| Names are never chosen inadvertently. In life, a name reflects the preconceptions parents have about the child they will raise. Similarly in fiction, a name often has a significance the creator wishes to place on the character.
Akio's name doesn't just carry the intentions of his creators. It's safe
to assume Akio had the fortune of choosing his name when he left
'Dios' behind. Because
of that, there's even more reason to go through his name's particulars.
First, I'll cover the literal translation of his name. Then,
I'll get into Akio's name as he describes it.
Though you could write off Ohtori as merely his married name, it's hard to ignore the meaning and how it relates to him. It's also hard to ignore the likelihood that Akio and Anthy were seminally involved with the creation of the school, and that Akio chose this surname both for his 'garden' and himself.
(These translations are courtesy of the Utena Encyclopedia. I also dumped them into Jeffrey's Japanese-English Dictionary, and found the same meanings, except for Ohtori, which clarified a MALE phoenix bird, and -o, which seems to also be "pure, undiluted". Don't quote me on the second part, though, there were dozens of translations, and I'm not a Japanese speaker.)
Ohtori means "male phoenix bird". The phoenix is a mythological figure that's appeared in so many cultures and video games (European, Asian, Central American, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, etc.), that it's difficult to trace its beginnings to any one. The story is always a little different, but the similarities from one culture to the next far outweigh the differences in narration. In each version, the phoenix is a magnificent bird that would live, then set itself alight, only to be reborn soon after, from the ashes of its destruction. The phoenix represents immortality through resurrection, an almost universal theme in belief systems, from the most obscure and ancient cults to the most familiar religions today. Parallels can be drawn between the phoenix of legend and Jesus Christ, both of whom express the power
to lay down their life and then reclaim it. Not surprisingly, Christianity has adopted the phoenix as a symbol of Jesus' resurrection.
Here the phoenix is depicted in the flames of its own destruction, heralding the coming of dawn.
This is a recent application of the phoenix in Christian lore, the term dates back much farther in Christian history. The Second Book of Enoch, one of many apocryphal texts that didn't make it into the Bible, mentions phoenixes. They're referred to as 'solar elements' that number seven and occupy the sixth heaven, where they join cherubim to sing the praises of God. (Oh, fun!) The idea of a solar element hints strongly at the common image of the phoenix bird bathed in fiery light. Other texts describe the phoenixes as twelve-winged purple beings who may also occupy the fourth heaven. The phoenix when it is not illustrated in simply gold or white light is drawn with a rainbow of colors adorning its wings and tail. Often on these more colorful incarnations, purple is shown to be a prominent hue, usually as part of a gradient that starts with a gold body, then blends into red before finally reaching purple at the tips of the bird's wings and tail. Gold, red, and purple are all colors in the outfit Akio wears day to day.
On top of that, there's a fallen angel named Phenex. (Or Phenix, or Phoenix, or Pheynix. Take your pick.) He's listed as the 37th spirit in The Lesser Key of Solomon (out of 72 spirits the text tells you how to summon):
|"He is a great Marquis, and appeareth like the Bird Phoenix, having the Voice of a Child. He singeth many sweet notes before the Exorcist, which he must not regard, but by-and-by he must bid him put on Human Shape. Then he will speak marvellously of all wonderful Sciences if required. He is a Poet, good and excellent. And he will be willing to perform thy requests. He hath hopes also to return to the Seventh Throne after 1,200 years more, as he said unto Solomon. He governeth 20 Legions of Spirits."
Though he hopes to return to heaven, God has forbidden it. He's an angel that repents while in hell: the ultimate futile effort, for he can never be redeemed. He's described as a child obedient to the one that summons him—an image that resembles Dios, though his fondness for the sciences (especially explaining them to others) and literary talents (he's also described as a great writer of letters) are all Akio. This duality appears frequently concerning Akio and Dios and the references they're bound to.
The idea of pointless attempts at redemption hints at possibilities in Akio's past. Did Dios try to repent before Akio completely took over? Phenex has a sense of hope Akio doesn't share—buried in the references in his name, has Akio added an in-joke prodding the hope-against-hope faith that Dios sported to the bitter end?
