| Language read from the body is the most common vehicle for describing personality. Facial expressions change quickly from one thought to the next, but how a person handles themself—their posture, their gestures, their movement—describes not just their mood but their entire disposition.
Akio's not what most people identify as an animated person, and yet he carries himself quite flamboyantly. In most people animated motions are coupled with exaggerated posture and placement of limbs. Akio is a strange animal in that while his positioning is often exaggerated, his movement is not. In most cultures (especially the one SKU hails from) being overly animated is considered low class. A peasant might be seen to wave their arms around gesticulating, but the nobility is expected to be reserved, and speak only with their words. In other cultures this means less; Italians, for example, are by nature quite animated. However, Akio lives in a social climate that would find being overanimated offensive and crass. For most people, understated movement is accompanied by a certain reservation of positioning. These are not the people who sprawl their arms out wherever they like, or push their pelvis out rather than stand straight. Yet Akio does both these things, because while movement is a matter of class, position is a matter of ego.
| Hands are, short of the face, the most expressive part of the body. We know this—we all recognize
fidgeting hands, and the handshake is considered a science of good impressions. Body language conveyed in hands is more consciously received than language read from the face, and because of that, many people do attempt to edit the messages sent by them. It’s no surprise that Akio controls these messages absolutely. There’s no point where his hands betray him.
Though not quite body language, Akio lives among the upper-class elite, and so practices something the middle-class and below consider an eccentricity of the wealthy man: he gets manicures. Akio's nails are often shown to be quite long
, which is something we see from most of the male cast. Especially Touga and Saionji, though all three are also seen at times with shorter nails. This all relates to body language because it's something that draws attention to it. People notice hands that look attractive; a definite bonus for someone like Akio, who uses them so deliberately. From a man like Akio (or Touga), long nails also suggest their sexual use. After all, nails can be used to stimulate, and who would know that better than a man like Akio? Furthermore, they taper off the finger more gracefully than short nails and create the illusion of length, both being quite aesthetically pleasing to anyone mature enough to not attribute long nails to the man's sexual preference or the fact that he's a vampire.
Akio’s hands express both the overly relaxed way he carries himself and a constant awareness he has of his own sensuality—two ideas that often meet in his body language.
Tension (or lack thereof) is shown by how strained the fingers are. A person fidgeting is often gripping tightly whatever they hold; someone on a roller coaster, for example, grabs the safety bar and squeezes (the white knuckles you always hear about). Though often circumstantial, the tension you have in your hands tells of your personality as well. Consistently tense hands are a sign of the classic tight-ass: a very high-strung individual who likely suffers control issues. For the vast majority of the show, Akio’s hands couldn’t possibly be less tense and still able to move. His motions follow the path of least resistance: his wrist limps when his arm is draped over the car door or the back of the couch, and his fingers are relaxed such that there’s a natural space between them, but not enough to indicate he’s stretching them out. He doesn’t make many unnecessary movements with his hands and they don’t animate his speech.
Tense people have a habit of grabbing anything they attempt to pick up, as though they anticipate great weight or a struggle (see: Saionji). Akio’s not like this by nature, but there is the occasional exception. Namely, when he’s pissed off at Anthy. In these (rare) scenes, Akio grabs her tightly enough to fling her around. However, she doesn’t resist at all, so you end up wondering if Akio’s being as rough as it looks or if she’s exaggerating her reaction to rub it in his face that he’s resorting to physical hostility to keep her under control. I tend slightly to the latter, as it’s a very passive aggressive ‘Anthy’ thing to do.
As for sensuality, it isn’t so much conveyed in how he
poses his hands than in what he does with them. Akio rarely simply touches something. If he’s in contact with it for more than a second, it stops being circumstantial contact and becomes fondling. Especially if he’s touching himself, which he does quite often (left). This is, as you might imagine, a sexual signal. Sometimes subtle, sometimes less so. More often than not, it insinuates genital contact.
Suggested genital contact. Very subtle, subtle, subtle, and SLEDGEHAMMER.
Akio will occasionally place his hands in his pockets or on his hips when he’s standing, and this behavior accounts for much of his auto-contact body language. Hands in his pockets are part of how he exaggerates the impression of casual relaxation he uses for Utena—when his hands are simply on his hips the suggestion is that Akio’s touching his genitals (left). Yes, body language is that blunt. This isn’t meant to indicate that he’s about to spontaneously start masturbating. The contact suggests a second party: the person watching. One well-known example of this sexual suggestion is a woman who will run her hand idly over her chest when talking to a man she’s attracted to—the implication is that of the man she’s speaking to touching her breasts.
As for when he pockets his hands, usually a person who feels compelled to hide their hands is symbolically hiding something else, and it’s no mistake Akio most frequently does this around Utena. One exception is right at the end of episode 25, where he’s angry and in his ‘calm’ has placed his hands ‘casually’ in his pockets. A reaction he could easily control but expresses specifically because he wants Anthy to know he’s angry without doing something so obvious as throwing a fit.
