I watched the rest of Utena last night. I have to admit I am still in a disorderly emotional state. On the one hand, the characters of the series were people that I loved to see, and the show itself was well done. However, the series suffers from "anime ending" syndrome. Basically, there are two major elements to this.
One: Virtually all anime is based on manga. Often, this manga is a series which is still going when the anime comes out. In a sense, the anime becomes something of an extremely fancy commercial for the manga. But the problem arises when the final episode approaches. The final episode denotes an ending. But the manga, the story which the anime is based upon, has not yet ended. What to do? A climax is cobbled together, but many issues are left unresolved. Come read the manga to find out more.
Two: The Japanese have a philosophy when it comes to storytelling which is quite different from american fare. The typical american plot has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Very Greek/Roman (except the hero usually doesn't die at the end.) The Japanese take more of a "realistic" view. That is, after the battles are done, the credits roll, and the cowboy rides off in to the sunset, he doesn't simply cease to exist. Nor does the town he lived in. If these places existed during the story, they will continue to exist after the incident in focus is resolved. Hence, an anime series may pose questions which won't be answered in that particular snippet of time. This is because those questions are possibly something for the future, when the characters ride again.
Which actually leads to a Three: Well, if you don't end a series completely, you can make a sequel. I guess this is sort of a marketing thing.
Anyways, I'm actually not sure how much factor "One" has to do with the ending of the Utena anime. I'd be almost certain that factor "Two" plays at least some role, however.
Aside from the ending, the rest of the series was excellent. It still suffers from a good deal of re-use of animation, but the writing tends to make up for it. I could appreciate many of the subtle darts and dodges the series went through to get where it was going. One whole episode was dedicated to an egg which Nanami found in her bed. She assumed she had laid the egg. Her point of view regarding what that meant evolved over the episode. But what really was the egg? The episode didn't come out and say it, but a few little hints made it fairly clear. However, there were also mysteries which were never adequately explained. When the secret of the dueling arena is revealed... it doesn't exactly make sense. The animation sequence of Utena entering the arena is shown over and over.. and having had that drubbed in to our skulls, the explanation doesn't mesh well. There's also the Anthy/Akio thing, which seems like it could have been treated with more drama, but ended up only being barely touched upon. Finally, going back a little bit in the series, the matter concerning the building which burned down, and the professor it was named after, always felt like it was pushed aside rather than given a proper treatment. What was illusionary, what really happened? Did people not remember those events after they dissapeared? If they still remembered, what did it mean?
When it comes down to it, as much as I'd like to give Utena a 5 out of 5 rating, I can't. It's a strong 4, perhaps a 4.5, but the ending was a let down. After it was over, I felt as though a part of myself had been taken and made to dance off a cliff, hoping all the while that the fall would teach me to fly, until the impact crushed the hope and left the rest of me dazed and confused from the loss. If the end had been clearer, I'd have given it a strong 5, but I can't accept the drama that I had to go through just so I couldn't have satisfaction.
After completing Utena, I ended up sleeping for maybe 3 hours, and then laid in bed semi-concious for another hour. Finally, around noon, I woke up fully and started writing the above. My head and heart still ache a little, but I hope that by writing, I can expel what demons have grasped what's within me.
I had a strange thought as I was watching Utena.
It's not really possible for a thing to be full of emptiness. True emptiness implies a vaccuum, but no vaccuum is absolute. A few atoms will always be bobbing around. The irony is, atoms themselves are almost entirely empty. So, the other side of the coins is that, even when something is full, that fullness is almost completely empty. Solid, liquid, gas, all composed of things which are 99.9% nothingness.
The world is made of substance, and yet that substance is mostly a void. Yet, the world is not a void. We think that we think, and the world lights up to our command. What is thought? What ether dances in our brains? What does the lightning look like at an atomic level? Great streams and storms of electricity rage throughout our bodies, and yet those currents are merely electrons hopping from atom to atom. Electrons, which, when looked at compared to the void, are a breath in a hurricane. Yet they dance and they sway and they twirl and we stay enthralled in their embrace, thinking our race to be in a place unique in our space. What a disgrace. But what is grace? It is a thing which only thinking can see. Are our minds prisons? Or can they take flight? And are we simply deluding ourselves, when we do find our wings, that our boundaries have dissolved?
The line from a Living Color song comes to mind... "Anything is possible, nothing is real". I think the first part of that sentiment is quite true. If humanity does have a characteristic which saves itself, it is that we can do anything we set our minds to do. Yes, one can take the "Equalibrium" point of view, that we are as possible of doing evil as we are of doing good. But I think that, in the end, good can only win, because evil can only destroy, and by doing so, is destined only to destroy itself.
Nothing is real? I admit that I enjoy the contrast between the two statements. Anything is possible. Nothing is real. Therefore, anything that is real, is nothing, and nothing real is possible. But I think that only one of the statements can be true. I think anything is possible. And if that is true, then it must be possible for something to be real. I concede that it is also possible that nothing is real, if we are saying that *any*thing is possible. However, there are so many things which could be real.. for nothing to be real is one option out of infinite possibilities. And the one option negates the rest, or is negated by the rest. Do atoms have substance? They do. They are void, and yet they are not empty. And, therefore, something must be real.