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Kill la Kill: Shounen Characters Reimagined

Whether you think Kill la Kill is shounen or not, it can't be denied that it does play out like one. Its characters can be seen as twists to classic archetypes, and we now look into what makes them tick.

by avoiderdragon
Sep 1, 2015 3:39 AM | 1,382 views

Ryuuko Matoi

Kill la Kill: Ryuuko Matoi

Ryuuko is a seventeen-year-old girl who stands at medium height and sports shoulder-length hair with a red highlight on her left side. She normally wears a black and white jacket with rolled-up sleeves over a simple white shirt with a red ribbon tie, black miniskirt, and white sneakers. Her look mixes femininity and childlike pep with a bit of rebelliousness, which then gets coupled with the big red Scissor Blade slung over the shoulder.

The outfit then gets replaced by Senketsu, who looks bold in navy blue with red and yellow highlights. Then there's the red gauntlet on her left hand for activating Senketsu by drawing her blood, which she would wear all the time except when she changes into her bunny pajamas at bedtime. She is perhaps the most straightforwardly archetypal character in the show. She is brash and headstrong, yet also easily flustered. Her brave facade belies a sensitivity that only Mako and a few others get to see in the most dramatic of times.

She is pretty much a standard shounen character in most respects, except maybe in gender. Her growth is a quick upward climb during the first half of the show, but she then faces her weaknesses and insecurities in during the second. Her biggest weakness were made apparent during Nui Harime's appearance in episode 11. Due to her consistently short fuse, she tends to fly into a rage and charge in without thinking when sufficiently taunted. She fights with instinct and chest-thumping zeal, not with wit and tactical caution.

She also reaches low points at times like in episode 13, when she doubted her self-control. While her recovery would play out rather predictably, with her getting really depressed but just needing someone to talk sense into her, it's not like she completely loses her willpower. Even in episode 21, when she has been brainwashed and made to wear Junketsu, she had retained enough of her will to break out of it, most likely due to her hatred for Life Fibers. While she lacks in mindfulness, her stubbornness does lend to her mental toughness that only multiplies with each conquered challenge.

This character development is fairly similar to that of other shounen heroes; her powering up in the first half is mindlessly fun to watch and her struggles in the second half are quite compelling. When compared to other shounen heroes, she ends up differently. While Son Goku remains the most powerful warrior in the universe, Naruto becomes Hokage, and Luffy (presumably) becomes the King of Pirates, Ryuuko loses her main source of power at the end of the show as the price for ultimately defeating the enemy.

Other than that, she also has a weakness for cute things. Even if she comes off as a hardcore sword-swinging combatant, she's a warmhearted girl inside. Aside from revenge, her greatest desire is to belong in a family. Having to go on her own after the death of her father, growing up not knowing her mother, and generally being a loner has toughened her. But behind that hardness is a hole in her heart waiting to be filled with the warmth of hearth and home.

Being befriended by Mako and housed by the Mankanshoku's gave Ryuuko her first taste of living with a family. Episode 7 further illustrates this longing when the Mankanshoku's started becoming more distant for a while. But while she truly appreciates the hospitality, she also feels guilt for what she feels is freeloading.


Kill la Kill: Senketsu Protecting Ryuuko

He is an article of female clothing that talks. It may seem like that's all there is to him, but he turns out to be a deeper character if you can get past his being an anthropomorphic school uniform. He looks very different from other sailor fuku in the show, being navy blue with red and yellow highlights. He has what looks like a left eye formed by the neck scarf and an eye patch on his right. The blouse forms the upper parts of his face and mouth, while the skirt serves as his lower jaw.

His soul is pretty much in the scarf, as shown in episode 14. As Ryuuko's main source of power, as well as her confidant, Senketsu is both a voice of reason and a brother-in-arms. Activating his power requires Ryuuko's blood to be drawn via the red gauntlet called the Sekki Tekko, and he can then become more powerful when the user unlocks his enhanced modes, like Senketsu Kisaragi.

Despite their dismal first meeting, they soon grow to trust each other deeply. She had been reluctant to depend on an external source of power to carry out her mission, but she soon realized that Senketsu is as much a part of it as she is.
He is the extension of Isshin Matoi's will, having been made to be worn by his daughter. In a way, he even becomes a father figure to Ryuuko, bonding with her over time.

