The Antagonist: Ragyo Kiryuin

You know it seems like in a lot anime you never really see the antagonist unless there’s big fight.

Look at Sailor Moon, right? The antagonist appears in like scene two or three, giving orders to some underling, and then disappears for the rest of the episode while the underling is getting whupped in the big fight scene. I watched 160 episodes of that and I couldn’t tell you who the antagonist is unless I looked him up (and I didn’t, since that would defeat the point).

But, as it does in so many other ways, Kill la Kill breaks the mold. Ragyo is not only all over the second half of the series, she’s right up in your face. Literally, sometimes: In some shots she’s shown in extreme close-up. Now THAT’S in your face!

And she is a great villain.

Dear God, what great hair! Ragyo Kiryuin

Here we go again: Brains, Looks, Personality.

She’s brilliant, of course, an entrepreneur who builds a company that takes over an entire industrial category (clothing) all the way around the world. And her intelligence shows in her plans. They are really quite clever.

And, of course, she is physically a powerful fighter and also stunningly beautiful. Not just beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. Her hair has a RAINBOW in it, for Pete’s sake.

A rainbow, maybe, but not a halo. Because when we get to personality, it’s pretty clear that our gal has a little problem in that department.

She’s so deliciously decadent, isn’t she? She
what other people think of her at all. Take over the world and give it to aliens? How amusing. Throw away one of her daughters as a failed experiment? Oh well, that’s what one does with failed experiments. Seduce her oldest daughter in the bath? So long as I, Ragyo, am entertained, who’s to say no? And after all, Satsuke enjoyed to, too, didn’t she?

Have you seen the old British sci-fi show Blake’s 7? Ragyo is just like Servalan, except that Servalan is less physically active.

And what’s fun about Ragyo is that she’s aware of her decadence. It shows up in the bored tone of her voice and the way she sometimes side-eyes the camera. She dares you to think of her as evil … because she’s really not evil. It’s not that she’s bad; it’s not that she’s not good. It’s that she’s entertaining ends you could not possibly understand, you miserable worm, and that lets her look down on you, the viewer, with amusement.

What’s neat about that is that if she despises you to the point that she can’t be bothered to have to explain herself, she doesn’t have to. We don’t have to know WHY she’s prepared to give humanity to the threads; from the standpoint of the plot all we need to know is that she is.

And for the rest of the show she can be just so deliciously decadent.

Decadence is a great personality characteristic for a villain because of its disdain for more basic notions such as good and evil. A villain who is just evil because that’s how they were built is sort of dull, when you get right down to it. I dislike evil villains for the same reason that I dislike demonic characters: If you’re evil/demonic, you can do anything and explain it away.

But an antagonist who is decadent is unpredictable, and that puts another layer of tension in the story. Oh, look, the antagonist faces a choice at this juncture of the plot. What will they choose?

Well, they will choose what amuses them the most, which is not necessarily the evil solution to the conundrum they face. Maybe she’ll keep Satsuke alive, to humiliate her, instead of simply having her killed. Hmmm … which choice amuses her the most?

And that decadence also gives the character a weakness that might be exploited. An antagonist that is simply evil must be fought directly, either beaten physically or by some form of misdirection. But an antagonist that is decadent can also be outsmarted, by playing their game with them, as Satsuke does for much of Kill la Kill. That’s only possible because the decadent character is in whatever it is for the amusement factor. Keep them entertained, and they don’t see you sneaking the knife between their ribs.

Of course, stabbing Ragyo didn’t kill her. Oops. But Satsuke didn’t know that.

Oh, well. That turned out to be yet another plot twist. And more delicious fun.

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.

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