This might be my last Kill la Kill post for a while, but who knows? I may catch even more things once I get the DVDs and rewatch it for the third time.
I’ve found multiple examples of characters and plot elements in Kill la Kill aligning nicely with Christian theology or presenting interesting, perhaps irreverent, spins on it. Eschatology isn’t uniquely Christian, but Kill la Kill’s final episode and its OVA do fit with some basic ideas of Christian eschatology.
When Christians talk about already/not yet, we’re typically referring to how Christ’s death and resurrection already brought God’s kingdom (or kin-dom) to Earth, yet it’s still not yet fulfilled since we’re living in a post-resurrection, pre-second coming time. In other words, we’ve seen a glimpse of a new era in Christ’s death and resurrection, meaning it exists and is present, but we’re moving ever-toward it. The United Church of Christ’s slogan “God is still speaking” succinctly states this concept.
This, more so than apocalyptic imagery, is what I find the most compelling about the themes in Kill la Kill’s final episodes (although some easy parallels exist between more literal interpretations of Revelation and Kill la Kill).
I’ve mentioned in some of my other posts that certain plot elements or character philosophies carry this weight of already/not yet. Satsuki, for instance, is firmly grounded in her present reality while her mind and soul fully embrace and espouse her ambitions, giving her beliefs about herself that spare her the subjugation of the system she runs and the system(s) that oppress(es) her.
Specifically, Satsuki’s ambitions toward a world without Ragyo are so strong that she inadvertently denies the power of the male gaze that literally surrounds her as she fights Ryuko in episode 3. She conceptualizes a view of power in nudity (or bearing her breasts, as she says) that’s so subversive of the societal context in which she lives that it becomes liberative for her, and I think a part of her may be trying to convince Ryuko to adopt this same framework. In a post-Ragyo world, there is no shame in nudity. The shame or spectacle of nudity is, for Satsuki, a value of the masses that she has already surpassed in her own right, but not yet achieved for the rest of the world. It’s in this imperfection that audiences feel tension. Theoretically, Satsuki or any woman should be free to be naked (if she wants to) without the fear of harassment or sexualization and perhaps that could be a reality when eras shift, but is it the case now? No, not yet. Not in Kill la Kill’s universe and not in our own world.
Another such imperfection exists in Ryumako. As I’ve made clear in the past, I ship it, so I’m bound to see something positive or redeemable in it no matter what. However, you can see from the discussion in this post that Ryumako might not be as healthy, fulfilled, or complete as I initially analyzed.
Whether Ryumako is problematic because Ryuko’s dismissive of Mako and Mako idolizes Ryuko too much, or Ryumako is just at the beginning stages of something more substantial, I think it’s safe to say that their relationship is definitely in progress. But it already has elements of the illogical dedication that subverts Ragyo’s system while not yet being something they fully understand or the ideal queer relationship. Only when Ragyo’s system is upturned can this develop into something substantial, but this development has already started.
It’s only in Kill la Kill’s last episodes that this theme of growing up surfaces and the clearest example of that is in Senketsu’s death. He urges Ryuko to find clothes that are cuter than him as he dissipates in a blaze. He dies with the old era while Ryuko lives on in the new era.
But by now, Ryuko and Senketsu have affirmed and declared their dual nature as both/neither human and clothing. This divine illogic of both and neither together parallels already/not yet. Just as we can’t understand how something could be both/neither, we also have trouble understanding how something can be already/not yet. If Ryuko and Senketsu are truly one in the same, then it’s not just Senketsu who dies, but also Ryuko yet at the same time, Ryuko lives. The loosest Christ parallel exists here (and I may as well point it out given that I’ve suggested it more strongly in the past) if only because Christ’s death followed by life signals a change in eras just as Senketsu’s death and Ryuko’s life is a transition into the next era. Plus, Senketsu isn’t truly dead if he is the same as Ryuko and Ryuko lives.
As you can probably tell, words and logic are beginning to fail me now either because I’m reading too much into this or because divine illogic is making its case (or maybe both). In anycase, talking about Senketsu’s death by brilliant flames reminds me of a line that mewithoutYou uses in a couple of their songs. Bear with me for a moment because I think this question “Why not be utterly changed into fire?” might further ground this interpretation I’m trying to make.