While he can converse with Ryuuko, no one else can hear his voice. He feels lonely whenever Ryuuko isn't wearing him, most likely a characteristic of being a sentient piece of clothing and being designed to be worn by her. He and his non-sentient counterpart Junketsu are like light and dark, yin and yang, loud and silent, and so on in both appearance and character. This theme of duality is rife in the show, from the Kamui to the two main characters. But while they oppose each other at first, they then join forces once the real enemies show themselves.

There are times when Ryuuko would not want to wear him due to either doubt or distrust. It takes a lot from her to draw power from an external source, and Senketsu does seem to understand that at some degree. It's this understanding that lets him somehow get through to her stubbornness. After the events of episode 21, when Ryuuko lamented on being a "Life Fiber monster" herself, he somehow convinced her to team up again even after the trouble she caused.

That scenario also showed that he's not above letting someone else wear him if absolutely necessary, with Satsuki donning him to fight the brainwashed Ryuuko, despite him disliking Satsuki. When she failed to stop Ryuuko's Junketsu-enhanced rage, he is then lent to Mako in order to snap Ryuuko out of her trance. While he's supposedly an implement of battle, he isn't above diplomacy and compromise, even when the situation seems hopeless.

Perhaps his greatest weakness is being washed by hand, which is always a horrifying experience for him. Since no one else can hear his voice, his cries of pain are unheard when Sukuyo Mankanshoku scrubs him, even when Ryuuko pleads that her uniform need not be washed. On the other hand, being ironed feels soothing for him.

Satsuki Kiryuuin

Kill la Kill: Satsuki Kiryuuin

She is of regal standing in just about every aspect, from her appearance and mannerisms to her overall demeanor. She is tall and slim, has long hair with a fringe, and a sharp look in her eyes that seem to always look down at whoever dares to speak to her. She also has thick eyebrows behind the fringe, which further accentuates her usual scowl. As the student council president in Honnouji Academy, she shows absolutely no compromise in all fronts.

Always in white, she seems to present herself as superior to everyone else. She calls those beneath her "pigs in human clothing," which has become a tagline of the show. While she comes off as a ruthless dictator among the students of Honnouji, she turns face later in the series and becomes a heroine herself. You can say she is Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z with a smaller stick up the bottom. But unlike the Prince of Saiyans, she is calmer and has a considerable measure of actual authority.

Despite being depicted as such at first, she is far from a cruel tyrant. While she is indeed staunch and domineering, she is also benevolent; the Elite Four owe their station to her and their loyalty is well-deserved. But she is indeed intimidating and swift with her own brand of justice; those who displease her are dealt with accordingly and those who oppose her are given no quarter.

She is a fighting leader, not hesitating to step in and draw her sword Bakuzan when either challenged or there being no one else to do so. When she does fight, she shows poise and precision, which juxtaposes Ryuuko's fury and intensity. Behind her discipline is her tremendous mental fortitude, which enables her to bend Junketsu to her will, despite her actual inability to fully resist Life Fibers.

As expected, she's pretty much Ryuuko's polar opposite in most respects; the yang to her yin, similar to their respective Kamui. While Ryuuko is fire, Satsuki is ice—calm and controlled. She is patient and willing to bide her time when a plan calls for it, like when she sprung the trap on her megalomaniac mother Ragyo in episode 17. Despite them being different up front, they actually have more in common with each other than they realize.

Like Ryuuko, Satsuki also yearns to belong in a family as well. She grew up without her father, her mother is more of an authority figure than a mother, and she thought of her baby sister as dead. Being the go-getter that she is, she made her own family in a way with her butler Soroi and the Elite Four. Despite her seemingly cold front, there are tiny slivers of emotion that appear through little cracks. Deep within her cold and hard exterior, she does care for other people.

In the end, she finally lets her hair down (or off) and bonds with Ryuuko and Mako, thus they all become a family of their own. Cutting her hair short symbolizes her shedding of the past and becoming more open as a person.

Mako Mankanshoku

Kill la Kill: Mako Mankanshoku

She is an odd sort, to say the least, but perhaps that's why she has become one of the most beloved of all the Kill la Kill characters by fans. She is Ryuuko's biggest cheerleader and perennial source of positivity throughout the show. Her most notable feature is the short bobbed brown hair that goes with her big brown eyes and round face. She mostly wears the Honnouji Academy no-star uniform, which is constantly belittled by her schoolmates through most of the series.

She is an underachiever in Honnouji Academy, as Elite Four member Nonon Jakuzure teased her. She is pretty much average in most respects as a student, usually shown sleeping in class and gobbling down snacks in her spare time. She lives in the slums of the city and had grown up poor with her family, which explains her predilection for food and money. They did attain wealth in episode 7, which showed how their obsession with it can make them drift apart as a result.

