| Akio deals with an unusual cast of characters in his day-to-day life—most of them chosen by him. He wears a lot of masks and plays a lot of games, and the rules change every time the other player does. This is a part of the site was, back in the day, called ‘Conquests’, referring to his habit of sleeping with anyone he exchanges more then five words with. The scope is now larger, though Akio's id would disagree. |
| Akio and Anthy don’t really like each other. He’s a sick, fallen distortion of the prince she fell in love
with, and she’s a passive aggressive bitch that loves reminding him of the noose around his neck. Despite such irreconcilable differences, they’ve been stuck together for a long time.
The glue that holds them dates back to Dios’ fall, and their promise to protect and help each other, since they were all the other had after the larger world abandoned them. This oath is preserved in a manner of speaking all the way into the series, where Akio and Anthy are, as far as they see it, bound to each other. Akio needs a Rose Bride to defend against the swords, and Anthy’s psychologically and socially (as well as financially) dependent on him. One of these is of course born from Akio insuring the permanence of the other, but the fact remains that they build their relationship on the assumption that they can’t get away from one another. By the series, all that remains of their heartfelt promise to each other is a charade; he keeps up the image of trying to regain the power of Dios so that he might save Anthy, and she keeps up the image of believing he can and will accomplish this. In the end though, he has no intention of leaving his coffin and Anthy doesn’t think there’s anywhere else for her to go.
This is a lie they must pretend they believe to keep things running smoothly. Time and familiarity encourage cooperation, but even that demands something to consume their idle time. Sit still too long, make it too obvious he doesn’t really care, and Anthy will start getting ideas. But beyond this most superficial of lies and the public image they maintain, Akio and Anthy don’t attempt to hide that they dislike each other. They don’t openly argue, probably because they’re way past the stage where they’d bother, but there’s an air of tension when they’re alone. Even the sexual scenes seem to radiate a calm hostility that’s all too familiar to them both.
The series isn’t exactly subtle about driving home their sexual relationship; where we’re often left with brutal suggestion (Akio and Touga), here we actually see the act take place, and the show is peppered with before and after sequences, just in case you forget they’re screwing. It’s pure speculation how, why, and when this started; perhaps it was at first an innocent pursuit of closeness, or maybe Anthy initiated it out of love and desire for Dios, or perhaps Akio started it as an exercise in power over Anthy. However it started, it’s become the last example: as with Touga, he’s using a dominant position in a sexual relationship as an expression of his dominant position outside the bedroom as well. Anthy goes to him, instead of the other way around, but he always makes the initiating gesture, always beckoning her to him. Akio rarely undresses while she is always totally nude. There’s no question as to who is running the show.
That said, to a certain extent, Anthy resists him even here, and more than once we see her deliberately
antagonizing him. She plays on a conflict of expectation on his part: Akio wants total submission from her. She must do exactly as he says and think to do only as he says because otherwise she has enough of a mind of her own to betray him. But he already knows, deep in the pit of his stomach, that she has a mind of her own, so on the surface Anthy gives him the submission he wants, while he knows it’s only the surface, and that that core underneath has eluded him all this time. In the most subtle ways she reminds him that his grip on her is not airtight, and she uses the effect this knowledge has on him both to keep him in check and to antagonize a man she hates.
Naturally, one has to assume Akio committed the original offenses that started the downward spiral in their relationship; probably during his early attempts to coerce and manipulate Anthy into her position. By series, he’s definitely the aggressor in the relationship, she does what he tells her to do, and he uses force when she doesn’t. For her part, Anthy doesn’t openly attack back, but rather passively resists him when she chooses to. Only once does Akio address his treatment of Anthy and his all-around deplorable behavior, and he’s far from convincing when he does it; Akio’s apology is given in a cool, distant, and even tone of voice, thrown into the conversation with no noticeable conviction or care. It’s said simply because that’s when he’s supposed to say it. The series is rife with words said at proper times—Touga’s egg speech, Mikage’s revolution bit, etc., and Akio speaks with a tone of voice that would indicate this is yet another scheduled spiel. Fitting, because in a way, the whole world around Akio and Anthy, all their plotting and manipulating, is itself a scheduled spiel.
| Akio’s involvement in Utena’s life dates back to her childhood, as the prince that she attaches herself to
in a time of crushing grief. He appears as Dios and shows her something eternal, giving her hope and a cause in life. She comes out of the coffin she hid in renewed and determined, though her parents are both dead. (One wonders at Akio’s willingness to wait for such gruesome events to recruit princes; he could very well have killed them himself. It is odd they die in a car crash, when cars, namely Akio’s, are otherwise so integral to the symbolism of the show.)
Utena doesn’t understand until Akio tells her so that it was him all along, but by the time she learns this, she’s already completely disillusioned, both with her prince and with Akio. This is what Akio wanted: he gives her a prince and something to strive for, then spends the entire series slowly chipping away at her faith in the man she’s waiting for. A simple formula:
a prince to save her (what she needed at the time)
+ determination to be like him (what she needed for later)
– the faith she had in being saved by that prince (thanks, Touga)
= nothing left but the drive to be a prince herself.
This is all realized in the last episodes of the show as we come to see what it was Akio was after: a prince’s sword. There was a time when Utena needed to think a prince would save her, but in those last moments, Akio needed a sword that had no such weaknesses. If Utena still relied at all on faith in her prince, she couldn’t have been a prince herself.
