Kill la Kill Ep. 18: Blood-related

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This is why I always try to avoid family reunions. They’re always such a messy affair.

Episode summary: Ragyo almost instantly recovers from her stab wound thanks to having Life Fibers within her. Satsuki thinks she can deliver the finishing blow by decapitating her mother, but even this fails. Things go from bad to worse when Satsuki cannot utilize Junketsu to its fullest potential, which allows Ragyo to then beat her own daughter to a bloody pulp. In the end, the matriarch strips Satsuki of her Godrobe, then turns her attention to Ryuuko. It is then revealed that Ryuuko is Ragyo’s other daughter.

Thoughts & analysis:

• Just more evidence of Mako’s family representing the lumpenproletariat. Again, the lumpenproletariat is distinguished by their inability to ever achieve class consciousness. A revolution is happening before the Mankanshoku family’s very eyes yet they do not — nay, cannot notice it. Hell, their very lives were nearly sacrificed, but they continue scarfing down food without a care in the world. So what they do notice is their insatiable hunger, i.e. their need to survive.

• Satsuki claims she never bothered to team up with Ryuuko and Nudist Beach because she “[has] no need for half-baked allies.” Even so, she must have known Ryuuko and company would show up to the Culture and Sports Grand Festival, and therefore lend a hand or two. I guess Satsuki’s just putting up a bit of a front.

• “Every student here is a soldier that has been trained to fight you — no, to fight Life Fibers!” And yet they depend upon Life Fibers. That can’t end well. I wonder how or even if this apparent dissonance will be resolved.

• Gotta say, Sanageyama’s soundtrack is pretty sweet.

• Aikuro: “This is beyond my wildest predictions.” Heh, you should’ve asked the animeblogosphere then! Twenty-plus minutes of content per episode, and all anyone can talk about, apparently, is how they knew Satsuki’s betrayal was coming ahead of time. We’re all geniuses — each and every single one of us.

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• Satsuki asserts, “…if you have the resolve to protect the freedom of man, then fight with everything you’ve got for now.” So when you frame it this way, Satsuki almost seems like she’s one of the good guys. Almost. But you have to remember, nobody ever thinks they’re the bad guys. Alright, alright, I can’t say nobody. Certainly, there are or have been a small percentage of people out there who might’ve actually embraced the idea of being the embodiment of evil. But I would nevertheless contend that these people are the exception that proves the rule. For the most part, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that that most of us do not consider ourselves to be the bad guys even if we are the bad guys. Even Hitler. Yes, let’s Godwin this shit up while we’re at it. Even Hitler thought he was doing the right thing — that he was somehow bringing justice to the world by restoring Germany’s pride and persecuting the greedy bankers responsible for the economic collapse, i.e. the Jews.

Good or bad from a historical perspective, we all like to think we’re the good guys in the heat of the moment. So yes, it does sound like Satsuki is a good guy when she says she’s rebelling against her mother for the sake of man’s freedom. But don’t forget the countless number of people who have suffered under her regime. Even Imperial Japan had its “reasons.” Ooh, we’re uniting Asia against the threat of Western colonialism! Sounds like a noble goal, isn’t it? Well, let’s go ask some Koreans how they feel about the annexation of their country back in the early 1900s. Let ask how the Chinese feel about Manchukuo. So y’see, words are just words. As always, actions are what count. And yes, rebelling against Ragyo is a good thing. Desiring “to protect the freedom of man” is another good thing. But the ends do not justify the means. Let’s not get that confused.

• Well, we know for sure now that Ragyo has Life Fibers within her. Obviously, the rainbow-colored hair was a huge clue. But with this “mystery” now being settled, it’s time to turn to a more important matter, i.e. what does it really mean to fuse oneself with Life Fibers? Ultimately, I don’t think it matters what Life Fibers really are, i.e. what they are made of and how they actually work. I’ll leave that particular debate to others, because personally, we don’t have to demystify Life Fibers whatsoever to understand the point that Kill la Kill is trying to make. As such, it’s enough to understand what Life Fibers represent from the abstract, i.e. it’s a metaphor for human advancement. More specifically, it’s transhumanism at its very core. It’s like nanomachines, y’know? It’s the next step in human evolution. The only difference here is that Life Fibers have always been that “next step.” They were our next step when we were simply apes, and they continue to be our next step as we see Ragyo instantly heal from her grievous wounds right before our very eyes. Boy, wouldn’t eternal life be awesome? Wouldn’t it be sweet to never have to worry about injuries or illnesses or maybe even hunger. Who really knows the true capabilities of Life Fibers, but as I’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog, transhumanism is not without its downsides.