She can be quite clingy, which annoyed Ryuuko when they first met. But they grew closer over time and became best friends, with Mako becoming Ryuuko's support throughout the series. Main characters in shounen usually have some form of superhuman ability that puts them above the rest, but Mako is one who is ordinary in most respects, but with a spirit that rivals the best of them. She doesn't fight, but her spunk and energy is what makes her stand out over other characters.

Despite her apparent mediocrity, she eventually shows her true mettle in various situations, being fearless and able to voice her opinions to those who are supposedly her superiors, although without thoroughly disrespecting their authority. As Ryuuko's best friend, she keeps the brash heroine grounded and relaxed. Without her, Ryuuko would pretty much lose her way in her quest for revenge.

She did get a two-star Goku Uniform from Satsuki for a while in episode 7 due to Ryuuko's "Fighting Club," which enabled her to actually fight and help her family prosper. At the end of that episode, she then gives the uniform to Ryuuko, who proceeded to cut it up for Senketsu to absorb its Life Fibers, perhaps to give back to her dear friend. Despite not really being depicted as powerful throughout the series, it is implied that she has a rather unusual affinity for Life Fibers.

Gamagoori of the Elite Four seems to interact with her in a certain way. They eventually form a friendship of sorts wherein the Honnouji enforcer can't really ignore her and seems to put in extra effort to look after her safety. Despite his intimidating size and presence, she would stand up to him when he says something she doesn't agree with. This must have gotten to him in a way, and he soon acknowledged her as more than just the underachiever his fellow Elite Four member regards her as.

It's hard to imagine Kill la Kill without Mako. Maybe the series could have still worked, but it would have been really bland without her. Most importantly, Ryuuko couldn't have had as much direction in her battles if it weren't for Mako.

Aikurou Mikisugi

Kill la Kill: Aikurou Mikisugi

He is introduced as a clumsy slacker of a homeroom teacher in Honnouji Academy, but is then revealed later as the leader of the rebel group Nudist Beach. He is the book that likes to be misjudged for its cover before opening up its pages like how he sheds his clothes while in the middle of supposedly serious exposition.

As a teacher, he is scraggly, hides his face with large reflective glasses, and has bad posture. As his true self, he is tall, his blue hair is swept back, and revealed to be young and handsome. He also seems to give off a pink glow from his nipples, especially when he tends to pose like a supermodel. While he may have a flair for such theatrics, he is serious about fighting for his cause under Nudist Beach.

Ryuuko finds this eccentricity and flirtatiousness very disconcerting, and she often yells at him for always exposing himself in front of her. But despite her reluctance to either trust him or take him seriously, Aikurou feels responsible for her due to having worked under her father and Nudist Beach founder Isshin Matoi. He is also very committed to the cause of taking down Revocs Corporation and COVERS, along with the tyranny brought on by Life Fibers.

He gets miffed when Ryuuko points out how ridiculous the name of Nudist Beach is, which shows how much he takes pride in the organization. Perhaps you can say that Aikurou is Che Guevara with a six pack or a more flamboyant James Bond. He is resourceful, having been able to infiltrate Honnouji Academy and remain in disguise for a considerable amount of time. Despite having been a teacher only as a cover, he does care for his former students, including Mako who he often talks to quite casually.

Funny enough, his disguised form looks fairly similar to his Japanese voice actor Shinichiro Miki's other role, Kisuke Urahara from Bleach. He also has an adverse reaction whenever the Nudist Beach battle mechs are referred to as "Dotonbori Robo," insisting that they be called "DTR" instead.

Hannouji Academy Elite Four

Kill la Kill: The Elite Four

Ira Gamagoori

He is an imposing figure, although to the point of being exceedingly so that there must now be a "Gamagoori Rule" which states that no one can ever be physically bigger than Gamagoori. With short blonde hair, thick eyebrows, and a large build, he has a stern look and an intimidating presence that let him do his job as the disciplinary committee chair quite well.

He can be seen as a samurai, willing to do whatever it takes to serve and please his Satsuki-sama. As the most outwardly loyal member of the Elite Four, he is shown as the most serious and responsible member, much to the chagrin of the other three. Despite crisis and disaster, he would stand unmoved, which reflects his fighting style enabled by his superhuman strength.

