Utena - Akio’s arc

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Akio gets pink spinning roses as he greets Utena for the first time.
Akio

In progress. There will be more.

In Utena’s allegory, Akio is the patriarchy.

Father. “Patriarch” literally means the ruler of a family. In a traditional society of the kind Akio rules over, it is the father of a household. Akio is called a father in episodes 26 and 37, with hints elsewhere. Akio corresponds to Zeus, who fathered umpteen children. With his promiscuity and disregard for others, he practically has to be a literal father. He is a literal patriarch, or will be one after Mr. Ohtori dies: The patriarch of the Ohtori family... of which he will be the only surviving member.

It’s possible to argue that Akio is the representation of a freedom-destroying abstraction, so he is infertile. It makes symbolic sense.

Parents are a theme of episode 26. Kozue rescues nestlings abandoned by their parents; Kozue and Miki have been abandoned by their parents (at least Kozue sees it that way). Miki takes on the parenting role of nurturing the nestlings. Utena envies them for having parents at all. Akio uses his “the three of us are practically family” line on Utena, becoming a metaphorical husband—or possibly father. Husband and father are related—a husband is expected to be or become a father. In bed at night, Anthy tells Utena that Akio is more like a father to her. Utena wonders to Anthy whether parents always care about their children. Nanami and then Kozue refer to Daddy Long Legs, who is named after a father and becomes a husband. There is a punning reference in the shadow play: The gambling shadow girl bets her whole purse, and the croupier announces “You went bust,” using the word tousan which has a homonym meaning father.

I conclude that Utena is pregnant when she leaves the Academy, making Akio a literal father. There is no proof, but there are enough hints. See First Seduction - pregnancy. In the shadow play of episode 37, I read “Papa” as both figurative and literal. See the discussion there.

Selfishness. Akio is utterly selfish. He manipulates, exploits, defrauds, and murders at will. It’s an extreme but not unfair representation of the self-serving nature of the patriarchy, which can do all those things.

Too many people die at times that are convenient for Akio. It can’t be a coincidence. Utena’s parents, the three members of the Ohtori family (not only Kanae), the real Mamiya, Ruka. Akio intends to kill Utena.

Image manager. Akio’s illusions are images, and one of his illusions is that he is good rather than evil. Bad things may happen, but none are his fault. He presents his belief system as the natural and only correct one, and uses that to maintain his power.

Akio gets others to do his dirty work, for three reasons that I see: To reduce his risk of being caught, to make others complicit and place blame on them, and to keep his hand hidden so that others do not know what is going on. The reasons are aspects of his selfishness. Anthy poisons Kanae. Anthy backstabs Utena. In the case of the backstab, Akio physically cannot stab Utena himself; her miraculous sword skill is too great. Making Anthy complicit in his crimes binds her to him. He can go further: In the case of murdering Kanae, Akio can make it Anthy’s fault altogether, saying “This is your doing, you are the one who detests Kanae. I’m going along with it for your sake.” It’s similar to how he leads Utena by the nose while convincing her that she is making her own decisions. (In fact, he requires her to make her own decisions, once he has prepared her mental state.)

Examples of keeping his hand hidden: He gets Touga to test Utena in the Student Council arc. He manipulates Juri through Ruka in episodes 28 and 29. And Anthy of course constantly “cultivates” others.

Nanami’s motivation for getting her minions to do her dirty work is different. She wants to preserve her reputation.

He repeats his scripts. In keeping with the theater metaphor, Akio has scripts that he follows to achieve particular ends. He adapts them to circumstances but takes the same steps. He follows the same Cinderella routine with Utena, Mrs. Ohtori, and Nanami, with the same foot injury ploy for Utena and Nanami. He feeds the same “we’re practically family” line to Utena and Nanami. In the First and Second Seductions he uses the exact same psychological tricks in different contexts. In corrupting Utena in episode 30 he overwhelms her resistance with a surprise smile, making no other move; in the First Seduction othello game he leans slightly toward her, perhaps smiling again; in the Second Seduction he tells her she is like a princess. They are three examples of the same psychological trick, the re-approach step of an approach-withdrawal maneuver.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 11 March 2024
updated 6 April 2024