So now that I've made six different layouts for LLOM, I think it's about time I settle on one. I understand these hoverovers are something you guys enjoy, so I'll keep doing them. In the next few slices, I'll explain why Anthy is the prominent figure here. This is an Akio layout. Anthy is simply a means to an end. I could remove both his face and his hand and you'd still know he was there. Also, I've been trying for ages to sneak a picture from my NASA folder into a layout. Starry night, holy night...o wait holy has no place here!
See? You don't even have to see the rest of his face to know the expression he has. I love it. Yes, I added little pearly things to Anthy's hair. Shut up, they're cool. A woman's shoulders are the front lines of her mys-fuck, wrong devil. This, my friend, is an arched back. Look at her. And he's not even touching her yet. Menu's over there, dear.
I wish a gorgeous sadistic man like Akio would stop by and come-or it come and stop by? Damn, I'm confused. Hi Anthy! You seem less blank than usual. Akio's not Indian. He's just a black man that's also a vampire and thus pale for his race. You know, evolution shows women to be just as promiscuous as men. Had I known what an unholy pain in the ass this layout would be to code, I'd have...well..done it anyway.
Look, a chopped hovering gif. You guys just don't know how much I suffer for this stuff. Actually, I wish I was back in the city.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger...might be a bad choice of music considering what I'm doing. MY ROOM IS A MESS. Well no, but my mind is. I DON'T WANNA GO TO CLASS. Fuck school. I'll like it better when my campus has a phallic tower and hot dean. ....but I'd settle for at least a hot student council official. I don't even have those. I really should be getting dressed for school... ....ok, a song titled 'Weapons of Mass Distortion' is no better...No more hovers! (They don't work in Firefox anyway.)
    Utena has her boys' uniform, Miki has his stopwatch, and Akio? Akio has his car. This vehicle is so his, and so associated with him, that us fans simply call it 'The Akio Car.' After all, to call it 'Akio's car' would make it a possession, when it seems more like an extention of Akio's body, of his influence. Its existence describes its owner, and it literally drives the plot of the show. The car is so his, so proof of his prowess, that its inability to function is a delicate way of saying Akio's impotent, irrelevant, and powerless in the grand scheme of the movie.

    Akio's car is inspired by the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster. (As illustrated in The Rose Revelations guidebook.) It could have been any of a number of extravagantly powerful American cars, but the Corvette is easily one of the most loved and recognizable. This particular one was special for the significant jump in power from previous years: a 283-cid V-8 engine, the availability of a 4-speed manual transmission, and the American introduction of fuel injection, which gave purchasers the option to trade $500 and a great deal of reliability for more horsepower. The engine used was the standard for performance at Chevrolet until the 1970's, and its introduction in the 1957 Roadster put Corvettes on the racing world map. Features to optimize the car for this purpose could come straight from the factory. Some, such as the high performance version of the motor, made the car so impractical for street use that
The front looks like a face.
Chevrolet would not install heaters on cars ordered with the racing package. The reward? Performance-optimized 1957 Roadsters clocked 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, and had recorded maximum speeds of 134 mph. At the time, the car had fairly wide appeal because it could cater straight from the factory to a variety of consumers. It's remembered now for the performance-pushing features and its place in a long line of iconic American cars.

    It's no surprise Akio (and his creators) demanded a fast car, but he's done a little work of his own. He puts his 'vette through more than the paces, accelerating it to what the road indicates is 640 kilometers per hour. (The metric system is the standard in Japan; this is about 400 miles per hour.) Not only does that approach the wheel-driven vehicle land speed record of 438 mph, it's certainly beyond the factory capabilities of any commercial car. To add insult to driving enthusiast injury, Akio slams the brakes at this speed, which is probably a good way to send the tires shooting off the car.

