21 April 2014

ride like the wind - a side trip to kansai

The "Ride Like the Wind" episode of Kill la Kill (episode 14, for you observant people you), seems to play off of school trip cliches in anime.

Only in this episode, in this series, Honnouji Academy uses this to try and battle other schools and incorporate them into Satsuki's plan. There are many references and stereotypes being played with here, and even though I can catch this much, there are probably more references being made that I didn't catch.

So here goes!

For reference, Tokyo is in the Kanto region of Japan: you can see the Kanto region highlighted here. The schools still resisting are in the Kansai region of Japan – predominated by the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. This area is sometimes called the heart and soul of Japan: it is also known for different tastes in clothing, hobbies, and food. But these cities are different from each other, too, as much as “Kansai region” can be called a coherent region at all.


  • The first one we see is Kyoto, with Non-Athletic Club Chair Nonon Jakuzure leading the team to battle there. We see grand ornamental archways in the initial mention.
  • Kobe is next, with the team going there led by the Disciplinary Committee Chair Ima Gamagoori. In the initial shot, we see a field of tanks and neat rows.
  • Finally, there is Osaka, with the team going into battle under Uzu Sanageyama – and what we do see in the establishing shot is a lot of company signs and food billboards.



 Kyoto's battle takes place in what seems to be a court temple or pavilion. This is intentional, as Kyoto is the legendary city of “temples and shrines” - and was the imperial and administrative capital of Japan for about eleven centuries. As such, the opposing team from Abekamo Academy draws upon various traditions, similar to the onmyouji/court diviners of the Heian period – the academy's name in fact references the most famous onmyouji, Abe no Seimei. This Abekamo group praises their own tradition, and uses the Chinese-influenced guardian symbols: Suzaku the vermilion bird, Byakko the white tiger, Genbu the black tortoise, Seiryu the azure dragon. They sound just as haughty as court nobles, and retain the particular soft-sounding dialect of Kyoto area, even when trying to threaten Nonon and her team. Inumuta steps in using modern techniques of holograms and scientific-sounding phrases, in contrast with Abekamo's using centuries-old symbols; in fact, he even calls on postmodernist and non-Euclidean geometries.

Nonon's comment sums it up: maybe it takes nonsense, or mysterious technobabble, to deal with nonsense and technical mysterybabble.

Nonon ends up defeating them with a fitting counterattack though: that of the modern ceremonial tune “Pomp and Circumstance”.



In Kobe, the opposition facing off against Honnouji is led by a representative who looks like a delinquent/gang leader Obayashi Kyuji. Not only does he dress like a stereotypical delinquent, his name has the characters for “nine” and “two” in it, a further reference to “yakuza”, which comes from the numbers 8-9-3. His second, the representative Sakuramiya Kenta, looks more sophisticated if effeminate. Kenta also joins up with the local American high school's American football team, boasting about the types of people he knows: this is a reference that Kobe itself is one of the most internationally friendly cities in Japan, as well as a base of one of the major yakuza families. (Neat point: the American football team's lines are in English, which further illustrates this.) The Kobe team, the American football team being an exception, speaks in a slight dialect different from 'standard' – and also different from Osaka's dialect. This reflects Kobe's own dialect and ways people speak there.

More fun facts about Kobe:

  • The tank is a reference to the Russian mob groups and their military hardware;
  • All that meat covering the tank is a reference to Kobe beef and the quality associated with it.

    However, Osaka is the major battleground of this whole Honnouji war effort, and the city that puts up the most resistance.




    Fun facts:

    Osaka became a merchant town, especially during the Edo period and the rise of a prominent middle class of artisans, merchants, and so on. This explains Kaneo Takarada: his name breaks down to “lots of treasure” and “wealthy man”. And does he show it, yes he does.

    What is Kaneo Takarada wearing? Looks like he's draped in tiger fur, a reference to the Hanshin Tigers major baseball team that is based in Osaka (their rivalry is with Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants, so much of the Kansai / Kanto rivalry gets expressed that way).

    Octopus – and things like takoyaki, which contain octopus – are considered trademark Osaka food. For example, if you ever travel to Osaka, that's what many people will tell you to try: and so Takarada mentions it. Of course, Mako ends up in Osaka and tries all the food available – okonomiyaki, 'ketsune' udon, and more - which means she ends up also referencing proverbs that mention Osaka residents' love of food (or perceived love of it, anyway).

    Takarada's distinctive and direct accent is also played up. Even as he praises his city of Osaka and the citizens of the city, the citizens respond by saying phrases like “Mokari makka”, “bochi bochi denna”, and so on. These are stereotypical Osakan phrases, translating into “How are you, I'm fine” - but literally meaning things like “How's business, it's not goin' too bad”. As a town of merchants, the samurai and noble classes looked down on Osaka, and Osaka has tried to fight for its own identity and respect for centuries. So, we see the Osaka citizens here as being blinded by money, playing into those centuries old stereotypes. Also, this plays into the fact that Osaka is the one city in Kill la Kill to be able to resist Honnouji Academy as much as it does. 

Osaka has also been hit historically with fires, assaults, and even bombings; every time, the city rebuilds itself as a major center.  It might get knocked down, but it'll get up again. One of the more recent examples - it regained its status as a major trading and business center even after being strafed and bombed in World War II. 

A final note. 

These are all playing to expectations, but sometimes there's a reason for those expectations and stereotypes. In Japan, souvenirs and gifts are a big deal; so, when you are at a new place or travel somewhere, you're expected to get something that place is known for. Most often, these souvenirs involve food in some way: I remember even little zipper pulls with a mikan fruit on them, representing one of the towns I went to. Some other towns may have a landmark they use, like Mojiko Retro Town's train station. Larger places might be known for several different things, and of course, if you don't have time to hunt for the perfect souvenir, train stations have a wide variety of them: from regional Kitty-chan mascots to plush tigers to train station bento boxes (eki-ben) with foods the region is known for, in addition to your usual (to a Westerner) postcards. 

Thinking of it this way, this episode of Kill la Kill might be a fun way to tell people that fun and beauty and good food can still be found - and to turn even unfortunate situations into great ones!

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