A willingness to hide your hands can also indicate a sense of detachment from your surroundings. Your hands are the primary instruments with which you interact with the world. If you’re hiding them, you don’t feel you need them. For most people this is entirely because they just aren’t concerned with their surroundings, and are more interested in watching than participating. This does ring true for Akio, who is a bit of a voyeur. However, it could also be said that not feeling you need to use your hands means you have another instrument you find works better. Like…say…the capacity to manufacture illusion and manipulate people into submission with a few words and the right facial expression. Akio can hide his hands because he isn’t interacting with the world around him—he’s controlling it.
While the meaning of pocketed hands is typically negative, indicating deception, shyness, or detachment, people rarely interpret it that way. A gesture that indicates he’s being deceptive is interpreted by Utena as a sign that he’s a relaxed, confident guy. Akio is both, but not because his hands are in his pockets—his hands are in his pockets because he’s lying to her. Ironic, no? (Yes, Akio is relaxed, within the realm of what he feels he controls absolutely. Not so relaxed when Anthy’s subtly threatening him.)
Auto-contact isn’t the only thing he does with his hands that ends up sensual. Akio has a distinct
preference for using his fingertips to touch and hold things when it would be easier or perhaps a bit more natural to use more of his hand. He doesn’t wrap his hands around things like he’s trying to possess them, and when he holds something round, such that it forces his whole hand, the pressure is applied with the pads of his fingertips and not his palm or fingers. He favors his fingertips because that’s where all the nerves are—he likes to touch, often lingering on things for much longer than necessary.
Akio feels with his fingertips, even when it's not the most natural way to hold or touch things.
This is not deliberate, but rather it's a natural trait he's seen using when there's no focus on him. When Utena and Wakaba are yapping in episode 30, during a pause in his role in events, Akio starts running his hand over his car. No one’s watching him; he just decides to occupy his time indulging his sense of touch. Go figure that Akio, whose purpose in life is making sure he doesn’t deal with the nasty ouchy pointy swords, would have an unusually strong appreciation for this particular sense. When he pulls his hand away, and we see another peculiarity of his.
When Akio’s hands move away from something, his fingers curl in progressing degrees so that his index finger is straighter and his pinkie finger curled in the most. This is a beckoning gesture. When a man holds out his hand for a woman to take, this is how it’s posed, and people will usually use this gesture when they want someone to follow them. (Akio uses it that way when speaking to Mikage.) However, not only does he do this with people, he does it with inanimate objects like his car and his couch. A beckoning gesture made as if he expects whatever he was in contact with to strain to follow his departing touch. This is part ego, part command. He uses it with Utena in episode 34, letting go of her hand like he anticipates she’ll follow. It seems to be innate in the way he moves, as he certainly doesn’t expect (or want) her to follow him at that point. This beckoning gesture is not used every single day by most people, and it’s not naturally sensual. However for Akio it’s a baseline behavior—he beckons to everything around him.
| Akio often crosses his legs—a full knee on knee, not the ankle on knee. The way a man crosses his legs can often be a sign of status and position. As a rule, white-collar men will do a knee on knee cross, and blue-collar men will prop one ankle on the other knee making a T shape. Blue-collar men prefer this because it’s the more comfortable of the two unless you’re very lean, but over time it’s come to be the ‘butch’ one, also—especially in western or highly westernized cultures, and it’s associated strongly with the ‘cowboy’ look. Though typically not aware of it, white-collar men cross their legs the way they do because it creates a more attractive line of symmetry. Vertical lines on the body draw the eyes upward, and in body language as in fashion, vertical lines are used to draw the gaze up to a person's face. For this reason, as well as the general association it has with the upper class, knee on knee crossing is a major mark on the body language of a ‘player’. That said, it’s often considered a girly gesture by men who don’t do it, expressive of some fundamental lack of masculinity. Not that this bothers most women; it’s no mistake Touga moves in as pompous and
|effeminate a manner as he does. Women pick up on the ego betrayed in a man’s willingness to sacrifice being butch for being more attractive.
The only time Akio's legs cross toward Utena, he's already sending another strong signal of detachment and distance in his crossed arms. His legs are crossed away from Utena in their most intimate scenes, creating a confusing conflict of signals that Utena found very disarming.
There’s a signal sent in crossed legs that every bar-hopper on the planet is familiar with—a signal that’s
been so horribly crammed down our throats that many actively control it. The direction your top leg faces tells people how interested you are in the person sitting next to you. Crossed away from the person means anything from indifference to extreme dislike, and crossed toward the person can mean anything from interest in what they’re saying to the sense of intimacy present in a long-married couple. A leg crossed toward another opens the person’s body in that direction, meaning they feel safe—if it’s crossed away they’re turning themselves away.
