Kill la Kill Ep. 15: Anger management

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After the dust settles, our protagonists are arguably right back where they started. Ryuuko reclaims Senketsu, but neither her nor Nudist Beach have done much to impede Satsuki’s war machine. In Nudist Beach’s case, they’ve actually been set back quite a bit. As a result, you might be tempted to say that the episode was rather inconsequential in the grander scheme of things. I disagree though. Something huge does happen in this episode. Something very important: Ryuuko transitions from being merely the protagonist of the story to now its hero. I will admit that I quibble a bit with her decision at the end of the episode — and I’ll explain this later in the notes below — but nevertheless, this critical change in Ryuuko’s character is necessary for the story to slowly work its way towards its conclusion.

Basically, I do agree with Satsuki that Ryuuko lacked ambition. ‘Lacked’ here being the key word. The latter used to only fight for either revenge or to protect Mako. In the first half of the season, I had wondered why Ryuuko didn’t seem to care at all about the injustice surrounding her. It never seemed as though she was bothered by what was happening to the rest of Honnouji Academy as long as it didn’t affect either her or Mako. As such, she hadn’t quite yet become the hero of the story. Yes, she is and will always be the protagonist of the Kill la Kill, but as long as her aims were selfish, she was never the hero. Hell, until this very episode, Mako had been more heroic than Ryuuko. Now, however, it appears as if Ryuuko’s mindset has changed: “Look at this scorched wasteland. Is this your ambition? A necessary sacrifice? If this is the way you use the power of Life Fibers, Senketsu and I will stop you!”

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So why is this important? Why can’t the story conclude without Ryuuko’s change? Because otherwise, she can’t win. Remember that Ryuuko ultimately failed in the first half of the season because she had succumbed to rage. Had she stayed the same in character, rage would always continue to be a critical roadblock between Ryuuko and her goals. By transcending her own personal aims, she can now fight something more… like justice. And through this, she gains a sort of clarity that pierces through the anger within her. After all, this same anger had previously led to the all-consuming rage that nearly doomed her. Now having said this, Ryuuko will always have a bit of anger within her as do we all. To be angry is to be human. It’s more about, however, how we choose to deal with our anger and various other negative emotions. So despite the fact that, once again, the fight between Ryuuko and Satsuki comes to a draw, the former gains something incredibly valuable out of this episode.

* * * * *

Episode summary: We first kill some time with a battle between Sanageyama and Takarada. The latter dons a golden crab mecha in order to do battle, but it’s all for naught as Sanageyama’s new uniform proves to be predictably superior. Ryuuko finally shows up to confront Satsuki, but she can’t win without synchronizing with Senketsu. Nudist Beach is forced out of hiding in order to protect Ryuuko, to which Satsuki reveals that this has been her plan all along. She has always known of Aikuro’s existence as a spy within her school, and her attack on the three neighboring regions is nothing more than a ploy to lure out the rebellious Nudist Beach. In the end, Ryuuko manages to synchronize with Senketsu anyway, ultimately battling Satsuki to a draw. Our heroine then bargains for her friends’ lives, but even so, Nudist Beach suffers heavy consequences at the hands of Satsuki’s Elite Four.

* * * * *

Notes:

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• Sometimes, I think Aikuro is too fabulous for this show, which is hard to imagine because the show is quite fabulous enough as it is.

• The entire Japanese landscape now looks to be on fire, the sky adopting a hellish orange-red color. It looks almost… apocalyptic. Perhaps this is Satsuki’s intention. Her purification of the country first requires the purging flames, so to speak.

• Say, when was the last time things looked apocalyptic in Japan? After the two atomic bombs, right? The parallels are too real now. Satsuki’s quest to unite the fractured Japanese regions under one hegemonic empire — her hegemonic empire — not only mirrors the fall of the feudal lords and rise of the Meiji era, but think of how Japan went overseas to claim parts of Eastern Asia that it felt rightfully belonged to its empire? And ultimately, Japan paid a heavy price: not only the devastation from the atomic bombs, but the US literally dictated Japan’s terms of surrender. What is Satsuki doing now? What might result from her actions?