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Obviously, we run into that classic philosophical conundrum of one’s loss of humanity if we are to embrace transhumanism wholesale: “You became a monster the moment you threw away your humanity and fused yourself with Life Fibers.” But considering Kill la Kill‘s political bent, let’s get practical about it. What is the practical problem with regards to transhumanism and how is it relevant to the ideas we’ve been discussing in Kill la Kill? Well, I’ve been saying all along that Ragyo and her corporation REVOCS represent unmitigated capitalism. So take a look at the following paragraph:

The slippery slope of this scenario posits the rise of a transhuman ruling class who, when challenged by the underclass, recede into their own sense of authority & enhanced intelligence to determine that the only appropriate course of action is to subjugate the masses and shepherd the rise of transhuman governance. If transhuman enhancement is truly advantageous, yet remains available only to an elite class, then in all likelihood those elites will embrace the technology to their competitive advantage. Since it would be folly to assume that human technological enhancement will remediate our most basest evolutionary program of survival of the fittest, the likelihood of enhanced predatory elites seizing global power is not so small. The darkest scenario might see transhuman governance requiring control & tracking implants in all newborns – perhaps a bit hyperbolic but not inconceivable if the type of global predators that currently traverse societies gained access to advanced transhuman technologies. (source)

Sound familiar? Human advancement is great! We’d all like to become smarter, stronger, faster, etc. But there’s a serious problem when human advancement itself becomes a commodity. By owning the original Life Fiber, Ragyo essentially controls the entire supply of said commodity. But this isn’t something like gold or oil. Obviously, oil is vastly important to how our world operates, but we’re talking about something as lofty as human advancement here. This is way beyond the pale. Should that sort of thing really be sold and purchased as if it’s just another miracle pill? We already have a problem where the costs of education is being used to further stratify our societies. Then you’ve got pharmaceutical companies that are like, “Uh, we won’t give you something that’ll possibly save your life unless you pay not just a fair price for it, but an exorbitant price.” Now throw the commodification of human advancement into the mix. Something like Life Fibers would only serve to exacerbate the problem.

• So what would an elitist transhumanist sound like? Probably very much like Ragyo: “I am no monster. I am a life-form that is one step away from divinity.”

• Satsuki tells her people to burn all their REVOCS clothing, but again, what about her army’s Ultima Uniforms? Let’s say the revolution is a success, Ragyo is defeated once and for all, and our freedom is ensured. Then what? Will Satsuki get rid of the Ultima Uniforms? Hm, I dunno about that….

• “…but my sword’s surpassed the speed of light.” Quit bragging about your huge dick, brah.

• Fittingly, Mako’s “souvenirs” are just regional snacks”

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And again, the family eats. It’s almost as if the battle in front of them is just one giant sporting event… in a stadium… aw man!

• Seeing Gamagoori yell at Mako reminds me that some people actually like to pair those two up. I find it weird.

• Anyway, it’s strange that Gamagoori is now ordering Mako to help the audience escape by then pointing to the same audience that were blown to pieces by no other than Nonon herself. It’s like, uh, if you had really cared, you would have evacuated your people before you started fighting Nui.

• Gamagoori: “We don’t want to cause any unnecessary casualties.” Oh right, sure.

• And again, the evacuation notice from Mako falls upon deaf ears. Why? Partly because they, like her family, are lumpenproles. So what does work? Food! They are zombies, forever and mindlessly chasing one commodity to the next. Whether it’d be Life Fibers or food, it doesn’t really matter. After all, the idea of relating zombies to capitalism is hardly new. Just take a look at either versions of Dawn of the Dead.

• Now we get the whole story: “Satsuki, this will be your wedding dress. But the moment you put it on, you will be enslaved by clothing.” Life Fibers are her fate; because of her family’s legacy, she’s inevitably bound to them. And therefore, Satsuki overrides her Junketsu because she needs to. Otherwise, she’d just be a slave to her family’s legacy.

• Boy, that baby that disappeared down the chute…

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• There are some sweet lines in this episode. For example: “I can’t believe he left a five-year-old girl to do his dirty work.”

