You'd be amazed how long it took to find a picture of a glass of cognac.
I vectored this shot of her thinking it would be the main image and all I used was the outline. Ha!
Yes, I know this layout takes forever to load.
Dark corner of the site, so I get to make it do whatever I want!
Mother, Dearest! Whoo!
What layout would be complete without swirlies? Yes, it's an actual picture of a woman. OOOO.
I heard that so much as a kid.

   Mrs.Ohtori has only one and a half brief scenes of screen time in the series. Hardly sufficient to tell you much about the character, right? Wrong. It’s SKU, and we’d be lucky to have anything be so simple.

   She’s given no solitary moment of introspection or internal dialogue; it’s only through watching her communicate with Akio that we get any impression at all about who she is. We rarely see the characters in SKU alone during unguarded moments, so we usually end up fleshing out who they are by how they interact with the world, not necessarily what they do when they’re alone.

    A rose by any other color...
    Brandy and Blackmail
    Sex, Stress and Sadism
    A Fallen Princess
A rose by any other color...

   Mrs.Ohtori is introduced during a breakfast that Kanae has intruded on, complaining that Akio pays no attention to her. While she says and does nothing of analytical note in this scene, it does present us with the ever-popular swirling roses. A red swirling rose for Akio, and a white one for her. What’s the meaning of this?

   First and foremost, it clues us in that there’s something going on between these two characters. At its simplest, it’s a warning sign: when we see swirling roses, we know to keep our eyes out. However, nailing down the meaning of the colors is somewhat trickier. There doesn’t seem to be a trend in the use of colors except white pops up almost at random, and characters often get flowers to match their ‘color’. Utena’s swirling roses are often pink, especially earlier in the series, Nanami’s are yellow, etc. White often pops up when there’s a thought of princes, or when we’re supposed to think of them, but it also seems to be a default color for when another color wouldn’t seem appropriate. Perhaps Mrs.Ohtori is not important enough to get a colored rose of her own, and for Akio’s part, red suits him in this position more than his lavender. Red is something of an adopted color for him, the one he cloaks himself in as the Chairman, where lavender only really shows itself in his other role as Ends of the World.

   While Mrs.Ohtori’s white might just be a thrown in color or lack thereof, she definitely has princes in mind when she speaks to Akio; later on she will call him one implicitly. Now…what kind of prince is Akio to this woman?

Brandy and Blackmail

   The next scene starts with Akio swirling what one must assume is brandy, given he’s holding a brandy snifter. This kind of shot is never placed thoughtlessly in Utena. It sets the tone as adult, mature, something the children are not involved in or privy to, much like the beverage he’s holding. It’s for grown-ups. Alcohol consumption is also used later on in a scene where Akio and Anthy have very plainly just had sex. Again, the grown-ups are talking. (After all, Anthy is no more a teenager than she is a plate of tempura.)

   As is so often the case with Akio, it’s not the top layer of conversation that counts here. He asks casually if she couldn’t have discussed this matter over the phone. An innocuous enough comment if you neglect to account for how aware they both are of why she’s there. It’s far from an honest question; it’s a dig at the impurity of her motives. Akio spends much of the scene taunting her in this way, and he takes obvious delight in rubbing her behavior in her face; how wrong it is, who she’s betraying, and for what. He does it again by mentioning the scent he wears for her daughter (he even makes a point to call Mrs.Ohtori 'mother'), and again by asking her about the health of the actual Chairman. He reminds her of who she’s hurting by coming to him.

   Underneath the cool exterior of formality in their conversation, Mrs.Ohtori is being methodically broken down; Akio makes a concerted effort to have her tasting her shame and her guilt before she even commits the act that earns them. What does this say about Akio? Nothing we didn’t know already; he’s a sadistic jerk. What does it say about Mrs.Ohtori? Quite a few things. Mrs.Ohtori should, by all rights, be holding a considerable bargaining chip in their relationship. They’re both in a position to completely ruin the other, but she’s the one in the position to provide status. Akio’s offer, beyond blackmail, is only sex, and just about anyone else would find that a disadvantage. Instead, they’ve managed to work themselves into a situation where Akio’s sex is more important to Mrs.Ohtori than her ability to bestow position in the school is to him. The speed with which she drops the threat of canceling his engagement to her daughter also suggests she’s aware of the discrepancy in their concern for things like blackmail. She probably attributes this to him only having political power to lose, versus her marriage, her child, and her position, all of which would be gone in an instant if either opened their mouth. He never threatens her with this, though. Doing so probably would have made Mrs.Ohtori feel better; it would have betrayed concern for his position, just as it had when she’d done it. Instead, the impression is left that all the power to destroy is in Akio’s hands, and she’s helpless.

   Akio doesn’t dote on this. He doesn’t even really linger on or properly address that he could blackmail her. Instead, he spends most of the scene going out of his way to make her feel like a terrible person. And it works. Rightly so, Mrs.Ohtori knows very well this behavior of slinking off on false pretenses to sleep with her daughter’s fiancé while she’s downstairs is utterly deplorable. It’s perhaps this awareness that makes her resist his attack so little. For most of the scene she just passively suffers the onslaught as Akio repeatedly reminds her of what an awful thing she’s doing. The only resistance she offers is when he inquires as to the status of her husband; she turns her head away and curtly says she doesn’t care about that man. The shortness of this comment, the waver in her voice, and that she must turn away to say it, suggest she’s lying through her teeth. This would be much easier for her if she didn’t still care about the Chairman; she does. Not enough to avoid betraying him, though.

Continued ->

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