Revolutionary Girl Utena Newbie Recap: Episode 4, “The Sunlit Garden – Prelude”
"It's a song about how I can't express the eternal beauty I feel inside."
This episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena gets right to it with a cold open: The blue short-haired member of the student council, Miki, is set to duel Utena over the Rose Bride. His claim is much softer than Saionji’s; he merely wants to “get the music back,” but how does that involve Anthy? Luckily, the episode’s only just started, which means we’re about to find out.
In the “present” episode timeline, we see Miki playing the piano, but he abruptly stops when Nanami, the mean girl who’s Touga’s sister, comes to compliment him.
She asks him about his playing since he’d recently dropped out of a competition; he’s starting to doubt his ear, as well as be frustrated about this one song (with a rose on its cover, HMM) he’s practicing for a mysterious “she.” (Nanami obviously thinks it’s about her.)
However, as Miki attempts to explain the significance of the song to her, Nanami flips through his sheet music and finds a photo of none other than Anthy inside! Considering Anthy is indeed familiar with the student council (though it was mostly through her “engagement” to Saionji), it’s not weird for them to know each other, but it does raise a lot of questions as to the inter-student council relationships.
Around the school, Wakaba and Utena are talking about and comparing recent math test scores, leading the former to spout this bit of “advice” from her mother: “A real woman can force her logic onto any man.” (The context being that Utena tells Wakaba that the latter needs to be more logical. Whatever the case, this isn’t true for what are hopefully obvious reasons.)
Utena is being uncharacteristically moody and sassy toward Wakaba, but then reveals that she got a 38 on the exam too and needs to take a make-up test. Implied by her reticence: The reason her scores are so low this time around are because of the extra time she’s been spending, um, dueling student council members.
Meanwhile, Anthy’s humming while going about her day when Nanami’s mean girl posse comes and slaps her over “what she’s done to Miki.” (Or rather, Nanami’s spread a nasty rumor about Anthy’s picture in his sheet music.) Sidebar: I am so sick of people slapping Anthy??? Like, it’s a wonder that the girl hasn’t broken down or something yet, but it’s not quite satisfactory knowing that Utena’s going to duel a portion of the people being assholes to her; I want Anthy to grab a kendo sword and go to town.
Anyway, Miki comes to her rescue (a recurring theme…) and they go on a walk together, whereupon Utena and Wakaba see them from their classroom window. As a helpful character intro, Wakaba explains that Miki is a MIDDLE SCHOOL FRESHMAN prodigy with his studies, piano, and fencing (!). (It is so weird to suddenly remember that these characters are supposed to be tweens.)
Just a couple of tweens doing tween things.
It seems evident that Miki’s got some sort of “thing” for Anthy, and later as he studies in the library, Miss Jury (an orange-headed not-Touga member of the student council, who’s expressed worry about Utena before) asks him where he’s been. He’s correcting a test—not Utena’s, but Anthy’s, and later heads to her and Utena’s place to tutor the latter on the exam.
There, Utena teases him about his clear “admiration” of Anthy until she learns that he’s with the student council. (Was that not obvious by the uniform? Literally no one else has been shown wearing those white uniforms.) As people getting in Anthy’s shit generally leads to Utena having to put those people down, she accuses him of trying to make Machiavellian moves; he swears that’s not true, that Anthy just reminds him of someone from his past.
The next day, Touga overhears Miki practicing; instead of stopping, like he did with Nanami, Miki tells the president that he might’ve found the “shining thing” he’d lost years before. This leads into a helpful flashback: of Miki playing piano with a young girl by his side.
This is supposed to be poignant, but boy that screencap is creepy.
Nanami overhears this and gets mad, because she cannot understand why Anthy is so “popular” amongst the “boys” (or rather, student council boys). In her head, it’s come at a social cost to her, so she decides to try and peel back Anthy’s mask to reveal her for the unlovable person she actually is.
Miki arrives to tutor Utena and Anthy, but surprise—Nanami has tagged along, and Utena actually lets her inside. (To be fair, she probably doesn’t know about the girl’s involvement in Anthy’s dance humiliation. That said, UGHHHH.)
This is just a really cute screencap.
Once inside, Nanami plans to—I’m not joking—plant a snail in Anthy’s pencil box to reveal her as some sort of dirty weirdo. As the rest of the kids actually study and learn, Nanami fantasizes about the catharsis she’ll feel once Anthy’s reputation is shot (again, over… snails in a pencil box). However, in actuality…
…Anthy already keeps a bunch of snails in her pencil case, a fact that Utena chastises her over (only to say “That’s so confusing!”) and Miki finds cute.
Fool me once: Nanami decides to try yet another animal-related prank, which involves putting a snake in Anthy’s desk drawer. However, Anthy keeps a MONGOOSE there, and it promptly chows down on the snake. Again: Utena chastise, Miki chuckles. The real question: How has “Mr. Mongoose” not chowed down on Chu-Chu? (Sorry, Chu-Chu. Gotta ask the hard questions.)
Finally, Nanami tries to plant an octopus in Anthy’s closet. (Girl.) Of course there’s giant octopus in it. (Albeit a balloon; the show can only suspend realism so much.)
As Nanami’s crushed under a giant octopus balloon, we see what actually makes Utena and Miki think Anthy’s a weirdo: She draws a little flipbook animation in her practice book, for which both call her out as not taking the studying seriously. As Nanami stays crushed under a giant octopus.
Similarly, what makes Nanami really snap is after her study break bento is eaten by Chu-Chu. She finally reveals her intentions, shocking everyone in the group and literally no viewers.
So defensive, girl.
Nanami then “accuses” Miki of being in love with Anthy. But the Rose Bride doesn’t get to hear that part; instead, she flees to go play piano—the same song Miki always plays. THAT MIKI AND HIS LITTLE SISTER PLAYED. The plot thickens accordingly.
It looks like we won’t get any sort of resolution until the next episode, helpfully titled “The Sunlit Garden — Conclusion.” But some things to chew on: Who’s Miki’s sister? What happened to her? What’s up with the recurring stop watch imagery, which flicks onto the screen for a second at most as a cap on Miki’s scenes? Until next time.
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