Kill la Kill
It’s not exactly a novel observation that Japanese cartoons are full of creepy shit. And I’m not talking about the horror movie sort of creepy; I’m talking about the Lolita sort of ‘sexualising children’ sort of creepy. Paedophilia is obviously not unique to Japanese cartoons – the ‘sexy schoolgirl’ image is so common that it actually counts as a cliché, and the most searched-for pornography term in the USA is ‘teen’ – but it is disturbing in how fucking ubiquitous it is.
Which brings me to Kill la Kill, which was the big animé hit of 2014. It has great music, well-made action and over-the-top comedy. All the characters of any real consequence are female. And it dresses its 17-year-old main character in a hypersexualised schoolgirl uniform. And it has a rape joke in the first episode.
I’ve seen people try to claim this as a victory for ~body positivity~ and whatnot (that rhetoric is actually used in the show), which ignores the rather obvious point that Ryuko Matoi and Satsuki Kuryin are the fictional creations of male creators (both the writer and director of the series are men), drawn into existence for a largely-male nerd audience. I’ve also seen the argument that oh, it all makes sense with the rules of the world (which, yes, it does, but… those rules are arbitrarily contrived to produce images of young women wearing roughly one handkerchief’s worth of clothing).
And it has a rape joke in the very first episode. By which I mean: we hear a deep male voice saying ‘I’m going to force myself on you!’ with the female protagonist protesting as her clothes are ripped off, and we then find out that it was actually a sentient school uniform forcing her to wear him! Ho ho!
Now. There is good stuff there, too – it’s well-made in other respects (if you like ludicrous over-the-top-ness), and it is a narrative dominated by female characters. But, God, all the creepy shit dripping over everything just makes it hard to enjoy.