    The vehicle that inspired Akio's car paid a considerable price for its speed: a backseat. No Corvette has ever had one, nor can I imagine Corvette owners raise much rabble because of it—sports cars pretty much by definition lack a backseat. Given the way the car is used in the series, though, this bit of tricked out creative license is understandable; Akio and the series creators no doubt agree heartily on how much more fun a fast car is when there's a backseat to capitalize on the appeal in.
    The use of chronologically inconsistent set items in the series has implications both for Ohtori Academy and for Akio himself. In the broader sense, it contributes to the surreal setting the story is placed in. We can't really tell when the events we see take place, and spend more time disoriented by the inconsistencies we're shown than deciding to go by noting the most recent technologies we see: laptops and cellular phones.

Lestat was way cooler.
Interview with the Vampire was, aside from being the pinnacle of bitey fangy sexy time for an entire generation, a study in varied responses to the condition of immortality. Louie battles with the guilt of an eternity bought by the pain of others, where Lestat revels in it. Akio isn't a vampire, exactly, but the condition of his immortality is as drastic. Akio also requires the sacrifice of another to thrive.
    Akio is especially guilty of this ambiguity—his clothes, his projector, and his car all disagree on what decade it is. This is not unfamiliar behavior for us; the depiction of long-lived characters all but requires some approach to how they deal with the passage of time moving faster than they do. Akio seems to handle it with more grace than your typical vampire, though that could be for many reasons. Akio never exactly had a concept of his own mortality, and he controls the pace of change in his world so that it never progresses faster than it would suit him.

    A good example is the center console's phone. Car phone technology, of a sort, did exist in 1957, but wasn't accessible to even the wealthiest of the consumer public. The British royal family had one installed that consumed the large part of the trunk, and everyone else had to wait until the 1970's. It took the greedy 1980's for car phones to reach their apex, but by the 1990's, the technology was virtually extinct, replaced my more convenient cellular phones. Akio doesn't seem to be in any hurry to reclaim the center console for change and coffee cups though; the decade gap between the two technologies is reduced to the span of two episodes, and backwards no less. Akio uses a cellular phone in episode 32 to speak to Nanami and the car phone in episode 33, during the drawn out conversations with the girls in the shadow play. Perhaps he's just cheap about cell phone minutes?
    Why this car? Why any car at all? Because Akio is an adult, and adults drive.   Every culture has its rites of passage into adulthood. In most of the modern world, no one expects a child to capture a kill, have a spirit journey, or even be wed to a life partner. Many do, however, expect a child to prove their maturity on the road: obtaining a driver's license and something to drive is in many ways the modern ritual passage to adulthood. It's more fun than graduating school, and more public (one hopes) than the loss of virginity. Especially in the period Akio's car hails from, driving was associated with the youthful pursuit of sexual exploration; the 1950's in America contrasted the wholesome image of the happy housewife to that of her daughter, dancing the night away with the blue jeans-wearing rebel that always, always drove a fast car.

    Not that Akio markets himself that way. The passage of time did a great deal to take the rebel out of the sports car; your doctor is far more likely to drive a one than the college student trying to bang your daughter. Akio's Corvette does mark him as an adult among the predominantly underage cast, though, and the value of it compared to other cars singles him out as an adult of wealth and influence. It's no coincidence we're introduced simultaneously to Akio's car and his relationship with Touga: the car is used to establish the power dynamics in their relationship:

Touga: You're driving quite fast.
Akio: She's purring nicely, don't you think? Care to take the wheel?
Touga: What? But I still don't...
Akio: You're too strict...
Touga: That was a rather indecent proposal, Mr. Chairman.
Akio: My Ohtori Academy has a regard for students' independence, Mr. President.

    It's unlikely Touga doesn't know how to drive; this dialogue implies instead that he's reluctant to flagrantly break the law in front of a superior. While there is no question of Akio's being old enough to drive, Touga is almost certainly under 18, which is the minimum age in Japan for an ordinary driver's license. (He presumably does have a motorcycle license, which can be obtained at 16.) Aside from the grossly sexual subtext in this exchange, Akio establishes himself as an adult dealing with a subordinate youth through this rift in what they're allowed to do.