• To put it another way, why do you suppose Nudist Beach is so concerned with the Godrobes? Might the Godrobes represent powerful weapons that may very well tear the country apart if used irresponsibly? If clothing represents dangerous weapons in the Kill la Kill universe, Nudist Beach essentially wants to return its country to a previous pacifistic state (ironically through the use of combat)… well, pacifistic to the extent that incredibly powerful weapons are not being used. It’s kind of like keeping tanks around, but nevertheless frowning upon the existence of nuclear weapons.

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• Yes, I’m aware that the entire operation was, according to Satsuki, an attempt to lure out Nudist Beach, but think about it… how would you form an empire? By first crushing your opposition, right? So in the end, there isn’t much of a difference between uniting the rival regions and quelling the threat posed by Nudist Beach.

• All this talk almost makes me think of those fearmongering factions within Japanese politics. Y’know, the ones that all concerned about the imminent threat of either Chinese or North Korean aggression. Oh, and how might we deal with said aggression? By re-arming Japan, of course!

• If you were the optimistic sort of person though, you could point to Japan’s rebirth from its postwar ashes as ultimately a good thing. So maybe we’re assured a happy ending at the end of the tunnel for Kill la Kill.

• According to Takarada, “In the end, it’s money that motivates people.” This may very well be the case, but I still think Satsuki’s own mother will make a more compelling argument for money than Takarada himself.

• I find it curious though that Satsuki would ask, “How were you raised to be able to use money in such a vile way?” I can’t imagine that a company like REVOCS would have not already done the same thing… but perhaps Satsuki does feel the same way about her mother’s company. She just can’t say anything publicly about it… yet.

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• Spoken like a true totalitarian: “It is not money that rules men. It is fear.”

• Nowadays, it’s sort of hard to separate money from power. Money is necessary to mobilize. You need money to create the instruments of war. This is why the military-industrial complex is even a thing. The way Satsuki and Sanageyama dismisses Takarada’s strength, however, seems to harken back to an old, romanticized notion of power as something found within the hearts of true warriors. Somehow, I think Satsuki would probably adore the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. And along that line of thinking, power backed by money is probably seen as shallow, disloyal and fickle. Sort of like what one might expect of sellswords or something. Still, without REVOCS, where would Satsuki be now?

• Satsuki asks, “One who doesn’t know the fear of clothing mocks it?” If clothing is sin, is she also asking, “One who doesn’t know the fear of sin mocks it?” Does this suggest that people like Takarada are too shameless and oblivious to their own sins to ever attain self-enlightenment?

• I don’t know how I feel about Sanageyama defeating Takarada by literally sodomizing him.

• Inumuta conveniently informs us that the circulation of “powerful bio-energy” cannot flow through Senketsu if even a single piece of it is missing. That just makes me wonder why Satsuki would even want Senketsu’s glove to begin with. After all, it doesn’t appear to be connected to Junketsu….

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• So without clothing, how does Nudist Beach fight? By turning their own bodies into weapons, it seems. Words, however, cannot capture the truly ridiculous spectacle that is the Nudist Beach army. It’s a little sad though that the Elite Four’s new outfits opted for coolness instead. I thought Inumata’s original transformation was hilarious. Now? He’s just a generic Tron-like thing.

• Ryuuko proposes that she and Senketsu get around the missing glove problem by substituting her own skin for it. Basically, her union with Senketsu intensifies even more since her skin will now — if only for a brief moment — serve as a conduit for the power that they both share. First, she had to overcome her shame of Senketsu. Now, she willingly sacrifices herself for it as though she’s atoning for her own sins. After all, clothing is sin….

• It’s odd to see Ryuuko’s transformation scene being much shorter (and less gratuitous as a result) than Satsuki’s though.

• In the end, wasn’t Nudist Beach’s appearance rather pointless? Satsuki had already forbade her Elite Four from getting involved in the fight, so the Elite Four is only there to battle Nudist Beach. Had Nudist Beach not shown up, I’m sure the Elite Four would’ve continued to follow orders and stay out of the fight. Furthermore, if Ryuuko needed help because Satsuki was initially beating her, that’s only because she didn’t start off by synchronizing with Senketsu. So… why didn’t she just do this in the first place?

