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HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top03-23-2009 05:47:32 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Hi guys, I just registered here and was hoping you could help me out with some questions I have about Akio. The guy just confuses the hell out of me.

Now, normally I don’t obsess too much over plot – especially in a series like SKU where the character’s psychological profiles are so rich that the plot almost seems inconsequential. Having said that, there are some things about SKU’s plot that, after two viewings, I just can’t figure out.

Firstly, towards the end of the series, when Akio reveals the End of the World to Utena, Akio accuses her – Utena – and the other duelists of chasing after ‘castles in the sky’ because they have no understanding of what real power is. This draws a substantial contrast between Akio and the duelists because Akio, unlike the duelists, is quite obviously after real power. He has used his wiles to seduce his way into a position of authority at a prestigious school, and to marry into a very wealthy family.

So, my question is this: What exactly does Akio stand to gain then, in terms of real world power, from manipulating a bunch of dysfunctional kids into dueling each other for a castle in the sky? Why is he interested in the rose gate? What interest does he have in the ‘power’ behind the rose gate when he’s supposedly interested in real wealth and power, and not kid’s fairy tales? I understand the implication is that – according to the movie, at least – he wants to regain the magic power of the prince he once was, but, again, that just seems like he’s chasing after a fairy tale rather than something real. Is he contradicting himself?

See, here’s the thing with how I perceived it. I basically felt that Akio revealing the castle to be an illusion perpetuated by a planetarium projector was really amazing, because it just blew the lid off the whole childish, romantic fantasy mythos that I felt the series was consciously trying to deconstruct. Then his behavior shortly thereafter – attempting to breach the rose gate – seems to re-legitimate the illusion/fantasy he himself just nullified, which just kind of throws me for a loop. I guess I see coming of age stories as being moral progressions from ‘child’s fantasy’ to ‘adult’s reality’, and the planetarium’s metaphorical implications really substantiated that for me. Most of SKU substantiates that. I just hit a wall when I try to cognitively grapple with Akio trying to open a gate he recognizes as part of his own light show illusion. Is it an illusion, or isn’t it? Is Akio really so crazy that he falls for his own tricks?

Thankfully, I don’t think the vagueness of Akio’s intentions changes the beautiful relationship that develops between Anthy and Utena. Their growth, development, and emergence from their coffins; the truth of their friendship, in the end, is a given – regardless of the plot. It does, however, seem to turn the principle moral of the story into an inexorable, binary ambiguity: Is the castle/prince/fairytale mythos all an illusion, or is it actually real? Did Anthy and Utena escape their coffins by realizing the folly of chasing after a fantasy that didn’t exist? Or did they realize, contrarily, that there is in fact a fantasy world – and just decide they’re happier moving on and forgetting about it?

Either interpretation seems to work; they both satisfy the moral in their own way. But I’m still finding it difficult to reconcile the implications of Akio’s actions with the themes of SKU.

Again, maybe – hopefully – I’m just missing something and you guys can help straighten me out.

I do have another question, actually also about Akio, but I’ll post another topic later. Maybe some of your responses to this will help me work out my other questions as well. Thanks in advance for your help.

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#2 | Back to Top03-23-2009 11:33:43 PM

Hiraku
Easter Elf #40
From: Singapore
Registered: 02-21-2007
Posts: 6340
Website

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Holy crap. That's an excellent question to ponder.

I will need to digest it before thinking up a "proper answer"

But, I would think about it in "real-life" terms. What is it that "adults" are after in your life? Typically, the top of the career, which allows them to gain the top ladder of the social hierarchy. Akio also mentioned that the chairman's office is as high as it can go in reality. So, in a sense, you're right, adult and reality do seem to be strongly associated with one another, especially in this anime.

That's why you also see most "adults" in the anime tend to look... boring, strict, and conservative because they're bound by what is tangible to their senses. While the duelists are also bound by their desires, it almost seems like the only difference between adults and children is that adults have this reluctant acceptance that they can't move any further. While the duelists, well, they're moving, though not where they might want to end up since they're really just going in circles, or moving their legs while stuck to the ground.

I'm digressing.

In any case, back to Akio. Why does he want power?

I think he still wants to gain the freedom he needs to "Revolutionize the World". Even I tend to believe that, with power, position, money, you do have what it takes to shape the world the way you want it. I don't think Akio has abandoned his desire to become Dios again, and I think he's also fighting the reality as much as Anthy is.

Anthy battles the real world by taking on all the pain they can give her. Akio wants to beat the real world in its own game set up by the society.

In a sense, I don't think he 100% believed the chairman's office IS the height of the world. If he really thought that, why did he cry when he stated, "There never was a prince to begin with"?

To answer your question in short, I believe it's rooted in fantasy, this ambition. But, his tactic is like those who intends to get INTO the system and fight it from the inside.

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#3 | Back to Top03-24-2009 04:19:48 AM

Tamago
God of Comedy
From: Minami Goushuu
Registered: 10-17-2006
Posts: 14280
Website

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

I never delved too deeply as doing that in this series can sometimes lead you off to some weird tangents, I just believed that when he was Dios, he had the Power of World Revolution and he used to to save princesses, but when Anthy sealed Dios to create Akio, she sealed off the power as well.

I believe the whole duelling thing is an elaberate ritualistic spell designed not to be Dios again but to regain this power.

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#4 | Back to Top03-24-2009 01:44:34 PM

Hedgehogey
Framed Landscaper
Registered: 01-30-2008
Posts: 430

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

I'm going to agree with Tamago here. I think there is a science to this here (else he would nt ave needed Nemuro/Mikage). He is using the ambitions/dramas of the duellists as fuel.

Thus the 100 dead boys being neccesary sacrifices. The first rotation of an engine inevitably takes more fuel to start than subsuquent ones due to inertia. With the boys dead, the engine was running (you can see this in Tsuwabuki's duel chorus: Ubermensch, mechanism drawing breath!). From there on the living duellists were enough to fuel it. Opening the gates to the castle required the supercharging of a prince's nobility, however....

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#5 | Back to Top03-24-2009 04:09:25 PM

Katzenklavier
Wondrous Sexual Eggplant.
From: Back of your thoughts.
Registered: 09-13-2008
Posts: 1120

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

That's a really good question, Triplerock. My interpretation is that his ambitions are rooted in fantasy. It seems like a desperate empty cycle to me. Remember how much of Akio's facade crumbles at the end -- he notes that Utena is another failure, implying a long line at end. He looses control of his composure and his emotions rather quickly when something happens that he didn't predict. So it's obvious that he's not infallible. And while his perception is more extensive than the other characters', it's limited and eventually proved to be just as flawed as his victims' in its extremity.

His jaded and dismissive attitude indicates that failure is nothing he hasn't experienced before. What started out as an attempt to regain his purity and princeliness has long since degraded into an empty cycle. In some parts, he reflects upon his failure with an air of inevitability. At others, he is overly ambitious. I think what essentially Akio has come to appreciate is playing the game, rather than winning it. He likes being at the top of the tower and controlling those around him. Additionally, he gets to punish his sister over and over again.

At the very end, Anthy notes that he is still trapped in his coffin and will remain there. The coffin is Akio's inherent hypocrisy and his meaningless pursuit of what he recognizes as a fantasy.


We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

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#6 | Back to Top03-24-2009 07:34:24 PM

OnionPrince
Covert Diarist
From: Nagoya
Registered: 10-28-2007
Posts: 876

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Here's (short version of) the way I look at it: Akio wants the power of Dios without the responsibility that goes with it.

We see a glimpse of this miraculous, super-human, revolutionary power in nearly every one of Utena's duels. Even with Dios gone, it exists in some form. Akio knows it's real; he lacks it and yearns for it, for selfish or even nefarious reasons. Like Hiraku said, he's at the top of the world as far as adults go. He has everything a typical mortal man could ever want and then some. But having once held truly godlike power, he is not satisfied with these mundane pursuits.

Perhaps Akio justifies this quest as taking up the mantle of savior once again, but that is most likely a facade. The ideal of the Prince is what Akio came to reject as fantasy and illusion. I think at one point Akio really did want to reclaim his purity and princeliness, but after aeons the cynicism took its toll on him. Now, Akio seems to dismiss all those things as foolish and childish.

So, it really boils down to a powerful man wanting ultimate power, while rejecting the ideals that would restrict his behavior and use of that power. That's how I see it, anyway.

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#7 | Back to Top03-24-2009 07:35:16 PM

dabouse1
Touga Topper
Registered: 12-21-2007
Posts: 51

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

"Someone as young as you cannot know the significance of this room."

