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Ruminations on a Game of Lawn Tennis

Possibly one of my favorite scenes in the whole series is the lawn tennis scene in episode 37. Taking place while Utena is avoiding dealing with her invitation to the Duel called Revolution, it's a brief scene which, despite its relative lightheartedness compared to the rest of the episode, seems to have some pretty significant meaning. And like all things with Revolutionary Girl Utena, a great deal of it can be interpreted in many ways.

The scene begins with Miki and Jury pulling Utena aside to find out what her plans are regarding her letter from End of the World. A very serious subject indeed, and one that is counterpointed by the fun happy game they are beginning to play–somewhat evocative of the many student council meetings, in which council members are always involved in some sort of recreation as they discuss End of the World's plans. The bounce between serious and silly is as constant as the volley of the birdie... but the feeling of the scene is overall unified. Ultimately–unlike the student council meetings–there is a strong sense of real camaraderie here between Utena, Miki, Jury, and even Nanami, something which slowly developed through the series, but was never really seen quite so clearly before this point.

But regarding the bounce between lighthearted and serious, there are a few debates. Well, one debate, really: are the nature of Miki and Jury's flirtations with Utena serious? Many people believe they are indicating they are truly falling for Utena and are admitting it here. Personally, I doubt it. All Miki originally said was that he was worried about Utena (reiterating, actually, what Nanami was trying to express in a much more mild manner), and it is Jury who jabs, "Is this a confession?" and Utena remarks on Miki's crush on Himemiya. Miki simply plays along saying, "I can change my mind, can't I?" True, he may be getting over Himemiya, but Jury, Miki, and Nanami have had a conversation before about "changing" the ones they love with the acknowledgement that it just isn't that easy. Jury, I think, is carrying along the joke by asking for Utena's picture. She's not over Shiori yet, or at least hasn't revealed as much, because Miki mentions a "rival coming onto the scene"&3150;rival, not replacement. Finally, and most importantly, they're all laughing. I just can't see Jury and Miki, even in the process of growing past their issues, laugh about seriously being in love. Certainly, Miki and Jury are working on getting through their issues, but as Jury says, "Even now, we still have our own problems to deal with."

I think the real point of this conversation is to bring it up and away from Nanami's vague but impassioned warnings about Anthy and Akio. Nanami yells at Utena about the trouble she could be in (indirectly admitting, quite surprisingly, that she's worried for Utena). Jury and Miki are worried too (as Miki states), but they also have a much better idea of what is at stake. They know that Utena needs to make her own decision for her own reasons–and that she can't be dissuaded from being concerned with Anthy. I think they're trying to show Utena they support her and that they admire her for what she's doing–but to treat the situation more directly would be to put a cast of gloom upon it that Utena really doesn't need to deal with at the moment.

Also, the game is being watched–pay attention: you'll notice that Kozue is observing the game from an upstairs window, and Shiori is standing in the entrance archway about thirty feet from Jury. It's unfortunately impossible to tell whether the players are aware of this. However, if Jury and Miki are aware of Kozue and Shiori's presence, it's possible that Jury and Miki are trying to change the subject while non-council members are listening. It's also possible that they are also trying to have a jab at their respective counterparts to punish them for snooping. Neither Kozue nor Shiori look too pleased about Jury and Miki's comments (and they look a bit left out, too).

The friendship theme seems the most important one here–and it's an important thing for Utena to know she has people who know what's going on who are supporting her for her, not for the "power to revolutionize the world." Jury's comment about Utena duelling for unselfish reasons really strikes a note, if not with Utena (at least immediately), but at least with me as a viewer. Utena is being selfish at the beginning of this episode. She's avoiding Anthy's issues, she's avoiding her own issues, and she's messing around with her best friend's older brother and, in Utena's words, "picking on" Anthy rather than dealing with the situation. When talking to Jury and Miki about the decision to fight, Utena just mocks her own ideals (or perhaps is realizing some sad truth about herself): "All I'm doing is pretending to be a prince." Although it's Anthy's suicide dramatics later in the episode that pushes Utena to duel, I can't help but wonder if this little scene helped Utena refocus on what is really at stake. "You're the only one who dueled for unselfish reasons," Jury says... "oh yeah," thinks Utena, "That's right. I'm not supposed to be selfish." She remembers that she's the "fool" who goes into it, not for her Prince and not for her own ambitions, but for friendship.

Death Quaker's Realm All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard. Revolutionary Girl Utena and all related concepts belong to Chiho Saito, Be-Papas, Shogakukan, Shokaku, TV Tokyo
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