    This is not the only example of Akio's props being used to remind us of his being a grown up. He drinks brandy while speaking to Kanae's mother, who of course is also old enough to partake, though she doesn't appear to. One wonders if Touga would have refused brandy as quickly as he refused the wheel. Though under the required age of 20, drinking is a more private, much easier rule to break. Which is perhaps why Akio doesn't bother; there's already another taboo Touga consents to break in private. The first we see of Akio's car, it serves to establish for both Touga and the viewer his relationship with his student council president: he's the adult, he's the one in control.
    Akio has the power to offer Touga the wheel, a taboo he wasn't willing to break. He does so to prove a point: that he is the greater risk-taker. Though children and adults alike do risky things, a certain level of maturity is obtained when one proves themselves able to deliberately take risks. This is the difference between a child climbing a tree without considering whether it's too tall to safely fall from and an adult consciously risking another impatient car while running headlong through a yellow light. Driving is a risk around which many laws are placed to minimize its inherent danger, including restricting it to adults who, hopefully, are better able to make judgments about what's safe or not.

    That Akio uses the car to advertise his adulthood is a familiarly juvenile behavior, and part of the reason you pay more for car insurance at 19 than you do at 30. That Akio drives a notoriously fast and unpredictable vehicle seems even more like juvenile exuberance to us. Not to be outdone by the common college student, Akio even leaps out of the car at high speeds, with nothing to tether him to the vehicle and nothing to steer it. What makes young adults behind the wheel more dangerous is that the sense of mortality develops as people age. An older adult believes they could hit another car and die, a younger one knows it, but doesn't really believe it. A child doesn't know it or believe it.

    Where does that leave Akio, then? It's in his most flagrant display of adulthood that he betrays his immaturity the most. It's not just that Akio doesn't believe he could hurt himself with the car; he's aware of the danger he appears to others to be in. It's utterly safe because he is sure with all the conviction of a toddler playing at the edge of a pool that there's nothing in his world that's a threat to him. At the same time, can we blame him for this? Akio does exercise an unnatural degree of control over his surroundings. It's hard to believe he ever had problems starting the engine, any more than we think at any point he's missed his mark jumping out of the car and careened into a nearby tree.

    In the last scenes of the series, Akio claims he's taken many risks. The impartial viewer may not agree, saying instead that he's spent 39 episodes hiding behind his Rose Bride shield and only risking what he can easily dispose of, alter, or replace. It's ironic then, that while Touga would not drive a car without a license, he takes far greater risks associating with Akio at all. For the risks Akio doesn't take, and for the risks Touga does...they both fail.

    To take a risk, a person must weigh their options, and we do so every day, over and over, because it's part of life. Do we pass the swerving guy ahead of us, or do we hang back until he turns? Do we eat that steak rare, or cooked all the way through? Most of the time, considering risk is just an innocent part of decision-making. However, decision without consideration of risk is what makes Utena's decision to storm the Rose Gate so pure, selfless, and well, princelike. Utena decides that she must do this; she doesn't weigh the risk of her actions against, say, doing nothing. We can call this devotion, we can call this selfless, we can call it rash, or we can call it damn foolish, but however we dress it, it's very plainly nothing we'd ever see Akio or Touga do. They would consider the risks of their actions, and consider also the lesser risk of doing nothing. In all likelihood, self-preserving as they are, they'd have chosen to do nothing, but you could say the damage is already done before the decision is made. In Utena's position, they would have considered leaving a friend to her fate. Whether they do or not, for us standing back and watching, what does it say that the thought occurred to them at all?
    In the last round of duels, Akio uses his car as a chariot of war and a gymnastics vault. Each duelist is taken for a ride to the Ends of the World—a sight promised to them by a bemused host that not a one of them trusts. We don't know what the destination truly was, or even what it was like. It was the journey that mattered.

    For these final battles, Akio draws the duelists' attention away from the castle in the sky—their childish illusions about they're fighting for—and shows them the nature lurking within. In Miki's first duel, his darker desires are buried in juvenile fancy—he wants to save Anthy's 'music'. His ride in the car deconstructs this interpretation of his motives. Where there was once Anthy's beautiful music and the pedestal he placed her on because of it, we now have him in the driver's seat, with Anthy as available as Kozue makes herself for Akio. His once selfless desire to save her music is revealed to not involve music at all, and with nothing to save, he's left only with possessive desire.