You'd think, then, that Akio would make masterful use of this signal to send people the little lies he wants to feed them. Nope. This is one of the only signals he sends with consistent honesty. That this honesty is usually detrimental to the signal he's supposed to send doesn't motivate him to control it, even though it's perhaps the easiest and most universally manipulated of all the signals the body sends. Why does he allow such a glaring and obvious break in his performance? Akio's showing off. A man that can control gaze behaviors lets crossed legs slide? No, he's letting this signal through just because he can. Because he can make people miss the red flag. One of the first things people notice, Akio can sideswipe with the overwhelming body of conflicting evidence, until people refuse to believe the one thing he's honest about.
Akio doesn't cross his legs toward Utena (left). Even when they're positioned so no one would think to interpret the direction his legs cross, he keeps them pointing away. This isn't so much dislike in her case, but a display of emotional detachment. Whatever it is she feels for Akio, it’s not returned, and he only creates the illusion of affection just well enough to fool her. This would have been icing on the cake, but it wasn’t necessary.
One the few times you actually see Akio and Anthy touch is in episode 38, and in this scene Akio's legs are crossed away from her. It's a bit more than indifference now—it's a mixed signal. The leg crossed away indicate dislike or disinterest, but his arm is draped on the couch in an implied embrace, and he’s petting her. The negative sign is the overriding one here since it’s the least deliberate. Then again, we already know Akio and Anthy aren’t exactly the loving couple they make no attempt to pretend to be.
After establishing that there's honesty in where his legs are pointing, it's definitely worth noting that he crosses them toward Touga. Not Utena. Not Anthy. Touga. But really, of the three of them, who would Akio be the most fond of? He has to watch too carefully what he does and says with Utena, and Anthy is ultimately rather unpleasant to have around because he can't quite control her. Touga doesn't present either of these problems. Touga can follow more than a third of what Akio says with minimal nursing along, and he's completely under his thumb. Definitely his favorite in that group. No mistake that Akio's most open and relaxed body language comes from the scenes he shares with Touga, where there's comparatively little deliberate control over how he moves. Akio's comfort with his surroundings (as well as his sexuality) is something he wants to impress on Touga. It works out well for him that that comfort is genuine and he doesn't need to do anything but what he'd normally do.
| Akio rather likes spreading his legs—especially for a camera. This catches our attention because it registers immediately as very peculiar. Spreading legs, something that’s in almost every context sexual, is something men simply don’t do. Why? Because it’s considered a female behavior, and a man that’s seen doing it is swiftly labeled as a homosexual. The reason why the act is sexual coming from a woman is clear: spread legs -> vagina -> insert penis here. However, it’s a strong signal coming from either sex, because it’s implied (or not so implied) exposure of the genitals. That the signal is usually reserved for women doesn’t make it less effective coming from men. There’s certainly no question as to what’s on Akio’s mind when he does it, is there?
This particular behavior goes so far back in our biology that it’s really an animal instinct more than a
human characteristic. Exaggerated exposure of the genitals is one of the primary signals animals (of both sexes) send when they’re looking to mate. (Genital displays are especially popular among primates.) However, in the modern societal and social senses it’s fallen out of vogue—you wouldn’t typically spread your legs in the middle of a meal during a date.
(It is, however, a very good idea when you're being questioned by the police.)
From top to bottom in order of perceived gayness. For a better glimpse at Akio's actual sexuality, here's
where he places on the Kinsey scale.
While no longer used by everyday people in everyday situations, this behavior is alive and well in the place you’d most expect it: pornography. Makes sense, no? Many sex signals considered too strong for most people to use thrive in porn, where the appeal is, in most cases, directly to animal instinct. And Penthouse isn’t the only place you’ll find spread legs either—a quick browse through magazines aimed at straight women and gay men will show you how strong it is coming from males, though the gay magazines tend to exaggerate it, for obvious reasons. It’s a difference of degree you can observe in how Akio behaves in different settings. The shot of him sitting lazily on the couch at the end of episode 14 would be quite comfortable in a Playgirl spread, while his pose against the side of the car in episode 35 could pop up in any one of dozens of gay magazines. Now the ever-popular shot of Akio on the car, about three inches and two layers of cloth away from masturbating…that shot is 1000% gay porn and has been in every single gay porn magazine since the dawn of time. Somewhere in a twenty-thousand year old cave in Europe is a crude painting of a man posing like that.
That Akio would use body language typically associated with gay men should surprise no one since he uses it most often in scenes where he’s with Touga, who adapts to the environment in a similar manner. That Akio uses such strongly sexual body language while being photographed should surprise people even less, since nothing exaggerates a person’s natural body language quite like a camera.