My initial interpretation was that Akio was using the desires and fantasies of young people because they were supposedly more idealistic and naive than an adult like him.  But it turned out that it was more like: Akio was using the desires and fantasies of all mankind to get what he wanted (which was generally the powerpowerpower of Dios).  Perhaps Akio thought of himself as a realist.  He, along with Anthy, has seen how ugly mankind can turn when their hopes and dreams shatter (these are things Akio would deem unrealistic and merely fantasy).  From his time being Dios, he knew the amount of power he could gain if he used those unrealistic fantasies.  When he was Dios, he had the faith of many -- they all came to him, gave him their daughters, their trust, their dreams.  He wanted that power back, so what better way than to hit the ground running and use those fantasies and dreams?

That's what I thought, that the fantasies created by Mikage and the room were tools or weapons used by Akio to manipulate others to "get on top," so to speak.  Though personally, I do think that perhaps Ikuhara was trying to say (through Anthy) that Akio was living in a fantasy himself.  Katzanklavier said something about it before, that Akio likes he power he has already as Chairman/Prince of the school.  And his assumptions that everyone wants to live in a fantasy world and that such dreams cannot be of benefit are also a part of his fantasy.

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#8 | Back to Top03-24-2009 08:36:49 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Hiraku wrote:

But, I would think about it in "real-life" terms. What is it that "adults" are after in your life? Typically, the top of the career, which allows them to gain the top ladder of the social hierarchy. Akio also mentioned that the chairman's office is as high as it can go in reality. So, in a sense, you're right, adult and reality do seem to be strongly associated with one another, especially in this anime.

About the reality of the ‘adult world’, in Ikuhara’s commentary in Adolescence of Utena, he describes the adult world as being impure. Certainly the kind of ruthless, loveless, regretless ambition that Akio represents *is* impure and, as the coffins would indicate, probably entails a kind of spiritual or emotional death. Man does not live by bread alone.

So, on the one hand, you have this impure, materialistic, spiritually devoid adult world. On the other hand, a naïve, childish fantasy that leads to nowhere but a kind of self-imprisonment within your own perpetually deferred dreams/ego – something also represented by the coffins. Which would you choose? Neither seems very attractive. In fact, both leave you in the coffin. Neither material possessions/social stature, nor chimerical daydreams lead to true happiness. Utena and Anthy come to understand this, and that was their true revolution.

This is all pretty clear to me, but I still just have a hard time deciding whether to take the imagery and symbolism at face value, or to just concede that much of the plot doesn’t really make much literal sense and simply read the imagery as derivative of a free associative technique.

Tamago wrote:

I never delved too deeply as doing that in this series can sometimes lead you off to some weird tangents, I just believed that when he was Dios, he had the Power of World Revolution and he used to to save princesses, but when Anthy sealed Dios to create Akio, she sealed off the power as well.

And, yeah, this is the most obvious literal interpretation, of course. But my question is really whether or not this literally makes any sense. Akio’s ambitions and goals shape the plot; he more or less masterminds everything, right? Now, this might be kind of circular, but if the plot is based on Akio’s ambitions and goals, and his ambitions and goals are inconsistent or contradictory, then it kind of logically follows that the plot itself is inconsistent or contradictory. This brings me back to my original question, which was an attempt to flesh out a logical, consistent interpretation of Akio’s behavior. Now, you might accuse me of reading into it too much, but, it’s just that I like SKU enough to give it that type of critical attention. If I didn’t really love this show, I wouldn’t even bother pondering questions like that. I guess you’re right; that type of analysis does lead to weird tangents.

OnionPrince wrote:

So, it really boils down to a powerful man wanting ultimate power, while rejecting the ideals that would restrict his behavior and use of that power. That's how I see it, anyway.

See, I actually really, really like that interpretation from a moral perspective. There’s a very powerful moral in that type of analysis that I don’t deny at all; it makes a lot of sense. Here’s the thing from a symbolic perspective, though: Akio’s name is derived from the Morning Star, Venus, which symbolizes Lucifer. Now, Lucifer, like Akio, desired the power of Dios – God – and tried to usurp God from his throne, and was thus cast out of heaven to rule the pit. The point is that Lucifer, though he lusted for it, never *actually had* the power of God. So, what effect do you think that symbolic allusion has on the history of Akio’s character? Is he really trying to ‘reclaim’ a power he once had, or did he ever really have that power to begin with? This, again, goes back to my original question: If fairy tale princes don’t exist, then how was Akio once a fairy tale prince?

dabouse1 wrote:

From his time being Dios, he knew the amount of power he could gain if he used those unrealistic fantasies.  When he was Dios, he had the faith of many -- they all came to him, gave him their daughters, their trust, their dreams.  He wanted that power back, so what better way than to hit the ground running and use those fantasies and dreams?

I also really like this because it plays very smoothly into the Lucifer allegory, since all ‘devil’s pact’ stories, including the temptation of Christ, tend to revolve around Satan offering to fulfill people’s dreams/fantasies and lust for power – in exchange for their servitude. It still doesn’t really resolve whether or not Akio actually had the power of Dios or not, however.

If we look at some of the duelists, especially Miki, Utena, and Mikage, we see that they are trying to ‘reclaim’ memories that are somehow distorted, falsified, or outright manufactured. If Akio is just as prone to fantasy as the duelists, which I think there is ample evidence to support, who’s to say he isn’t also distorting, or even manufacturing his memories that he wishes so desperately to ‘reclaim’, just like the duelists. It would make sense going along with the themes of the series, I think.

Btw, thanks for all the responses guys, they’ve got me thinking quite a bit, and helped a lot. Keep em coming.

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#9 | Back to Top03-25-2009 09:12:06 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
Website

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

It's another take on the question...what is Akio's true goal?  What is the purpose of the duels, really?  And there are many things that spark that question for me.

Could Akio really think that he could have the power of the Prince without being the Prince?  And, after all, he has so much power as Chairman and just as...Akio.  If the Tower is really the highest point of the world ergo secular power is the highest achievement, what the hell is Akio after?  Why would he try to open a giant stone doorway by attacking it with a sword?  Of course it's going to break.  Why doesn't he want a key or a battering ram?

"Magical" events already occur on campus -- what would the Power to Revolutionize the World do for Akio that Akio is missing?  Is he just senselessly greedy?  Is there really a "Power of Dios" that a person can take?  I mean, is Akio actually missing anything he had "back then" aside from his idealism?

Does Akio, in fact, feel some small regret for what he has become and long to regress (while the method of his attempts to reclaim his former power actively proves that he is not a Prince and can't go back to being a Prince)?  Is it possible that Akio is, or started out, actually trying to find someone to free Anthy by acting as the devil to possible heroes?

Is his search for power actually about feeling emasculated by Anthy, because the magic seems to be mostly hers and not his?  Was part of Akio actually stolen away by Anthy (I am heavily skeptical of the Shadow-Play version of 'The Tale of the Rose') and is that what he is trying to reclaim?

The duels have elements that make them look like (as Touga calls them in the manga) "a sacred ritual."  They contain repetitive elements that tie them together.  They are formal.   And they slowly escalate, seeming to build power, as the Duel of Revolution approaches.  So they do seem to be a spell, or a necessary path, that has the aim and result of opening the way to the Power to Revolutionize the World.

But...fantasy overlays reality overlaying fantasy so much in the series that it's hard to know what is pure allegory/symbolism and what is meant as a factual event (with metaphorical ramifications, of course) in what is, after all, a fictional story.

For example, Akio's attack of the Rose Gate with Utena's soul-sword.  In a previous thread, Giovanna postulated that this is one of several cues that indicates that the elaborate dueling game is designed to "fail."  So Akio probably enjoys playing the game, because he enjoys manipulating people, but ultimately the true purpose of the game is to keep Anthy engaged (no pun intended).  The duels give Anthy a distant hope of eventual rescue.  Like when Akio says, "If I tried to be a Prince like I used to be, maybe no one would have been hurt" as part of his speech to get Anthy to relinquish Utena's sword to him...  He doesn't mean it, nevermind that he cries, he is consciously appealing to Anthy's wish that he will act as her Prince and rescue her.

That idea actually explains a lot...it fits with all of the strange inconsistencies.  I have a few reasons for not adopting it as my primary interpretation--I like to mull over it, but it's just not my favorite.  One reason is...the game is so elaborate.  What is done with Nemuro/Mikage and the 100 duellists is a major example.  It seems like Akio could easily keep Anthy's hope alive without burning 100 people alive.  (Though I can think of a possible explanation for it.)

Anyway, my personal explanation is that what Akio says about the duels can be taken, mostly, at face value.  He does want and intend to get more power.  Failure means little because he's failed before and can try again--and he has other power, this is just about acquiring more.  And Akio is fallible.  He thinks, mistakenly, that the Power of Dios is something that exists outside of a vessel.  That it's something that can be taken by force.  That it's an object, another trophy of prestige to win.  And he should know better. 

