Utena - Akio’s plot to take Ohtori

Akio plots to take over Ohtori Academy and destroy the Ohtori family. Destroying the family ensures that he will maintain his control over the Academy and that the family’s large fortune will fall into his hands. We don’t see everything, but I think we see enough to make out the major steps of the plot. In outline, he gets in the whole family’s good graces, is adopted into the family, murders them all, and inherits everything. It’s not far from his plan for Utena: Marry her into his family, steal her power, murder her.

The poisoned apple Anthy feeds to Kanae is the apple that appears to kill Snow White. Arguably, the successful murders of the three Ohtori family members correspond to the evil queen’s three failed attempts to murder Snow White. Akio sees himself as the hero of his story, and passes his challenges where Snow White’s antagonist fails hers.

Gain influence over Mr. Ohtori. Under the system of control, the man in a marriage holds the power. Akio must deal with Mr. Ohtori first; then he will dominate the women of the family by his usual methods. We don’t know much about this step, but I think we can guess the outline. Akio’s immediate goal is to be put in charge of the Academy. My thought is that he assigns Anthy to seduce Mr. Ohtori—in her elevator confession, Kanae says that Anthy visited frequently, and the plan is appropriate for Anthy who is like Lucrezia Borgia. (Anthy would likely come to despise him and be happy to poison him, as she was happy to poison Kanae.) In any case, the Academy is a family enterprise and Mr. Ohtori wants to keep it that way. Akio agrees to marry Kanae and be legally adopted into the family—he promises to carry the family tradition into the next generation and continue to pass it on. Kanae says that her father selected Akio as her marriage partner.

From Mr. Ohtori’s point of view, he is preparing Akio to be the next generation’s patriarch of the Ohtori family. It is parallel to younger Touga’s birthday party in episode 10: His adoptive father grants him power and prepares him to be the next patriarch of the family. Akio arranged both events; he must want Touga to be like him. It’s an example of Akio repeating his scripts. In this parallel, Nanami corresponds to Anthy. Akio is cooking up Nanami as a victim for Touga to exploit, as Akio exploits Anthy.

Get engaged to Kanae. Mrs. Ohtori says this is a condition for holding his Chairman position. She’s trying to extort Akio into bed, but it is wasted effort. Akio is delighted to seduce her and keep her under his thumb.

Be adopted into the family. I think this happens after the engagement, for the simple reason that it is a formal procedure and takes longer than informally agreeing to an engagement. For the Ohtori family, it is assurance that he will keep the Academy in the family. Compare the “we’re practically family” line that Akio uses on Utena and Nanami. For Akio, it is assurance that he will inherit after he offs the other family members.

The vast majority of adoptions in Japan (I’ve seen the number 98%) are supposedly adult men adopted into a family to continue the family business in the next generation. Akio’s adoption is normal.

Make sure he will inherit. Before he murders anyone, Akio needs to be crystal clear that he will inherit everything (at least everything he cares about). Either there is a will and he knows exactly what is in it, or he knows there is no will and he is the only surviving family member. A wealthy traditionalist family like Ohtori is sure to draw up a will. We don’t know anything about this step, we can only infer it.

Have Anthy poison the father. Kanae says in episode 14 that Anthy visited frequently. Anthy might use a slow poison, like the cantarella she mentions in episode 37, so that the father dies slowly and unsuspiciously in the hospital.

Take charge of the Academy. This could happen earlier. It may well happen shortly after he is adopted. At the latest, he becomes provisional Chairman when Mr. Ohtori falls ill. He won’t be the official, permanent boss until Mr. Ohtori dies. It doesn’t matter how long that takes; he just wants to be the boss.

Have Anthy poison Kanae. See doing away with Kanae. This time a fast poison seems more likely.

Even if Akio has not told her the plot, Anthy no doubt understands it. Anthy treats Kanae coldly and appears to despise her. Compare: Anthy does not know Utena’s intended fate until episode 37.

Murder Mrs. Ohtori. We don’t know how or when. I expect that Anthy’s poison is the method, and the time is close to when Kanae is murdered. I imagine that the two lifeless bodies are placed into some convincing accident scene, so that the two are officially as well as actually dead and the legal inheritance mechanism will operate. Akio has the power to prevent any investigation that would uncover the plot.

Akio meets Mrs. Ohtori in episode 30. They drink wine. It is an opportunity to poison her, but does Akio take the opportunity now, or arrange another one later? I think Akio’s evil smile says that he is making progress in his plot and suggests that he still needs her for something. Kanae is poisoned in episode 32. The timeline gets mixed up later, but it still seems linear at this point in the arc, so presumably days or more pass.

Whatever the method, it was probably also used on Utena’s parents; I see it as a strong hint that Utena’s parents were murdered. Akio repeats his scripts. After Anthy finds Utena, will Anthy ever explain that she killed Utena’s parents?

families in general

Akio seems to murder the entire Ohtori family. Akio probably murdered Utena’s parents. He likely murdered Mamiya (messing up Tokiko’s family) as part of his plan to control Mikage. Akio got Touga and Nanami adopted into the cold-hearted Kiryuu family, ensuring that they would grow up with twisted personalities. Akio busted up the Kaoru family just to cause emotional problems for Kozue and Miki (though Miki seems to cope well enough). He categorizes Anthy and Utena as “siblings” and works to emotionally separate them.

Akio has it in for families! His sister Anthy is the only family he tolerates, and she is his slave. When Akio separately tells Utena and Nanami that they are like family, they should be afraid. Akio does not like happy families, because a happy family has teamwork and is harder to control.

Akio’s hatred of happy families implies that the patriarchy causes unhappiness. Well, Akio’s disregard of human welfare in general means the same thing! See playing a role makes you unhappy.

Jay Scott <jay@satirist.org>
first posted 20 June 2022
updated 30 March 2024