REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA - INTERVIEW WITH HASHIMOTO KATSUYO
This interview appeared in “Art of Utena” artbook.
As you may already know, Hashimoto Katsuyo (or Hosoda Mamoru which is his real name) was in charge of storyboards for Juri episodes (7, 29), but he also did the storyboard for episodes 14, 20, 23, 33 and 39. He was probably the most prominent figure involved with this series, right after Ikuhara and Enokido.
Here he talks about Juri and Ruka’s relationship as it was presented in episode 29. Enjoy!
- So next, continuing the subject of Juri’s plotline please talk about episode 29
Hashimoto: Yes. In episode 7 Juri got considerably cornered, so I was wondering what kind of a man would it have to be to save such Juri. I knew from the screenplay that Ruka was supposed to die in the end, but I thought that he has to be a pretty “extreme” kind of guy, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible for Juri to be saved. And in the end I thought that it has to be someone who can completely sacrifice himself without any ulterior motives behind his desire of saving other person.
- So, Hashimoto-san, it can be said without exaggeration that your image of Ruka is the person who saves Juri…
Hashimoto: That’s right. Right from the end of episode 28 till the beginning of episode 29 Ruka Is portrayed as a manipulator. For example, the way he played around with Shiori. Well, Shiori is quite of a schemer in her own regard, but Ruka surpasses even her. But the fundamental difference between him and Shiori is that although a manipulator, at the core he really wants to help Juri. And while moving toward that goal, he sometimes ends up cornering even Juri herself depending on the situation. He corners her because he wants her to enter the duel and gain herself a miracle, but to bring things to that state, for that he acts as a manipulator. I think that since he cornered the very person he is in love with to such an extent it must have caused him a considerable amount of pain.
But I also think that by doing what he did he also wanted Juri to surpass him. In case of love relationships, even if one thinks “I want to save him/her”, it usually happens that there is some kind of ulterior motive behind that statement, right? So in the end it just doesn’t count as saving at all in most cases. I think it is a paradox that often happens. But in order to save Juri he knows he has to go pass that point. I think that one can’t really save other person if he or she doesn’t honestly think what is best for that person or doesn’t hold that person dearly in his/her heart. Ruka’s time of death was getting nearer, but it’s not that he could act without any ulterior motives because his was destined to die soon. He would do the same thing even if he wasn’t on the verge of dying.
He acted only on the base of his desire to release Juri from her suffering. In order to do that it was necessary to do something not only with Shiori, but with Juri’s mind as well. For that he even decided to become a villain. I think he could become a villain because he didn’t have any ulterior motives.
Self-sacrifice might sound sort of pompous, but I think that without this self-sacrifice it is not possible to save another person. In the middle of episode 29 Ruka said “In order for miracle to happen a sacrifice is necessary”. While watching the previous episode or the first part of this one it would seem that that sacrifice was Shiori and Juri herself, but of course that was false assumption; the object of self-sacrifice was Ruka himself.
- I wonder if the fact that Ruka didn’t reveal his feelings till the very end is also closely connected with the idea of saving someone?
Hashimoto: That’s right. It is like that, but Ruka had this internal conflict inside him as well. After he forcibly kissed Juri he attempted to smash her pendant. It was a part of the scheme, but in fact, some of his real feelings showed in this scene too. Even though he didn’t have any ulterior motives, he still hated Shiori because he loved Juri. After that Juri got panicked and slapped him, then crouched on the ground while holding the pendant – but I wonder if it wasn’t heartbreaking for Ruka to get treated like that. I think that when one reaches this stage the imagination can go wild even more (laugh).
I think that since Juri had been cornered by Shiori all this time, the object of her affection changed in such way that she came to think of the pendant more dearly than of Shiori herself; that she became warped to such extent. I think it must have been painful for Ruka to watch Juri behaving in such a pitiful manner - holding the pendant like a mother hen protecting her children.
- So the focus of episode 29 is the emotional entanglement and struggle of these characters?
Hashimoto: In each turning point I used this plot device of showing three chairs in order to describe their relationship in a simpler way. The direction toward which the chair is turned shows the direction of their feelings. But inside, the feelings are really complicated and extremely hard to understand. At the end there was a duel and she tried to win and gain the miracle, but she lost. But I think that the miracle really did happen in fact. I believe that the miracle happens not during the duel itself, but there is a moment when it happens inside person’s feelings when he or she are heading toward the duel. Originally Juri wanted miracle in order to achieve her unattainable love, but when the pendant smashed into pieces she lost her will to fight, to live and was in a state of total shock.
And then she ripped her rose off with her own hand. I think you can interpreted it in whatever way you want, but my interpretation is that this was a miracle itself. I mean, wasn’t the fact that Juri’s feelings got released a miracle? Until that moment, Juri’s feelings were something that could never change, something that could never be changed unless some miracle happened. But Juri ripped off her rose by herself. I believe that was the real miracle.
I think that miracle is not some supernatural phenomenon, but it means the change of peoples’ feelings. I interpreted it this way: she lost the duel, but the miracle did happen. The scene when it started raining – I intended it to be an indicator of the fact that miracle indeed happened. But Juri herself didn’t realize that the miracle happened. On the other hand, Ruka knew it did. That’s why he said “Don’t worry”. At the end, Juri was sitting on the chair which was turned in Ruka’s direction and while starring intently at his chair she was wondering “What was that?”.
She didn’t gain miracle in a fight, but by getting released from her obsession with miracle she also got released from Shiori. I think that was a miracle.
- She wasn’t wearing any pendant after that, right? Did her story finish at that point?
Hashimoto: Yes. I created episode 29 because I wanted to end her story. But unless there was someone that forced her into getting released, it was very unlikely that she could get saved. In the last scene we have Shiori chasing after Juri. Until now it was Juri who was chasing after Shiori, but here we had a kind of reversal phenomenon. And Juri didn’t push Shiori away nor she cared the same way she had been till now – she just calmly kept on walking.
I think that at this point Juri became independent. In that scene’s monologue Shiori wasn’t mentioned at all. Juri was talking only about Ruka. But it’s not that Juri understood Ruka. But she also didn’t think she needed to understand him. Until now she hated him, but she came to able to forgive him a bit, but that’s all. Taking that into account, there was no need for Juri to know what Ruka did and I think Ruka didn’t want her to know that either.
- The episode about Juri and Ruka is greatly valued even among fans.
Hashimoto: The animation director of this episode, Takeuchi-san, also did fantastic job. In the beginning of this episode’s duel, when Ruka was about to pull the sword out of Juri, he put his hand on Juri’s hair. I really like the animation of that scene and I think that Ruka, who never get his feelings reciprocated must have been waiting for this moment for a long time and must have been really happy at that moment. In the scene when they were inside Akio’s car there was also a moment in Juri and Ruka’s conversation when Juri said “I don’t care whether my feelings will get reciprocated or not”. This is exactly what Ruka was thinking. And since he got confirmation that Juri reached this stage he said “So it’s concluded”.
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