Thoughtful Thursday: Studying Ryuko Matoi

Are you ready for a rant? This week’s Thoughtful Thursday is all about Ryuko Matoi, the main character of the amazing action/fighting/fanservice show, Kill la Kill. First is the story of this character, including her background. Next is a look at her delinquent character type, followed by a general personality description for Ryuuko. Then there’s a section about her MBTI type. And finally, a few notes have been added about Ryuko’s desires and character growth.

(Warning: Major Spoilers for Kill la Kill)

1. Ryuko’s Story

Until she was 17, Ryuko knew no mother, nor a “motherly influence.” She was raised by her father from infancy, and after beginning education, she was usually sent away to boarding schools. Her father, a scientist and inventor, paid no attention to her. Perhaps it’s not surprising that Ryuko became a “problem child.” She skipped classes, broke rules at school, wore only what she wanted, and most of all, got herself into fights. And she was great at fighting. A tough girl, Ryuko took on anyone who challenged her, messed with her, or pissed her off. She never thought about the future, settling into being a delinquent as highschool years began.

Ryuko’s life changed when her father was suddenly killed by a mysterious intruder and the house burned down. Whoever it was used a giant pair of scissors. They left half of it behind. Vowing to find out who killed her father and have revenge, Ryuko set out with her new half scissor blade. Soon, she discovered Honnouji Academy. I’m not going to waste time and space to explain how the academy works. Hopefully, you remember. The queen bee was Satsuki Kiryuuin, and she seemed to know something about the scissor blade.

Thanks to Mikisugi, member of a rebel faction, Ryuko’s meeting with Senketsu was arranged. Wearing and getting to know that talking kamui became everyday parts of Ryuko’s life. With her new friend Mako at her side, her new quest was fighting everyone in school to get to Satsuki. Things continued this way for a while. Then, the Devil — cough, I mean Nui Harime — showed up and revealed that she killed Dr. Matoi with the scissor blade. In the end, Ryuko is tricked and defeated by Nui, and Satsuki takes Senketsu away, dismembering him into pieces.

Once recovered, Ryuko fights everyone again and gathers all the pieces of Senketsu. To get the last piece, she takes on Satsuki herself, and fights her to a draw. Not long afterward, Mikisugi finally takes Ryuko to the rebel headquarters (Nudist Beach) and tells her everything about the Life Fibers and what Senketsu is. Then Ragyo’s plan to take over the world with Life Fibers begins. Ryuko fights along with Satsuki and the rebels to prevent this, but she is made to realize some shocking discoveries. Ragyo is her mother and Satsuki is her sister! What’s more, Ryuuko isn’t human, but a hybrid human and Life Fiber monster.

Ryuko takes the news hard, causing a lot of trouble for the rebels as she is temporarily won over to Ragyo’s side. Satsuki, Mako, and the rebels manage to get Ryuko back to her old self. Then the long, complicated final battles begin: the fights against the Life Fiber monsters, the Original Life Fiber, Nui, and Ragyo. Though Ryuko and Senketsu are the victors of the epic struggle, and they save the world from being swallowed by Life Fibers, there was a heavy price to pay. Senketsu used the last of his power protecting Ryuko, and died. In the present, Ryuuko often misses the kamui, but lives a reasonably happy and peaceful life with Mako.

Ryuko’s Character Type

Much to my delight, Ryuko is a very unusual female protagonist for anime. She’s not what conservatives would consider remotely feminine. She isn’t weak or mild-mannered or clumsy. Ryuko is herself, regardless of whether others think it’s appropriate. She’s strong-willed, quick-tempered, and physically fit. Best of all, she doesn’t fall into the trope of the tough anime girl who gradually becomes dependent, cute, or weak because of “love” or “growing up” or something. I hate those. Ryuko is still Ryuko at the end of the series: a truly mighty young woman. A spunky girl strong enough to take a hit, and skilled enough to punch your lights out.

Ryuko isn’t a cookie-cutter tsundere, or any other typical type. The only character type Ryuko fits into is that of the anime highschool delinquent– and even among that rare type, she’s original. Typically, the delinquent role is given to boys, and when it’s used for girls, they usually operate in a “girl gang” that takes on other girls because, of course, they could never be strong enough to fight men. (Forgive the sarcasm.) And even if you have a delinquent girl character who can really fight, she won’t be the main lead, because of course nobody would find a character like that interesting or inspiring. To an industry like that, Ryuko walks up and says “Fuck you.”

Now, all that being said, I have to be honest. A huge part of Ryuko’s popularity is that she provides so much fanservice. Some consider her “just” a fanservice character. I think that’s a terrible insult to the creators, writers, and artists who put this character together. You can’t deny that Ryuko draws many fans in because of fanservice. But you also can’t deny that she’s a well-written, unique character with a ton of depth to her personality and thoughts. (Well of course you can deny that, but I’ll fight you, lol.)

Ryuko’s Personality

An assertive person, Ryuko has no problems sticking up for herself or saying what needs to be said. Despite everything she faces and all the physical amd emotional pain she suffers, Ryuko is seldom lacking in courage. The only things that make her balk or back out are threats and dangers to her loved ones, like Senketsu and Mako. Ryuko is also fiercely independent and doesn’t always work well with others. Still, her self-reliance and confidence are positive traits.

