KILL la KILL: Episode 16

Have a seat over there…

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There were really two important things I took from this week’s KILL la KILL. The first (and one everyone wants to talk about) is Satsuki. The second is how the idea of the now-revealed Life Fibers stand up against the greater framework of the series.

I have a suspicion that on both points, I will be living up to my motto.

This was an episode where the villains outshined the heroes, both in and out of universe. …No pun intended.  In animation there is often something called “creative energy”, and it wasn’t just dumped on Satsuki and Ragyou this week, they marinated in it, dunked it a few times for good measure, and then bathed in it to get rid of the icky feelings.

This episode starts right where the last left off, with Satsuki’s retreat. Only now it’s from her angle.  She collapses and Junketsu pulsates and strains against her body.  It’s so bad her kamui has to be hit with a tranquilizer.  Satsuki gets a bathrobe and collapses in her chair.  This is the first time, really, that we have seen Satsuki in a position of vulnerability.  That’s not necessarily to say, weakness, or defeat.  Those are different.  Weakness is the inability to cope, mentally or physically, with your burden.  This has never really been shown to be a problem.  Ryuko may have scored points in her duels against Satsuki, but only this time has it ended in a “draw”. Previously, Ryuko’s victories were merely the fact that she managed to LAND the blow.  But that’s certainly not a result of weakness.

Nor is being “defeated” by Ryuko the same either.  Satsuki still commands her power, and just because you can drill into a cliff face with a diamond drill does not diminish the cliff in any way.

But this is actual vulnerability, that there are limits to Satsuki’s power, and that her body might be wearing thin under the strain of Junketsu. For all we know this has happened every time she removes Junketsu. But now we are privy to it. It is showing us how, even though the heroes have scored victories against her, it seemed like the only way to beat Satsuki was all or nothing.  A MAD option, if you will.  Satsuki could be eradicated by a superior power, or she would triumph, but never have we had the proof that she can be wounded.

Essentially, this is our Empire Strikes Back moment for Satsuki.   In that movie, one of the reasons it had been easier to accept the idea that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father was that we had finally seen Vader himself in a similar position. In A New Hope he was 1) always standing, 2) was never dealt a single blow, and 3) He was extremely calculating, a powerful enforcer type.  The second movie shows him in his medical pod, scars and all (and sitting, a physical representation of his vulnerability, the first time we saw him as such), and Luke manages to land a couple hits with his lightsaber in the conclusion.  Also his obsession, a mental weakness that, frankly, a professional thug, as he had been in the first film, would never have.  These dimensions added much needed depth to the Vader character, and here in KILL la KILL we have finally gotten to “that moment” with Satsuki. And almost all those same points can be struck with Satsuki here.  Maybe not the sitting -exactly-, but this time, it was definitely “I am exhausted,” rather than “I am Satsuki-sama on my throne”.

Speaking of quotation marks…I have been rambling because I’m stalling, yes.  There’s no delicate way to approach many people’s biggest hangup about the episode. I am of course speaking of when Satsuki is brought to her family’s home and…the bath scene.  You can just skip it by, if you want.  And indeed many have been. But I am going to be focusing on it for an uncomfortably long time. Why? My religion is sex and magic. This is like my natural element.

Well let’s let our good friend Mr. Picture settle the matter for us.

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Alright, now, if this scene makes you uncomfortable, I understand. Honestly, I do.

I am not one such person though. Here, allow me to make light of it.

This scene is absolute proof that KILL la KILL’s “fanservice” is phoned in.  If Trigger WANTED to, they could do so much worse (and how, this time).  This was like the animators saying “Oh, you think we’re all about skin and tits? Alright. Let’s show you what that really means,” and proceeded to mind rape the audience. After this I can see the storyboard guys lighting a cigarette and throwing it at the fans, “Don’t talk about shit you don’t know.”

In seriousness, why can’t we just be happy Satsuki has finally found the purest form of love?

