I will preface this one by saying that I am mad ill - like, ugly sick, weird fever, unexplained contextual bends in my reference sphere - and so I thought what better time (and also gotta keep busy or death will claim me, 100 percent) to tackle the episode with the Metaphor of the Three Candles, which is a staunch, businesslike metaphor and will probably keep me nailed down as my head (two? three sizes larger than usual?) bobs about the corners of the room.
So: things may be shaky.
We begin with the camera cutting straight from a close-up of Wakaba’s onion dome to an exterior shot of Utena gazing wistfully out the window, which slowly pans in, giving the impression that Utena is eavesdropping on Wakaba’s conversation from a completely separate building, but, y'know, everyone makes mistakes. Why read into it? I mean you could say that it serves to underscore the way that Utena cannot usefully take on board Wakaba’s common-sense advice to Prince Onion - that a fundamental schism has taken place [see episode 20, faithful fans] and that Wakaba is no longer able to save her from the attentions of predatory dudes, having demonstrated herself to be entrenched in a culture that enables them. But it’s probably just clumsy editing.
All this talk of first kisses has Utena thinking about her prince, which means it’s time for the cock tower to loom out at us once again. We find that Akio has baked a cake.
It’s even rarer to find a guy who can bake a metaphor. This all has the feeling of sympathetic magic about it - maybe the dude has learned a few tricks from his witch sister.
Utena fawns over Akio’s cake-making skills. Wakaba arrives and repeats Utena’s fawning word for word. Utena successfully identifies this as flirtation when Wakaba is doing it, but doesn’t make the connection to her own behavior. Then she looks at Akio and makes this face:
And then her eyes stray down to Anthy and her face changes.
She knows, on some level, at this point. Doesn’t she? That’s guilt, isn’t it?
The candles gutter in the wind.
Then, inverting the Friendship Between Girls tarot card, Wakaba tells Utena that if she doesn’t lighten up, she’ll never fall in love.
A smash cut to the sacrificial authority figure from Episode 1 underscores that Wakaba is currently doing the work of the female wing of the patriarchy, the collaborationist Stasi of this divided state, who strive to keep everyone behind the Dudely Curtain at all times. The guidance counselor tells Utena that she needs to be more feminine, because going through life in drag on the battlefield is no way to be. Utena risks never developing into a functional member of this society if she persists in ignoring her role. The representative of genuine power present here puts this another way.