
BOOM: flashback, to Touga playing with the kitten Nanami gave him. As she calls out for his attention, he ignores her, choosing instead to play with her present. So, Nanami steals the kitten back and brings it to the river’s edge. At this point, I’m pretty sure she drowns it, but perhaps there’s still a chance that she’s not as capital-T Terrible as this set-up is making her look… right?
But, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Nanami drops a rose at Utena’s feet and challenges her to a duel.
As LSP would say: DRAMA BOMB!!!
Miki and Jury pop up out of nowhere to chime in that Nanami’s being presumptuous, but then Touga gives Nanami a rose seal, confirming that Nanami is indeed the mysterious challenger who’d been foretold.
And then, a convenient Shadow Girls skit: the two squabble on naming their newly-adopted shadow cat. No deep lessons here, except that holy shit cats are adorable and I wish my roommate weren’t allergic so I could adopt 20.
Then, it’s duel time—as Touga watches on. (Creepy? Creepy.)
I will give the writers props for challenging Nanami’s portrayal as the “girliest” girl on the show, even if it, well, gives her the character that she has.
Nanami (in an admittedly fly outfit) screams over and over again about how her brother is the most important thing to her, while actually keeping up with Utena in the beginning. But then Utena “invokes” the castle spirit and slices Nanami’s rose. Battle over?
NO: Nanami whips out a dagger along with her sword and goes after Utena anyway.
This is some gorgeous staging.
Nanami’s goddamn persistence and madness-driven strength actually leads her to corner Utena, but then Touga FINALLY tells her to stop.
And in the final flashback: yup, she’d killed the cat. But oh, because she 1) felt really bad about it!!! and 2) did it out of love for her brother!!!, she’s supposed to be implicitly forgiven by both Touga (unless he doesn’t actually know) and the audience. As this pertains to the duel: Touga, who’s been basically playing both Nanami and Utena against each other for him (Nanami explicitly, Utena more implicitly), “chooses” Nanami and tells her that he’ll always protect her. Utena is surprisingly chill at the duel’s end, considering how terrible both siblings have generally been to her and Anthy.
But wait, there’s more—Touga’s internal dialogue reveals that he’s been gathering data on Utena via these duels, and plans to beat her when it’s his time to go. Is Touga the Big Bad of the series? Is he actually End of the World? Will I ever change my mind on Nanami again? Until next time.
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