His Three-Star Goku Uniform is the Shackle Regalia, which enables a rather defensive of fighting. He increases his power by getting hit, which turns his defense into a powerful offense. However, he would take it further by flagellating himself deliberately to achieve the same effect, which is a rational response to an opponent not attacking him upon realizing that attacking him would only make him stronger.

But once he really does need to attack rather than just sit their and willingly tank damage, he would then transform into the Scourge Regalia, which unleashes an explosive area-of-effect attack from all the damage he previously took, similar to the move Bide in Pokemon. His durability and willingness to be hurt makes him both a formidable opponent and a dependable ally.

He also has a rather interesting relationship with Mako Mankanshoku. Seeing her as another No-Star student at first, he then gained some respect for her due to her lack of fear, despite her lack of power. This respect then grew into a sort of dedication towards her, and it's implied that he has developed romantic feelings for her.

Uzu Sanageyama

He is the member most likely to turn rogue due to his warrior nature. He has medium-length green hair and grey eyes, the latter being a big part of his power Tengantsu that lets him predict his opponents' movements during a fight. As the chairman of the academy's athletic committee, he matches his cockiness with great physical prowess.

In battle, he dons the Blade Regalia, a special Three-Star Goku Uniform that enhances his sword-fighting skills. He also resembles a samurai like Gamagoori, but he is more of the type that is willing to make whatever sacrifice in order to defeat an opponent. This is especially the case in episode 6 when he had his precious eyes taken out, an act that impresses Satsuki enough to give him another chance to fight Ryuuko.

By deliberately becoming blind, he enhanced his Tengantsu by having his other senses take over to become even more clairvoyant in battle, which is something that gives Ryuuko a whole lot of trouble. The only reason why he didn't finish her off in their rematch is because of his Goku Uniform overheating as a result of his drastically-increased power.

As former representative of the Northern Kanto Gang, he is naturally rebellious, making him the most aggressive of the Elite Four. However, his respect for Satsuki is indeed real as it was forged in combat. Satsuki defeated him and 500 of his gangster contingent single-handedly, then invited him to Honnouji as the last of what would become the Elite Four.

Nonon Jakuzure

The only female in the Elite Four, Nonon has been with Satsuki since childhood. She is slender, petite, and has short pink hair. While she looks cute and sweet at first, there's nothing bubbly about her personality as she is shown to be sassy and even vitriolic at times.

She likes to talk down on people, as she tends to do with Mako. She also often rebukes her fellow Elite Four members, calling them names and rubbing salt on their wounds whenever they fail. But despite this seemingly antagonistic behavior, it doesn't make her any less of a teammate.

As the non-athletic committee chair of Honnouji Academy, she leads a variety of clubs like the gardening, biology, poetry, and marching band clubs. She has an unorthodox way of fighting that requires less physical prowess and more of something unique—the power of music.

Her Three-Star Goku Uniform looks like that of a drum major in a marching band, and she also carries a baton that she uses to conduct. Her main weapon is music blasted through gigantic speakers to overwhelm her opponents. While she may not fight like how most would expect, but she is quite formidable and can certainly hold her own.

Satsuki is perhaps the only person she doesn't berate due to her respect and loyalty towards her. She likes to think that she understands her leader the best since she has known her the longest. While Satsuki does respect her, she also regards her similarly with the rest of the Elite Four.

Houka Inumuta

He is the nerdiest of the four, sporting light-blue hair and wears blue-tinted glasses and collar-neck suits. He can be quite sarcastic and off-putting towards people, like a more subdued version of Nonon. He mostly does technical analysis work through his laptop as the information and strategy committee chair of Honnouji.

He also does research and development work with the sewing club on the Goku Uniforms. The Elite Four is quite dependent on their Three-Star Goku Uniforms, so he does have significant responsibility in his role. He had been a freelance hacker who liked a good challenge, so he decided to attack Revocs Corporation's network. While he did get in, he didn't get out without leaving a trail, so he got tracked and was subsequently brought in by Satsuki for his skill and moxie.

His own Three-Star Goku Uniform known as the Probe Regalia suits his personality and skill set. It's all about gathering combat data during battle, letting him defeat opponents once all the data on them had been gathered. Inumuta isn't as interested in dominating the battlefield as being able to know the most about his opponents.

This single-minded focus with data is his most notable trait. Even when threatened with being demoted to a No-Star, he only cared about protecting the data he gathered in his fight with Ryuuko. As a result, he is also incredibly protective of his laptop to the point of flying into a rage if someone else touches it.

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Anime: Kill la Kill
Manga: Kill la Kill