Akio says about the duellists: "They won't really be granted the Power to Revolutionize the World, because they have all had hope taken from them."  Well, so has he.  Akio says, variously that "the Prince [Anthy] loved is no longer the Prince she knew.  He has become the Ends of the World" and "When [Anthy] became known as a Witch, Dios perished."  I have always interpreted these comments to mean that Akio's transformation from Dios to Ends of the World was caused by Anthy.  Not by her sealing his power, or physically trapping him, but by the result of her attempt to protect Dios.  Anthy is called a Witch for the first time as she is attacked and skewered by a mob that was seeking Dios...because she was the only one who loved Dios enough to protect him.  How could that do anything less than utterly horrify Dios and destroy his innocence?  Dios had hope taken from him: the people he nearly killed himself to help proved themselves utterly unworthy of his sacrifice and he now has to watch his sister suffer every day for the rest of her immortal life.

The Power of Dios was something Dios had by virtue of who and what Dios was.  That is something that Akio can never ever be again for the same reasons that Dios became Akio in the first place.  That faith, once broken, can never be repaired.  Even the knowledge that Dios, a Prince, could grow up to be Akio, Ends of the World, keeps Akio in his coffin.  "There never really was a Prince in the first place" right?  Because what kind of a  shoddy, illusory Prince can later become a Devil?  The person that Akio is can never reclaim the Power of Dios, he is the product of his experiences and choices. 

Akio is philosophical, insightful, and diabolical, yes, but he's not omniscient and this fact escapes him because Akio sees power as a commodity.  When Akio says, "I used to be like that.  I used to think that sincerity was valuable... and that it was the one and only way to change the world.  But sincerity by itself changes nothing" he shows his blindness regarding the Power of Dios.  The Power of Dios came from sincerity and the belief that sincerity was valuable. 

Akio had the projector created, had the path to the castle/gate opened, set up the duels...but what could ever have possibly been accomplished by any of it except for helping Anthy (which Akio seems to think is useless and impossible)?  Say, somehow, Akio had opened the gate...what would have been there?  Honestly...if not Anthy, then nothing.  For Akio to open that gate, he would have had to revolutionize himself.  Once he'd done that, there would have been no need for anything else.  He would have what he was missing and all he would see all his machinations for the empty gestures they were.

I've wondered before what Akio's revolution would be if it were possible to win power and then use it on the world.  I think that's a good question to ponder.  Akio seems pretty happy with his world as it is, with his power and his position in it.  Maybe he doesn't want it at all--that explains a lot.  Or maybe Akio means most of what he says, but his deductions are flawed.  Maybe there is an irreconcilable distance with Akio's World and the real world.  That seems strange to me--after all, if anyone could understand the Power of Dios, you'd think it would be Akio-who-was-once-Dios, but at the same time it makes sense--Akio's gone so far from who he used to be that he can't see the forest for the trees.  Or the trees for the forest.  One of the two.  Hah, or can't see the trees or the forest for the clouds.  Whatever.

It seems possible that Akio's goals have changed since he first started setting up the duels--at first, maybe a part of him really hoped to be a Prince again.  But Akio acted as Ends of the World so long that he forgot what it really meant to be a Prince.  Maybe after that he wanted to use his power to hurt the world as revenge for what happened to Anthy & himself.  Then as time wore on Akio found that he enjoyed power and prestige and began to see the comfort of a materialistic life.  So his former efforts toward reclaiming himself (or possibly helping Anthy) became focused just on using others to get more power.  By the time Utena came along, it's possible that Akio is just habitually going through the motions of a pattern long devoid of real purpose--though, if he gets more power from it, that's all good.

Rambling...

Last edited by rhyaniwyn (03-25-2009 09:20:03 AM)


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#10 | Back to Top03-26-2009 01:59:38 AM

Alan
Wakaba Wrangler
From: Los Angeles
Registered: 03-16-2009
Posts: 17
Website

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock wrote:

OnionPrince wrote:

So, it really boils down to a powerful man wanting ultimate power, while rejecting the ideals that would restrict his behavior and use of that power. That's how I see it, anyway.

See, I actually really, really like that interpretation from a moral perspective. There’s a very powerful moral in that type of analysis that I don’t deny at all; it makes a lot of sense. Here’s the thing from a symbolic perspective, though: Akio’s name is derived from the Morning Star, Venus, which symbolizes Lucifer. Now, Lucifer, like Akio, desired the power of Dios – God – and tried to usurp God from his throne, and was thus cast out of heaven to rule the pit. The point is that Lucifer, though he lusted for it, never *actually had* the power of God. So, what effect do you think that symbolic allusion has on the history of Akio’s character? Is he really trying to ‘reclaim’ a power he once had, or did he ever really have that power to begin with? This, again, goes back to my original question: If fairy tale princes don’t exist, then how was Akio once a fairy tale prince?

I also really like this because it plays very smoothly into the Lucifer allegory, since all ‘devil’s pact’ stories, including the temptation of Christ, tend to revolve around Satan offering to fulfill people’s dreams/fantasies and lust for power – in exchange for their servitude. It still doesn’t really resolve whether or not Akio actually had the power of Dios or not, however.

I tend to think that Akio actually did have something like the power of Dios, if only because he and Anthy have actually been around for a very long time without aging. I mean, if you're going to take any of the series literally it's worth considering that even after the planetarium goes crazy and stops projecting its illusions, there's still a Rose Gate, and still the million swords. There is a reality to the fantasy, but Akio isn't satisfied with that (because it means that he was Dios and how he isn't), so he layers a fantasy on top of it, one that he knows is false. Because he can claim that his created fantasy is a lie, it's easier for him to dismiss all fantastic elements as lies. I think he does that to comfort himself. But that isn't the only reason; I believe the illusions also help him recruit idealistic kids.

Basically, I see Akio as something like a wounded animal, thrashing around in pain. He keeps alternating between various courses of action - dull the pain with cynicism? try to become the prince again? - but he's too scared and confused to actually commit to any single course of action; if he wasn't he could either give up on his impossible dreams and go on with his life (as Juri appears to do), or regain the power of the Prince. Instead, he's afraid to put his soul or psyche or whatever on the line again, so he keeps trying to raise generations of duelists so that he can use one of them as a proxy. Of course it doesn't work, because having somebody else take the risks for you is directly antithetical to being a prince; but Utena proves that the Rose Gate will open for somebody who's willing to throw themselves away for their dream, even in the face of betrayal. In fact, now that I think about it, it seems that betrayal was the key somehow: as rhyaniwyn argues, Dios falls because the people he'd fought for betray him by turning on his sister when she tries to protect him. Utena is able to take on the role of the prince (and the power of Dios?) by sticking to her dreams even after being literally stabbed in the back by the one she protects. I think Dios falls because he can only be the prince of a perfect world (which doesn't exist, of course); Utena succeeds because she embarks on her quest all too aware that the world is unjust.

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#11 | Back to Top03-26-2009 09:14:10 AM

Baka Kakumei Reanna
Atlantean Singer
From: Wisconsin
Registered: 07-31-2007
Posts: 572
Website

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Wow. Great questions, and eloquently-worded ones as well.

When I read your post I immediately thought of the ending of the series. Akio wants to start over from scratch, almost as if the whole thing had never happened, just the same as it's always been, and that seems to perpetuate your idea of Akio falling for his own fantasies that he's been constructing-- the idea that he can just start over with impunity. Anthy seems willing to chase after what isn't even a phantom of the vanished Utena, too, certain that she'll find her.

So... maybe the idea of engaging in impossible fantasies is inescapable?


We see things not as they are, we see things as we are.

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#12 | Back to Top03-26-2009 10:03:30 AM

Bluesky
Chpn Dlst
From: Your window
Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

I just thought he wanted to get his end away :S


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#13 | Back to Top03-26-2009 10:07:52 AM

Baka Kakumei Reanna
Atlantean Singer
From: Wisconsin
Registered: 07-31-2007
Posts: 572
Website

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Miss Bluesky wrote:

I just thought he wanted to get his end away :S

I thought those were the ambitions of the male characters when they were around Akio.

*cymbal hit*


We see things not as they are, we see things as we are.

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#14 | Back to Top03-26-2009 04:56:54 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

First of all, sorry about the wall of text. I tried to make this as short as possible, but I just tend to be pretty long winded. This actually isn't really even half of what I would like to write.

Alan wrote:

There is a reality to the fantasy

See, I actually don’t disagree with that, because I think Ohtori Academy itself is a type of fantasy world; that’s why the only way Tenjou and Anthy can win the duel of revolution is by both finding the strength and courage to leave the Academy behind; they’re leaving the fantasy world behind. But, within that fantasy world, I do think that there is some magical element in the sense that these kid’s internal hopes and fears *are* somehow being physically externalized into swords and other symbolic devices. I’m not trying to be too contentious about that aspect of it.

rhyaniwyn wrote:

my personal explanation is that what Akio says about the duels can be taken, mostly, at face value.