• Well, look how easily Ragyo managed to take control of Satsuki’s entire army. Well to be quite honest, I don’t know what the girl expected. Oh, I’m going to rebel against Life Fibers… by equipping my entire army with outfits enhanced by Life Fibers. Yeah, I don’t think you really thought this one through.

• It also wasn’t very necessary for Ragyo to give us the oh-so-obvious explanation: “I sewed my Marionette Thread throughout their brains.” No way! I had no idea what you were doing!

• If the Marionette Thread can take control of even Ryuuko this easily, then why couldn’t Ragyo have turned it upon Satsuki herself? Is her daughter’s resolve too strong for it? Then if that’s the case, I can’t imagine Ryuuko allowing herself to remain mind-controlled for very long. After all, she’s still the hero of the show even if Satsuki is more or less the protagonist in this particular arc of the story.

• But yeah, I still do think the Ryuuko’s arc has somewhat… finished? Obviously, her involvement in the story isn’t over. Obviously, she’s still the hero who will get to save the day in the end. But if we’re talking purely about the characters and their arcs, yeah, it’s clearly Satsuki’s turn now to be in the spotlight.

• Well, that was too easy:

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Who’s that baby though?!

• Ragyo: “That sensation I felt just now…” Oh Kill la Kill, you’re winking too hard now.

• After chopping of her mother’s head, Satsuki think “[i]t’s finished,” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Ragyo didn’t call this “a mold-ridden revenge plot” for nothing. After all, we’ve got plenty of episodes left to watch, and we haven’t even seen Ragyo’s final form. C’mon baby, my body is ready!

• And just like that, Ragyo reattaches her decapitated head. After all, she isn’t really human anymore. Sure, part of her is still human, but as whole? Nuh-uh. So why would decapitation work? Since this post is now all about transhumanism, think of Ragyo as a cyborg. Do you think you could kill a cyborg by merely chopping his or her head off? Not likely.

• Ryuuko has now become one with Senketsu, though I swear they been one with each other before. Oh well, it doesn’t really matter. What’s actually important is the contrast being drawn between Ryuuko and her sister Satsuki. Oops, I mean her rival Satsuki. In any case, as Ryuuko’s foil, Satsuki must then necessarily fail at becoming one with her Junketsu. That isn’t to say her resolve isn’t strong or as strong as Ryuuko’s resolve — perhaps it is even stronger — but there’s a certain value in teamwork and cooperation above and beyond ruling your subject with an iron fist. Yes, the two girls share a common goal, but as I’ve said above, the ends do not justify the means.

• Now compare and contrast Ryuuko and Satsuki’s character arc. More specifically, notice how they both fall from grace, and each time, it’s occurred in a stadium. Ultimately, you’ll see that the Godrobes play a pivotal role. In Ryuuko’s case, her anger caused Senketsu to turn into an uncontrollable monster. In Satsuki’s case, however, it is her pride that led her to think she could rely upon Junketsu in the biggest, most important battle of her life. In other words, their greatest fears became realized.

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Ryuuko started out as a lone wolf character — a traveling ronin of sorts. She didn’t want to get others involved in her quest for revenge, and even now, she’s hesitant to bring Mako along with her. Her mark of failure was allowing her anger and hatred to assume complete control of Senketsu, dissolving not only their partnership, but more importantly, their friendship. Yes, “overriding” their friendship gave Ryuuko great powers, but the ends do not justify the means. This is why she lost confidence in herself shortly after the events of the Grand Elections. She was afraid of taking over Senketsu and putting both of their lives in peril again. Her greatest fear is thus having too much control. Looking back on the twelfth episode, you might be tempted to say Senketsu consumed her, but think about Senketsu’s own words: “If this keeps up, I won’t be able to control myself!” Senketsu then loses control, but to who? Or more importantly, to what? The crazed hybrid of Ryuuko and Senketsu proceeds to continue attacking Nui and Satsuki (at the time, Ryuuko believed Nui had followed Satsuki’s orders to kill her father) for the rest of the episode, but why? Obviously, it is out of Ryuuko’s anger. In that sense, Senketsu loses his control to Ryuuko’s emotions and thus Ryuuko herself.

