I’ll keep out the notes I usually take for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not interested in taking notes on what basically amounts to an homage to Dragon Ball Z and its many clones. Don’t get me wrong, the action in the finale is fun, kinetic, and even quite humorous at times. But hey, Ryuuko absorbs everyone’s power like a spirit bomb, and then her hair turns golden like a Super Saiyan. What do you want me to say about it? It is what it is. Secondly, I’m not going to gush on and on about all the inconsequential stuff like Satsuki cutting her hair short in the ending credits. Seriously, I don’t give a shit about that sort of thing, so I’ll leave it to the show’s many adoring fans. No, no, I quite like this episode actually. I really do. And as whole, I like this anime too. It’s a good show even if I don’t think it’s perfect, and I’m certainly not going to be crying into my pillow at night just because it’s over. But anyway, I’m going to start talking about what I took away from the episode.
Ragyou says something very self-revealing in this week’s episode:
“Why can’t you comprehend the truth behind the universe when you are that powerful? Take a look, Ryuuko. At that blue planet. At the shining sun. At those twinkling stars. This is space. But even this beautiful sight will one day be gone. All creations will ultimately perish. That was determined the moment this universe was born. The actions of the Life Fibers are merely in accordance with that principle.”
For Ragyou, the nature of the universe is rigid. Humans will always be humans, and clothing will always be clothing. But what she truly means by this is that Life Fibers represent the highest form of life across the entire universe. As such, humans will always be beneath Life Fibers, i.e. subservient to Life Fibers: “Humans are meant to be slaves to clothing. That hierarchy will never, ever change.” Her fatalistic words in the quoted passage above supports this rigid philosophy. The eventual death of the universe is a given. No matter what we do, existence itself as we know it will cease to be. On that same token, Life Fiber are at the very top of the pyramid, and there isn’t any room for others. If you want to reach the top, you have to become Life Fibers: “This marks the end for mankind.”
Yes, Life Fibers can help and have helped humans evolve, but in Ragyou’s eyes, humans will never be on the same level as Life Fibers. Again, there is a very clear and distinct hierarchy here, and Life Fibers are already at the top at that hierarchy. In Ragyou’s mind, “[t]hat is the truth behind the universe.” As such, our heroes’ attempts to resist her grand plans are futile. Her mind and thus her reasoning might be twisted, but from her point of view, she’s merely going with the flow. Since humans can never be on the same level as Life Fibers, they may as well become Life Fibers, which is exactly what Ragyou has been attempting to do all series long.
So throughout this episode, our heroes’ implicit goal is to dispel the myth that there is in fact a rigid hierarchy put in place. Our finale is essentially a class-abolishing episode, and there’s no better representative for this movement than Mako herself. Satsuki is probably the charismatic voice of the resistance, and Ryuuko’s probably the strength behind it. But peel back all the action and heroism and you’ll see that Mako embodies the resistance. Having said that, Mako isn’t exactly oblivious to the fact that some hierarchy once existed. We can see from the initial episodes that she was very well aware of the fact that she was a No-Star as opposed to a 3-Star like Gamagoori. What truly matters, however, are two things.
First, the supposed hierarchy that separated Mako, a No-Star, from a 3-Star like any of the Four Devas wasn’t rigid. It was initially put in place by Satsuki to separate the strong from the weak so that she could find capable soldiers for her rebellion against Ragyou. Nevertheless, because this supposed hierarchy also happened to be a manmade hiearchy, it was possible to abolish it. Not only that, this is exactly what has happened in the last few episodes. After all, everyone — and this ranges from the No-Stars like Mako’s parents to the cream of the crop like the Four Devas — bands together to fight back against Ragyou and her Life Fibers. In the end, Honnouji Academy’s once established social standing is no longer applicable. Even Barazo has something to contribute to the cause even if he’s far from being a respected doctor.
Secondly, and much more importantly, Mako has never changed how she interacts with others. She has always had the same cheerful disposition regardless of a person’s rank or power. For instance, she’s friendly with Gamagoori early on in the series long before they ever became allies. It’s only fitting, therefore, that Mako is now at the forefront in dispelling the myth that a rigid hierarchy exists in the universe: “That’s not true! I mean, there’s no hierarchy in the relationship between Ryuuko and Senketsu! That’s what humans and clothing are supposed to be like!” But it’s not like this is anything new; Mako’s been expressing a similar sentiment all season long. Still, the idea that a rigid hierarchy doesn’t truly exist can sometimes be surprising to even some of the heroes themselves: “Mankanshoku! I never expected you to be the one who’d save us.”
After addressing manmade hierarchies, it’s now time to turn our attention to Ragyou’s claim that a rigid hierarchy exists. Make no doubts about it, this finale is no different from your classic JRPG conflic in which the hero rebels against and kills an almighty god. After all, if a rigid hierarchy exists, and Life Fibers are at the top of that hierarchy, what else would the Omnisilk Kouketsu represent if not some sort of god? As such, Ragyou repeatedly invokes the idea of “Absolute Domination” over others. Like a god, the Omnisilk Kouketsu is a tyrant. Fittingly, Ragyou laughs at Ryuuko’s attempts to defeat her with the Sword Scissors: “Those Sword Scissors are essentially hardened Life Fibers too. They are powerless against my Absolute Domination which rules over all Life Fibers!” After all, can a god create a burrito so hot that even he or she cannot consume? It is no accident either that Ragyou refers to her Omnisilk Kouketsu as being divine: “Even so, you committed the grave sin of pointing your blade at this divine garment.” The fact that Ryuuko has apparently “committed [a] grave sin” is also telling.
