| The few square inches that constitute the face are just as if not more expressive than the whole rest of the body. As a force of habit, most people look to the face for clues as to a person's mood at that particular moment, saving assessments of their personality for reading off the rest of the body. Though the body displays mood just as readily as the face, the face is harder to control and more likely to betray you.
Akio's face is a little less expressive than most. It's one of the things people find unnerving about him—he has what appears to be an emotional poker face, and if you're around him long enough you realize he never betrays what he's thinking. This is a case of misinterpretation. It's human nature to assume people are hiding something. If they look calmly amused, you might assume they're annoyed and hiding it. If they look angry, you might assume they're concealing hurt. Akio rarely finds it necessary to lie in this manner; he's amused when he looks amused, and annoyed when he looks annoyed. More often than not, it's the mistake of the person looking at him to assume he's hiding something under the mood shown on his face.
| Reactions ruled entirely by the autonomic nervous system don’t ask permission of the conscious mind —most people cannot tell their heart to stop pounding when they’re afraid or their skin to stop sweating when it's hot. One such automatic response is pupil dilation. Akio, like almost everyone else in animeland, doesn’t really have pupils to speak of, but the signals are translated to animation by way of using the size of the iris instead. I default to using the word pupil, but when I say ‘Akio’s pupils dilate’, I mean his irises are being drawn larger than usual.
The pupils react to both emotional and physical stimuli. Most of us are well aware of how they respond to the amount of light in a room. However, a pleasing emotion will cause them to dilate, and something that displeases us will make them constrict. When a person’s thoughts are turned inward, their pupils will constrict to block out the outside world and allow for the internal train of thought to go uninterrupted.
Pupils often dilate during conversation.
Pupil dilation is such a universally identified sex signal that it's accounted for in advertising and magazines like Playboy, where images are highly edited on computers before they make it onto the printed page. Along with airbrushing out cellulite and thickening lips, pupils are colored in to look dilated. This is all backed by clinical studies showing that people are more drawn, both physically and emotionally, to a person with dilated pupils.
Pupil dilation is one of the primary sex signals because it’s unconsciously sent and unconsciously received. Few people are aware of dilated pupils the way they are aware of self-contact or come hither expressions. Between the sex reaction and dilation when pleased, you get for Akio what is essentially a constant behavior.
Can he control something as unconscious as the eyes’ willingness to take in light? Most people can’t. In the combined lives of myself and everyone that ever reads this, maybe two such people will appear. They’re usually members of an eastern religion that practices absolute physical discipline, and are also able to stop their heart if they’re so inclined. In other words, this measure of physical control is, generally, not possible for human beings. ‘Ah ha!’ you say. Akio’s not really a human being, now is he?
The problem is you can't really tell whether he's controlling this or not. Where it would be appropriate or manipulatively advantageous, Akio also has reasons for them to be dilated naturally. One could argue he has slightly limited control over what his pupils are doing, and not be wrong. After all, it’s quite a coincidence that his pupils always seem to send a message consistent with what he’d want them to send at the time. Yet it can be argued that it’s not deliberate or coincidence, but simply that Akio’s mood always seems to fit the situation.
Akio’s pupils are more often than not dilated, and whatever he’d use this for manipulatively, it could be argued a genuine reaction to the good mood he’s usually in, or enjoyment of the situation he’s created. His pupils dilate when he’s yapping manipulation with Touga? No shock here, that’s always a highly sexual situation. Dilate around Utena? Toying around with her creates something very pleasing to his eyes—an emotional wreck.
In both of these scenes, Akio's thinking about something he's just done or is doing. He's very pleased with himself.
Like the rest of us, Akio's eyes constrict when his thoughts block off his surroundings and turn inward. You'll notice as pictured on the right that both given instances where his thoughts are turned inward also involve obnoxious grins of amusement and contentment. This is as much proof as the actions themselves are that Akio
enjoys the things he does. Especially the first image, his expression right after 'opening up' to Utena and giving her the highly confessional Lucifer speech. Yeah, he took that real seriously, huh?
Episode 25. Akio's reaction to Anthy's growing interest in the banter between Utena and Wakaba.
The second picture is from his conversations with Touga. His pupils are actually on occasion constricted in these scenes, usually when Touga's in a position to see his face. This is the best argument for Akio controlling pupil dilation himself—he's sending Touga the signal that he's deep in thought. Specifically, thought he might not be sharing with Touga. A dominating behavior, sending out the fact that there's a lot of plotting going on in his head, not all of which Touga's in on.