So, that line references The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, one of which goes like this:
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can
I say my little rule of prayer, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace
and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?”
Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven.
His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will,
you can become all flame.”
And in “The King Beetle on the Coconut Estate,” which I did connect to Gurren Lagann, this question of becoming flame, or being utterly changed into fire, comes directly after the other insects on the Coconut Estate proclaim that “our beloved’s not dead, but his highness instead has been utterly changed into fire.” The King Beetle, basically, is a God/Christ figure who “dies” but actually is transformed (or perhaps transfigured) and this transformation leads to lasting change in the physical world. The King Beetle likely lives on, metaphysically, but his death/transformation may have placed him in that eschatological future. “Becoming flame” is a transcendent act rather than a strict death.
The same might be said for Senketsu who, quite literally, becomes fire. It follows that Ryuko, too, becomes fire. Yet she stays while Senketsu goes, making it so that whatever they are in their combined nature is both already in the type of world that’s to come, but also not yet there.
Undoubtedly, Ryuko’s time with Senketsu has permanently changed her and permanently changed the world. If Ryuko/Senketsu are understood as a Christ figure in any form, Ryuko embodies the “Christ still with us even after resurrection and ascension” while Senketsu embodies the “Christ who has already gone ahead to prepare the way.” The parallel isn’t perfect because it really seems like Ryuko and Senketsu split in episode 24 while most Christians don’t conceptualize that Christ split himself to both stay with the disciples and also ascend.
Return to Eden
Ryuko falls to the earth completely naked, is caught by a naked Satsuki, and finally comes to rest in a naked cuddle pile of every major character in the series. While this scene is a little silly and over the top in true Kill la Kill fashion, it also presents the realization of two ideals about nudity: that it can exist, especially in the female form, without being subjected to sexualization, and that it can exist without being shameful or an indicator of powerlessness. This is what nudity was before the Fall and before Ragyo twisted Genesis 3 to enforce a clothes-power/nudity-powerless construct. The nudity in this scene signals the start of a new era without Ragyo where her values and methods are no longer dominant. However, while all the characters are already in this new era, many are not yet healed or ready for it.
The OVA shows us a Satsuki who has lost her spark. With her entire life’s purpose completed, she has no idea what to do with herself now. Likewise, Hououmaru Rei is still stuck in the past and uses the remaining scraps of Ragyo’s technology to create shadow versions of Satsuki and the Elite Four. These versions are their past selves and although they’re no longer the same people, they’re still integral parts of these characters’ identities, especially Satsuki’s. The truth is, Satsuki just isn’t Satsuki if she isn’t an eloquently spoken leader and warrior. So, these past selves are not only formidable opponents, but also tempting forms to return to.
But they, including Rei, are all products of Ragyo’s system and belong in an era that has already been upturned. Rei’s dependence on and reverence of Ragyo is a result of Ragyo’s role as a pale savior (another indicator that Ragyo represents the West). I say “pale savior” because as much as Ragyo adopts Western styles and economic practices, she’s still Japanese and therefore not white. For Rei to “grow up” from Ragyo like the others do, she has to realize that she’s an independent person and has value outside of what Ragyo provided for her and how Ragyo shaped her. CG of Black Girl in Media has a great analysis of Rei.
With Ragyo gone and Honnouji Academy decommissioned, everyone goes their separate ways to pursue new paths and we get the sense that things will be somewhat calm and normal. Satsuki’s hair cutting is a resolute acceptance of this change. While the slowdown will likely give Ryuko enough pause to actually face the losses, traumas, and abuses she has endured, maybe she’ll also have time to figure out just what exactly she feels for Mako. What already exists between them has space to grow now (unless a new enemy arises or Ragyo somehow isn’t dead).
All of the characters are still just at the beginning of this post-Ragyo world, so it’s not clear what will change or if this new world will more closely match the kind of world they all fought for.
And that’s where Kill la Kill leaves us. We’re given a glimpse of a world without Ragyo and hints of how the characters will continue on in this world that they’ve both saved and created.