We’re continuing our series of in-depth Kill la Kill blog posts with this academic article about housing at the Honnouji Academy and how it relates to social status in real-life Japan. Still craving more exclusive Kill la Kill content? Sign up for OMAKASE before November 23rd to receive your very own shipment of specially curated Kill la Kill merchandise and tons of other great content!
Kill la Kill is set at Honnouji Academy, which provides housing for its students. Now, student housing at private schools is not all that unusual. However, unlike student housing in the real world, Honnouji Academy provides housing for entire families. Not just housing, but a small city climbing up a hill with the school at the top.
While student housing exists today, but not for entire families, there is a parallel in housing for company staff. Such staff housing falls in to two categories: housing for single staff and family housing. The housing for single staff is nothing new, it has existed for centuries in Japan. For example, in the Edo Period (1603-1868) large businesses would house their employees on site, and today some businesses still do this. With the modernization of Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century, factories would provide dormitory housing for employees. Today even government employees sometimes live in such housing. Some companies will subsidize housing costs for some personnel by paying a housing allowance to cover a portion of their monthly rent as a benefit to a worker.
Housing for employees does not turn up often in anime and manga, and when it does, non-Japanese viewers are not likely to recognize it. The best example is in the Hot Gimmick manga where the characters all live in a large, multi-building company housing complex with larger apartments on the higher floors reserved for higher ranking staff. This hierarchy of apartments is a significant part of the story as the status of the housewives’ husbands in the company plays a crucial role in the interactions between the wives, which in turn carries over to their children. Hot Gimmick involves a relationship between a boy and girl from different floors and revolves partly on the status difference between their parents.
In Kill la Kill, we see a similar hierarchy, but based on the status of the students in the school. As Mako rises in status, her family moves upward literally into housing that is higher up the hill and of better quality. But such status based housing only lasts as long as the student maintains their ranking, otherwise they slide back down to a lower class of housing. Or, if a student is expelled they lose their housing.
There’s an example of same-sex dormitory housing in the movie Patlabor 2 where there is a scene in which residents of a Shinohara Heavy Industries women’s dorm watch a news alert. Police dorms are also mentioned a couple of times in the Patlabor and You’re Under Arrest TV and OVA series. Such staff housing is also seen in City Hunter: The Motion Picture for members of an all female theater troop modeled on the real life Takarazuka Revue which also has such housing for its actresses.
These examples may give the impression of single apartment buildings that are just a few stories tall such as the ones we commonly see in the U.S. In reality, company housing can range from small to huge multi-building complexes housing thousands of people. Once, I was traveling through Kawasaki and I realized that I was surrounded by a series of gigantic buildings, all part of a complex for housing workers from nearby factories. It felt like I had walked into a science fiction movie set in a large city.
While the housing situation in Kill la Kill is unusual, it does have a real world parallel in company employee housing. However, not even the most authoritarian companies are as draconian as the Honnouji Academy when it comes to assigning housing.
Kill la Kill is available to stream with English and Spanish subs in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, and Argentina
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