This is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes from the OVA, and one whose significance I cannot stress enough. No matter Ryuko’s claims that she’s fine without Senketsu, or that she’ll be okay and you shouldn’t worry about her, here we see that she’s struggling with letting him go. Sure, she just screamed a big, rousing speech about moving on, but things are easier said than done. At the end of it all, she can’t help but clutch her heart, where Senketsu’s eye used to be. She smiles, but it’s clear that this isn’t something that’s easy for her.
And why would it be? Senketsu was Ryuko’s kindred spirit, someone just like her who understood her completely. He was someone she wanted to spend the rest of her life with (“I’m never taking Senketsu off ever again!”), and someone she loved more than words could describe. She would put her life on the line to protect him, and did—over and over again. But right when they’d saved the world together and they should have finally been able to enjoy a peaceful life, she has to watch him die… and she’s powerless to stop it.
Here, Ryuko is finally showing some vulnerability. Senketsu’s loss severely affects her, and notably, this is the first time we see her really reveal this in anyone’s company. She’s hurting! Regardless of what she says, of what she knows, she’s still just lost someone incredibly dear to her, and it still pains her.
And Mako sees that. Mako sees that, and reassures her that Senketsu will always be with her—that to move on, it doesn’t mean you have to let go of everything you shared. Ryuko then comes to a realization: there’s nothing shameful about treasuring the memories she had with Senketsu. It doesn’t make her “stuck in the past” to cherish those times. It doesn’t make her weak.
So in the very final moments of Kill la Kill, Ryuko looks up towards where Senketsu is… and he looks back. She stops running and pushing away her feelings. She acknowledges her pain, but understands that they’ll always have their important, significant bond, even after death—and it’s that which the show wants you to remember and take away from it, at the end of everything.
When I look at this scene, that’s what I see. But I feel so alone in this viewpoint.