Utena - Mrs. Ohtori’s arc

Kanae. <- PreviousNext -> Nerd boys.

Mrs. Ohtori showing pearl necklace.

Mrs. Ohtori appears only once, in episode 30. We don’t learn much about her. But we can draw some inferences.

See Akio’s plot to take Ohtori Academy - her jewelry - her clothing - Mrs. Ohtori as Cinderella.

Mrs. Ohtori shows up at Akio’s door, dressed to kill in black that implies she desires Akio, lipstick to attract him, and expensive jewelry to impress him with her wealth and position of power. A white rose says up front that she sees Akio as her prince. And Akio gets a red rose that suggests he intends to seduce her. The story continues as the signs advertise. The two get down to business as soon as the others have left.

Akio gets in the first hint, “Is it something we couldn’t talk about on the phone?” Mrs. Ohtori tries to take charge. “Haven’t you been avoiding Kanae lately?” She effectively threatens to cancel the engagement. But Akio shows his closeness to Kanae by his closeness to Mrs. Ohtori, moving his head next to hers so she can “smell the scent he wears for Kanae.”

Akio asks her about her husband, and she answers dismissively. It’s coming out in the open now, and Akio smiles evilly. Akio takes her shoe, making her into Cinderella the same way he did Utena earlier in the episode, and she gives up her attempt to take charge. She admits he is her prince.

It’s a reversal. Cinderella is supposed to be the poor one who is lowest, and leaps upward in social status by marrying the prince. Mrs. Ohtori gave up power and status to sleep with her prince. And this prince is evil. He’ll murder her and the rest of her family and take the family’s property.

It was a power struggle, and both approached it with high corruption. She was trying to extort him into bed while holding power over him. Instead, Akio seduced her into bed and took power over her. She is cheating on both her husband and her daughter.

We don’t know for sure, but she comes across to me as a trophy wife, married to be shown off rather than to be loved. Her husband may be much older, explaining why the family is eager to adopt Akio to secure the succession. She married for money. If so, she already made her leap upward, and now Akio is sending her on a leap downward.

meaning

The scene shows part of Akio’s plot to take Ohtori Academy, which represents the patriarchy taking control over education. Education is depicted as wealthy (not where I live), traditionalist (it’s especially so in Japan), ineffective, and corrupt: Wealthy because the family is rich, traditionalist because Mr. Ohtori is a traditional authoritarian father, ineffective because pampered Kanae is, and corrupt because Mrs. Ohtori is. I think the family’s wealth represents power rather than just money, and education is certainly powerful. It affects people for their whole lives. And yet from Utena’s point of view, it is ineffective because the students do not learn the truth about their society. It’s corrupt because it suppresses individuality, promotes bullying (as by Nanami and her minions), imposes unequal power structures with authoritarian teachers and “special” students, allows the spread of illusions like sex as a gateway to adulthood, and all that Utena stuff.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 10 October 2023
updated 23 January 2024