I just watched Adolescence of Utena with cookiemonger (I’ve watched it several times, it was the first time she saw it), and in light of previous discussions over the nature of the hero, the protagonist, and the main character in a story, I saw the story in a different light. It’s possible that while Utena may be the hero and the protagonist, the main character changes. (Extending to the series, as well.)

Utena is the vehicle of change in the series, her character arc begins and ends in the first major story arc of the television series, where she wins, befriends, loses, and then regains Anthy through the duels. As a character, she doesn’t have much potential for growth as her maturation peaks rather quickly. Anthy, on the other hand, still has deep psychological problems to overcome by the final arc.

The final arc sees Anthy breaking free of an abusive relationship, which is composed of the initial realization, her revulsion for her own part in it, her personal attempts to reverse the effects of a very, very old cycle of abuse, her accepting friendship from Utena, and her building romantic tension with Utena. All of it culminates in the series’s finale where Anthy leaves the school, presumably forever.

At that point, while we continue to see the story from Utena’s perspective, the focus has shifted from her to Anthy, who would seem to be the main character. I would argue that Utena remains both the hero and the protagonist throughout the story because she’s the one who initiates the changes in Anthy, and nurtures them. By the end of the series though, Anthy has taken control of her own life decisions.