Now, where do I begin . . .
Okay. Japanese (and generally Asian) popular media often label handsome, privileged young men - esp. those who don't have to work hard for their abundant wealth - as "princes". There is a prevailing belief in the last century (and even today) that rich heirs are more desirable to girls than salary men – heirs will have time to develop personal charisma through expensive hobbies and classy pursuits, while salary men are slaves to their 24/7 jobs who have no quality time to offer their women. “Princes” are “aristocratic” in that they don’t have to turn to gritty/vulgar means (no working OT, nor ass-kissing their bosses) to secure their monetary possessions – their means of wealth/class are effortless, and thus graceful; they have youth, money, refined tastes, and all the time in the world to keep their women well-romanced.
This, is the kind of “prince ideal” prevailing in Ohtori, and in mid-90s Japan; it’s the kind of ideal that Akio uses to ensnare his women, even though he himself does not exactly fit the definition of a “true prince” either.
Acting Chairman “Ohtori” Akio charms and seduce by way of his effortless grace: well-groomed body adorned under expensive toys, plus all that free time to keep his girls (and boys) well-romanced.
Only Akio is no heir from no money; he is, in fact, only a socially stigmatized adopted husband/mukoyōshi (thread here: http://forums.ohtori.nu/viewtopic.php?id=3338
) living under the shadow of the wealthy Ohtori Clan. Yet, the physically attractive man has cultivated for himself the gallant mannerisms of a prince, and the engagement with Ohtori Kanae also allows for him to live with an effortless lavishness that resembles the princely lifestyle on the surface
. Sure, the ideal prince will also have strength and nobility, but Akio can easily fake those qualities via his brute power and his worldly knowledge. The women who know Akio well ( Anthy, Tokiko, Mrs. Ohtori) know that he is just a false prince (they all are shown being contemptuous of him in various scenes); know, but still could not resist using him to project their own deep-rooted society-ingrained
desires – and in doing so, allowed him to use them in return.
Japanese society tells women, from a young age, that every girl must try becoming a princess, and every princess must have her prince – even if she cannot fit society’s definition of a princess, even if the man she finds do not fit society’s definition of a princess, both she and her man can and will fake it
, and try appearing to their world as princesses and princes. It’s Japanese society – not some irrelevant mystic plan – that keeps Akio the false prince powerful – to the point that he can play the lustful against one another, against innocents, against even those outside of his immediate social circles. Akio of course knows he is presently not a prince, nor is he aspiring to become a prince like he had in the past (EP 39: “Maybe if I tried to be a Prince like in the old days, no one would have had to suffer.”) What he wants done through his games at Ohtori is simply to regain the Godlike power he remembers he had as the innocent but mighty Dios – without the strings of nobility or goodness attached (EP 39: “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. Without power, one finds themself merely depending on others to live. I've taken enough risks to buy the power to change the world (according to my selfish wishes). That's how the world works.”). It is mainstream society's (the world's) skewered views and desires that makes the Ends of the World all-powerful (and ultimately, all-limiting); and it is this society that Utena and Anthy must have had to fight past and/or leave behind in order for them to reach their outside(r's) world.
Relevant bits from “Shoujo Kakumei Utena” Privacy File Finale: The Case of Ootori Akio, or the prince’s flaw by Enokido Youji:
And you know what? – I think the word “prince” is the greatest pitfall for any young woman.
Of course, “prince” in this sense is the common meaning that that has come into circulation in the world at large
(On Akio/Makio): He is not a prince, but someone who pretends to be a prince. A younger sister craving for affection is nothing more than a mother substitute. And this fatal sin is incorporated in this film. Of course, it is not that the Utena staff wants to negate the idea of “prince”. It’s just that somehow it turned out that we ended up questioning the idea of “prince” in our work
. It was not our motivation to begin with. In the beginning, we quite simply only wanted to depict sensual pleasure. But the more we pondered on what passes for sensual pleasure in the world nowadays, the imagery of prince somehow became something like Akio
. It just turned out that way. Why? Because we were annoyed with such an obvious value. A cool prince appears out of nowhere, marries the heroine and they live happily ever after. We thought there is nothing convincing about this.
If that is all it takes to be a prince, then it is too easy.
And such easy sensual pleasure based on dependency is made by Akio into a selling point with which to control people
. There is something brave about Utena who doesn’t buy into this shit. There is something attractive about this because she is for “real”. The happiness of prince and princess seems to lack this “for real”-ness. Yes, isn’t this “for real”-ness what we need most now? When I look around the misfortunes around me, they are founded on the lack of this “for real”-ness. Even in hatred, this “for real”-ness seems to be missing. To be for real is tiring and troublesome, and more importantly it is accompanied with risk.
It also takes up a lot of energy. However, is this not why we would like to examine the value of being for real? And is it not this very thing that we seem to lack? What I want to say is – people who are in love for real would not be chasing after the image of a prince.