Once upon a time, years and years ago, there was a little princess, and she was very sad, for her mother and father had died.
The only time I was happy was when I was with you!
So I know this story is primarily about surviving abuse, but as someone with clinical depression, I also found SKU very empowering on a personal level.
I can’t do a read more on image posts, so content warning for discussion of depression and suicide.
Depression is like cancer- you can beat it, but it never really goes away. As a very young child, Utena experiences situational depression and suicidal ideation. By the start of the series, she appears highly confident and happy, and she is happy, even if her confidence is not as strong as it looks; but there are still moments when you can see her still fighting that battle.
Some episodes of SKU deal very obviously and directly with depression- in episode twelve, Utena suffers a depressive episode after losing Anthy to Touga. She stops expressing her individuality, smiling, or even responding. Utena beats back this depression as she always does, with determination and reminders of friendship.
I think it’s pretty strongly implied that all the duelists at Ohtori are hand-picked by Akio because of their vulnerability, because he is a classic predator. Utena’s biggest vulnerability is her depression, which of course comes back when Akio starts abusing her. I’ve never experienced abuse so I’m not in a position to discuss it, though.
What I really love is the last three episodes. Utena pulls Anthy from the edge, but she uses blaming language- you’re running away?!- but then when they both open up Utena shows that she realizes she had no idea how much pain Anthy was in, and didn’t care to look. Then, in the final episode, there is no blaming or moral judgement or anything- just Utena desperate to help the person she loves in any way possible. Utena gets up. Then the imagery- Anthy in the coffin with a tiny crack of light illuminating the darkness- that really hit me on a personal level, because it’s a great representation of how a small act of kindness can create a crack that you can use to claw your way out of there. And finally, the image of the million swords rushing towards Utena made me feel physically sick, because it looked just like how it feels to sense a depressive episode coming on.
Anyways that was a whole heckton of words sorry everyone