This is what I’m just kind of reluctant to accept. The interpretation that the history between Anthy and Akio can be accepted at face value just doesn’t work for me, for a couple of reasons. Mainly because I feel like it devalues what I interpret to be the primary theme of the series. Suggesting that the history between Anthy and Akio is literally true doesn’t add up to me when measured against how SKU consistently draws attention to the fallibility of memory. I also dislike the fact that it provides a scapegoat for Akio’s treatment of Anthy, but that’s not what I want to focus on here. I want, instead, to elaborate on a point I made in my last post in order to explain what I mean by the series treatment of memory.

First, I’ll start with a quote from Mikage:

Mikage wrote:

It's that memory that's been supporting you up until now. No need to be ashamed, because the memory you possess is a worthy one. Only those with beautiful memories are allowed to wish, "If only those days could last forever, if only I could still be what I was back then." I know that you're the same as myself. Your eyes are like those people who can't help wanting to make memories last forever.

If only I could still be what I was back then. 

Sound familiar? This longing desire is recurrent in almost every character, obviously including Akio. To me this quote defines the existential/psychological dilemma of virtually every character in SKU, and this is why I’m reluctant to apply this theme differently to Akio than to the others. There’s no reason to assume that Akio is any less delusional than the rest of them. I want to explore this in more detail with each character, starting with Anthy, and moving to her relationships with the duelists, and then Akio.

All of the duelists project their desires onto Anthy, and she, as long as they are engaged, flatters their naïve fantasies by behaving as a faithful mirror to reflect their desires. This has two primary effects on Anthy. One, it essentially makes a void of her true identity, since she is, like Echo, only capable of repetition, and her real self is lost somewhere in between or underneath her various protective masks. But at the same time it endows her with this kind of passive aggressive power over her suitors; if you piss her off she can easily get back at you by bringing your image of her into question, which, in turn, brings your image of yourself into question. Thus she is capable of manipulating people, but only at the cost of her self. That, in my opinion, is the true nature of her suffering – that existential void and lack of identity, basically the emotional death that she has succumbed to. Suggesting that her suffering is the result of being literally stabbed a bunch of times just seems blasé and trite by comparison – so I’m definitely wont to interpret the swords as being purely symbolic.

Now, if we look at Tenjou’s behavior after she loses her first duel with Touga, we see a very close parallel with Akio’s desires. This, along with the scene quoted above with Mikage, is one of the series most powerful depictions of Tenjou’s hypocrisy. As Tenjou herself eventually realizes – and apologizes for at the end of the series – she just really, really blew it here. She exposed her own total hypocrisy, and her absolute betrayal of Anthy all in one swing. In the episode preview at the end of the episode with the duel against Touga, Tenjou says of Anthy “I’m going to take back the real me, and the real you.” Then, in the next episode, after sulking around for some time Tenjou finally, at the encouragement of Wakaba, resolves to “Take back what I was.”

Of course, Tenjou doesn’t know who she herself is, and she sure as hell doesn’t know who Anthy really is. What she wants to ‘take back’ or ‘reclaim’ then, is her idealized image of herself and her idealized image of Anthy; the images that Anthy bitterly shattered by refusing to wear that mask that catered to Tenjou’s desired reflection. The point, as you should see, is that Tenjou wants to ‘reclaim’ a set of identities that are completely illusory.

It’s also very important to note that this idealized image Tenjou has for herself is, obviously, that of a prince. But the important thing is that this image is derived from her distorted, unreliable memories from her childhood. As the years have eroded her memories, she has forgotten her original intentions, has come to see the ring as an engagement ring, and has misinterpreted the prince role in a way that caused her to confuse her gender identity. She’s replaced the true memory with the fantasy of becoming a fairy tale prince. So, her desire to ‘take back what I was’, is really, in truth, a desire to achieve a fabricated identity. She wants to ‘take back’ something she never really was.

The quote above already describes pretty sufficiently how Mikage finds himself with the exact same predicament of wanting to ‘reclaim’ what he was. I still want to point out briefly how his memories are probably the most distorted of all of the duelists. So much so, in fact, that he completely misconstrues Mamiya’s identity, and displaces his desires for Tokiko onto Utena. Again, what he wants to ‘reclaim’ is based on a distorted or even outright manufactured set of memories. Like Tenjou, he wants to ‘take back’ something based purely on fantasy; something he never really was to begin with.

You should probably see where I’m going with this at this point, but I want to continue with an analysis of Miki, since his delusions are very obvious, and very in line with the analysis I’m suggesting. Basically, the two episodes that detail Miki’s attempts to reacquire his ‘shining thing’ play out as another example of a duelist projecting his distorted memories onto Anthy, and expecting her to reflect them back to him. The interesting thing we find out after the duel is that Miki’s sister was never even good at the piano. This is an extremely important point, because we realize that what Miki wants to ‘reclaim’ is something he completely fabricated in his own mind – his sister never played with the beautiful tone that he is searching for. His ‘shining thing’ is just a product of his own distorted memories. Miki, like Tenjou and Mikage, is trying to get back something that never existed in the first place.

I don’t want to go into an analysis of every single character, I think the three above should suffice, but if you look you’ll see that virtually every duelist – with the exception of Jury – pretty much bases their desire to ‘revolutionize the world’ on some sort of misunderstanding or distortion of a memory they carry with them.

So, yeah, my point obviously is that all of this plays pretty clearly as a parallel for Akio’s attempt to ‘reclaim’ his lost identity, which is likewise based on his own distorted memories.

How do we know his memories are distorted? It’s been brought up on this forum plenty before: The log cabin scene. To me, the anachronisms of this scene effectively deny a literal interpretation. The fax machine in the log cabin and the people wearing modern day business suits carrying swords implies what? You know what I’m going to say: It implies that the memory of this event is riddled with inaccuracies. It implies that this memory is obviously somehow distorted or fabricated, because these things wouldn't logically be in the same place at the same time. And this is the distorted memory upon which Akio bases his desire to ‘take back what he was’, which is something that  – just like with Tenjou, Mikage, and Miki – he never really was to begin with.

We can see this also in the relationship between Anthy and Akio, which is really no different than that between her and the duelists. He projects his desires onto her, and she reflects them. She even uses this against him at times, similarly to how she does with the duelists.

Now, I know I haven’t provided any solid evidence from the plot to substantiate this analysis, but I will try to do so in a later post – this one is already quite long enough. For the time being, I’m essentially basing this analysis on the assumption that Ikuhara would be consistent with his theme. “If only I could be what I was back then.” In order to maintain the consistency of this theme, we have to apply it equally to all the characters, including Akio, otherwise the theme is diluted. I just can’t see, after all that repetition involved with realizing and perfecting that theme, that Ikuhara would devalue it that way. This is why I just can’t take the history between Anthy and Akio at face value.

There’s a ton of stuff that I’ve left out here, again for the sake of not making this post too ridiculously long. For instance, I could add a bit more support to this analysis by looking at how the other remaining duelists distort their memories as well, and also explore the metaphorical implications of all the incest. Plus I particularly want to get to Alan’s point about how Tenjou saved Anthy, but I could write an essay length response to that alone, so I’ll get to it in a later post. Besides that, I think this basically sums up where I’m at with my interpretation of the series right now. If you guys can offer an alternative analysis that maintains the integrity of SKU’s themes – I’m all ears.

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#15 | Back to Top03-26-2009 07:12:13 PM

Bluesky
Chpn Dlst
From: Your window
Registered: 10-25-2008
Posts: 1939
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Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Baka Kakumei Reanna wrote:

Miss Bluesky wrote:

I just thought he wanted to get his end away :S

I thought those were the ambitions of the male characters when they were around Akio.

*cymbal hit*

emot-rofl


/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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#16 | Back to Top03-27-2009 11:32:12 AM

Stormcrow
Magical Flying Moron
From: Los Angeles
Registered: 04-24-2007
Posts: 5971
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Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock wrote:

For the time being, I’m essentially basing this analysis on the assumption that Ikuhara would be consistent with his theme. “If only I could be what I was back then.” In order to maintain the consistency of this theme, we have to apply it equally to all the characters, including Akio, otherwise the theme is diluted. I just can’t see, after all that repetition involved with realizing and perfecting that theme, that Ikuhara would devalue it that way. This is why I just can’t take the history between Anthy and Akio at face value.

So, in other words, you're only interested in this story if it's told your way? Why can't the same story have multiple, even contradictory themes? I don't like to base too much of my analysis on Ikuhara's commentary, because it seems like the man is deliberately fucking with me. "I just like cars"? Well fuck you too, Ikuni, I'll just watch your show. And like it. So there.