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• It’s interesting how Senketsu can take on different forms and functions, even jettisoning off into the air like a plane. Junketsu remains mostly static, however, and thus Satsuki is forced to rely upon Nonon to take flight after Ryuuko. Is this because Ryuuko synchronizes with her Godrobe instead of overriding it like Satsuki? After all, Junketsu hasn’t remotely exhibit a single shred of sentience since it first appeared back in the third episode. Does this lack of personality in Satsuki’s Godrobe explain the differences in its capabilities when compared to Senketsu?

• For what it’s worth, however, Junketsu can fire off a piece of itself to serve as a grappling hook, but that’s a far cry from flight….

• But to reinforce my previous point, Ryuuko can actually rely on Senketsu. Because they are now friends, she can entrust her life to it. You get the feeling that although Satsuki willingly dons Junketsu to tap into its power, in a fight, she relies solely on herself and her own capabilities. It’s part of her nature, after all. For her to put her life in the hands of another person or being — even her own Godrobe — would sort of contradict her life philosophy. In any case, Ryuuko’s words at the end of the episode pretty much confirms this:

Ryuuko: Kiryuin, maybe it’s true that you’ve mastered that Junketsu of yours. But you’re alone.
Satsuki: And you’re not?
Ryuuko: No. Senketsu and I are two in one.

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• This week’s ending feels like a bit of a cop-out. Even though Ryuuko manages to disarm Satsuki by preying upon the latter’s arrogance, she can’t quite finish the job because all of her friends are in trouble. But if you think about it, don’t you think the members of Nudist Beach would willingly sacrifice their own lives in order to stop Satsuki’s tyrannical rampage? Don’t you also think more lives would be spared if Satsuki had died here and now? Of course, anime heroes are never going to sacrifice their own friends, but… like I said, it feels like a cop-out. Maybe Trigger could’ve come up with a better reason for yet another fight between Ryuuko and Satsuki to end in a draw.

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16 thoughts on “Kill la Kill Ep. 15: Anger management”

  1. This show gets more and more interesting as it goes on. I remember rolling my eyes at it when I first saw it, then I saw a little comedic dub of it on Tube and thought “Should be good for a laugh.”
    Then I go watch and come to read your posts, and I’ve got to say it’s been a long time since I’ve seen these kinds of topics brought out in an anime. To think real life parallels to nationalism, militarism, power via currency, totalitarianism and what you suggested regarding nukes would be referenced so heavily in a mostly funny pervy action show…
    Gotta love Fiction.

    1. Is it pervy? Maybe. I would definitely say, however, that Kill la Kill isn’t sexy. Not to me anyway. It presents all of its practically nude characters in such a as-a-matter-of-fact way that I can’t see any of them as sexual objects. But of course, your mileage may vary. Maybe someone out there gets a raging boner every time they watch Ryuuko and Satsuki do battle. That sounds like it would be a hard thing to deal with.

      1. “Is it pervy? Maybe. I would definitely say, however, that Kill la Kill isn’t sexy.”
        There’s always been that distinction between “perverted” and “sexually enticing”, true, and to be honest I don’t think it’s trying to be sexy. Rather the way it handles the sexuality in, as you put it, “such a as-a-matter-of-fact way” reminds me of how actual real life nudists view nudity. It’s not sexy unless the person is actively intending to be, otherwise they’re just being natural in their nudity.
        The nudity is obviously used for comedic effect and likely also parodying the Sailor Moon type of transformation trend in anime, but as you’ve pointed out it’s also being juxtaposed with all of the allegory around the clothing in the show. It’s like it’s saying that ultimately nudity is just simpler and less dangerous, which funny enough is what Nudist Beach’s thing is all about, isn’t it?

        “Maybe someone out there gets a raging boner every time they watch Ryuuko and Satsuki do battle. That sounds like it would be a hard thing to deal with.”
        HAhaha I’d love to show this show to some kid who hasn’t matured past drooling over Sailor Scout transformations yet.
        …Wait, no, that came out wrong. You know what I mean.

        1. I don’t think we give kids enough credit. If they really wanted wank fodder, I’m sure they are technologically savvy enough to procure something a little more effective than a transformation sequence — even a Kill la Kill one. It’s like reading the TJ Maxx catalogue when you could be pirating entire pornos off the internet.