His first name, translated as "Dawn Living" is an elaboration of the phoenix mythos, as the phoenix often performed the rebirth at dawn. (I noticed -o to mean many things, though I'm not sure which would apply here, one of the definitions was to rise up, which would also be a reference to the phoenix rising from its ashes.) This choice of timing for the phoenix ties it strongly to Lucifer, who is known as the Dawnbringer.
This is an optimistic name for a man like Akio, but it does fit him, if you think of the perspective he has. Viewers tend to see Akio as a sad, fallen shell of the Dios he once was, but Akio isn't going to see it that way. After all, HE is enlightened. Akio is he who chose his path, knowing the whole of the world. To Akio, the phoenix is an appropriate metaphor for him. Though he's without a power he once had, he considers himself, as he is in the series, to be a greater being in thought and influence. Dios destroyed himself, and from his ashes came Akio, reborn beautiful, knowing, immortal, and powerful.
Ohtori is also the name of the school. A phoenix would be an appropriate mascot for a school where people have to, in a sense, lay down their lives to be freed and "hatched" into the new world. The name has significance both for the school and for Akio personally.
Akio never elaborates on the phoenix reference in his name. He seems to be much more satisfied with the meaning his name has as it pertains to the stars. (Series Akio is discussed here. Manga Akio's speech is provided for comparison.) Here are the dialogues in question:
Akio: That star conspicuously sparkling up there is Venus.
Akio: The Morning Star...
Akio: My name, Akio, was derived from the name of this star.
Utena: Wow, that sounds kind of romantic.
Akio: The Morning Star,
Akio: ...also known as Lucifer.
Akio: The star that was originally an angel, but chose to become the Devil.
Akio: If you look up from this earth, it's always by the Sun.
Akio: And unless the Sun sinks, it can never shine.
Akio: And what do you suppose it thinks when it does shine?
In the series script's translation notes, found at the Utena Encyclopedia, it's explained just how Akio's name alludes to the Morning Star.
Akio: Over there, you can see Venus. Beautiful, isn't it.
Akio: It's the star that shines brightest in the night sky. In the evening hour, when it is first to appear, they call it the "Evening Star." At dawn, when it continues to shine to the very last, it is called the "Morning Star."
Akio: My name, Akio, is taken from that star, because I was born at dawn.
Utena: Really? How romantic!
Akio: The "Morning Star" is called by another name...Lucifer.
Akio: One who was once an angel, but chose the Devil's path.
Utena: (The Devil...?)
Utena: Akio-san, you hate your name?
Utena: Then, why are you saying such sad things? I think it's a really great name!
Utena: I really do! I like it!
Akio: And that's why I like you too.
Akio: That shiniest, most beautiful star is not only called "Lucifer." It is also known as "Venus," the goddess of love and beauty.
Akio: The "Evening Star" that appears foremost among the other stars in the night sky...that is how you are set in my thoughts.
Akio: You are always the strongest and brightest.
Utena: A goddess? M-me?
Akio: That is why I want you.
"The Morning Star is called "ake no myoujou" in Japanese, and the character for "ake" is the same one for "aki" in his name "akio"."
Obviously, manga Akio goes into greater detail about the star, going so far as to use Venus to describe Utena. (A comparison series Utena probably wouldn't have taken as well.) For now, we'll ignore the Evening Star part, since Akio refers to himself as the Morning Star instead.
The phoenix, the morning star, and the devil are all intertwined in mythology, being related and connected across cultures repeatedly. For example, in ancient Egypt, the Morning Star (Venus) was called the 'star of the ship of the Bennu-Ausar' (Osiris). It's referred to as the Morning Star in an invocation of the sacred sun bird (the phoenix). The direct translation of his name, "Dawn Living", also connects the phoenix
to Lucifer—the latter had many names in heaven that refer to dawn. (The Morning Star, Lightbringer, Son of Dawn, etc.)
Wait, I think I did this wrong. Better?
No? Damn. What about this one? Blast! I just can't get this right! Try again? Oh, much, much closer. Ah-ha! Believe it or not, Satan wasn't always sexy.