Okay, SERIOUS seriousness. It is clear from the -entirety- of the scene that this is Satsuki’s rebirth.  “Did they really have to make a chakra alignment suggestive?” Well, seeing as the second chakra is literally “VAG!”, yeah that’s not unreasonable.  The water also lends itself to baptism, and both ideas are tied to the Hindu religion (we’re only familiar with baptism in the West as it was adopted by a certain Jewish prophet), and in Hinduism sexual energy is considered the most potent form of power.  The idea that older people don’t have the libido of someone who’s 17 is attributed to the fact that the older you get the more you begin channeling it into something productive.  These are actual metaphysical teachings in some schools of thought in India.  So all combined this scene is not as bad as it looks.  And, if I may, KILL la KILL brought up Genesis first so I don’t mind going to it: When I was younger the narrative that we taught everyone was that Adam and Eve fell from grace for having sex.  In the past 20-30 years that narrative has fallen back, as the Evangelical movement, in proof that some days the sun shines even on a dog’s ass, by taking a more literal interpretation of the Bible said “Wait, this can’t be right. Not only does God command them to breed but it doesn’t say specifically there was any sex involved.”  So that old way that I was taught growing up slowly faded. However, I’m gambling Japan didn’t get the memo yet, so if we use that inference, and clothing is a representation of sin (Not the sin itself, but more like its scarlet letter), the absence of it in bathing symbolizes that this is completely innocent.

Or something. Meta humor again, Anna? 

It’s also important in that it shows Satsuki in submission.  NOT having her control stripped from her, mind, but willing submission.  She walks forth into those chains, keeping herself bound like the new opening credits by her own will.  Does she do it out of respect or fear? Are they truly the same thing as Satsuki’s facade would claim?

It also speaks to where Satsuki takes her attitudes from. “No action I perform in the pursuit a pure goal is impure.”  Ragyou takes this to its logical extreme this week.  To purify her daughter’s body she has to touch her in some…”places”.  Big deal.  She probably spears puppies during board meetings.

And this is all because Satsuki is being initiated into adulthood.  It’s finally time for her to learn what the big kids do.  It seems to be contingent on her conquest of the schools and “ending” Nudist Beach.  So was this all just Satsuki’s trial to prove she was a worthy successor and asset?  Either way, she is taken to the original life fiber. She is finally “an adult”. It is the rebirth of her character spiritually, but also narratively, if our assumptions are correct that Satsuki will team up with Ryuko before the end.

Ryuko, meanwhile, has been trying to get past Mikisugi’s beguilement once and for all.  He takes them to the super secret sub-base.  Just kidding! Nudist Beach wasn’t destroyed! (I’m sure Khajata is THRILLED by this development xD).

Let me pause here. You may notice my promised rant isn’t here.  Well, that’s because word count. I have a lot to blab about this week.  So I’m putting my points aside for the series recap, where they will be best handled anyway.  But, let me slip in this one thing.  Even if your show is being bad ironically, it is still being bad.  And that doesn’t change it. And you don’t get special treatment because you are KILL la KILL and you’re full of hope and promise and the milk of action sequences. The fact our big dramatic reveal last episode ended up being entirely moot the successive episode is bad storytelling, and doing it ironically, not even for laughs, still makes it bad storytelling when you are doing a linear series. If KILL la KILL was more episodic, I’d be more forgiving.  But it wants to be a big kid. So I’m going to treat it like a big kid. Clear? Kay. End rant.

Anyway, here, at the REAL base, he explains all! At the same time Ragyou explains it to Satsuki.  And they don’t even cut back and forth between the two. It is literally Sentence A, Scene 1. Sentence A, Scene 2. Sentence B, Scene 1. Sentence B, Scene 2.  Not exactly stellar.  The thing that kept me glued was that the explanation itself is so nebulous I was hoping for something definitive to be said (likely from Ragyou’s end).  But no, they basically shared the same information.

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Life fibers are aliens. Parasitic aliens that use Humanity for their energy.  They attached themselves to homo-sapiens millenia ago, went dormant sometime in what we’d call “late-pre-history”, and now they lie dormant waiting for the chance to emerge, spun into all of Revocs’ clothes.  In fact the habit of clothes comes from these alien life forms.

Incubators, Reapers, Obelisks, Life Fibers. Call them what you will. But aliens are responsible for Humanity’s evolution.

