So I’m probably never going to do a full review of Kill la Kill, at least not any time soon. My overall thoughts on the show aren’t static enough to form a single comprehensive narrative, so instead I’m going to share them in separate, isolated bits, covering one idea whenever I think that idea’s been more-or-less fully developed. That’s basically what Small Thoughts on Anime is for. So, today on the anime harvest, I’m going to explain one subtext I find in Kill la Kill, interpreting Christian theology between genesis and Jesus’ sacrifice. Quick disclaimer, I am not a religious scholar; this is just a layman’s interpretation of what Kill la Kill seems to be saying. With that, let’s get into it.
This whole thing starts with the bath scene in episode 16. Many people have pointed out that Ragyo’s design is very snake-like, and given the other religious and pseudo-divine imagery and music, I think she’s supposed to represent the snake in the Garden of Eden. She’s a deceiver, a wolf in sheep’s cloth, she tricked the world into wearing covers. And in this scene she’s making Satsuki conscious of her nakedness, teaching her about shame. She says “When we’re naked like this, anxiety overcomes us. It makes us want to hurry up and cover our bodies… That is our instinct.” In the Genesis story, the snake tempts Eve and Adam to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, and once they do they become aware of their nakedness. Adam says, “…I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” In both cases, Ragyo and the snake are working to make people aware of their nakedness, and thus ashamed. For the snake, shame is original sin, and so making humans ashamed damns them. For Ragyo, shame is the reason why people wear the covers which will be the death of them, and so making humans ashamed damns them. So it’s established, within the context of the story, shame is humanity’s original sin.
In Christian theology, the problem of original sin isn’t resolved until the events of the New Testament, namely Christ’s sacrifice of himself. The sacrifice was supposed to be a way to forgive humanity of all sins, “…[Christ] had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever…”, including original sin. In Kill la Kill, this happens in the last episode. I’ve pointed out just how Jesus-y Ryuko and Senketsu are before, but I’ll just go over it here briefly. Jesus was supposedly the human son of god, and was fully divine and also fully human. In episode 24 Ryuko and Senketsu describe themselves as “… neither human nor clothing! But at the same time, we are human, clothing, and everything else.” This is similar to how a lot of people understand the dual nature of Jesus. Ryuko specifically was born as a hybrid of human and cloth, and cloth is at times treated as divinity within the show (though mostly by Ragyo). Senketsu is the same way, made of cloth but made to be human. Together, he and Ryuko fully realize this dual nature of humanity and divinity. The sacrifice in Kill la Kill‘s case is for Senketsu alone though.
Once the sacrifice is complete, Ryuko, Satsuki, and everyone else is left naked, but none of them are ashamed. They’ve been freed of original sin; they’ve been freed of shame. I think this is the core of Kill la Kill‘s message, the show is saying that we shouldn’t feel ashamed, at least, not of nakedness. Instead we should focus on what’s actually important and meaningful, and not let shame distract us from that. This also comes up in the fanservice.
In the early episodes, Ryuko is held back by feeling ashamed by how skimpy Senketsu’s synchronization form is. It gives Satsuki a huge advantage of her in their first fight in episode 3, and Satsuki even criticized her for being “embarrassed over the opinions of the masses”. And Satsuki’s right; this is an important moment for Ryuko, it’s completely ridiculous that she would let herself be held back by something as trivial as having some skin visible. So what if people are staring? That’s not what’s really important right now. In order to fight at her full potential, Ryuko has to stop worrying about that silly crap, and focus on what actually matters. And in order to get good understanding of show like Kill la Kill, we have to stop worrying about the superfluous fanservice, and focus on what really matters.
I’m not saying a show shouldn’t be chastised for heavy fanservice. In reviews I’ve criticised it before, because if it serves no purpose then it’s just distracting and breaks immersion; it can harm a show. But there’s a difference between a review, and examining and interpreting the show. I’ll criticise Gurren Lagann for having too much superfluous fanservice, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that it has meaningful things to say about growing up, evolving as a person, and the state of modern mecha anime. And in the case of Kill la Kill, the fanservice, is actually part of the substance in a subversive way.
I hope I’ve shown that Kill la Kill does have some substance to it. I don’t think it presents it in the best way, or expends on it as much as it could, but this show does have some things to say, and this is just one. Don’t let shame distract you from what really matters, and as always
Don’t Lose Your Way.