It's on his name's allusion to Lucifer that Akio focuses his elaborations. Though Akio could doubtless write tomes concerning the meanings of his name, the Lucifer reference gets the most mileage. While there are other references to be made, they're harder to explain and aren't common knowledge. Akio using Lucifer to explain himself to Utena (and ultimately, the audience) is the conversational equivalent of handing us 'Akio for Dummies'. It's a decent crash course, though by no means all-inclusive.
For the more versed in Biblical lore, Akio's correlation is incorrect, because Lucifer is not Satan. There are more disputes about Lucifer and the meaning of the name than there are days in the year, but "Morning Star" (Lucifer) is usually considered a reference to the angels, as Job 38:7 says it in plural.
| "When the morning stars sang together and all of the sons of God shouted for joy?"
Lucifer is now basically another term for Satan, similar to the way Beelzebub and Mephistopheles, separate fallen angels, became other names describing Satan. Lucifer was, like them, a whole other member of the fallen host, however, the difference is semantic to all but demonology enthusiasts—Akio is calling himself Satan. Lucifer was the term used because it's the one that alludes to the Morning Star, and also, it sounds pretty. (What? It does.) In the manga version, he goes so far as to call Lucifer an angel that "chose the Devil's path", suggesting he's aware of the difference between Lucifer and the original Satan. Utena isn't, though, so series Akio doesn't bother to elaborate, since he gets the reaction he wanted immediately, anyway.
Akio also, both times, describes Lucifer (and so himself) as having chosen his fate. This is a strange thing for him to say, considering that the flashbacks in the series tend to place most of the blame on Anthy. Certainly, it suits Akio to blame Anthy, but his personality keeps him from playing the victim, and it wouldn't have helped him manipulate anyone, so he recalls the story as him choosing that path, instead of being set on it by Anthy, though it was a little of both. Anthy made the path available to him, and he chose to take it. This is a setup that sounds very much like Adam and Eve. Though they both sin, Eve sinned first, and is punished more severely as a result.
Finally there's the evening star. In Greek mythos, Hesperos is the god of the evening star (which is his name translated literally). Phosphoros/Eôsphoros was the light-bringer/dawn-bringer, and there are arguments made as to whether all three names describe the same God. Hesperos' Roman name? Luciferus. It's around here that etymology begins to blur the various mythos together. Hesperos was depicted as a white winged god with a starry oreole crown atop a mass of curly hair. Many of these features have been picked up in artistic depictions of Satan.
All other references aside, that "star" is still Venus. A fact that Akio is quick to point out. Venus (Aphrodite) is the goddess of beauty and sex, and ignoring the obvious difference in gender, it stands to be said both her and Akio seem to have a 'way' with the opposite sex. (Or the same sex. ) Not to mention they share a habit of leaving flowers (or their scent) in their wake. Venus (or Aphrodite, if you prefer), was not necessarily a good thing. She was the goddess of love and sex, but she might better be described as the goddess of sexual passion. People under her influence were rarely wise or responsible in their sexual exploits. In astrology, Venus is a feminine force of love, beauty, and sex—just as with the goddess, her presence does not necessarily indicate that said love, beauty, and sex are good things. A poorly represented Venus in a chart shows a person who is extremely vain, manipulative, and usually "addicted" to sex. This description fits Akio much better than her male astrological counterpart, Mars, does.
- Script and name translations from The Utena Encyclopedia [deceased]
- Jeffrey's Japanese-English Dictionary
- Manga translations from Shoujoko's SKU Site
- The Great Big Bible O' The Spadaro House
- The Phoenix [deceased]
- Mythology of the Phoenix [deceased]
- Satan, the Adversary of Mankind [deceased]
- The Astrological Venus [deceased]
- Encyclopedia Mythica
- A Gallery of Demons
- The Lesser Key of Solomon (Translated by S.L. MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley.)
- Bunson, Matthew. Angels A to Z. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996.
- Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels (Including the Fallen Angels). New York: The Free Press, 1967.
- The images of Satan are from Cabanel (artist), The Devil's Advocate (movie), Lucifer (comic), some idiot that thinks President Bush deserves to be called evil, and a medieval depiction of Satan that's incredibly unhot.