This whole plot is known to you, I’m sure. It has several bases, the most obvious comes to mind in Genesis when God gives humanity power over nature. Responsibility as its steward.  There’s also the “evolutionary gap” that says Homo Sapiens couldn’t have evolved in as quick a time as they did mathematically (about 125,000 years of “speed” on other species, though this may be compensated for interbreeding in early Homo-Sapiens with other distant relative apes, point is it was a big contention years ago). And of course, there are the intellectual qualities of Humanity that are uniquely observed in us.

All of this ties into the theme that for whatever reason, Humanity is “unnatural”. Not that that’s completely untrue. Our moral code, for instance, is in conflict with nature.  We say equal treatment of the sexes. We say no to slavery. We say no to murder. We say no to rape.  These are all things that occur in “nature”, apart from humanity, and yet we have chosen to forego them.  So in this sense yes we are separate of nature.

But I think that implies that Humanity’s -intellect- is itself unnatural.  Which is most certainly not the case.

But it does lend idea to Ragyou’s comments in the greater series that “clothing is sin”. If we deem “sin” as “corruption”, losing the state of purity. Again, it is an imperfect metaphor. But I THINK I see where they were going.

Which I think is the problem with this entire metaphor. Or is it an analogy? There was this theme of “clothing is unnatural!”, which is fine. Honest. Any silly theme is good in my book.  Much like turning girls into liches to harvest their tears.  But I don’t think whoever was at the top for the story articulated this well enough, or didn’t bother to try.  This is either one of two things.  A) they -started- with the “clothes are aliens” bit as a gag, and expanded a universe to it, while trying to poorly fit in symbolism where all the corners were scuffed and require a little extra push to fit inside the holes. Or B) they started with the deep meaning (which if it exists won’t be completely clear until the end) and the wackyness of the series is built around that. Unsure either way, I am guessing it is the former, though.

But whatever the reason, these ideas are imperfect matches. It’s like you want to symbolize nature and virginity and purity.  Artemis is a great stand in for that! But you can’t find Artemis, she’s out of town. But Odin’s right here! Squeeze him into that Artemis dress.  They’re both gods of the hunt, after all! And doesn’t he look pretty now? With his big scraggly beard and mini skirt.

Perhaps my own metaphor is incomplete, but I’m a dipshit writing a blog post in an hour, not writing for a creative endeavor for a year in development and millions of yen invested into it (god I hope the budget was at least 1 million yen but I can’t be sure). The point is that whenever we hear a new way to symbolize the relationship between the characters and clothing in the KILL la KILL universe, it comes out as these half-bent recognizable truths, but not quite, leaving the intended meaning lost in someone’s brain several steps behind the finished product.  Is Odin in a dress supposed to be funny…? Artsy…? A metaphor for gender empowerment? Or did they hastily slap something together and say “close enough”? We don’t know, and I’m starting to suspect the show doesn’t either.

Just final notes, since this was almost entirely an exposition story.

-Mako had a good moment this week where she decided to stick by Ryuko’s side.  She says “I’m not ready to be naked.” There is the idea this may mean she isn’t ready for power, or to fight. But I think it’s more basic than that.  I think Mako just isn’t ready to choose sides.  She has been playing this mostly from the middle so far. She is friends with Ryuko, so she is always by her side, but she still has that awe of Satsuki and is, I dare say, friends with Gamagoori. And she demonstrated a desire to go on the raid trip even though she has no personal investment in Satsuki’s ambitions.  Whatever those are.  But she’s sticking by Ryuko now.  So, “I am not ready to be naked” may be “I am not ready to side with Nudist Beach (and hence be naked)”, “but I am willing to stay by Ryuko’s side.” And of course, she was being fabulous during Mikisugi’s explanation.

-It is unclear if Ragyou is subservient to the life fibers, or has her own master plan.  While Satsuki was busy letting her mom touch her, Ragyou was still wearing her…erm…collar.  Sorry but that’s just what it looks like to someone like me and my….lifestyle…But Ragyou seems to have a personal motivation for whatever is happening.

-I am a fan of the new OP, but I liked the old one better.  There’s a lot of good imagery in the new one, but it just doesn’t excite me like the old one did, and this IS an action show.  But I like how Ryuko and Satsuki’s camps aren’t marching towards each other, but opposite, as if a race for the same goal.

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