This is a static copy of In the Rose Garden, which existed as the center of the western Utena fandom for years. Enjoy. :)

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

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.



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

Easter Elf #40
From: Singapore
Registered: 02-21-2007
Posts: 6342

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.



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

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

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.



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

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....



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

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.