But back to your point....The show spends a great deal of time developing this backstory in some detail, while teasingly leaving out others. To narrow myself down to your interpretation, I would pretty well have to conclude that none of that was real and it was just Ikuni pulling my leg again. I dunno, that makes the show seem a bit shallow.

And on the topic of the thread, I'd love to answer your question, but you've basically said you're not interested in my answer, so never mind.


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#17 | Back to Top03-27-2009 11:32:54 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
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Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock...

You claim that taking any aspect of Akio and Anthy's stated history as literal destroys the integrity of the themes.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  If you make that complaint in one statement and then in another statement assume the literal existence of any fantastical aspect -- that there is a literal Ohtori where swords literally appear and students literally cut roses off of each others' shirts without anyone ever being hurt -- you are making a very arbitrary distinction that demonstrates halfhearted logic.  It's a false dilemma.  If some fantastical events are "real" in the story then all fantastical events can be "real" in the story and strangely that does not make them any less symbolic.  It's your self indulgence, not bulletproof logic, that makes your choices of what's real "right."

There have been interpretations in the past that postulate the story of SKU as symbolic on every level.  The general idea is none of the events as shown are really physical, but that they are metaphorical representations of the very everyday issues and interactions of one or several characters.  One was written about the movie: there is only one character...the person who is Juri/Utena/Anthy/Shiori and who has a split personality because of past tragedy. 

This is a completely valid style of interpretation and it's one I like to consider from time to time.  It has the advantage of being internally consistent.  Because this interpretation means none of the strange events are "real" except in the psychological landscape.  That would mean, yes, the sword that stab Anthy are not literal swords.  The "duels" are really internal turmoil / disagreements between two people taking an allegorical form.  (Something that is alluded to in Utena's last duel with Touga...  Utena:  How many times have I fought with you here? / Touga:  This is the third. / Utena:  How strange...it feels like we've fought so often...)

I will not provide you with any alternative analysis that maintains the integrity of all of SKU's themes.  Because there is no Theory of Everything for Utena.  The interpretation depends upon your current concerns and the themes you currently have in mind.  And it is interpretation, not "the true meaning."  Ikuhara did not sit down and plan a story around his themes.  He along with others planned a story and themes were in it because themes are the concerns and problems of humans that are present in our subconscious at all times.  Guess what, some things are always going to be misaligned with an interpretation, because many people were involved in putting in together and not every word and frame were run past a QA team to ensure they fit perfectly with the Theme Plan.  Ultimately, to tell a good story, you have to just tell the story and not use the story to tell your themes.  And SKU is a good story.  With FOUR different versions that manage to somehow concern themselves with common themes!

In point of fact, I will not offer you any further analysis at all.  I discussed 2 1/2 interpretations in my first post and briefly touched on about 4 more.  I could support any of them with a plethora of evidence and therefore they are all valid.  But I interpret this series at my whim and I am particular to the interpretations I enjoy, the ones which speak to me.  That is one of the greatest things about the show--the endless potential speak to various individuals in deeply personal ways and lend itself to endless interpretative permutations.  The reasons I discuss this series is because I like to play with different interpretations (knowing that none are perfect) -- and because I like to read others' interpretations, adopt their paradigm for a moment and see the story in a different light.

There are no rights and wrongs here and I am frankly sick of know-it-alls coming in here and asking for a discussion, then pointing disrespectful fingers (it's not you, you are just the straw that broke the camel's back).  You can think whatever the hell you want; I don't care.  I will go on thinking what I think.  But if you don't care what I think, don't ask.

Which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy your interpretation.  It's a good one and it has ramifications that are very interesting.  I thank you for sharing it and would love to hear more details.  But you don't actually have to "support it", because it fits just as well as many other interpretations and I can think of supporting evidence on my own.  I can also think of places it doesn't fit.  I don't agree with it; it is not my own.  But it's a good 'un.  ('Cause, if you'll take a moment to remember, the story of their history with the cabin and swords is presented / framed objectively just like "true version" of Mikage's memory was.  Does that mean it was truth?  Not necessarily (I could even come up with a few reasons why it might not be), but it certainly suggests it's meant to be seen as the closest thing.  Like the difference b/t Utena's cardboard-cutout version of what happened and her "dream" of what happened.  Oh, and what about other themes Ikuhara has specifically mentioned [there isn't just one] -- like how youth lose their creativity to the overwhelming expectations of adulthood and their individuality with it.)

While I'm at it:  Dear spam-posters, if you and your ilk could constrain your mindless drivel to IFD, that'd be super cool.

Last edited by rhyaniwyn (03-27-2009 11:51:34 AM)


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#18 | Back to Top03-27-2009 04:14:50 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Let me first just say I’m sorry to you guys, I really didn’t mean to come across the way I apparently did. It’s just that this series is driving me crazy.

I wouldn’t deny for a second that my analysis is certainly a product of my own bias, but I think you misread what I was saying, or maybe I misspoke (-wrote). I mean, if you look at my first post I pretty clearly indicate that I’ve only seen the series twice, and that I came here for help – in other words, for your guys opinions. The show is more confusing than anything to me at this point, and I’m really just working through an interpretation rather than anything. So, it’s unfortunate really that you’ve taken your stance against me, because I really would actually like to hear what you have to say.

I’m not sure how you read my interpretation as a rejection of all others, though I guess it must have come across like that because both of you seem to have read it that way. All I’m really saying is that I was really sincerely taken with that theme that is illustrated in the quote I posted from Mikage, and so I’m looking for an interpretation that retains that theme in a consistent manner. My current interpretation makes it hard for me to retain that consistency without assuming a pretty substantial amount of the series must be metaphorical. And yes, I realize that assuming the importance of that theme is a part of my own bias, but, it’s a bias I don’t plan on abandoning, because it’s an important theme to me. And I would think you guys would agree that I shouldn't have to abandon my own feelings towards the series. But, that isn’t to say it’s the *only* important theme in the series to me, it’s just the only one that I’m having a hard time making sense of the way the series treats it, which is why I continue to bring it up. Again, like I said in my first post, I’m just trying to work out an interpretation.

Anything you guys can say will help me, the posts by OnionPrince and Dabouse1 honestly really helped me a lot – like I said in my posts above, I really like their interpretations, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. So, I don’t know how you can then accuse me of only wanting to have it my way.

With your post in particular, rhyaniwyn, it isn’t that I don’t care about what you have to say, it’s just that your post only offered very general overviews of several possible interpretations. But I can’t really understand these interpretations the way you do though, unless you clue me in by spelling it out. So, I just didn’t take much from it. And it isn’t because you don’t have anything to say – I’ve read some of your other posts, and I know you do have some very interesting perspectives – it’s just that brushing the surface of an overview doesn’t really tell me much. I would rather that you had engaged what I wrote – even to deconstruct or dismantle it – with your own interpretation, rather than telling me about others that you may or may not agree with. Show me why I’m wrong. You know, debate; that’s what I was hoping for. Now, I figure you’re response to that will be that there is no ‘wrong’, but only if you guys provide me with some counterpoints can I reevaluate my opinions. But you said yourself that you refuse to offer me any alternatives. I’m not sure why. What’s the point in discussing our opinions then? I’ve always felt that we can learn new things through debate, but you guys seem to want to just let every interpretation have its own little isolated, inviolable space. As long as we respect each other’s opinions – and, contrary to what it might seem, I do respect all of your opinions – we should be able to disagree without getting so hostile.

Now, I realize that you guys have probably had these conversations over and over again, and are perhaps tired of having to rehash for every newbie who comes along who’s just seen the series for the first time recently. But, that’s just one of the downsides to the nature of this type of forum. And before you tell me to acquaint myself with the previous discussion first, I really honestly already have to a good degree. I’ve read many of the threads on here, as well as many of the essays on the main site. I just don’t feel like the specific questions I’m asking were really dealt with, which is why I decided to ask. If I’m wrong and they have been dealt with, then by all means, provide me a link and I’ll happily take a look.

rhyaniwyn wrote:

But you don't actually have to "support it", because it fits just as well as many other interpretations and I can think of supporting evidence on my own.

I don’t doubt that you’re smart enough find the evidence yourself, but to me literary analysis demands support. If I tried to say that SKU is *really* about environmentalism or free market capitalism, would you take that as a valid analysis? I understand that you’re intention is to suggest that there are many possible interpretations, and that’s fine, but you have to be able to support an interpretation somehow.

It's like you said, a metaphorical interpretation has the advantage of being internally consistent. Well, that's the reason I'm so hellbent on a metaphorical interpretation; I just can't see it working any other way, and I'm honestly just not as relaxed as you are about just accepting the inconsistencies. You can tell me I'm wrong for thinking that way, but that's just how I think. I want a story to logically make sense. Perhaps it's a fault of mine that I can't think outside that box, but, frankly, it's a box I'm willing to keep myself in. You can look down on me for that if you want, but I don't think I'm being too unreasonable by expecting the plot to make sense.

