KILL la KILL: Episode 17

…Fucking yawn.

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I’ve spent the past couple days really thinking about why this episode bored the hell out of me.  After all, my record’s in the menu there: I have been waiting for this episode for a long time.

I thought at first perhaps that was the problem. I know anticipation is a problem, and when the very limited series blurb, now about a year ago in advance, warns you about the hero and villain teaming up (subtlety clearly not being Trigger’s strong suit), can you really expect a series to hold up against all those months of waiting?

But I think it goes deeper than that.  It’s actually a huge irony that this episode’s name is “Tell Me Why”, here, allow me to explain.

The episode wastes no time winking at the camera about this turn of events. Our very first scene is Satsuki’s return and her discussion with her Elite Four. “IS IT TAIM GAIZ?” “YA IT’S TAIM!”  Okay, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this at first, but they just. Keep. Doing it.

Cutting back to last week where we left a naked Ryuko and Senketsu being stared down by Kinagase. Naturally, Mako steps in and effortlessly disarms the pair. Hence proving no power in the universe can resist her charms.

But back on the surface, Mikisugi provides us some exposition. It seems Kinagase’s sister was the proto-Ryuko. She was involved in a lot of Isshin’s early life fiber experiments, but they ultimately backfired and killed her.  But she was loyal to Nudist Beach to the end, her very last words were to continue.  And now it’s even more apparent why Kinagase has always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder regarding Ryuko and Senketsu.  We knew someone important to him died, but this stings deeper than that.  Ryuko is succeeding where his dear sister failed.  His sister was imperfect, but Ryuko is doing just fine.  It’s why he has that snub in his voice when Ryuko goes berserk, or really whenever Ryuko does something that endangers Nudist Beach. “See? Knew it. You aren’t better than her.”

Satsuki and her butler (I still don’t know his name >.>) are talking, as they are want to do.  Though this is more personal.   We see that Satsuki considers the conversation with her father about “her wedding dress” is what sparked this all for her.

Hm…that was the first day Alfred here made her tea?  Odd. And even in Satsuki’s memory her father’s face is always obscured, faded from memory.  Is that the day he died?  Wake up, go with your dad to see your Kamui, mom kills dad by feeding him to the space ball of yarn or something, and then your butler Walter here takes you home? Don’t know, it’s all speculation.

In a cute moment Satsuki lets slip that the tea she once found bitter is now pleasant to her senses.  Norman balks, as Satsuki always said she enjoyed it. “I suppose I was nicer back then,” reinforcing that this was the loss of her innocence.

Gamagoori is busy prepping the community for the Culture Festival.  Not just the school, the entire town.  Distributing uniforms and what have you.  Even the Mankanshoku family, despite their daughter being a traitor.  Gamagoori’s expressions dealing with Mako’s crazy family are priceless. Reconsider them as in-laws dude. Huehuehue.

So now we get told “the real plan” by Mikisugi. Ragyo is going to test her life fiber unleash or what not on the populace in Honnouji Academy.

We also see Ragyo’s purpose in letting Satsuki play her reindeer games.  While it does serve her interests in the direct way, thwarting corporate competitors and disarming Nudist Beach (supposedly), the true purpose it seems was to let everyone know that REVOCS clothes turn you into a superhero, so even terrorists and other anti-establishment groups, who would turn their noses up at the next hip thing, preferring the old ways, etc, would use them, even if only for practicality.

And what’s the most anti-establishment group of them all? Teenagers.  Clever, KILL la KILL, you win this round.

I like how Nui echoes Ryuko’s comments about Ragyo and Satsuki, how they are basically the same.  They’re even just as insulting in their own ways.  Because Nui is only interested in Ryuko right now.  She even laments the loss of the teen demographic, as by injecting a little anti-establishment chaos they make the world “fun”.  Ragyo either misses this or chooses to let it slide.

Ryuko wants to leave Mako behind while she, Mikisugi, and Kinagase raid Honnouji, but Mako refuses. She’s sticking with Ryuko.  The power of girl love.