On the other hand, Satsuki’s greatest fear is having too little control. Unlike Ryuuko, whose anger exhibited too much control, Satsuki now fails because she has little to none left. After all, her strength has always been her ability to control others. It is her way of achieving freedom, i.e. “Control is liberty.” It is her way of cutting the red string of fate that ties her to her family legacy. But whereas Ryuuko fell to anger, Satsuki loses herself to her arrogance. As the saying goes, “the more you squeeze, the more sand trickles through your fingers.” Yes, the Four Devas are loyal to her, and perhaps they’ll always be loyal, but Junketsu is another different matter entirely. Satsuki thought she could dominate a garment of Life Fibers through her sheer strength of will, but why would you risk it in the biggest, most important battle of your life? Why would you assume you can control a Godrobe when you’re hoping to rebel against the very thing that the Godrobe is composed of? That’s just pure arrogance. Satsuki allowed herself to fall victim to her own pride, and as a result, she has no control left.

• Molesting Satsuki’s crotch was gratuitous. C’mon now. Kill la Kill‘s always had somewhat rapey overtones, and granted, you could even argue that part of the sexual assault motif ties into the idea of control and the loss thereof, but at the same time, the imagery doesn’t have to be quite so overt.

• It might not be her final form, but hey…

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…it’s a form.

• And there you go… Ryuuko and Satsuki are officially sisters now.


9 Replies to “Kill la Kill Ep. 18: Blood-related”

  1. This has been probably the most battle-anime like episode in the entire series. It’s got it all – the “I am your opponent” moment, the regenerating villain, the transformation, the moment when a previously unfazed enemy gets into “oh shit!” mode for the first time to prove a point about how strong our hero has gotten… not that I don’t dig it. It’s a nostalgic feeling and I love it. I hope that, with 6 episodes left, Kill la Kill will be able to provide an original twist to these age-old tropes, and possibly keep in track with its clothes motif, but I wouldn’t want it to turn into actual deconstruction. Some times the original thing, played straight but in style, can be still enjoyable.

      1. Nothing in general, I just wouldn’t want Kill la Kill to become one. Nor I think that it will. I just wanted to stress the fact that, while I may enjoy a bit of originality thrown in, I wouldn’t want my expectations to be completely thrashed, because what I like more of the show is the way it’s giving its own spin to existing tropes. It’s heavily derivative, to the point of being almost meta, but always playing its stuff fundamentally straight. In this sense, it’s kinda Tarantino-esque (and it’s not the only thing that it has in common with Tarantino movies – nor I think it to be a coincidence, what with the explicit Pulp Fiction reference in Episode 4).

        1. A deconstruction doesn’t have to “thrash” your expectations. A deconstruction can simply mean breaking something down to its core elements, then putting it back together in a clever way that shows you understand why and how the original works.

        2. There are always very thorough arguments about what does or does not constitute a deconstruction, as well as which works are classifiable as deconstructive. I’ve had many a discussion about, for example, whether Puella Magi Madoka Magica is to be considered a Magical Girl deconstruction or not (I think it should be, but someone disagrees, mainly based on the ending). So, in a sense Kill la Kill IS already deconstructing some things (most importantly the whole fanservice issue, which is lampshaded and played upon since episode 1).

          Therefore my opinion can come off better like this: I hope that, plot-wise, Trigger does not get afraid of predictability at this point. I think the best course for Kill la Kill is to be predictable in the general lines and surprise us with the details – and the style, of course.

  2. Most likely only life fibers can stand against life fibers; hence the goku uniforms. Nudist beach’s weapons probably wouldn’t work on Ragyo.
    And if they do work, Ragyo would have probably found out Satsuki was producing them.

  3. “Twenty-plus minutes of content per episode, and all anyone can talk about, apparently, is how they knew Satsuki’s betrayal was coming ahead of time. We’re all geniuses — each and every single one of us.”

    Thank you for bring that up. Now all people will be talking about is how they knew Satsuki and Ryuuko were sisters from episode whatever. I can understand being happy that you guessed a plot reveal. But sometimes it just comes across as smug.

    Anyway thanks for covering the show. I come to your write ups now after any episode of Kill La Kill or Samurai Flamenco.

    1. This happens when the plot is the only thing people value about the narrative. Don’t me wrong, the plot is obviously important, but man… it’s not the end all, be all of the discussion. It’s like people think the entire purpose of storytelling is to keep people from guessing what’s going to happen next.

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