Sex, Stress and Sadism
Nowhere else in the series is Akio so obvious about his tormenting, or how much he enjoys it. Amused chuckles and grinning accompany sarcastically innocent conversation and aggressively sexual body language; he’s not hiding at all the pleasure he takes in antagonizing this woman. Mrs.Ohtori is fully aware of his behavior, and that it’s completely deliberate; she ignores it as long as she can stand to, and when she gives in her voice is angry and frustrated as much as hurt. One gets the impression she’s lost a contest of wills, or that she thought she’d last through his onslaught without cracking.
This exchange could be interpreted as the price Akio demands for his attentions, but Mrs.Ohtori seems to walk right into the situation determined to win it or weather it defiantly. It takes a long time before she looks away from him; her defeat, as far as she sees anyway, isn’t carved in stone from the beginning. There’s a battle here, and she more than consents to fighting it, though she’s probably never won.
Both, in their own way, take some sort of satisfaction, sadistic though it may be, grim though it may be, in this strange foreplay they engage in. They each, for their part, savor the wrongness of what they’re doing; Akio directs this towards her, but clearly enjoys lingering on her sin, and Mrs.Ohtori accepts his abuse, finding his psychological exploration of what an awful person she is not even remotely a moodkill. Does Mrs.Ohtori enjoy being treated this way? Is she an emotional masochist? Perhaps she just gets off on thinking of how naughty and bad and terrible she’s being. More likely, I think, is that she feels this is the price she must pay for Akio’s attentions. A punishment as only he can dish it out, to atone for what she knows is wrong and pursues anyway.
If there are any considerable submissive tendencies in Mrs.Ohtori, they’re not in play here. Though Akio is dominating the conversation, there’s no open display of submission on her part, and she is in the physically dominant position at the close of the scene, which mimics directly a scene earlier in the episode. There Akio kneels on the ground outside his car to take off Utena’s shoe, and it becomes the staging point for an advance that leads to their kissing. Removing his unsavory motives, which I admit is difficult, that sequence was presented as sweetly innocent. Utena blushes and stammers, unnerved by the suggestively romantic position she finds herself in. Now we see the same position again, with Mrs.Ohtori.
It looks the same, but it’s not. The sexuality is open and intense, Mrs.Ohtori doesn’t blush, and Akio doesn’t hide his watching her. There’s nothing sweet or innocent here, it’s dirty and ugly and impure: the grown up, fallen adult version of what we saw only moments before. Even a kiss on the lips doesn’t fit the mood; there’s no intimacy or simulated closeness, only sex and all the ugliest things that can accompany it. Shame, humiliation, need overriding sensibility, emotional sadism. You can already imagine the disgust Mrs.Ohtori will feel toward herself afterward, when the evidence of what she’s done is slippery between her thighs.
Of course, she doesn’t care right then. Akio is leaning forward, kissing her shin, and she’s moaning like no one’s touched her in years. One doubts it’s far from the truth; Mrs.Ohtori, with her sick husband, probably hasn’t had sex since she last saw Akio. Is she after some sense of intimacy with another? Does she miss feeling like someone’s ‘taking care’ of her instead of her focusing all her attention on others? Or is she just really horny? It could be any of these things but I think it’s more a combination. Akio doesn’t give her any sense of closeness or intimacy, and perhaps she realizes it’s best that way, but he is paying attention to her, and certainly screwing her brains out. In fact, that his attention is so squarely focused on her during this scene may be why she lets him psychologically whip her. ‘Bad attention is better than no attention at all.’ She’s the wife of the Chairman, who was no doubt front and center in all things before he fell ill, but where she’s used to being off to the side on the political and social stages, she’s now on off to the side of their home life, as the attention in the household falls to her sick husband.
A Fallen Princess
As is so often the case with the series, it all comes back down to the prince. She calls Akio her prince, and in some strange way, perhaps he is. After all, it’s not the slaying of a dragon or a romantic meal she’s come to him for. She’s there for attention, and she gets it. Namely, the sexual attention one can assume she’s not getting from the man she married. Of course Akio taunts her even here; he doesn't face her at the beginning of the scene, instead perching himself on the armchair, swirling his glass idly. Yet any attention at all satisfies the one thing she’s asking of her prince, and if his choosing of approach seems ugly by the princely standards Utena might have held up, it’s because it’s supposed to be ugly. Akio is the fallen prince; he’s what the show offers us as a representation of the sad adult that’s lost their nobility. Mrs.Ohtori calls him her prince, accounting entirely for what he is to her. She’s not talking about the innocent boy he was, or the good man he presents himself as to Utena. Akio, in all his sadistic, cynical glory, is her prince. A prince, though, is always paired with a princess, and that is what she is.
Perhaps there was a vibrant and innocent princess in her youth, but the woman that comes to Akio has perverted any decency and goodness that might have existed in her romantic life. She’s completely morally corrupt, and if she regrets her actions at all, it’s certainly not enough to stop her from sneaking away to sleep with the man her daughter’s set to marry. Mrs.Ohtori is our fallen princess, the adult that came of all the girls Dios once protected.
If this is Mrs.Ohtori, her daughter is perhaps our princess in transit. Kanae suffers the fate of a true princess in that her hand is used strategically by the people around her jockeying for power; a far more realistic portrayal of a princess than the dreamy image Utena is provided. She seems to accept this fate, knowing that even if she did fight it, it would change nothing. Was her mother’s marriage similarly decided? Probably. Will Kanae also fall from her station into darkness, as her mother has? Again, probably. The Ohtori family is, in a show about princes and princesses, a fleeting depiction of the politics and drama of real royal families. They are the ugly reality behind the illusion, a reality that perhaps existed all along, even when Dios was blind to it. After all, where there is light, there must be shadow somewhere, though the light by definition cannot see or touch it.