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Miso Moment: The Heroine’s Journey

Back when I had enough patience to deal with important people and their huge egos, I helped moderate a panel about the Hero’s Journey as told by Campbell, as well as other theories that appeared in academic fields in response to it. One very interesting idea I heard is that the Hero does everything alone. There’s no sense of community in their journey because them being “different from other people” is kinda the point.

I say “they” because a woman can be a Hero and a man can be a Heroine; the categories have more to do with social roles and expectations than with gender identity.

From this, we can assume that if the Heroine’s Journey is the opposite, it will have a great deal of community and culture embedded into it. The Hero is a Hero because they do things nobody else can do, while the Heroine is a Heroine because they help raise everybody else to their own maximum potential.

A great example of this can be found in the movie Adolescence of Utena.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

The Chosen One and All That Jazz

So, we begin the story with the “male” Chosen One entering a strange new world “he” has no control over. In the series, Utena Tenjou was already a tomboyish girl, but here she goes to great lengths in order to hide her “maiden heart”.

She was hurt in the past and she doesn’t want to be hurt again. But since she’s not an adult yet, the only way of protecting herself she can imagine is emulating the male archetype of the prince. For Utena, a prince is equivalent to her childhood friend who died while rescuing her.

Now this could easily be the start of a “I’m not like other girls” narrative, but the movie never paints this idea as a good thing. Utena herself, while definitely holding that belief, still wants to help other girls. She empathizes with them because she knows their pain, and this is something the most traditional Hero usually lacks.

Think about Superman: he’s a Hero because he’s invincible, but if that’s the case…can he relate to humanity on a mundane level? Can he love humans, or is he perpetually stuck loving an idea of what humanity can or should be?

Utena is not like this. She was powerless once, she’s still not invincible during the movie, and it’s because of this that she can relate to the deuteragonist Anthy and all the other characters she meets. There’s a very descriptive scene where Utena is preparing to duel Juri; she’s shown being affectionate with Anthy before taking her sword and entering the combat arena. Meanwhile, Juri is doing more or less the same with her crush Shiori.

There is no joy in defeating Juri because she’s not the enemy. This is another fundamental difference between the Hero and the Heroine. The Hero fights against Evil Incarnate, usually a villain who is evil because of their own personal history. The Heroine, on the contrary, fights against an injustice that is intrinsically tied to the system (for example, Akane in the anime Psycho-Pass). Yes, there are people who enforce this injustice, but ultimately, the goal isn’t to defeat them: it’s to change the system so there will be no more injustice.

Let’s Change The World!

How does one change (or “revolutionize”) the world? By turning into a car, apparently.

The Utena-mobile.

Seriously speaking, though: you can’t change anything if you don’t change your perspective, first of all. Letting go of the need of approval given by the higher powers (represented in Utena by the Fairytale Castle and Akio) is a must. After that is achieved, you have to find minds that share your vision and build something new with them. The point in the Heroine’s Journey isn’t to destroy Evil; it’s to make Good shine through creation and creativity until people abandon Evil of their own volition.

In conclusion…

In the movie, a Hero’s Journey would have been over with the discovery of Akio’s dead body. Evil has been defeated, so what else is there to do in this world?

Utena herself gives us the answer: go to the outside world. Avoid confining your vision to a single, individual life, and instead search for Injustice in the system.

That is the Heroine’s duty.

Until next time.
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Space Juliet

A philosophy student who's been watching anime since the tender age of 5. Loves fantasy, science-fiction, villains and good character development in general. Started playing videogames just to test the medium and became enamoured with interactive storytelling.
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