What aggravates me about SKU is that the plot seems to be so inconsistent that it’s almost impossible to support *any* interpretation without the plot undermining it somehow. You seem to be okay with this, and even think it’s a virtue of the series storytelling – but, (and I’m not trying to be condescending) I don’t really see incoherence as a virtue. Every anime has many, many people working on it, and most of them manage to be coherent.

Haibane Renmei is another series that I particularly love, that is also capable of a plethora of interpretations, but, however you look at it, the plot is consistent and makes sense. Sure, you can have different interpretations – but they can all be logically supported without running into constant contradictions. With SKU, I feel like no matter how I try to look at it, it doesn’t work. That, I’m sorry, is not a virtue. It’s shoddy. That’s why I guess I come across as being a little persistent about establishing a coherent, consistent point of view (which is what I was attempting to do) – because otherwise I just have to concede that the plot basically sucks. And I don’t want to have to look at it that way because I really do like the series. But, even as a fan, I see no point in becoming an apologist for it if the plot is really as poorly constructed as it seems to be.

I mean, take a show like Evangelion – I love a lot of what that show has to say, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the exposition of the plot in that series is an abysmal disaster. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to come to the same conclusion about SKU, but it’s looking more and more like I might have to. Well, to be fair, it isn’t nearly as bad as Eva, but nothing really is. I still appreciate Eva for what it says, and I’ll still appreciate SKU for what it says – it’s just hard for me to regard either one as being as much of an accomplishment as say, Spirited Away, or Haibane Renmei, or Berserk, or any other great anime that says a lot without sacrificing narrative logic. I would absolutely love to put SKU in the same category as those, and that’s why I came on here asking for you guys to help me establish a coherent analysis of the series. I can’t just say it’s my favorite just because ‘I like it’; there has to be some objective reasoning behind it. You guys might disagree with that, and that’s fine. Jorge Luis Borges, one of my absolute favorite writers, completely disagrees with that point of view, and I like him no less because of it. I myself just tend to be kind of Flaubertian – for me a story needs to have both style and substance, just substance doesn’t cut it.

Anyway, I apologize if I upset you guys, and thanks for taking the time to put up with me. If you’re still open to discussion, I’d honestly appreciate it. Otherwise I guess this thread is probably just about done.

Last edited by Triplerock (03-27-2009 04:18:11 PM)

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#19 | Back to Top03-27-2009 05:01:07 PM

Alan
Wakaba Wrangler
From: Los Angeles
Registered: 03-16-2009
Posts: 17
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Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock wrote:

First of all, sorry about the wall of text. I tried to make this as short as possible, but I just tend to be pretty long winded. This actually isn't really even half of what I would like to write.

rhyaniwyn wrote:

my personal explanation is that what Akio says about the duels can be taken, mostly, at face value.

This is what I’m just kind of reluctant to accept. The interpretation that the history between Anthy and Akio can be accepted at face value just doesn’t work for me, for a couple of reasons. Mainly because I feel like it devalues what I interpret to be the primary theme of the series. Suggesting that the history between Anthy and Akio is literally true doesn’t add up to me when measured against how SKU consistently draws attention to the fallibility of memory.

That's an interesting argument; I hadn't applied the unreliability of memory bit to the origin of Akio sequence, partly because it didn't seem self-serving enough (Anthy acts altruistically, and frankly Dios-as-prince seems to be doomed no matter what happens; either he dies as a prince or lives but no longer as a prince), but more significantly because I'm suffering from my own unreliable memory with that scene: I've only watched Utena once and I had completely forgotten about anachronisms like the fax machine and the business suits.

With that said...I think your stance might be a little too absolute here: rhyaniwyn argues that Akio's claims about the duels can mostly be taken at face value, and I think that your earlier argument can work with that. That is, just because Dios actually was a prince as he remembers it doesn't mean that what he's trying to become is any more real - if you buy my claim that he was doomed as a prince, he's trying to return to a state that was real but can't be real ever again (at least not sustainably), much like adults who wish to return to the innocence of childhood.

Triplerock wrote:

All of the duelists project their desires onto Anthy, and she, as long as they are engaged, flatters their naïve fantasies by behaving as a faithful mirror to reflect their desires. This has two primary effects on Anthy. One, it essentially makes a void of her true identity, since she is, like Echo, only capable of repetition, and her real self is lost somewhere in between or underneath her various protective masks. But at the same time it endows her with this kind of passive aggressive power over her suitors; if you piss her off she can easily get back at you by bringing your image of her into question, which, in turn, brings your image of yourself into question.

I don't think I can agree with this; we see Anthy as bride to Saionji, Utena, and Touga, and the only one I remember her pushing back against is Utena. Granted, she doesn't spend long with Touga, but am I supposed to accept that she wasn't motivated to get back at Saionji? I don't see where she makes him question his own identity, at least not nearly as effectively as Touga does. I suppose you could also argue she's in a similar relationship with Akio, but once again I don't see where she makes him doubt himself any more than he already does (indeed, if anything Anthy did was going to mess with Akio's head I'd imagine it would have to be walking out on him and on Ohtori; but at that point it's hardly passive-aggressive). Between what I don't see Anthy doing to Saionji, Touga, and Akio, and her suicide attempt, I can't see where Anthy feels she has any power to influence others.

Triplerock wrote:

It’s also very important to note that this idealized image Tenjou has for herself is, obviously, that of a prince. But the important thing is that this image is derived from her distorted, unreliable memories from her childhood. As the years have eroded her memories, she has forgotten her original intentions, has come to see the ring as an engagement ring, and has misinterpreted the prince role in a way that caused her to confuse her gender identity. She’s replaced the true memory with the fantasy of becoming a fairy tale prince. So, her desire to ‘take back what I was’, is really, in truth, a desire to achieve a fabricated identity. She wants to ‘take back’ something she never really was.

I think that Utena wants to take back who she was in episode 1 when she stood up to Saionji despite being outmatched. I think at that point, at least, Utena really was who she wanted to be: she wasn't trying to protect Anthy yet, and she knew that Wakaba had already been hurt, so she pretty much had to be fighting for her own sense of satisfaction, her own attempt to change the world. And since her lack of control is what led her to her coffin and the desire to overcome that is what made her want to be a prince, I think she's still being true to her motivation, even if she doesn't recall it.

Also, I'm afraid I don't know what you mean about her misinterpretation of the prince role causing her to confuse her gender identity.

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#20 | Back to Top03-27-2009 06:12:21 PM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Alan wrote:

That is, just because Dios actually was a prince as he remembers it doesn't mean that what he's trying to become is any more real - if you buy my claim that he was doomed as a prince, he's trying to return to a state that was real but can't be real ever again (at least not sustainably), much like adults who wish to return to the innocence of childhood.

The thing is, I honestly wish I could agree with that, because it would make things a lot simpler, but it’s hard. See, most of the coming of age stories I’m familiar with generally depict a self-centered child that clings to a false identity based on some sort of romantic fantasy, whether mythologically or socially informed. Then, as this character develops, he/she graduates into an adult who is more self-aware, socially aware, and responsible. Tenjou Utena is a perfect example of this. The thing that confuses me, though, is that Akio supposedly develops in reverse; from self-aware, self-sacrificing, responsible *child* (is there such a thing?), into a man who is selfish, manipulative, and unrealistically power hungry. That just doesn’t really make much sense from a literary or real life perspective. How does one progress from maturity to immaturity? That’s just very counterintuitive to me. How exactly does Anthy ‘saving’ him turn him into such a bastard? How does Dios – God – become Lucifer? It just doesn’t normally work that way. This is actually a huge part of the reason why I'm so reluctant to interpret Akio's past as literally true; because I just can't make sense of this. Maybe there’s a simple explanation to this that I’m just to thick-witted to pick up on, I don’t know.

Alan wrote:

but am I supposed to accept that she wasn't motivated to get back at Saionji?

She does get back at Saionji. After the first duel between Saionji and Tenjou, watch Anthy and Saionji’s faces as they speak to each other. Anthy’s demeanor in this scene is very disdainful and dismissive, as she calls him ‘sempai’ rather than ‘sama’. You can see the evil satisfaction seething in her shit eating grin, and you can see the absolute despair that overcomes Saionji – she’s just brought his whole existence into question. The power to revolutionize the world was supposed to be his. She does the same thing to Tenjou at one point, as well as to Akio in some places. There’s one episode preview where she tells Tenjou that she has really despised her the whole time. Anthy is really quite hateful, up until Tenjou finally shows her true friendship.

Alan wrote:

Also, I'm afraid I don't know what you mean about her misinterpretation of the prince role causing her to confuse her gender identity.

The series deals quite a bit with gender misidentification, which is an interesting literary theme. I’m not really saying much here aside from the fact that I think Tenjou misidentifies herself as a prince, rather than a princess.

