Yes. Psyched. Go for it.
I, like many, was not expecting great things from this episode.
What we got was a surprisingly deep character study on none other than scientifically designed laugh machine…Gamagoori.
I loves him so. Even back in episode 1 I thought he was the funniest thing about this series. And while in Episode 4 he gave us a cute frienemy relationship moment with Mako, I never really expected him to be very deep. The potential was there, sure, but even I, who from the start have thought that KILL la KILL was going for something subtexty and meaningful besides the Pythonesque antics of the main cast, even if not primarily, (an opinion I’m far more confident in these days), I never thought Tigger would bother.
The pantheon of four is a motiff found around the planet. From the original Hebrew pantheon, the four elements of Buddhism (and later Greece), the cardinal winds, the four guardians of Japan, the four “prostitutes of satan” (representing the four patrons of sex demons in the West), or even going mundane like the four divisions of the Roman empire, four is everywhere.
This week has made it quite clear that the four that the Elite Four are going for the Four Monkeys motiff. Sanegayama is See No Evil, Jakuzure is Hear No Evil, Inumuta is Speak No Evil, and Gamagoori himself filling the role of Do No Evil. I don’t know if this is a direct reference, or round about from some other anime or song or homage in some other direction, but the bluntness of the Elite Four costumes at this point is making it very likely that this specific correlation, between student council and monkeys, is intentional. The blindfold, marching band, zip up coat, and….sigh….super amazing bondage armor (I can’t believe I have to type this).
Because yes…we “saw” Gamagoori’s transformation. Or rather, we didn’t see (perhaps to our everlasting relief….week long relief), but we did get to hear his not-at-all-subtle dialogue. How abusing him by trying to punish him…urgh…only makes him harder…yeah.
But…if I may spent more than ten seconds not trying to think about it…it is a fitting metaphor for this. Allow me to grace you with my experience of the BDSM lifestyle: Punishment is often the term used. Discipline. Gamagoori heads the disciplinary committee. But one segment of BDSM is the fact that immobilization play, which some people are just into, is a roundabout of that. It is the sense that “you can’t be trusted not to do naughty things despite your mistress’ warnings. Thus I am confining you, for you to sit and be unable to fight back or protest.” You know…so I’ve heard.
Thus, Do No Evil.
Gamagoori gave us the revelation that he waited to enlist in school so he could be by Satsuki’s side. We saw him in his middle school years, trying to enforce his own form of justice on his school as student council president. We also saw how poorly it was going; student whose parents had all the power just did what they wanted in front of him. Until Satsuki arrives, and counters them to bring an order in her school by her own design. Gamagoori at first protests, asking how Satsuki, using her mother’s position on the school board, is any different. Satsuki angrily replies that she is completely different. She doesn’t hide behind her mother’s power, she wields it as her own. She intends to build on it, not just sneak some favors for whatever petty indulgence she has.
Dragging our conversation into the real world, why was Barack Obama so popular, not just in his own country but the world? I’m talking the very first here, in 2007 and 2008. It was the same reason for both groups, foreign and domestic: He was the rich boy who might change the broken system. In America, that was literally rich: privilege and wealth that gave him the connections to win. For the world, it was the symbollic rich kid: the American president. The richest of the rich kids, who uses the power they wield to effect change. The potentiality of a rich kid with a soul was too much for people to turn down. There are great leaders all around you, trust me. But only a few have the combination of will, ability (to lead), and ability (to acquire power, or money). Often we pick leaders with less than all three and they either end up bad, or unremarked.
Fast forward five years, and the picture’s a little less rosy. But not for Gamagoori. Five years after he met Satsuki, he still seems determined to support her. I presume this means Satsuki doesn’t use as many drone strikes.
There’s a very “warring states” feel to the world prior to Satsuki’s rise, and she is probably meant to, in part, represent Oda Nobunaga in some ways. We see Satsuki as the villain because she is opposed to our protagonist, and a bit of a yoyoing dick to boot with Ryuko’s motivations. But Nobunaga was a brutal man, vicious even, to those who opposed his rule. It is why, even though he is basically the man who unified Japan, he’s still regarded by some circles as a demonic force of Japanese history (a view encouraged in no small part by his not-blood-related successors). But, there was always a method to the quiet man who wore his fashion in that of a peasant: chaos had ruled Japan for 100 years. People were so set in their ways, that they simply accepted it as fact. Nobunaga’s own brother tried to overthrow him. Twice. Without even pausing for breath after the first pardon. Nobunaga used his power to stomp out dissent, not because he was demonic or offended or a psychopath, but because his peace was to be everlasting, and not just until his death. And you couldn’t leave the future in the hands of warmongers.
I think the picture being painted is that Satsuki is very much the same way. She is ruthless, but it’s a certain kind of directed ruthless. And Gamagoori is only serving someone with the same goal as himself, but someone much better equipped at carrying it out.
It was a rather touching moment when he picks up Mako and Ryuko, stating that “any student in need is (his) responsibility”, and admiring Mako’s own life philosophy (“Every light is a yellow light on Mako’s road of life”) as advice to “proceed with caution always”. Whether or not this is accurate is unsure. Mako’s words could just as easily mean “rush to never stop”. But it was still very sweet, and it’s clear that Gamagoori, at least far more than Sanegeyama, is a good person fighting for the opposite side.
And that’s really what the best antagonists are. They should strive to be normal people who just happen to be working against our heroes. Gamagoori is filling that role wonderfully.
As a side note, we got a good look at Ryuko’s dad this week. He, too, is missing his right eye. Like a certain other person we know…hmm….