Everything he does to Utena in the series builds to that conclusion. There were many far less time-consuming and complicated ways to accomplish the same goal, but Akio has no problem with complicated and a certain interest in making things time-consuming. (For two immortals to play the game Akio and Anthy do, he would certainly want each round to last as long as possible.)
As with Akio’s other exploits, sex is big part of Utena’s manipulation. It plays a strange role in the character we’re introduced to at the beginning of the series; in waiting for a prince she can’t identify by sight, she’s sworn off sexual attraction to anyone else, at a point in development where most of the girls around her are discovering their own interest in dating and crushing on boys. (Or girls.) For her, romantic love is prohibited pending the reintroduction of her prince into her life. This becomes a target Touga spends the latter half of the first arc taking merciless advantage of, but instead of Utena finding the prince she almost immediately decided he must be, her hopes are brutally crushed and her innocent ideal comes seriously into question.
She meets Akio just as the superficial wounds heal, but her experience with Touga has irrevocably marred her belief in a prince that will come save her, and Akio takes some care in not presenting himself as a possibility. He’s Anthy’s brother, a superior in the school, friendly and wise, but definitely not a prince. His gradual seduction of Utena calls her to realize just how far removed she’s become from her savior: she gives herself to someone other than who she swore herself to, and by the time the deed is done, she’s realized it was too long to wait, and that she must be alone among princes if there’s going to be a prince at all.
The actual seduction moves both slowly and far too fast: he gradually wears her down to being comfortable around him, but once she is, the sex comes fast, and he forces her to make the decision before
she’s quite ready to do so with a clear conscience. Prior to episode 30, Akio plays the wise man and confidant to Utena; he’s sociable and listens to her talk, providing a commentary she often repeats or refers back to. However, until that fateful kiss, he makes no move Utena can positively identify as sexual or romantic; he’s pulled her close, said curiously intimate things, but still nothing an innocent would know for sure was intent. However only two episodes separate their kiss in the car and their sleeping together; once the relationship changes, it changes fast.
It’s often asked whether Akio loved her, and the answer varies depending on the interpretation of him the person has made. As you’ve probably guessed by now, my version of Akio doesn’t have much room in his heart for Utena. After all, what evidence do we have of this love? Anthy says her brother loves Utena, but how likely is it she speaks from honesty and not a motive? At the point where she says it, she's trying to convince Utena to give up, and an Utena still distracted with a dalliance is not going to run up to the duel arena to challenge anybody. There is, of course, the final offer he makes: for her to live with him, as his princess, for all eternity. If you think he meant that, congratulations. You’re denser than Utena.
| Akio and Touga could in some ways be considered the opposite of Akio and Anthy. Their relationship isn’t built on a tower of dishonesty and false promises, but rather half-truths and truths that go carefully unsaid. Akio has little reason to drown him in a scheme of lies, when something vaguely like the truth attracts him far better. Touga has no interest in the story of the fallen prince, and in fact if Akio presented himself as cruel because he’s been forced into it, he would probably see him as weak. No, Akio is vicious because that’s how you obtain power, and that pure indulgence in his own interests at whatever cost to those around him draws Touga like a moth to the light. Akio wields his magic, his manipulation, and his sex with expertise. He drives fast cars and bought himself a school with his devious talents when he could have just used money. He presents himself as everything Touga wants to be: a powerful master of the universe that no woman (or man) can refuse.
Not that this leaves Touga terribly fond of him. The scenes they share are extremely sexually charged, and while he doesn’t find sleeping with Akio unpleasant, make no mistake: it’s the price he pays for the power he pursues. As with Anthy, the sex is a display of Akio’s dominance over
the person he’s with. It’s unnecessary in this case; Touga realizes where he is and where that places him in relation to Akio, and from the very first scene they share, the power dynamics between them are abundantly clear. Touga is Akio’s lackey, subordinate, and first lieutenant. He’s Akio’s mouthpiece in the student council, and (this unwittingly) he’s integral to Akio’s seduction of Utena.
Though Touga is power-hungry enough to stand under Akio simply to stand over everyone else, it’s unlikely his lust stops there. No doubt Touga’s also looking farther down the road, and realizes a ‘friend’ like Akio could be advantageous when it comes time for a university, or, for that matter, a career. If Akio never suggested this, Touga no doubt figured it on his own; someone as interested in power as he is would see that potential as well as the more immediate rewards.
I’ve heard people suggest that Akio might have considered Touga a protégé. I strongly doubt he would ever seek a replacement for himself, since he has no intention of leaving the school; the closest you could get to this is the intention of training Touga to take his position at another campus. (The same position the sweaty vice-president was obviously jockeying for at the Amsterdam campus.) A properly trained Touga would, after all, be smart enough and ultimately obedient enough to effectively allow Akio to rule over two schools at once, or even two dueling games if he had reason to do so.
No doubt such things occurred to Touga as he made his way home after one of their evenings together, but the primary reason he’s put himself so close to Akio is probably that he means to gain an advantage in the dueling game, thereby obtaining the power that’s been suggested that he so desires. Akio encourages that, giving Touga a great deal of information and even control over the inner workings of the game, but he never (and Touga does realize this) gives him any information that would ultimately make or break the game for him. From his privileged position, all he can do is see that there’s no opportunity for spontaneity on the part of the players—Akio planned and arranged even for Touga’s rebellion against him, mentioning the upcoming duel before he even found his motivation to fight it.