      2. I always thought that. I mean, just try IMAGINING yourself involved in any kind of cliché anime sexy situation with Satsuki Kiryuuin.
        *generic self-insert MC walks in the shower on Satsuki naked* “How dare you lay your eyes on this body forged in ambition and conquest, you pig in human clothing! KNOW YOUR PLACE YOU SWINE!!!” *generic self-insert MC is castrated by a sudden strike of Satsuki’s sword*
        …yep. Not going to work.

  2. The production team hyped this episode a lot and even called it the climax of the story, I guess they meant Ryuko’s change. Next episode there will be a new opening, but I’m not sure where the story would go next. Will it be about stopping Satsuki?
    An interesting thing I noticed: Satsuki’s underlings call her Satsuki sama, they use her first name instead of Kiryuin, do you think this means something important?

    1. Hard to say. Satsuki definitely has mercy for strong people even if they fail. A more ruthless dictator would’ve sent her Elite Four to the dogs, but she specifically told Gamagoori not to kill himself. Whether she’s just being practical or she actually respects them, I dunno, but the fact that they refer to her by her first name seems to suggest the latter.

  3. I disagree that the ending was a cop out, though I understand your point. To me, it was to emphasize that Ryuuko has moved on beyond revenge. She could kill Satsuki, but what good would that do?

    Plus, there was a lot of symbolism shown, not only in Ryuuko taking Satsuki’s sword, but in her giving it back, recognizing that despite her flaws, Satsuki is an honorable person. In that moment, I think that Satsuki realized that Ryuuko and all of the things about her that Satsuki hates were more honorable that Satsuki has ever been. Just my 2-cents though.

    1. She could kill Satsuki, but what good would that do?

      To prevent further suffering. It’s not about revenge. It’s about… hey, this lady is dangerous. Yeah, I could be honorable, and fight “fair,” whatever that means. Or I could stop her now.

      1. And that is an understandable position to expect Ryuuko to have. That being said, I have long seen Bushido in action from Satsuki’s actions. In many ways, she is a a modern archetype of a daimyou, leading her samurai armies in an attempt to become shogun. The reckless, overemotional Ryuuko finally understands this part of Satsuki, and in her own way, delivers a blow more severe to Satsuki and potentially more helpful Ryuuko — showing an act of honor and respect to her enemy.

        Further, had Ryuuko taken out Satsuki, she may well have paid for that with her life as well. If that happened, who would stop the Elite Four from rampaging and trying to carry out what they think is “Satsuki-sama’s glorious mission”? Right now, the Elite Four are completely controlled by Satsuki.

        1. showing an act of honor and respect to her enemy.

          Sure, it’s a huge blow to Satsuki, but is it really all that important in the grand scheme of things?

          If that happened, who would stop the Elite Four from rampaging and trying to carry out what they think is “Satsuki-sama’s glorious mission”?

          Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe someone else would stop them, or then again, maybe not. But these are questions that we are asking from the vantage point of an outside viewer. There are no indications whatsoever that Ryuuko shares these same concerns. As far as I can tell, her reasoning is, “If I do this, it’s A) honorable and B) I’ll save my friends.” And because of that, I feel like it’s a cop out for an episode that is supposed to be all about how she’s matured. A mature Ryuuko would be making the very same argument you’re making, i.e. what’s the best course of action to prevent more suffering in the world, but that’s not what we see.

          1. I may be inferring more than I should, but then twelve years of anime watching and seeing Japanese storytelling methods does that to me. ^_~

            Like I said, I certainly see where you are coming from. Myself, I just saw things differently. But then you and I saw things differently than others out there. ^_^;;;

            (As an aside, man do I love being in WordPress’s network. ^_^ )

            1. Eh, I’m not taking offense or anything. We could do much worse than discussing the characters’ motivations.

              (As an aside, man do I love being in WordPress’s network. ^_^ )

              Oh, are they listening in? Yes, WordPress is awesome. They’d be even more awesome if they paid me!

              1. *lol* Yes, getting paid is awesome. ^_^

                Now that my own anime blog is on WordPress, I like that I get notified if I have activity on my own WP sites, or if someone responds to me on other WP sites. So while I’m working on my WP site, I’m still “connected” as it were. ^_^

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