There’s one point in the show where if he previously had control, it collapsed
entirely (left). This is the only scene in the entire series where you see Akio’s face when he’s really, truly angry. They never show his whole face when he’s angry after this. And it is, believe it or not, absolute, genuine emotion. Akio is pissed. So pissed in fact, that his cool exterior crashes down in front of three people. (None of which are looking at him, though somehow I imagine Anthy knows.) It’s not immediate either; it’s a progression of the look on his face over three shots. His pupils get smaller in each one. This is a classic physiological reaction to the sight of something very, very displeasing. Not a happy man. It’s reasonable to assume he couldn’t hide this, since it was a huge crack in his composure that was in no way advantageous—Akio doesn’t usually let things like that slide.
Of course, Anthy doesn't usually do things that would piss him off this much, and believe it or not, he's isn't perfect.
Dilated pupils work in his favor most strongly in the case of Utena. They’re indeed a sexual signal, but they’re also a very strong signal of vulnerability. Yes, that’s right. Vulnerability. Dilated pupils make the eyes look larger and childlike, and are very much a part of the glassy expression people have when they are about to cry. It's definitely part of his expression when we see him shed tears. Akio’s pupils are dilated around Utena as part of the ‘regular guy’ he plays for her. (“She chose you, a real person, over her Prince.”) This is especially apparent in scenes where he’s speaking in a ‘personal’ manner to her. He gives off a signal of vulnerability that Utena will pick up on, but not be able to identify, to add emotional weight to whatever he’s shoving down her throat at that moment.
| Not all signals fly under the radar the way pupil dilation does—many people recognize the signals sent by the eyelids consciously and quite quickly. We’re especially keen on the heavy-lidded expression, whereby someone’s half-closed eyes indicate sexual interest. The signal works by sending an impression consistent with someone that just had sex, not someone who is anticipating it. Interest is expressed by making a display indicating sexual virility: they’re completely shagged out and relaxed such that they can hardly open their eyes, but they want more.
Akio’s eyelids are quite frequently lowered, and this is so consistently a part of his body language
that I would go so far as to say it’s a baseline behavior he doesn’t even think about. It’s simply part of his innately sexual nature. His eyes are fully open under very specific conditions: either he’s looking up or he’s surprised. Aside from it being a sex signal, lowered eyelids are often paired with or used in replacement of constricting pupils to signal thoughts turning inward.
If you happen to watch South Park, perhaps you've seen the episode about smugness and hybrid cars. In the episode, the people who own hybrid cars, among other things, speak with their eyes closed, and it's pointed out that this is an excessively smug thing to do. Very true, as it's a natural evolution from the gesture's use as a concealing of thought. In the series, Akio, Touga, and Saionji all display this behavior quite often. They're, the three of them, excessively smug men. We also see it from other cast members though, Juri, for example.
Usually these thoughts are not of the most savory sort. We've all seen this before, it's the shot of the villain narrowing his eyes. The reason that you can assume a less than good-natured thought when this occurs is because the lowering eyelids are a deliberate motion to block out the outside world. Both to make inner plotting easier (as in the case of pupil constriction), and more importantly, to hide what's going on in your head. You lower your eyelids (or even close your eyes) to hide what you're thinking. When Akio does this, it's very deliberate; he does it when he wants someone to know there's something they're not in on. He also closes his eyes a couple times in dealing with Utena to emphasize depth of thought. The idea is the same with both Touga and Utena, but they are wildly different applications. It drives Touga batty to think there's something he doesn't know, whereas Utena passively accepts (and is impressed by) the knowledge that accompanies Akio's position.
| There are four gaze behaviors used to express authority or lack thereof: active domination, passive
Active domination gaze behavior is included in any training undertaken by would be salesmen, lawyers, or politicians. It's used to weaken the resolve of the subject and make them easier to sway. People regard the ability to maintain eye contact (erroneously) as a sign of honesty, which is why it's used more often to influence opinion and impress ideas than passive domination is.
domination, active submission and passive submission.
