I thought Mako would be the final boss, so I was surprised they used her as an enemy so early. But they did so to great effect.
Throughout the show we’ve been aware of the system in the school where club leaders’ families are rewarded with better housing and opportunities, but we’d only seen the lives of the poor students firsthand, through the lens of Mako’s family. By having Ryuko dump the club leader duties on Mako, we see her family rise to the top and the resulting decay of their relationships. Wealth and power do not necessarily make anyone happier.
What I found most strange about this episode was the pacing. In any other show this arc would have lasted at least three episodes. But Kill la Kill wraps it up in one. This is not a complaint: I appreciate the fast pacing. Kill la Kill keeps the viewers on their toes, but it never loses their interest. I’d pick tons of excitement and a bit of confusion over the alternative any day.
At the end of the episode, Ryuuko’s nonviolent response turns Mako around, leading her to anger at her family for failing to stop her.
I think most people (myself included) have taken the importance of clothing in this show mostly as a joke and an excuse for some interesting fanservice. But the more I think about it the richer this symbolism is (the Law of Fives in action, I know). Satsuki’s underlings are controlled by their clothing. They don’t wear their clothing, their clothing wears them. Satsuki herself wears her clothing and dominates it, like she dominates everyone around her. Ryuuko is different, in that she wears her clothing, and her clothing wears her. She accepts and is comfortable with her position, but doesn’t allow herself to be controlled by it.
The most admirable group of all, however, are Mako and her family at the end of the episode, when they toss off their clothing and rip it to shreds. They are truly free, free to apologize to Ryuuko and become reconciled as a family once more.
This reminds me of a story about St. Francis of Assissi. Francis had a vision in which he was told to rebuild a church, so he took some cloth from his father’s store and sold it to rebuild the church. His father was angry, and brought his son to trial. There his father told Francis that he had given him everything he owned and it wasn’t his to give away, including the clothes on his back. So Francis stripped off all his clothes and skipped off down the road, naked as the day he was born and singing. The imagery from Kill la Kill is similar, even if the show seems to be going for the less radical, complementary vision of person and position exemplified by Ryuuko over Francis’ rejection of power.
One final thought: Satsuki refers to the students as pigs in human clothing, and says that their greed will lead to their eventual downfall. But isn’t she the greediest of all?