The Kill la-steia: How Kill la Kill borrows from the Oresteia

While offering my final thoughts on Kill la Kill, the similarity of certain features of Kill la Kill to Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy struck me.  Of course, the lack of vengeful goddesses pursuing Ryuko for slaying Ragyo means that it borrows chiefly from the first two tragedies: Agammemnon and The Libation Bearers.  As a Classicist (Yes, in addition to loving the Middle Ages, I also love the Classical Ages.  Viva antiquity!), I become very excited when modern works either retell or incorporate ideas from Ancient Greek and Latin sources.  The fad nowadays seems to favor spontaneous originality.  People want tales and characters which have never been conceived in the mind of man.  (Can you detect my sarcasm?)  Studying classics for so long has made me adopt the attitude of the ancient Greeks and Romans: the best originality occurs when a writer takes prior works and applies his own spin.  Such appropriation shows that one is participating in the Great Conversation which began when Homer exclaimed: “Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, the son of Peleus!”


Ryuko as Orestes

The first striking connection between the Oresteia and Kill la Kill lies in Ryuko’s mission to avenge the death of her father, Isshin Matoi.  We see exactly the same thing in The Libation Bearers.  The flashback to when Isshin and Ragyo were still man and wife reveals the start of their quarrels: Ryuko is sacrificed in an experiment on Life Fibers, whom are essentially the gods of Kill la Kill.  (Though Kill  la Kill’s story does makes it apparent that the Life Fibers are false gods–as Christianity also declares the gods of the pagans.)  This is similar to how Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess Artemis.  In the same way as Ragyo sees the progress of the Life Fibers as necessary, Agamemnon sees the progress of the Greek expedition to Troy, which had been held up by Artemis’ wrath, as important to prevent chaos among the Greeks and to avenge his brother’s honor.  So, Agamemnon sacrifices Iphigenia; though, a majority of the versions of this myth state that Iphigenia was spirited away to Aulis, which Euripides treats in his Iphigenia at Aulis.  Simultaneously, Ryuko is both Iphigenia, the innocent sacrifice, and Orestes, the avenger of her father.  Actually, the idea that Junketsu is Satsuki’s wedding garment reminds one of how Iphigenia was initially told that she was going to her wedding instead of the place where she would be sacrificed.  Iphigenia lives in both Satsuki and Ryuko!


But, an interesting twist lies in the fact that Isshin and Ragyo are not perfect facsimiles of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra.  As a matter of fact, the above paragraph makes it clear that the husband is placed in the role of Clytemnestra, while the wife approximates Agamemnon.  But, Isshin is still the murdered father and Ragyo the instigator of the deed and adulteress.  How does she commit adultery?  By binding herself to the Life Fibers and separating herself from her husband!  Curiously, I would claim Nui Harime fulfills the role of Aegisthus.  Even though Nui did not separate Ragyo from her spouse, she does participate in the murder of Isshin, engage in a scandalously lascivious deed with Ragyo (how’s that for euphemism?), and is about as odious as Aegisthus.


But, that refers mostly to the flashback.  During the main story, we see that Satsuki and Mako might be considered Electra and Pylades respectively.  After all, Electra lives in constant fear of her mother and at the same time wishes to avenge her father.  We see the same desire in Satsuki, though her willingness to off her mother is further bolstered by the fact that Ragyo wants to annihilate humanity.  Also, Satsuki shows the same distaste toward Nui as Electra did toward Aegisthus.  As in The Libation Bearers, both Satsuki and Ryuko combine to defeat their evil mother.


The figures Orestes and Pylades are renown for their friendship.  I myself have used their relationship as a metaphor in this article.  And Mako undergoes many dangers for the sake of her friend Ryuko, in the same way as Pylades did for Orestes.  As Pylades held a supportive role to Orestes, so does Mako to Ryuko.


Well, my dear readers, I hope that you found these parallels as cool as I did!  Now, we need to see the Trigger version of Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle!  Or does the thought of that scare you? 🙂

2 comments on “The Kill la-steia: How Kill la Kill borrows from the Oresteia

  1. AJ says:

    I’m enjoying your reviews of the manga/anime by the elfen lied author. However, I’m disappointed you dropped Texnohlyze, won’t see Deadman Wonderland, and dropped Fate/zero (I liked fate/stay night much better though.)

    Fate/zero had references to joan of arc among other religious figures and practices, deadman wonderland had a “preacher” as the final “boss,” and texhnolyze is about humanity’s approach to the singularity ending in dystopia.

    I’m very pleased you enjoyed lunar legend, canaan, claymore, and elfen lied as much as I did. To keep you happy I would finish up love hina. Give chobits a shot.


    • I’m glad that you’re enjoying those reviews. With Texnohlyze and Deadman Wonderland (I have read about ten chapters of the latter’s manga), I couldn’t identify with the characters in addition to finding the stories too violent. If I found the characters likable, the violence might not only have been endurable, but compelling–as in Elfen Lied and Claymore.

      The first episode of Fate/Zero killed all the enthusiasm which Fate/Stay Night had worked up in me for a sequel. I have heard that the beginning of Fate/Zero suffers from many info-dumps and that it gets better later, so I might give it another shot down the road. Chobits is one which I couldn’t get into after a couple of episodes, but I find that my tastes change over time.

      And Love Hina’s a classic. I just got to find some time to give it some proper attention.


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