How Long is This Series: Kill la Kill

God, I love (name of video streaming service that can pay if it wants to be advertised here)! When I signed up, I got to watch all of Kill la Kill again before Neon Genesis Evangelion dropped.

I may have mentioned that I really like Kill la Kill, right?

I know that people are of mixed opinions about it, and I understand. It’s buried hip-deep in cheesecake and beefcake, and since the female characters (other than Ragyo) are high schoolers, that can be a bit creepy.

And I’m going to say this: In terms of character it’s not so well done. Ryuko has a nice development arc but she’s mostly just rage-driven, and that can wear thin. Mako is funny as hell, but she’s more like Jiminy Cricket than a real person. Only Satsuki has any depth, and because of her natural reserve, it’s hard to see it except for when it slips past the edges.

Well, how do you keep a series with drab characters interesting?

Plot, baby. Plot.

Watch this. Nothing up my sleeve:

The story starts out as The Quest: Ryuko wants to find the person who killed her father. She’s sure (for Reasons) that Satsuki did it, or knows who did, but Satsuki is surrounded by the entire Honnuuji Academy. Boom. Instant conflict. Looks a lot like Dragonball Z right now.

Ryuko gets her tushie whupped, finds her sailor suit Senketsu, whups some tushie, gets her tushie whupped again. Her teacher Aikuro explains how Senketsu works (including back story on life fibers), and Ryuko goes off to fight her way up the ladder to Satsuki.

Ryuko whups the pee out of some of the minor clubs, then makes a move that structurally we know will fail, because it’s only episode seven and we know at some point she has to try something and have it not work. That’s a basic element of plot: The hero tries something and it fails, making things worse. It’s a way of ratcheting up the tension. ANYWAY, Ryuko and Mako form a Fighting Club, but when Mako gets the goku suit for being group president

PLOT TWIST!

Ryuko has to fight Mako! This (briefly) breaks up the stable Princess-Protector-Protagonisttrio the two of the plus Senketsu form. Fortunately, they kiss (figuratively at this point; the actual kissing comes later) and make up (literally) just in time for them to go out scooter riding and run out of gas where

PLOT TWIST!

one of Satsuki’s Elite Four, Ira Gamagoori, rescues them.

Wait, what? I thought Satsuki and the Elite Four were the bad guys.

This is the first hint that there’s more to the story than Who Killed Roger Rabbit er I mean Who Killed Isshin Matoi. Typically, Ryuko is so blinded by her rage that she doesn’t see it, and since we see the story through her eyes, we don’t see it, either, but Gamagoori’s act tells us there’s more going on than Ryuko versus Satsuki. (Nice one).

Ryuko resumes beating the crap out of the Elite Four (including Gamagoori) until

PLOT TWIST!

Nui Harime shows up out of nowhere to taunt Ryuko. It was Nui who killed Isshin! Ye gods! But what about Satsuki? Well,

PLOT TWIST!

Satsuki has a secret plan to take over the other academies around the city, which is why she ordered Nui to steal the cool scissors from Isshin (the killing was just Nui being Nui).

Kill la Kill Nui Harime

I know you want to see Ryuko’s fat knockers, so here’s Nui Harime.

So Satsuki orders all the students to war, including a drafted Mako. A new character, Shinjiro, urges Ryuko to use Senketsu to stop Satsuki and save Mako, but when Ryuko does so

PLOT TWIST!

it turns out Shinjiro is Nui in disguise, and she whups Ryuko’s tushie, destroying Senketsu in the process.

Now Ryuko has an intermediary goal: she needs to get Senketsu put back together, so she goes around finding its pieces and Senketsu is reassembled.

When we reach this point (we’re up to episode 16 by now, so the end is in sight) two things that set the plot on its final direction happen: Aikuro tells all about the life fibers, revealing that the REAL plot is repelling the alien invaders (the life fibers). This changes the plot from The Quest to Overcoming the Monster. In a parallel scene Satsuki has the secrets of the life fibers revealed to her by Ragyo (in the bath) (while naked). (No lesbian incest to see here, folks. Just move along.)

Now that Satsuki is taking Ragyo’s orders and aiding the life fibers in taking over the world

PLOT TWIST!

Satsuki stabs Ragyo and declares rebellion against the life fibers.

Structurally, this is some serious whack. It moves Satsuki from the antagonist role to the protagonist role, and restructures the protagonists from Princess, Protector, Protagonist – because Ryuko isn’t the sole protagonist any more – into a Mind (Satsuki), Body (Ryuko), Soul (Mako) trio. They are opposed on the antagonist side by Ragyo and Nui, who are a Mother-Daughter pair.

This is handy because it is revealed (in episode 17) that Ragyo has three “children” on whom she experimented: Satsuki, in whom the experiment failed because she was too old, a second girl who Ragyo discarded, and then the artificially born Nui. So Satsuki and Nui are at least half-sisters, genetically speaking.

Plus there’s the discarded baby. Any guesses about this child’s identity?

Well, you don’t have to hold your guesses for long. In episode 18

PLOT TWIST!

