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Character Analysis of Ruka Tsuchiya

Possibly the most complex anime character to ever occupy only two episodes of a TV series, Ruka is a swirling azure vortex of love, hate, devotion, manipulation, arrogance, stubbornness, and desperation. Driven to win a miracle for his successor, student, and love interest Jury Arisugawa, he hatches an incredibly complicated plot involving crushing and trapping Shiori's heart on one end and discerning the true secret behind Utena's victoriousness on the other. These two items unrelated? Not really, once you think about it.

Extremely little information is given about Ruka and his past: we know he used to be Captain of the Fencing Team and that Jury was his replacement; he was a Duellist and, given his outfit and familiarity with the Council chambers, likely also a Student Council Member; he left Ohtori apparently due to some sort of serious illness and seems to have come back during a period of recovery. Nanami, although a good four or five years younger than Ruka, knows him (probably through Touga) well enough to have developed an opinion of him, and she moreover mentions he has some kind of reputation–which means he was probably around Ohtori for at least some good while. Jury did not apparently know or get involved with him until after Shiori and Fencing Boy (who, while also having soft eyes and a ridiculous forelock, is NOT the same person as Ruka) left Ohtori (this seems to be Jury's last year of junior high). We know Shiori probably didn't know Ruka before this, but Ruka knows who Shiori is at least in relation to Jury (perhaps told to him by either Touga or Akio). Jury clearly respects his skills and the training he gave her but, given her cold and restrainedly polite reception of him at the beginning, she seems to have a chip on her shoulder about something that happened between them in the past.

And we know... perhaps the most certain thing we know... is that he loves Jury. She cares for him, it becomes clear through the two episodes in which he appears, despite her cool demeanor, but she does not return his affections, nor does she want to.

His means of expressing his devotion to Jury sure are strange and complicated, however. No flowers and cheesy poetry for this boy. No simple "I love you"s. For whatever reason–likely either because he expects Jury will not return his love, or because he thinks/knows he is dying and doesn't want to "burden" Jury with his temporary affection–Ruka decides he's going to give Jury the ability to win herself a miracle. And thus he hatches one of the most complicated schemes to happen across two episodes of the entire series.

Watching the emotional roller coaster he sends both Shiori and Jury on–ultimately to hurt Shiori and help (if painfully) Jury–it's hard to notice a major part of his plan, which is to observe Utena and the nature of her victoriousness. Utena is the current victor, and there is obviously something about her that allows her to defeat even the most talented of swordsmasters, even though, in Ruka's quite qualified opinion, she doesn't have the raw skill to do so. Jury has the ability; all he has to do is unlock a similar "something" within Jury to get her on equal ground with Utena–if Jury has the "something," then she's on equal footing with Utena in one aspect, and can use her superior skill with a sword to attain victory. He has to test Utena in combat to see for himself what her "something" is–and since everyone's getting themselves a Bride in that arc, he needs a Bride to qualify. Jury obviously won't do; she doesn't trust him. He needs someone he can use and then discard easily enough if she doesn't serve her purpose well enough; someone who doesn't matter to him or the duels in the long scheme of things; someone gullible, naive, easily manipulated; someone who's got a thing for boys with forelocks who fence; and someone who desperately wants to feel important about herself (which the role of the Bride could do quite well). And heck, if its someone he can feel vindicated about using and tossing aside afterward, someone who can help twist Jury's heart if necessary–and maybe even, on his darker side, someone he can torture Jury a little with, so Jury can know the torture he feels–all the better. Enter Shiori, who falls for his line faster than she sees the bait cast.

It's a rather peculiar duel, the only one in the Akio Car arc where it's the Bride that has to get talked into the car and not the Duellist–and maybe from that we should know just how contrived it is. It's just a "test drive" as it were, and it goes beautifully, and Ruka loses spendidly, just as he planned to. He observes Utena, observes her fighting, and observes the woman she fights so desperately to protect. "It's the Bride's fault I lost*," he says–meaning the Rose Bride of course, quickly picking up that it's something about Anthy's and Utena's relationship that gives Utena the inner strength needed to succeed. Shiori conveniently misinterprets this, thinking she's the Bride he's talking about, allowing Ruka to break up with her and continue to use her in the next phase of his plan: getting Jury to fight.

Ruka's seemingly sudden, cruel breakup with Shiori gets Jury right in the gut–and right where Ruka wants her. It's easy enough to see how he uses Shiori's pain to manipulate Jury to get her to fight.

The scene between Ruka and Jury in the fencing room is a hard one to interpret–is Ruka attempting a last ditch effort, by himself, to woo Jury away from Shiori and the duels? Is he trying to see if she will accept him, to take her away–or is it to test her true devotion to Shiori, to make sure he picked a suitable sacrifice for Jury to fight for–and then make sure he can manipulate that to get her to agree to fight while taking the responsibility of that decision fully on herself? It's hard to say; I'm inclined to argue that it's both. Certainly if she suddenly returned his affections he'd be happy to abort the plan, but the plan is in place regardless.

He at least subtly indicates to Jury why he's pushing her so hard: "She's a fool, Jury, she doesn't understand her Miracle stands on someone else's sacrifice." The "she" is Utena, the "someone else" is Anthy: he's trying to make Jury see the parallel he wants to create without spelling it out too much so she won't recognize the depth of his plotting.

Ruka's plan, as complex as it might be, end up flawed. Jury may end up fighting to "free Shiori," but unlike Utena and Anthy, it is not Shiori who is there wih Jury. Ruka, at his best and worst, is only a proxy, and cannot stand in for Shiori at the duel any more than he can in Jury's heart. Ruka watches helplessly as the symbol of Jury's attachment to Shiori is brutally–if inadvertently–cut away from her. All plans dissolving in the rain, he can only emptily urge her, "Don't worry."

Ruka disappears as quickly as he arrives. Jury watches a Shadow Play about a dying man doing what he could to get the woman he loved the power of Miracles before he died; given the Shadow Girls usually engage in allegory and not straight truth, we don't know if he really died. Jury's letter to him seems to indicate he perhaps is okay, wherever he's gone to. And that he is gone might mean he's simply, finally, been able to let go of Ohtori and its shadow promises. Oddly enough, if one views the situation optimistically, it seems Jury is "freed," just a little bit, to go back to her normal life. We see just how good a captain she is and how much the team needs her (she tends to injured teammates, not wasting her time flirting with them). Shiori approaches her, willing to talk where she wasn't before (and apparently not stalking Ruka on the phone anymore)–whether this is indicative they're trying to move on, apologize, or begin their painful game all over again largely depends upon one's view and expectations of both Jury and Shiori. I'd like to think that, with all the pain Ruka caused in the name of his idea of the greater good, it might mean something is heading toward resolution–and thus that he may somehow "get his wish," as Jury hopes, after all. Even if it's not how this master manipulator planned it

Go back to Ruka's character summary for any further available analysis.


*This line is unfortunately and sloppily transformed in the Central Park Media dub into "It's my Bride's fault," which shatters Ruka's wonderful innuendo. The "official" subtitles and several fan translations do it with "the Bride," and given the situation, this makes much more sense, given his efforts in observing Utena, and has ever so much more impact.

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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