Anime Review: Kill la Kill

by K. Hopson


I don’t usually review anything that’s still running, but I couldn’t let this one go without a word or two. I’ll try hard not to show my bias, but I’m really enjoying Kill la Kill thus far.

In Studio Trigger’s debut television anime, teenage Ryuuko Matoi is seeking her father’s killer with the only clue left to her…one half of a human-sized pair of scissors. (Yeah, her main weapon is a pair of scissors. But wait! The scissors are a big part of the plot!) Using the scissor sword as a compass, she searches far and wide for anyone who might have been involved in his murder. Her instincts point her in the direction of the infamous Honnouji Academy, a militarized school where the effects of nepotism have generated a student council from hell.

Ryuuko gets an inkling that student council president, Satsuki Kiryuuin , who is also the daughter of a powerful corporate CEO, may have the information she needs. Satsuki and her Four Devas rule the school Battle Royale-style, using fear and a uniform-based caste system called Goku Uniforms. The uniforms are woven with mysterious thread called Life Fiber, and can magnify any talent to give the wearer superhuman capabilities. They also have a direct effect on a student’s socio-economic standing —three-star uniforms belong to the student council elite and other top-tier supporters. Two and one-star uniforms belong to the middle classes, but all uniform-wearers use their powers to oppress the lowest caste of no-stars.

Our heroine is initially defeated in her first attempt at challenging the dreaded student council. However, she runs across a weird…talking…sailor uniform (yep) in the ruins of her father’s home. Ryuuko begins to question its origins after it forces itself on her body, and realizes that the sailor costume is some special breed of Goku Uniform. Naturally, Ryuuko vows to use the uniform to fight her way to the top and find the answers she’s been searching for, freeing the students of Honnouji Academy along the way.

In a plethora of anime plots centered around high school girls that save the world, Kill la Kill puts out just the right combination of humor, camp and bizarreness to make it enjoyable. Nothing in this series takes itself seriously. Everything is crazy. But you probably could tell that much from Ryuuko’s weapon.

Not to mention that much anime’s key staff has an impressive resume behind them already. Director Hiroyuki Imaishi has worked on Dead Leaves, Samurai Champloo, Fullmetal Alchemist, and the Evangelion movies. One of my more recent favorites, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, is also in his body of work, which would explain the style and some of the weirder elements.

The hyper-clichéd and somewhat predictable plot line features some of the most obvious tropes from 70s era anime styles, but none of it is so ridiculous that it takes away from your desire to see the story to completion. Because it is a battle action series, the action scenes are, of course, one of the biggest draws and a central source of absurdity. The fights are mostly well-scripted so far, though one or two of the battles were somewhat anti-climactic. From what I could tell in episode 12, those particular battles were disappointing for a reason relevant to the plot.

Though it’s all very silly, the animation is vivid. There’s a lot going on in even the background of every scene, and one of my favorite aspects is the giant, red block lettering that obscures the picture when a significant character or fighting technique is named. Long live the camp!

Kill la Kill’s character development is also moving along nicely. The Four Devas all had interesting and self-sufficient backgrounds before they became members of the nefarious student council. I don’t really feel like the script is done exploring their devotion to Satusuki, so I hope to learn more about how she won them over in future episodes.

I must note that this series has fanservice. Although men are not exempt from nudie-transformation sequenced, our two female leads, Ryuuko and Satsuki, have particularly gratuitous ones. I’m going to chalk that up to the fact that they have special Goku Uniforms, it was enough that even my male friend said, “Wow, really?” Viewers like myself (because I tend to like fanservice and pervy humor) may not find it objectionable. I would like to think a good bit of it is parody. An interesting quote about modesty from Satsuki in episode three supports that thinking.

I really can’t wait to see what else this series has to offer. Episode 12 ended with the introduction of another pivotal character, and the plot is still building nicely toward the “ultimate battle.” The big reveals so far have been consistent. If the series keeps its current pace and doesn’t blow the ending, I feel like it could end up being a classic.

Or not?

I have to admit that everyone is not going to be drawn into stylized beat-‘em-up animes, because I’m pretty sure none of Kill la Kill is going to require much in the way of thinking. The plot is not complicated. But it’s a fun series that’s worth your time if you’re in it mostly for entertainment value.

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