Ragyo uses the fibers to control Ryuko, so she’s fighting Satsuki again. No news there except that they are supposed to be on the same side now and Ryuko is supposed to be the protagonist. Oops. But Ryuko throws off the influence, leading Ragyo to reach into Ryuko’s chest and yank out her heart. Um, yeah. That’s a quick way to die. Show over, right?

Nope, because

PLOT TWIST!

Ryuko’s heart is pervaded by life fibers! SHE IS THE MISSING DAUGHTER! (Okay, it wasn’t that big a surprise.) So Ryuko and Satsuki are long-lost sisters, plus there’s whatever Nui is.

Now the plot jumps a month. The sides are aligned: Satsuki and her Elite Four, the boys of Nudist Beach, Mako and her family, and Ryuko and Senketsu on one side, Ragyo, Nui, and a bunch of light fiber controlled zombies on the other. But

PLOT TWIST!

Ryuko vows never to wear Senketsu again (it makes sense in context; I’m skipping over motivations to focus on plot here). She goes off to fight Nui, gets her tushie whupped AGAIN – you’d think Ryuko’s tushie would be getting a little sore by now – only to learn

PLOT TWIST!

Nui’s body is life fiber, like Ryuko’s. Well, that kind of makes sense: remember that the discarded baby was an intermediary experimental stage between Satsuki and Nui. If Satsuki is fully human and Ryuko part life fiber, then Nui being completely life fiber is the next logical step.

In any case, now Ragyo gets Ryuko to wear Satsuki’s suit, Junketsu, and Junketsu makes Ryuko

PLOT TWIST!

fight against Satsuki, who is wearing Senketsu. See it? Daughter #2 has substituted for Daughter #1 on the antagonist side. Ryuko and Satsuki have exchanged narrative roles as well as suits.

Anyway…

The team, led by Satsuki’s brains and Mako’s love for Ryuko, manages to get Ryuko out of Junketsu. That’s not a plot twist; that’s what you’d expect to happen. But the change in alignment stabilizes the sides again, Satsuki, Ryuko, and Mako (and their friends, allies and families) on one side, and Ragyo and Nui and zombies on the other.

We’re at episode 22 now and the series is ending, so it’s time for the final showdown and no room for plot twists except that as the fight becomes more desperate

PLOT TWIST!

Ragyo orders Nui to sacrifice herself, which she gladly does for her mother.

This is a whole other level of whack. Normally parents make sacrifices for their children. Just sayin’. I think it’s meant as another indicator of exactly how depraved Ragyo is. Remember, she hit on her first daughter and discarded her second. Why not order the third to commit suicide?

Structurally, though, what this means now it’s everyone anyone gives a crap about versus Ragyo at the end. She has sacrificed the last piece on the board, and while she is the queen, she cannot stand alone against the full board on the other side. You can see how this is going to turn out, and that’s how it turns out, except that

PLOT TWIST!

rather than be defeated Ragyo kills herself. So ultimately neither Satsuki nor Ryuko gets to whack her. I think that’s useful, too, since it avoids making one of the girls into a relatively less sympathetic matricide. This also avoids jokes about the Electra complex, not that it matters since, of course, Isshin, their dad, is already dead.

That’s how they did it. Plot, baby, plot.

Frankly, the more I watch Kill la Kill, the more I appreciate what a great character Satsuki is. She is reserved and rarely smiles; she is both intelligent and devious; her morality leaves a little to be desired so she is ambiguous. She is simultaneously demanding and unwilling to accept failure, and extremely gracious and literally lady-like. While Ryuko and Mako are kids, Satsuki looks and acts far more adult, and also has a strong streak of the samurai tradition in her. She is much deeper than the rage-driven Ryuko or the comic foil Mako. She’s even designed a little better, a little less cartoony, than Ryuko or Mako.

But ultimately the show is plot-driven, not character-driven, and MAN! What a wild plot! Did you count the twists? I did: Thirteen of them! And I didn’t even figure in all the crap with the Nudist Beach guys (because when you get down to it, apart from giving out some key information, they don’t really do anything).

Could it be shorter? No, then it wouldn’t be sufficiently convoluted. Could it be longer? Yes, but then the pace would suffer.

It’s just right, and that’s why it’s Kill la Kill.

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.

3 thoughts on “How Long is This Series: Kill la Kill

  1. I really did enjoy Kill La Kill, it’s one of my favorite anime series and I still watch it. No other anime plays on the tropes so well while bordering on being aware of the tropes. You really make a good case and I would agree its pace was perfect.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love how your punctuated the PLOT TWISTS! It helped them pop as I read the post.

    This series was one of the first (and maybe only — I can’t think of any others) whose plot twists, taken as a whole, felt exhilarating. I had a real sense the writer was frolicking with literary skill. Really glad to see you put this into words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really screwy narratively, but at the same time all the plot twists made sense because it was constructed so well. I see Nishikawa also wrote for Gurren Lagann, and that one had it’s ups and downs, too.

      His wiki page says he’s a novelist, too. I’ll have a look to see if his books are over here.

      Liked by 1 person

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