Last edited by Triplerock (03-27-2009 06:17:33 PM)

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#21 | Back to Top03-27-2009 09:13:41 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

One could argue that all ambition (in the sense of desiring power) is based on fantasy.

One of things Akio wanted was to discard Anthy and replace her with Utena. He was almost like one of those repulsive people who think that venereal disease can be cured by deflowering a virgin. But in the end he probably could not get rid of Anthy and eventually would have turned Utena into something repulsive to him.

He probably hangs around an elite school and interferes with dysfunctional rich kids so he won't have to see poverty and real tragedy. Most of his dirty work is done by Anthy or Mikage or Mrs. Ohtori. He was probably out of town when Nemuro Hall burned.

If you continue with the Lucifer analogy, he is powered by pride and wishes to destroy anything that interferes with his pride. In one of his novels C.S. Lewis posited that Satan is probably so deeply involved with himself that his egotism seems almost innocent.

But back to the mundane world, you see it all the time with nations and political parties. "If only we can annihilate this that or the other, then everything will be groovy." But there is always the question: THEN WHAT? Nobody ever has a good answer to that no matter how tough-minded or realistic they think they are.

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#22 | Back to Top03-28-2009 10:00:45 AM

Stormcrow
Magical Flying Moron
From: Los Angeles
Registered: 04-24-2007
Posts: 5971
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Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

Triplerock wrote:

The thing that confuses me, though, is that Akio supposedly develops in reverse; from self-aware, self-sacrificing, responsible *child* (is there such a thing?), into a man who is selfish, manipulative, and unrealistically power hungry. That just doesn’t really make much sense from a literary or real life perspective. How does one progress from maturity to immaturity? That’s just very counterintuitive to me. How exactly does Anthy ‘saving’ him turn him into such a bastard? How does Dios – God – become Lucifer? It just doesn’t normally work that way. This is actually a huge part of the reason why I'm so reluctant to interpret Akio's past as literally true; because I just can't make sense of this. Maybe there’s a simple explanation to this that I’m just to thick-witted to pick up on, I don’t know.

I don't know about simple (nothing about this show is simple), but here's my take. Dios wasn't a child in the sense that an 8-year-old was a child, but he was naive. He believed that his princeliness could actually solve all of the world's problems, or at least, all of the problems that women have. When this turned out to not be the case, either because he wasn't strong enough, or because Anthy interfered, or because what he was doing ended up creating MORE problems is open to debate... he gave up. He lost his faith in his ability to help people (like David Bowie), and because he saw things in absolute black and white terms, he felt that continuing to help people or try to be a good person was futile and stupid. Basically, he decided not to be a chump anymore. Which meant becoming a selfish bastard and living only for himself.

The problem is, he's still himself. He still has a certain amount of naivete, which expresses itself in him buying his own bullshit. He really thinks he's trying to help Anthy, just to flatter his vanity. Anthy's motivations on the other hand, are even more complex in my opinion, so I won't try to get into them right now.

If we couch his change from Dios to Akio in terms of the fall from grace of Lucifer, it works kind of the same. In every version, Lucifer has to have some kind of fatal flaw that turns him from first among the angels to the Adversary. In Milton's version it was pride, but there have been other versions. Ikuhara seems to suggest that it was because he was somehow unrealistic from the beginning. Or you could interpret it a hundred different ways, including mixing in the Adam-and-Eve story via Anthy. The woman gave me the fruit and I did eat.

Just to clarify my earlier post, what annoyed me was the way you kind of dismissed Rhya's very well thought out post because it didn't fit in with your interpretation. That's your prerogative of course, it's your thread, but if you're looking for debate, narrowing things down like that isn't very productive. I'm with her on how I view SKU. I have yet to find any single interpretation that isn't contradicted somewhere in the show, and I don't even count the manga or the movie in there. I like finding ideas that help me think about scenes and characters in new ways, even if I do end up rejecting them for diminishing some cherished idea I have about someone. I just feel like it's more interesting that way.

Because I have to say, if lacking a consistent and non-contradictory meaning makes a story shoddy, then SKU is shoddy. I see no way around it. I mean, look at the Black Rose arc. Everything gets canceled out because Mikage never existed in the first place, and yet....Saionji is still back in school. Makes no sense and that one I can't even make a cool interpretation out of. But I let it go, because I wanted him back in school anyway. For that matter, that would mean that a great many of the great epics are pretty shoddy too...Mahabarata, Genesis, Ramayana...all of our fairy tales... A nice linear plot works for a lot of novels, but it's hardly the only way to tell a story.


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#23 | Back to Top03-29-2009 11:24:50 AM

Triplerock
Saionji Slapper
From: Tampa Bay, FL
Registered: 03-22-2009
Posts: 20

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

As far as Dios having been naïve – that really mirrors my own perspective maybe a lot more than I’ve made clear. Part of what I was trying to accomplish in my analysis was to draw parallels between the naivety of the duelists and the naivety of Akio. One of the main assumptions that I’ve been working with is that if Tenjou is naïve, and Tenjou ‘reminds’ everyone of Dios – then it kind of logically follow that Dios must have been naïve as well. Which might seem kind of inane, but it works for me in trying to establish a coherent interpretation.

The reason that’s been such a hard prospect for me to work out though, is because the series, to me, seems to imply that Dios was somehow a ‘real’ prince, whereas Tenjou is just kind of a naïve ‘pretend’ prince. That’s the whole reason I was trying to suggest that Akio’s memories are false, and that he wasn’t really a true prince, because that way I can justify Dios as a naïve, childlike character, rather than the noble prince the series makes him out to be. I have a lot more to say about that, but it’ll take me some time to do a write up on it – thanks a ton though for your thoughts, knowing that you also view Dios as naïve makes it a little easier for me to sift through some of the contradictions I’m pounding around.

Anyway, in this post I want to get back to the question that Alan raised about how/why Tenjou is capable of saving Anthy. I want to do that by filtering SKU through several feminist perspectives, and so, you could kind of take this as a feminist critique of Anthy’s character, and the ‘male personalities’ that surround her.

Luce Irigaray is a feminist philosopher who works largely within the Derridian post-structural or postmodern deconstructive traditions, and so her writing is accordingly dense, though instructive to our themes:

"Once imagine that woman imagines and the object loses its fixed obsessional character. As a benchmark that is ultimately more crucial than the subject, for he can sustain himself only by bouncing off against some objectness, some objective. If there is no more ‘earth’ to press down/repress, to work to represent . . . then what pedestal remains for the ex-sistence of the ‘subject’?"

This is a very feminist perspective (not to mention a mind-bogglingly powerful polemic against male naivety), and what she’s essentially suggesting is that women, throughout history, have been socially and psychologically subjugated to the male ‘gaze’, to use the Foucaultian term. And the implication works both ways. A male can only ‘sustain himself’ by objectifying the Other, by ‘bouncing off some objectness’ (his idealization of her, historically as a vestal object), and I believe the corollary is that the female can only sustain herself by flattering or attempting to fulfill these expectations. As Anais Nin – another feminist writer – says: “This image of herself as a not ordinary woman, an image which was trembling now in his eyes, might suddenly disappear. Nothing more difficult to live up to than men’s dreams” [my emphases]. And so, the feminine identity becomes, as a social normative, a resolute occupation of self-effacement. This defines Anthy’s existential dilemma, and it also sheds some light on her reflection that ‘all girls are like Rose Brides’. Historically; they are. The male view of his Other as being ‘not ordinary’, suggesting a purity and perfection that is beyond ‘ordinary’, places impossible demands on her which she feels compelled to live up to at any cost, even her own sense of being. Thus she becomes like a Rose Bride, like a mirror who sustains herself through an amalgam of meaningless reflections derived from the ‘male personalities’ that are projected onto her. However, once a male is confronted with the independent ‘imagination’ of the Other, which suggests that she really is more than just a hollow, mirrored canvas for his abstractions, it undermines the ‘fixed obsessional character’ he attributes to her.

Thus, Anthy also derives from this a power, as Beth Newman – indeed, yet another feminist writer – would suggest: the power of the Medusa. As she says: “The Medusa defies the male gaze as Western culture has constructed it . . . [and] such defiance is surely unsettling, disturbing the pleasure the male subject takes in gazing and the hierarchal relations by which he asserts his dominance.” So, in other words, her defiant rejection of his gaze allows her to undermine his sense of himself as ‘subject’, as opposed to object. (And, of course, it follows that the male hero kills Medusa, thus returning the Other to its proper position as Echo.) This is Anthy's power to defile male subjectiveness, and insert her own sense of dominance into the foray. This is, again, why her use of the title ‘sempai’ with Saionji completely shatters him, and, later, her reference to Tenjou as ‘Tenjou-san’ rather than ‘Utena-sama’, has identical existential repercussions, insofar as Tenjou’s gender misidentification allows her to inherit the power of the male gaze.