Furthermore, the word ‘kouketsu’ translates to nobility, so basically, this piece of cloth somehow rules over other Life Fiber-based pieces of cloth, thereby establishing a hierarchy even within the Life Fibers themselves. And with the Omnisilk Kouketsu’s power of Absolute Domination, Ragyou renders the heroes’ Godrobes and Ultima Uniforms impotent: “You have all been stripped of the means to resist.” This merely reinforces Ragyou’s claim that a rigid hierarchy exists. Basically, humans are incapable of fighting back against the Life Fibers. After all, how can something human fight back against the divine? The only reason Satsuki and her army can even mount a credible attack against Ragyou is due to their reliance on the Life Fibers in their clothing. In other words, only Life Fibers can fight back against other Life Fibers. Therefore, Ragyou concludes that a rigid hierarchy exists between humans and clothing.
Nearly halfway through the episode, however, Senketsu comes to a major revelation:
Senketsu: “Satsuki! Can you…?”
Satsuki: “Yeah. I can hear you.”
Senketsu: “I see.”
Then later in the episode, Senketsu reveals his true nature to Ragyou: “I was born capable of evolution. And one day, I developed a will of my own…” Ragyou can call Senketsu a fake all she wants, but at the end of the day, he’s made of Life Fibers just like any other Godrobe or Ultima Uniform. As such, he’s made of the very same thing that Ragyou worships. Now, Ragyou believes that Life Fibers are the pinnacle of life in this universe. Senketsu’s very own existence destroys this very notion. Unlike other forms of Life Fibers, Senketsu has the distinct ability to evolve. Now, scientifically, we know that evolution has no grand design. To greatly simplify things just for the sake of a post on anime, “[e]volution is [merely] the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.” It doesn’t say anywhere that evolution necessarily implies improvement. Still, we can put this aside, because this is fiction, and as fiction, the anime is going to adopt a folk conception of evolution, i.e. evolution is always an improvement. Basically, Kill la Kill wants to say that Senketsu is better than other Life Fiber-based garments.
Again, Senketsu is made of Life Fibers, but in his ability to evolve, he’s also human-like. What results from this isn’t a birth of some super-hybrid between Life Fibers and humans. Instead, we see that a rigid hierarchy does not exist. There is no class structure that separates humans from Life Fibers. Both Ryuuko and Senketsu are the same: they are in-betweeners. They are neither fully human nor are they fully Life Fibers.
Ryuuko: “Yeah, we’re neither humans nor clothing!”
Translation: “The rigid hierarchy does not exist. Classes do not exist. Life Fibers are not inherently superior to humans, and humans are not inherently subservient to Life Fibers.”
Senketsu: “But at the same time, we are humans, clothing, and everything else!”
Translation: “We nevertheless have the potential to evolve — the potential to be whatever we want to be.”
Ryuuko: “Humans can’t become clothing! Humans are humans, and clothing is clothing!”
Translation: “But at the end of the day, anyone with personhood also has free will, and it isn’t right to give up your free will or have it forcibly taken away.”
Just moments earlier in the same battle scene, Ryuuko says, “I’ll be the one to decide my end.” And that’s the crux of the issue here. In Ragyou’s fatalistic view of the universe, everything has been decided. As the voice of God, she’s merely carrying out some divine plan. But like your average JRPG hero, however, Ryuuko will not let someone else decide her fate for her. So even though she’s armed with blades that can apparently sever the red string(s) of fate (sometimes), it is her words that ends up saving the day. She essentially exercises her free will and alters Ragyou’s divine plan, thereby freeing mankind from their red strings of fate.
Ragyou: “What is this incomprehensible garbage?!”
Ryuuko: “That’s just who we are!”
And I can understand why this all sounds like “incomprehensible garbage” to Ragyou. She reminds me very much of the extreme sort of rationalist who feels as though everything and everyone can be defined and quantified. As such, X is X, Y is Y, and X > Y. This is the truth of the universe, and this can never change. Since you can’t beat the Life Fibers, why not become the Life Fibers? Any other reasoning is just “incomprehensible garbage.” Ragyou remains obstinate even in her final moments: “This is not the end, Ryuuko. Life Fibers are still spreading across the universe. And they will reach this planet again someday.” She proves to be as inflexible as she is narrow-minded. Satsuki’s words near the end of the episode are also revealing: “Now we’re finally free of the Kiryuuin family curse.” After all, Satsuki was afflicted by the same curse: in her pursuit for only the strongest allies, she failed to recognize Mako’s strength. Her narrow definition made her lose sight of the many different ways people can be strong. Mako may have lacked a desire to compete against her fellow students at Honnouji Academy, but by the end of the series, she is as indispensable as any other ally for Satsuki.
So what’s the final takeaway from this episode? Let’s keep in mind that Japanese society is still quite hierarchical in many ways. And while Kill la Kill isn’t telling young people to go outside and flip off the elderly, it nevertheless reminds its target audience that hierarchies aren’t set in stone, especially if it makes you a servant to some other person. That you shouldn’t, y’know, let others decide your own end for you.