Satsuki’s preparations are complete. She summons the elite four (plus that one tailor guy, who is also on the student council, the more you know!) and they toast to the festival’s success…and then smash their cups on the floor.  Yes. Satsuki’s forces are going to war.

The next day, Ragyo makes her appearance. In what I am simply going to call a Lady Gaga Cosplay.

She trades some small banter with the elite four. My favorite is with Inumuta. There is the temptation to say she’s being dismissive, but I’m going to give Ragyo the benefit of the doubt and say, as someone who finds Humanity boring and sheepish, those who act against that society and do so successfully are probably unique and beautiful to her.  Possibly the reason she tolerates Nui’s bullshit.  I think also reinforced when she calls Senketsu “beautiful” despite the fact she looks down on it.

Ragyo then literally pushes a big red button to cause all of the life fibers to activate and “consume” their hosts. Though right now they just look like cocoons.

Ryuko and company arrive just too late, storming the stadium in…fine…a DTR.

And then…DRAMATIC SCENE! In arguably the bloodiest scene of the series, Satsuki impales her mother and crucifies her. “As of this moment, Kiryuin Satsuki and Honnouji Academy are in rebellion against you!”.  Subtlety, thy name is Trigger. I mean the Honnouji name, we…we kind of got the rebellion thing when you shoved the sword through her torso and lifted her over your head.

The only real bit of information is that Ragyo asks if Satsuki expects to replace her.  Satsuki says that’s not true. She’s in it for her new zeitgeist, not to claim her mother’s empire as her own.

But otherwise…I dunno…why should I care?

I do fully expect Ryuko to miss the fucking point and attack Satsuki, enabling Ragyo to get away.  Or maybe secretary lady will pull an Owen in Gargoyles and start beating their asses while her boss makes an exit.

We’re just about 3/4 of the way through the series. And that timing actually leaves me with a good parallel to draw here. So allow me to indulge.

Let’s go stateside for a moment for a character who is pretty comparable to Satsuki in a lot of ways, though certainly not identical.

Prince Zuko from Avatar: TLA.

Now, it was fairly obvious by episode 3 who was going to teach Aang to Firebend in that series.  Zuko was an exile from his homeland, seemed to have a good, honorable influence in his uncle, and if anything certainly proved he could fight against fellow Fire Nation when the situation called for it.

And this was all revealed quite early in.

Yet Zuko never stopped being an -antagonist-.  Though those shades laid the groundwork for his heel-face turn, he was still a bad guy.  And demonstrated to be quite a cruel person in his own right.

But most importantly, we had The Storm, episode 1.12.  This episode explains why Zuko was banished, not just the fact he was. It’s because he values human life, in short.  A little more complicated of course but for simplicity in this post.  So these ideals that guided Zuko despite the wickedness of the family and generals around him informed us about his character. And Zuko didn’t turn coat until 40 episodes later.

I am not informed at all about Satsuki’s character. I don’t know why she’s doing what she does.  I don’t know her values. I don’t know her thoughts. Because the camera is always rolling.  She ALWAYS refers to Ragyo as “oka-sama”, even when plotting her little rebellion.  The mask is always up.  I have not seen the true Satsuki. I have not seen her true values, and what values she holds just because it fits with the persona she’s trying to sell to Ragyo.

There are hints, and theories to be had, such as her father and the fact she overrides Junketsu instead of synchronizing.  But none of this makes sense.

It is too late in the series for me to still be baffled by Satsuki’s actions.  That grace period has come and gone. Putting the cart before the horse and ending with a cliffhanger and then explaining it is foolish.

Not to say it isn’t salvageable. I may end up feeling the later episodes redeem this series.  I’m certainly not dropping KILL la KILL, there is so much good here still even if I am frustrated.

But I have seen ONE good example of death-bed characterization. Snape in Harry Potter.  But I don’t think KILL la KILL has the structure, or frankly, writing prowess to pull off back-ending Satsuki’s development to the final few episodes.

And really, I was just bored this week.  How can I be bored when all the great things we wanted are finally happening?  This episode’s name was “Tell Me Why”, and yet I feel I haven’t been told jack.

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