Some of her less traditionally admirable traits include being defiant, being stubborn, having a short fuse, acting on impulse or recklessly, and taking things to extremes. There are so many examples of this throughout the series. But many of these tendencies are actually good for Ryuko in her situation. Her defiance and stubborness gives her the mental strength to wear a kamui and to push on without fear. Her recklessness enables her resort to risky gambles if it’s a choice between that and giving up. It’s still not adaptive to be quite so argumentative and easily angered, but Ryuko is a teenager, after all.

At least early on, Ryuko doesn’t get naked for the fun of it, and until the middle of episode 3, she actually dislikes wearing Senketsu. (After that episode, she stops being ashamed about it, partly due to her personality, and partly because she sees that it doesn’t faze Mako.) While not exactly an exhibitionist, though, the fact that Ryuko can wear Senketsu at all shows she’s willing to go to extremes. As the series goes on, she seems to enjoy wearing Senketsu, and doesn’t mind one bit about being exposed in the Life Fiber Sync Mode.

Don’t think that Ryuko is some unfeeling, purely aggressive person. When she’s not in a serious fight or worrying about something, she has a personality that’s easy to love. She’s creative, interested in others, and expressive. When it comes to the ones she loves, Ryuko is very considerate of them and forgiving. Her passion and determination combined with good will and confidence gives her a quiet kind of charisma. She’ll never be a gentle or submissive person — which I think is awesome — but Ryuko is also a soft touch in some surprising ways.

Ryuko’s MBTI Type

Ryuko isn’t too good with people and not great at communicating, either. She’s not exactly shy, but she’s not especially confident either. Her high assertiveness comes mostly from impulse, intense emotion, and not knowing how to express herself in a more rational way. Like anyone, Ryuko has people she cares about and comes to love — like Senektsu, Mako and her family — but she needs her alone time to recharge. A very hands-on person, Ryuko dislikes and/or is bored with anything symbolic or hypothetical, and she sometimes overlooks possibilities by focusing only on the facts she deems relevant to her situation.

When it comes to what motivates Ryuko or how she makes her decisions, most of it is based on her personal feelings and/or what’s important to her. She takes part in fights even when it’s illogical or even counterproductive. Finding out who killed her father and taking vengeance on that person is her primary goal — not out of some sense of family honor, but because someone dared to take away something personally significant to Ryuko (her father). Mako’s safety and well-being is generally Ryuko’s other motivation. Rather than caring about “saving the world,” she initially only agrees to help Nudist Beach because it means rescuing Mako’s family.

Able to adapt to quickly changing events, Ryuko is a spontaneous person who doesn’t do well with rigid structure in any form. She likes adventure and risk, needing a sense of danger or thrill from life. Conversely, she’s a laidback person in general, as long as no one insults her, tries to restrict her, or endangers her loved ones. If there’s one thing that can be said about Ryuko, it’s that she won’t be boxed in. She’s defiant, individualistic, and independent, with a tendency to drive things to their extremes. It’s not a pretty site when she’s angry.

There are stubborn people who love risk and who are also unfeeling, purposely insensitive, or unable to understand others’ emotions. Ryuko isn’t one of those people. She has a great depth of feeling, tries to respect peoples’ emotions, and is capable of being warm and sweet. She loves time with her friends and family, and is very cheerful with them. Ryuko needs people who accept her and her unique forms of self-expression. She’s also surprisingly sensitive, though that results in brutish anger more than in girly tears.

If Ryuko had an MBTI type, she would be an ISFP. The letters stand for introverted, sensing, feeling, and perceiving. That means she requires time alone to gain energy, she is more focused on reality and senses than ideas and possibilities, she makes decisions based on personal values and her gut (instead of detached logic), and she prefers a flexible lifestyle. In the above parahraphs, if you didn’t notice, what I was really doing was describing Ryuko’s four traits. It’s also true that ISFPs are bold, original, stubborn, sensitive, and independent, though Ryuuko is one who takes those traits a lot farther than some.

Further Notes on Ryuko

An interesting aspect of Ryuko’s character sometimes hinted at is her subconscious desire for a mother figure. That’s one of the many pieces of her psychology we see during the two episodes where she is “taken over” by Junketsu and the will of Ragyo.

On a very deep level, what Ryuko probably wants is a harmonious family that will change her into a softer person. But that’s not what she really needs. She needs unconditional love, and someone who will accept her without ever trying to change her. She can’t get that from her mother Ragyo, nor from her sexy half-sister Nui. What Ryuko needed most was Mako.

That brings us to the last point. Ryuko is a lesbian or perhaps bisexual or pansexual. The way the relationship develops between Ryuko and Mako is beautiful. You can consider them best friends by a great stretch of the imagination, but I definitely see them as a couple. I may write another post about this at some point, explaining that the connection between the two girls is romantic and much deeper even than a good friendship.

Thank you for reading my character analysis of Ryuko Matoi.

(All images were found by searching the web and I don’t own any of them.)

5 thoughts on “Thoughtful Thursday: Studying Ryuko Matoi

  1. I’m so glad you mentioned Ryuko’s romantic relationship with Mako because a lot of people deny it even exists for dumb/homophobic reasons. They even kiss and go on a date in the last episode! How much more obvious can you get? Lol

    Liked by 1 person

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