Sex and Sexuality: Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill is one of my favorite series, maybe third on my personal list after Black Lagoon and Cowboy Bebop, although that’s not quite fair. Due to licensing problems Kill isn’t available readily on DVD, so I haven’t seen it as often or watched it as carefully as the other two. Maybe it’s not as good as I think it is. Maybe it’s better. Who knows?

I know a lot of people like Kill and a lot do not. I’m a liker, obviously. The animation style is aggressive and reminds me of Tex Avery’s work. (Yeah, Frank Tashlin invented it, but Avery ran with it.)

What really kills me, though, is how subversive it is, how self-aware it is, how meta it is. It makes a huge social point about the toxicity of the fashion industry, and mocks anime’s own tropes at the same time. It’s like they said, “Let’s see how many people we can piss off,” and went for it, and I love it.

I also think it’s a well-conceived narrative. To me, it seems like someone put a lot of sweat into making sure the series maintained narrative momentum. There’s not one episode I would classify as filler once the series is done; each pushes the story forward in some way. Plus it has plot twist piled on plot twist, but at the end it all makes sense; it’s a well conceived story. No, it’s better than well conceived. What’s better than “better”? Kill la Kill is that.

On the other hand, I know there are people who dismiss Kill la Kill as nothing more than underage girls wearing skimpy outfits. Pure fan service.

Certainly fan service, for both male and female audiences, is a large part of the series. Senketsu, god bless him, does not leave a lot of Ryuko’s body to the imagination, nor does he when Sensuki wears him. Mako’s girly parts show up here and there as well; my, that little girl has fat knockers. And, of course, anyone who loses his/her suit is stripped nekkid.

I’m less convinced. It seemed to me, while we did see a lot of underage girls wearing not enough clothing to ward off the common cold, there was a higher ratio of beefcake to cheesecake here than in most anime. I mean, Aikuro is not only RIPPED, for the love of Pete HIS NIPPLES GLOW. And let’s recall that the first character to appear nude is the young man who steals a suit. It is removed from him by force, leaving him butt nekkid with (if you look closely) his little pee pee hanging out. And we have to remember that Kill la Kill is a satire on the fashion industry; if you think fashion is bullcrap, is not nudity the response?

It’s not just underage girls in skimpy suits. It’s broader and deeper than that.

One thing going for it is a shifty dynamic among the main characters. At the start it’s a semi-warped Princess, Protector, Protagonist trio between Mako (How often is she the Princess in Peril?), Senketsu, and Ryuko – that’s shifty because Senketsu is Ryuko’s protector while Ryuko is Mako’s; but as Sensuki starts to take power from her mother, she slides from the antagonist side into a Mind, Body, Soul trio on the protagonist side: intellectual Sensuki, violent Ryuko, supportive Mako. (Senketsu, of course, briefly becomes an antagonist.) The three of them, and their many allies, are pitted against Ragyo, with Nui as her sidekick/surrogate daughter.

Kill la Kill - PPP

From left: Protector (Senketsu), Protagonist (Ryuko), Princess (Mako)

Now THAT’s whack, too, right? Ragyo is REALLY Sensuki’s and Ryuko’s mother, but her daughter figure is Nui. That is some seriously deep emotional stuff. And Nui is so devoted to Ragyo that she willingly dies at her command – while Ragyo’s biological children are doing their best to kill her.

There was a big debate about whether Kill la Kill was feminist or sexist, and I think the answer is “Yes.” I mean, all that cheesecake is right there in front of you. It’s kind of hard to overlook.

At the same time, all the major roles are filled by women, with the exception of Senketsu, who has a male voice but is actually a sailor suit. Go back and look: Mind: woman; Body: woman; Soul: woman; Mother/Antagonist: woman; Daughter: well, whateverthehell Nui was. It sails past the Bechdel test without looking in the rearview mirror. To me that’s consistent with my point from above: the writers threw everything at the wall, and a lot of it stuck.

Plus there’s the final question of sex and sexuality. There’s little seen between them, but it seems pretty clear that Mako is hot for Ryuko, and while Ryuko does little to reciprocate, the only interest she shows in males is as punching bags, and she certainly doesn’t tell Mako to cut it out. Between the two of them it’s clearly Sistahs before Mistahs. Later, in the final shot it’s Sensuki, Ryuko, and Mako: the older girls are sisters, but what is Mako doing there? Ryuko’s girlfriend? (Yes, they could be just friends. That reading works, too.)

And then there’s that scene in episode 16, where Satsuki learns secrets and takes power from her mother…in the bath…Don’t watch it too carefully – that would be hentai – but it’s pretty clear that Ragyo is manipulating Satsuki to orgasm.

Her daughter. Incest, anyone?

Kill la Kill - bath

THAT scene. From left, Ragyo, Satsuki.

You can say the writers went there because they could, or you could said it represents Ragyo’s depravity. After all, she is determined to conquer the Earth, not even for herself, but for the benefit of the alien invading threads. She’s the ultimate traitor, a traitor to her entire race, so what’s a little incest?

Whatever it is, Kill la Kill has fan service but is not just fan service. It subverts any of a number of tropes – ask me about my favorite and I’ll tell you* – it deliberately places all the power of the story in the hands of female characters, it makes a large statement about the world at large that many anime downplay or omit, and it does it all at breakneck speed that does not let up.

I think it’s great. But then again I’m a sucker for the stuff that’s meta.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

 

* Okay, you twisted my arm. My favorite subverted trope is the panties trope…that the sight of a schoolgirl’s white panties drives the male of the species into some form of temporary mindless insanity. While Senketsu is back in the Mankanshoku house being ironed into the throes of ecstasy by Mako’s mom Sukuyo, Ryuko ends up stripped to her undies…and they aren’t even white! (See above.) Mako’s dad Barazo rushes Senketsu to her, sees her panties, has a tremendous nosebleed, and fails. Then prepubescent Mataro, Mako’s brother, takes up the task, sees Ryuko’s panties, has a tremendous nosebleed, and fails. Guts – Guts, Mako’s family dog – picks up Senketsu, sees her panties, has a tremendous nosebleed…

Guys. The DOG gets a nosebleed (yes, raging erection) at the sight of Ryuko’s panties. The dog. That’s the way you subvert a trope, all right.

2 thoughts on “Sex and Sexuality: Kill la Kill

  1. If you have an Apple account, iTunes still have Kill la Kill in HD. Well, they also have it in SD, but why would you want that? 🙂

    “Plus it has plot twist piled on plot twist, but at the end it all makes sense; it’s a well conceived story. No, it’s better than well conceived. What’s better than “better”? Kill la Kill is that.”

    I don’t I’ve ever seen an ending that felt more perfect. As you said, it was just that well constructed.

    Liked by 1 person

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