Active is when you’re looking at a person, passive is when you’re deliberately not. (A boss scolding an employee while looking out the window would be an example of passive domination.) This is most effective for people who consciously want attention, because the impression is given that attention is being denied, even if it’s not. 'You're not important enough that I have to look at
you.' Active domination is used in the opposite situation. It forces the submissive party into an uncomfortable position. The subject might be shy, ashamed, or afraid of being caught. Interrogators are good examples of active gaze behavior at work. They never take their eyes off the questioned, and this scrutiny often puts them on the spot enough to screw up their lie. As a rule, passive domination is used in situations where the goal is to belittle the subject and active domination is used more often to break wills. Another difference is that passive domination is rarely mistaken for anything else. People are usually aware of the message immediately because the behavior falls so far outside human nature, where active domination can masquerade as simply an intense personality or keen interest. In this way, passive domination is a very, very strong assertion of dominance. It's not a signal people respond to subconsciously; most will realize full well they're being put in their place.
The active domination gaze is a major weapon in any seducer's arsenal. It puts the subject in the spotlight, whether they want it or not.
All this said, it shouldn't be surprising that Akio's favored approach with Touga is passive domination. In all the scenes they share, Akio rarely looks at him; he tends to just gaze at whatever falls into his line of vision. When he does look directly at Touga, more often than not, it’s through a camera, though he never looks at the camera when Touga's behind it. He’s certainly not ignoring Touga; he’s just having fun irking him because he knows Touga's (consciously) receptive to this signal. Typically someone aware of passive domination will react with indignant passive submission. The attitude being 'Fine, I don't have to look at you either!' Touga does this to a certain degree; he doesn't look at Akio much himself. However, he refuses to let it be an act of submission, and instead goes about like it's simply what the social situation calls for. This is a conversation the two share in body language. Akio baits Touga for a humiliating natural response that Touga is far too proud to take. Touga uses his response to say so explicitly, impressing on Akio that he's in a submissive position, but that he cannot be taken for a fool. That he's aware Akio set him up to say so doesn't change that he says it. This is an example among many of Touga's willingness to play Akio's games on the condition that he's fully aware of them.
Akio uses a combination of active and passive gaze behavior to unnerve Mrs. Ohtori (right). She's obviously come for his 'attention', so to begin with he not only doesn't look at her, but turns entirely away from her. They both know what she's there for, but without direct sexual pressure, she begins making excuses for her presence. Once the excuses are made, Akio faces her and doesn't turn away for the rest of the scene; his gaze remains on her, even if he's not looking at her face. (When he's leaning into her neck.) He waits until she's really tasting her shame before he looks at her, and then places her center stage when her desire to slink into the shadows is the greatest. The strain he places on her with his gaze is so strong that eventually she not only avoids it by looking down, but she turns her head to the side so she doesn't see him at all—an act that couldn't possibly reek more of passive submission.
Akio favors active domination in dealing with Utena. Unsurprisingly, of the whole cast, she handles it the worst: sometimes blushing, sometimes fidgeting, and rarely ever accepting it without embarrassment. Here Akio is sending a double-signal to Utena. His looking at her is very much a matter of active domination, but the expressions he uses send the signal of affection and comfort. Utena is a classic case of passive submission—when Akio looks at her, she typically turns away in submission to his gaze. Utena feels awkward under this influence as it changes over the series. The harmless Akio that she senses no sex from whatsoever doesn’t frighten or intimidate her, but as soon as he becomes even vaguely sexual, romantic, or just plain close, she gets nervous and avoids eye contact.
Akio doesn't always use gaze behaviors deliberately. One occasion where the behavior is not orchestrated to irritate or unnerve someone is the scene Akio shares with an older, married Tokiko. He asks about her life as a conversational formality, but doesn’t look twice at her, even when she's speaking to him. He's not trying to antagonize her. She’s just not part of his world anymore, so he doesn’t deem her important enough to pay full attention to.
You might notice that aside from Tokiko there's a bit of a gender bias here. Passive domination for the man and active domination for the women. This is entirely common; as a rule, active domination just works better on women. Conversely, a woman does best using active domination on a man. Passive domination usually works very well on other women, but men easily write off passive domination as the woman being too weak to assert dominance with a straight face, so they turn away. (More often than not, a sad mistake—the signal sent is far from the signal received.)
| There are three reasons people expose their tongues. It can be an offensive gesture meant to show disgust or a feeling of superiority, it can be a gesture of deep concentration, where the tongue is bit as it pokes out of the lips, or it can be a sexual gesture meant to suggest oral sex or phallic imagery. If you can't tell which of these we see Akio using, consider the mindnumbing Freudian significance of what he's flicking his tongue out at. Also, keep in mind that it's completely unnecessary for him to do so. He doesn't need to expose his tongue to bite a petal off a flower, but he chooses to.