The woefully idiocentric and completely crazy amine, kill la Kill finally ended its season a few weeks back and I’m still trying to determine whether the show is the most blatantly sexist, otaku pandering bullshit or some sort of brilliant parody of the genre and it’s culture. The one thing I know is that the creators feel comfortable with their show in such a way that it does reflect so well on the culture surrounding it. So is it genius that deserves to be a new cult classic or a perverse, and often times intelligible sexist dribble that needs to be buried.
Oh, and holy shit I just wrote a tonne of word spam
The popularity of anime seems to be a fickle thing at times. The culture itself really can’t decide on the exact components that it wants its shows, stories and characters to represent and there is a variety of genres there that tailor themselves towards specific populations yet gain mass appeal. My first impressions of kill la Kill was that it was going to be another Magical girl type show that had forsaken its heritage to appeal to a larger population by flashing an abundance of tits and ass.
It is a very well-known demographic inside Japan and not marketing to that crowd doesn’t seem a rather easy thing to do, especially from a business perspective. Are here, I do see Fan-service in its most blatant form at times but there is something about Kill la Kill that makes it more than that. It seems very much aware of its intentions: each costume, camera shot and ridiculous plot point is ridiculous but not just because of some marketing intentions. It’s aware of the culture itself that surrounds the genre and plays these stereotypes against itself. It’s using such images to first gain that attention but then to satirise its use through a variety of means that are intended to mock or make viewers think about their own ideas on it.
The characters are not oblivious to their appearance nor do they fully accept it. In the beginning it is even a point of both amusement to some and painful embarrassment to others. Even when the plot point is made regarding the armors bare all nature it is purposefully made mock worthy, unrealistic to the point of absurdity. It’s referencing and pointing out the ridiculous nature of shows before it as well as how it uses such themes itself.
While it might seem at first like the main character is the butt of the joke, quite literally, that is only the surface of it. The majority of the characters and people who make up the scenery are mere background noise and it seems, a reflection of popular culture. They are a nondescript group following some sort of herd mentality that people apart from the group notice as some sort of lesser thing. It is holding up a magnifying glass to the otaku hordes and lampooning this ridiculous obsessive culture, the hero worship and salivation over scantily clad females.
Those beyond such things seem almost godly at times and non human in comparison but with the wealth of dialogue and character development we see that they are far more human than the rest. A group guided by personal goals with their own personal failings, a group that is connected by more than just a common ideology. This relationship itself between the two groups is exemplified in the relationship between Ryuuko and the Mankanshoku family
In the beginning stages we see the all too common perverted nature of a couple of them. The lust over flesh and the feminine form; the panty peeker and other very childish perversities. It is meant to repel the viewer but is also, once again an over-exaggeration of such a culture. This is met with a tirade of physical and verbal assault but , for the most part, it remains.
Eventually something changes within the group in a personal way during Ryuuko’s stay with them. They become a family in a way and it’s obviously hard to look at someone in that way when you’ve formed a relationship with them. A lesson for life really. It’s much easier to disrespect when you place yourself apart from others and neither understand or empathise with them. The real transformations seems to eventually come when the players eventually cast aside the roles of culture and become their own personal. The scene itself is very much a rebirth for the group and we’ll, society in general as we no longer see such herd mentality afterwards.
The male character in this show seem to get an equal treatment, each having an amount of revealing or strangely sexual garments. They reveal certain characteristics of the body, screen time focuses on these points and the outfits themselves are a mix of skin-tight and even a whole Gimp outfit. For many parts they’ve deliberately exaggerated the male form, in every essence and even put in parts of rather vulnerable scenarios. Somehow, apart from the anal rape scene, it is actually well designed to remain with the purpose and vision of the show which continues its aim to parody the culture.
The moments the male characters get are sometimes even more blatantly shown then that of the female transformations. Every time Aikuro gets some screen time his poses remind me of those created for the Hawkeye effect, a tumblr movement that mimics many female styles for a certain male character. It is showing the absurdity of such poses in a more masculine form and Kill la kill does this brilliant in some incredibly exaggerated scenes.
What’s more interesting in many of these fights is how well they play against both feelings of seduction and repulsion with its specific audience. It will go from cheekily whipping a girls ass one moment to male self-flagellation and acts of masochism the next. It is also extremely violent in many of its encounters, treating both genders, in particular it’s protagonist violently and we often don’t see such blatant disregard for female characters as we do here. It is constantly shifting its focus to disorient or disgust, depending on its aim at the time. It leaves you wondering what its true intentions are throughout or whether it just delights in confusing people and pushing cultural hot buttons.
The continued perversion of anime tropes even goes so far as manipulating the feeling of kawaii, or insanely cute characters. Nui is the embodiment of such a cultural standard that is then twisted of its original intentions of the word and its application into something quite repulsive, and I guess that was it’s aim with most themes in general. To warp what is known, to play with the rules and stereotypes that guide the culture and unravel them at the same time. To revel in the ridiculousness of what these stereotypes stand for.
Then there is the act of being dis-robed that in itself has become some sort of transitory period for many of the characters. For some reason, even though they are completely naked it seems like a far less overt and sexual than when they are in their outfits. It is a more human time for them and one of freedom when they are put aside from the troubles of the world. Set aside from both the hordes of strangers and those under the influence of cultural pressures.
These aren’t the only instances of nudity either, during the entire series there seems to be an abundance of it at every turn. Equality in every regard here and it even seems to delight in highlighting the male parts in that weird purple glow. As the show progresses such times mean even less, and the story and characters mostly ignore and continue on with their own ideas and goals. Even the overtly sexualised scenes with the godrobes lessen and become more a rote activity closing in towards the end of the series.
Of course this ties into the plot point of the clothes themselves trying to consume their owner, is that the cultural forces that pressure them into submission? Probably not but there is some hidden meaning there. A lot of people seem to be claiming the show is some giant metaphor for puberty and such and I can see how this message is portrayed at points. There are themes of transition in a state of being and rebirth of form but in my mind it’s more a secondary part to my feelings of parity.
More than any of this though, I think the reason why the show resonates so much with me, enough to overlook many of its failings is because of the relationships between many of the characters are so well-developed. They are a diverse group, personifying many human characteristics that make them far more relatable. It’s the relationship you see between them that grows throughout the series; it makes you care and want to learn more about them. It’s community, and family and those become very powerful themes for Kill la Kill. It doesn’t go near far enough at times, preferring the more action orientated approach but the underlying theme is there.
Even though it does have many good points, and seems to actively twist and warp the very culture it represents there is a point where the blatant and pervasive tits, ass, and perverse approach becomes a little too much. And then on top of that are those intensely sexual scenes, the implied rape and the incesstious mother-daughter relationship that approaches my boundaries of contempt. Was that really needed for the story and characters to progress? There is a point when making satire and parody that it ceases to be and becomes but a representation of the culture and stereotypes it was trying to mimic. Did Kill la Kill go that far?.. I’m not sure.
#Anime #KillLaKill #Sexism