During the Black Rose. <- Previous • Next -> The three candles of episode 30.
At the start of the Apocalypse Saga, episode 25, Akio has decided that Utena must be brought under his control. He wants to manipulate her into a sexual relationship and make her submissive and girlish (suppressing her boyishness and princeliness) so that he can at last (pretend to) marry her and take final control over her. He moves Utena (with Anthy) into his tower room to bring her into action range.
He gets right down to it. At the start of the episode the two girls are moving in. That evening, Akio and Utena are looking at planetarium stars together as they often did in the Black Rose arc. On pretense of pointing Utena toward his namesake, the morning star, he puts an arm around her and draws her close. Utena says it’s romantic as she blushes and looks straight ahead, seeing nothing of the planetarium sky. As he explains the connection with Lucifer, declaring his own evil, Utena looks at up him in fascination, oblivious to his meaning. She does not once look at the sky.
Akio knew she would not understand. Anything he said would have sounded impressive to Utena. Well, by involving himself he draws that much more of her attention. I think he chose the story out of cruelty, out of the sheer fiendishness of boasting of his evil while twisting her around his little finger.
Akio demonstrates that he has knowledge of good and evil, meaning that he has tasted Eve’s apple. He wears a red shirt for the red of the apple.
And that’s it. Akio planted a seed, and takes little action to water it until episode 30. This approach-withdrawal maneuver is a psychological trick: He planted interest in Utena and then moved away from her, creating tension. It works because he has nearly irresistible sex appeal. The tension will keep Utena thinking about Akio, so that the interest stays alive. When he approaches again later, the latent interest will sprout suddenly because it has been quietly fertilized during the time of tension. The trick helps fool Utena into believing that the decisions he makes for her were her own choices. Akio repeats approach-withdrawal maneuvers in the First and Second Seductions and on other occasions.
It’s similar to “playing hard to get,” traditionally attributed to women. Akio relies on his overwhelming sex appeal, which makes the step of planting interest easy for him.
In episode 26, he tells Utena “we’re practically family.” He’s appealing to lonely orphan Utena with the idea of belonging to a family, and at the same time subtly suggesting his evil nature. To technically become a family, they’d have to marry, rejecting Kanae; he wants that idea in Utena’s mind. Later, in episode 30 when Utena is corrupted, it will both increase her temptation to kiss Akio, and remind her that she is betraying Kanae in doing so, contributing to her corruption. By the time of the Second Seduction, he would like Utena to believe she has supplanted Kanae in Akio’s feelings, and that he will marry Utena instead. He’s preparing for that, too.
Akio also drops the “practically family” line on Nanami, when she has realized that her family is not what she thought it was. Akio likes to reuse his scripts.
To Akio, family means somebody like Anthy: A person he has close control over. For more, see taking Ohtori - families in general.
Jay Scott <email@example.com>
first posted 29 November 2021
updated 2 October 2023