Having said all this, I really think part of the reason Tenjou is able to save Anthy, then, is because Tenjou, unlike Akio, realizes that her dream of reclaiming her lost memories is hurting Anthy – it is reducing her to the state of Other, of Echo, of abstracted mirror image without an independent soul or self. Which existentially kills her, and forces her to meld with the hollow void that becomes her lack of identity. Akio likewise has always been hurting Anthy in this same regard by using her to reclaim his lost identity; by using her as an object to justify his subjective vision of himself. But Akio consistently fails to acknowledge, let alone take responsibility for the suffering he causes Anthy.

There is a scene in one of the last couple of episodes where Akio and Anthy are riding in his car, Anthy has swords literally jutting out of her torso, and Akio asks Anthy if she is in pain, then says ‘it isn’t me who causes it; it’s the world’. This clearly illustrates how he refuses to take any responsibility for the pain she feels, and he continues to use her to achieve his dream of reclaiming his identity as a prince. Maybe on some level he actually believes that by becoming a prince he can save her.

Tenjou, however, realizes at some point that this just isn’t true. Unlike Akio, who blames everyone and everything but himself, Tenjou willingly acknowledges and accepts Anthy’s suffering as part of her own responsibility. In what is easily the best scene in the series, if not all of anime, Tenjou admits to Anthy that she was just using her for her own egotistical goal of reclaiming her memories and substantiating her own romantic identity as a fairy tale prince. She admits that she never considered Anthy’s suffering, and admits that, in doing so, she had betrayed Anthy’s friendship from the start. Unlike Akio, she accepts what she has done to Anthy, and takes responsibility for it.

This is symbolically represented by the swords – Akio allows Anthy to take the swords for the sake of his shot at reclaiming his former identity, but Tenjou says to hell with all that; she realizes that saving Anthy’s soul is much more important than saving her own childhood fantasies. She, unlike Akio, takes the swords herself.

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#24 | Back to Top03-31-2009 10:30:07 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
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Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

No, Triplerock, I do not tire of Utena conversation.  Nor do I intend to tell you that you must change your mind.  However, if you do wish to have a debate *only* under your parameters, I would prefer you lay them out in advance.  ie: Concentrate on theme of unreliable memory, etc.

However, as Stormcrow pointed out, I do not think that there is any explanation, barring the fully metaphorical "all in someone's head" interpretation,  that will be fully consistent with every detail, because it allows rejection or very loose allegorical interpretations of details.  The human mind is fallible and lack of consistency doesn't make the series less symbolic.  Actually, because it keeps analytical minds moving, it may make the story far more meaningful.

What does it mean to be a true prince?  One of my personal favorite statements about the series is that it deconstructs the mythos it builds itself.  Everything is Prince this, Revolutionize that.  But Utena's ultimate achievement, even assuming the metaphors are literal, is really very simple and doesn't rely on Princeliness, except as a way of referring to noble, compassionate actions.

I feel the solution is implied in your statements thus far: Utena does something in her journey that Akio does not.  Akio seems to go from responsible child to irresponsible adult.

Dios may have been very noble and compassionate in comparison to Akio.  But what was behind Dios's choices?  Why did his idealism break so quickly and thoroughly?  Dios is "The Prince," but as I said "Even the knowledge that Dios, a Prince, could grow up to be Akio, Ends of the World, keeps Akio in his coffin.  'There never really was a Prince in the first place' right?  Because what kind of a  shoddy, illusory Prince can later become a Devil?" 

No one in this series is perfect, not even Dios.  Whether you choose to consider Dios's fatal flaw to be naivete or something else, Dios certainly had a fatal flaw.  It may be the same fatal flaw(s) Akio still has, because they are the same person.  It's mostly hindsight that makes Dios the ideal image of Princely perfection.  Hindsight, rose-colored glasses, and the naivete of the duellists.  Doesn't this fit with all of your parameters?  Unreliable memory, "if only I could be what I was back then", and so forth? 

It doesn't answer the question to me whether Akio's ambitions are primarily rooted in realism or fantasy, not for me, unless I take the stance that Akio may mistakenly identify as realism something that is, in fact, fantasy.  We never really know for sure what Akio's true goal for the duels is, a point I attempted to make by offering a summary of the many alternatives.  Akio says he wants the Power, but it doesn't seem to fit with his philosophy and there are cues that he may not even be trying very hard.  If you start chucking things out right and left you make it even harder to draw any firm conclusions.  Unless you just take Akio at his word and assume that the inconsistencies in philosophy and action are due to Akio being mistaken and blind to his own mistakes.  It certainly doesn't fit with the popular concept of Akio as a nearly omniscient and almost infallible manipulator with his eye on every detail, but it has its own appeal...it makes Akio far more sympathetic IMO.

I did explain in some detail my own favorite interpretation, which you rejected because you claim that Akio and Anthy's history cannot be taken at face value without destroying your thematic integrity.  As I also already stated, I disagree.  Even if you do not take it at face value, how can you argue that Akio does not take it at face value?  It doesn't matter if you do not think the swords are "real" at all, the fact is that the characters see them and discuss them, so they are "real" to the characters.  Again, it fits with your themes to presume that Akio and Anthy consider that history to be the truth and presume that their memories are also fallible.  Whether or not it is the literal truth is irrelevant on this level, because Akio and Anthy act out of the assumption that it is the truth.

If you want to assume that Akio/Anthy's memories of their childhood are flawed, that's just fine...personally I've never taken their word for all of the details, only the general outline.  I've always assumed that Dios was flawed, otherwise he never would have become Akio.  Thus Akio is flawed as well.  To reiterate, your analysis of symbolic meaning of metaphors such as the swords do not actually prove or disprove their literal existence in the story, especially given that the characters react to them.  Two (maybe two and a half) versions of Akio & Anthy's histories are recounted to us.  If you do not want to take those as true tellings -- and why should you? given that more than one version is presented -- because you want to apply a theme about memory, that leaves you with two options. 

The first option is to assume that the characters themselves believe in the truth of those events to a greater or lesser degree, or you must assume that both the characters and objection narration lie outright and that we as viewers actually have no clue who Dios was and what made Akio & Anthy the people they are.  If you assume the latter, I'd say you are making the whole thing far too difficult.  Better, and very fitting, to presume that Akio believes some general version of the "Tale of the Rose" which is idealised, biased, and/or mistaken.  Doesn't make either "Tale of the Rose" true, literally or metaphorically.  It just means that this flawed memory is behind the actions of Akio and Anthy.  Just as Utena's flawed memory of meeting her Prince is behind both her original quest and her romantic confusion.

The swords are symbolic.  The swords also exist in the story.  You can argue it, but I don't see much genuine support -- you yourself reference a scene with swords that would make no sense if they weren't there except on a symbolic level (and then you shouldn't assume they're actulally driving along in a car and that Anthy is actually crying out in pain for no apparent reason). 

I agree with you about their symbolism.  Sometimes when I look at the swords stabbing Anthy I see the hatred of humanity shoving swords of resentment and blame into her.  Femininity as the scapegoat for all evil in the world, the Rose Bride as a scarlet woman.  Other times, as I once began to analyze in an unfinished post saved on my broken laptop, I see each sword almost as analagous to a duellist's sword, each one trying to claim Anthy's identity and tearing her apart in the process.  Each sword is trying to get a piece of her and gain the right to force Anthy to act as its wielder wishes her to act -- to make its wielder's interpretation of Anthy the predominant one.  Each one is trying to own the Rose Bride, just as the duellists are, which is femininity as an malleable object.  This is the symbolism that underlies the duels over ownership of Anthy and is outlined by your quotes.  This is what Utena was doing at first and is also what Utena overcame (probably) in the end, approaching Anthy not with force/a phallic sword, but with tears and willingness accept whoever the "real" Anthy is.  Utena doesn't even really seem to make a lot of assumptions about who that person will turn out to be -- "at last, we meet" -- Utena doesn't claim to already have met Anthy, she indicates they are just getting a chance to genuinely meet at that moment (you can't assume you already know a person you've just met, after all).

Last edited by rhyaniwyn (03-31-2009 10:47:19 AM)


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#25 | Back to Top03-31-2009 06:03:19 PM

Haku Vinevaldi
Sunlit Gardener (Prelude)
Registered: 02-08-2009
Posts: 160

Re: Are Akio’s ambitions primarily rooted in realism or fantasy?

again, i think it is in fantasy.\
I he tries to relive/escape reality through the fantasy. in a way to me thats what ohtori always was. Something stuck in time, where everything about it isn't realistic because it tries to separate itself from the world. By doing so, it is another world..

uh oh. i think i just confused myself. better sit down before i hurt myself. xD

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