Contrary to popular belief (and possibly what I've written on this blog) I don't absolutely despise Manga. I'll read it, of course, but I don't like to review or rant or comment on it. I just finished reading Revolutionary Girl Utena, Volume 5. I imagine with a simple search I'll be able to find blog articles on the sexuality in the story. The gender roles that switched, the gender roles that weren't, Utena as a romance hero vs Utena as an action hero, homosexual undertones, homosexual overtones, lesbian text, bisexuality, whatever you can think of. Probably all written by people who know Japan better than I do because I don't know a damned thing about Japanese culture. I've never been there, and I don't really have the inclination or funds to go. I try to read enough about Eastern religion and philosophy to recognize when someone's blatantly ripping off and/or disrespecting an Eastern religion in paganism, but really that's not the same as studying culture. So, while I'll read and enjoy anime or manga that's been recommended for a very specific reason (Utena was suggested after I did a short message board post on why I liked Wonder Woman) I can't break down the story like I can a book by a British or American writer, because I feel like I'm out of my element when it comes to the symbolism. I'll make an exception here, though.
(I told you I'd use that banner). Spoilers, but I'll summarize first (and gender-specify because I know shit-all about japanese names and I'm willing to bet some of you are in the same boat) for those of you who haven't read the series but still want to read the post.
Please note, this is the Manga only. I haven't watched the anime, and I've heard it goes totally different.
In this series, Utena (female) gets rescued from drowning as a little girl by The Prince (male) and decides she is going to be just like him when she grows up. (Also, he's promised they'll meet again if she's noble and strong so most of this series is her looking for him). After moving to a new school, Utena rescues Anthy (female) from her abusive spouse Saionji (male) in a duel (which has special effects and a sword beign pulled out of a woman's chest), and then gets informed that Anthy is the Rose Bride and is now her Bride because she won the duel. There are lots of MYSTERIOUS and SECRET happenings with the duelists, and there's a special dueling field that is directly underneath the floating upsidedown castle where The Prince lives.
Utena then duels Juri (female) over the affections of Touga (male), and Miki (male) because Miki's sister is being held hostage. Then Touga (male) because he was leading her on, pretending to be The Prince. After she's won against just about everyone, enter Akio (male), who is Anthy's brother and apparently The Prince. He gets into a romantic relationship with Utena. Touga, who still has a crush on Utena, tells her that Akio is just toying with her emotions like he toyed with his emotions and one things leads to another and Utena ends up dueling Akio. Akio wins, turns Utena into the Rose Bride, and reveals that oops, no he's not The Prince but he's The Bad Guy who has been manipulating them all series. Well, that sucks, and the enchantment around being the Bride manages to keep Utena from stopping Akio from climbing up into the floating upside down castle to kill The Prince. She snaps out of it, though, and is then pissed and gets Anthy (who switches sides more than Ares in Wonder Woman) to lead her and the other four duelists up to the floating upside-down castle.
While inside the floating upside-down castle, Juri, Miki, and Saionji try to get everyone to turn back, so Anthy imprisons them in glass coffins because all of a sudden she's a major power and shit, and Touga and Utena follow her on. Touga gets injured, Utena moves on and finds The Prince, already injured and dying. She then fights Akio, gets the exposition, does some funky power merging thing with The Prince's Soul, merges Akio and The Prince (because they were just two halves of the same diety), saves the world and gets locked up in the floating upside down castle -- or it gets destroyed, I'm not too clear on this.
Touga wakes up to find that he remembers everything, but no one else (Juri, Miki, and Saionji) remember Utena, Akio, dueling, or the floating upside-down castle. He finds Anthy, who is now acting exactly like Utena, and she explains that Utena's waiting in the floating upside-down castle and that someday she'll go up there and they'll hook up.
The reason I gender-specified (instead of letting people guess!) is to point out who was in a samesex relationship with a divine figure and who wasn't. Akio and Anthy are established as divine figures in the end. Touga was with Akio, and Utena was with Anthy. Saionji was with Anthy, so he was with a divine figure, but he didn't have a samesex relationship. Miki has no romantic relationship (his sister prevents it). Juri only has romantic interest in Touga and Ruka (male). She actually doesn't interact with women much at all. Juri, Miki, and Saoinji are unable to go forward in the castle, and they end up forgetting the entire experience.
Kalinara swears Juri is a lesbian in the anime, but in the manga she's like the token heterosexual woman of the story. Only shows interest in male characters. They make a point of having her say she's not dueling for Anthy, but for Touga. She doesn't even interact with women other than Utena. (Actually, I was surprised in the second volume when they pointed out that Juri was a she! She's thin, in a male uniform, and only ever spent time with male characters). I'll probably rent the anime just to see how much differently everything works out with the character sexuality realigned. But in the manga, it lines up so that the bisexual characters get to advance, but the straight (by which I mean strictly) heterosexual characters get caught up, and the straight homosexual side-characters don't ever make it to floating upside-down castle.
So I wonder, is there a point to that particular division? Was not embracing both genders romantically a sign of being blind/unaccepting of divinity and destiny in this book? Or was it simply because these three characters were minor, they just weren't important enough to get a samesex relationship or an epiphany?
Maybe someone who wasn't surprised to find out this book wasn't set in a small communist South American nation can help me out here.