Utena is the perfect example of a shÅjo anime. The movie is complete with a naïve fantasy of princes and princesses and adolescent girls with characteristically big eyes, flowing hair, and magic powers. 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 storyline overtly displays the shÅjo using her abject female identity to overcome patriarchal societies’ expectations of the ideal female.
Utena appears similar to a regular fairy tale on the exterior but is clearly different underneath. The fairy tale-like story is used to critique the illusions found in fairy tales (Napier 176). Like a classic fairy tale, Utena arrives at a castle-like academy dressed like a prince and must fight other duelists in order to save the Rose Bride, Anthy. But Utena diverges from the regular fairy tale because Utena is female and the castle-like academy and princes are only illusions. Utena and Anthy created the illusion when they denied and rationalized the negative aspects of their princes’ identities. After their idealized fantasy is shattered, Utena makes the revolutionary decision to leave their current fairy-tale world with Anthy. Upon leaving, the fairy tale academy is shown to be a dark and empty place filled only with straw dolls. The world is destroyed once Utena and Anthy decide to leave it behind since it was a fantasy upheld only by their imagined ideals of a patriarchal fairy tale land.
Utena really brings home the idea of shÅjo and possibilities available to the abject female identity because Utena uses her identity to carry out an apocalypse of the fairy tale world. According to Frenchy Lunning, the shÅjo is the perfect vehicle for potentially creating new female social identities because she is able to escape patriarchal societies’ expectations of a woman by switching between the image of an innocent girl and a mature woman (Lunning). Utena is a unique shÅjo because she consciously recognizes her potential to change the world. Utena carries out in the storyline what Lunning states that the shÅjo does through repeated manifestations in our society. Shes takes it one step further by seizing the opportunity created by her abject identity to create a new identity. She does this through conscious rejection of patriarchal ideals. Utena and Anthy reject the existence of princes and the idealized female by deciding to leave behind the role of the oppressed Rose Bride and false memories of their princes. Utena used the potential in her adolescent, not-quite-set shÅjo identity to pursue new identities and a relationship with Anthy. Utena takes the shÅjo story one step further because she is a shÅjo character herself but actively uses her identity to create new possibilities for herself.
Lunning, Frenchy. “Under the Ruffles: ShÅjo and the Morphology of Power.” Mechademia,
2011: 3-19. Web. DOI: 10.1353/mec.2011.0021
Napier, Susan. Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle. New York: Palgrave Macmillan,