Miorine’s Sunlit Garden: Flower Language and Shades of Utena in The Witch From Mercury

Take my revolution.

There are a few specific things you can say to me that will make me check out an anime faster than “This draws from Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Revolutionary Girl Utena.” Utena is a series that I hold close to my heart in a way that has actually been detrimental to doing any sort of public analysis. I’ve avoided writing about Utena directly many times for fear of not having something “good enough to say” given how many wonderful analyses there are of its characters, visuals, and thematic elements. The excellent Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight helmed by Tomohiro Furukawa was pitched to me this way and deftly managed to be a love letter to and incisive criticism towards the Takarazuka Revue. (Not-so-coincidentally, the Revue is a major influence on a lot of other media properties in Japan and an obvious visual and structural inspiration for Ikuhara as a director.) Last year there was Shin Wakabayashi’s Wonder Egg Priority which started well and ended catastrophically.

This time it’s Hiroshi Kobayashi and his take on the Gundam franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury. Although there’s a more obvious and direct through line from The Witch From Mercury to Utena in series composer Ichiro Okouchi, who wrote the Utena light novels, whether The Witch From Mercury will deliver something anywhere near as incisive or fun as Utena, will rely on Kobayashi’s direction.


Tanaka’s Camellia Flowers — Odd Taxi Episode 4

“I feel like I’ve always been searching for something. At the same time, my life has always been lacking something. And desperately acquiring that something yields only a moment of pleasure.”

-Tanaka, Odd Taxi, Episode 4

Flower language? In my Odd Taxi? It’s more likely than you think.


Flower language in Heike Monogatari

“The color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline.”

-The Tale of the Heike

During her time at Kyoto Animation it was a truth universally acknowledged that any Naoko Yamada work must use flower language in some capacity. This remains true in her first work with Science Saru, an anime adaptation of the Japanese epic, Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike).


The flowers of Wonder Egg Priority’s opening (and series reflections, I suppose)

Following a three-month wait for a finale that was half-recap and half-nonsense, Wonder Egg Priority will go down in anime history as yet another promising passion project that was stymied by poor planning — exacerbated by the general state of the industry. Wonder Egg Priority‘s production woes have been thoroughly documented and were especially apparent in the twelfth and thirteenth episodes of the series. The thirteenth episode is particularly egregious given how it not only fails to make important emotional narratives of the four main characters resonate but how it inexplicably introduces even more details about in-universe mechanics that few asked for and were not tied whatsoever to any of the aforementioned emotional narratives.

What was most noticeable to me in these two episodes was the lack of flower language which, until that point, had become a visual story that ran parallel to the girls’ own individual character arcs. The use of both Victorian and Japanese flower language was so consistent — even in the expository Episode 11 that I personally disliked — that the absence of it in the final two episodes is jarring.

I’m still trying to work out my own feelings and disappointment regarding Wonder Egg Priority, but wanted to revisit flower language in the series one last time, through the opening animation sequence.


Flowers for Rika Kawai and notes on flower language in Wonder Egg Priority Episode 6-7

While the garden of Aca and Ura-Aca places the four leads of Wonder Egg Priority against various floral backdrops to hint at their moods and personalities, Rika Kawai’s otherworldly flower field changes depending on her emotional state.