    A ride in Akio's car strips the characters of the illusions they stand on, and in revealing their innermost motives, we're tempted to imbue the journey to Ends of the World with the power of truth. Miki and Saionji are revealed to have no ambitions at all but the lustful possession of Anthy. We see Ruka and Shiori have sex right in Akio's rear view mirror, and Juri's ride in the car shows her motivation to simply be denying Ruka. Nanami loses her brother and almost gains a lover, but is instead left with an ambition to destroy everything, satisfied with nothing in her own circumstances. Finally, Utena's ride, her trip to Ends of the World, so to speak, shows her willing to trade her high ideals and her prince for a lover she knows she cannot keep.

    It's natural to assume that if you learn something new about yourself, especially something hard to face, that you've had a growing experience. This is the mistake the duelists make in the Akio Arc, and the trick he plays on them. He shows them something about themselves that they didn't know, and dresses it up with the trappings of adulthood to further the point. The roar of the engine, the dark road, even the experience of meeting the man they know to pull their strings, all lends itself to convincing the duelists that what is exposed, what is shed, and what is learned in the car makes them a more mature person.

    That, in and of itself, is an illusion: that they could purchase maturity with truth. That they could face the Ends of the World, see the border of their consciousness, and somehow by that alone become greater. What Akio, in his fancy car, with all the trappings of adulthood around him, neglects to mention is that knowing is only half the battle, and the other half is not in the arena. What the duelists take for newer, more mature and enlightened motives, we see for the same immature illusion. It only ceases to seem childish now because their motives are exposed for things we wouldn't expect from children—children don't reject the world, don't seek to sexually dominate, and don't abandon their dreams for the lesser prize. The duelists shed some of their ignorance to their own natures, but remain lacking a truly mature adult's perspective. Juri doesn't reflect on how unlikely it is that Ruka has any long-term influence over Shiori. Saionji says he wants to make Anthy belong to him, but doesn't mention requited affection. Saionji has 'learned' that what Anthy and Touga both deny him therefore musn't exist in this world. Each duelist surrenders an illusion in Akio's car, trading something 'childish' in for their new maturity; Saionji gave up on intimacy.

    The lessons learned in the car come from a skeptical and cold caricature of the experience of being an adult. They become more like Akio, who embraces only the perspective to cater to his own selfishness, with none of a mature person's reflectiveness to temper it. He is still egocentric as only a child can be. He knows how to operate his vehicle. Would he know what to do if his vehicle was only one of many on the road? Akio approaches driving with the same abandon a child uses to play with toy cars, seeming to care not in the least for all the factors involved that would take a child's fun out of it.

Off to the Ends of the World!
    The glamor of the engine and the dark road serve as a contrast to the cars erupting from the ground in the duels. One moment, the duelists are coaxed into action with the appeal of enlightened adulthood, and the next they're surrounded with the gravestones placed for what they are leaving behind. For Akio's purposes? It's a duel. For their own? While Akio showed them truth and then tricked them with it, he does not follow this up, seeming to leave them to figure out their mistake themselves.

    After their last duels, the Student Council sits back and reflects. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me—their encounters with Akio and the immediate aftermath sour the whole dueling scheme for them, and left with truth about themselves, and truth about the futility of their dueling efforts, we see them beginning to take the steps toward mature reflectiveness that Akio forgot to mention in the car. Juri decides she may be able to stop pining for Shiori, Saionji learns that intimacy, in love and in friendship, is something created, and Nanami begins to define herself on her own terms. The story leaves us with not exactly grown up characters, but ones that have at least realized the direction maturity lies in, and are beginning the journey there. If, unlike Anthy, they are not ready to simply walk through the world's shell, we can still consider them as having grown. At the very least, they've learned Akio's secret: that the End of the World is not something that can be crossed with a sword. And they've learned also what Akio has not: that riding along the edge does not make you more a part of the other side. We as viewers come to understand in this way that while the Student Council will graduate, walking through Rose Gates of their own, Akio will remain where he is, perpetually driving in the circle of road that borders his narrow world, revving the engine and savoring its purr, believing that's all there is to being grown up.