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Anime Reviews: Kill la Kill
No doubt one of the most ridiculous anime ever made, Kill la Kill embraces its insanity to deliver high-flying action and a kinetic storyline full of twists.
Title: Kill la Kill
Series Length: 24 episodes
Air Dates: 10/3/2013 to 3/27/2014
Age Rating: 17+ (strong violence, mild language, frequent partial nudity)
Summary: Nestled within Tokyo Bay, the monumental Honnouji Academy looms over the overcrowded slums of Honnou City. Ruled by the ruthless dictatorship of Student Council President Satsuki Kiryuin and her Elite Four, the students are ranked from No-Stars (the common grunts), to Three-Stars (the Student Council), all governed by strict rules on pain of death and armed with Gokusei Uniforms that enhance their physical abilities. Enter Ryuko Matoi, a no-nonsense transfer student on a quest to track down her father's killer who draws the ire of the Student Council for disrespecting Satsuki. After receiving a swift beating, Ryuko retreats to her father's abandoned mansion, where she falls through a trap door and discovers Senketsu, a sentient uniform that grants Ryuko power even greater than the Student Council's Gokusei outfits. Now, backed by Senketsu's power, Ryuko returns to Honnouji Academy to get the answers she came for.
The Good: Aesthetic perfection; bombastic action sequences; fun characters and fast-paced story
The Bad: Excessive silliness and exposed skin may turn many away
The Ugly: Thinking even for a fraction of a second of what's inside Sukuyo's "Mystery Croquettes"
Y'know, it's been a while since a series has filled me with unbridled childlike glee like Kill la Kill has. In fact, aside from Fate/Zero and Chihayafuru, it's been quite a few years since I've latched onto a series and became so immersed in its story, and that's not to say I've been watching crap since then. I've actually liked quite a lot of what I've seen in recent years, but for something to fill me with as much joy as Gurren Lagann did back in the day takes some real doing. I love Kill la Kill. Short Version: It's basically Gurren Lagann, but with female leads instead of male ones, power-suits (or in this case, power-uniforms) instead of mechs, a college town instead of underground, a Student Council President instead of the Spiral King, and basically the same kind of narrative. Let me put it like this: If you liked Gurren Lagann and didn't mind how silly it got, you will love Kill la Kill. End of story, you'll love it. And if you didn't like Gurren Lagann or only kinda liked it but thought it was too silly, then Kill la Kill will do nothing for you. It makes sense for the two series to be so similar, because the studio, Trigger, was founded by the same guys who worked on Gurren Lagann and then left GAINAX, so it's the same people. But since I'm in the former camp, I get to talk about what I loved, and you have to listen (unless you get any funny ideas like shutting this page down, ya jerk).
First of all, Kill la Kill looks basically identical to Gurren Lagann, which is a fancy way of saying it looks amazing. But yeah, it also has a very similar art and animation style. And that is perfectly acceptable, as far as I'm concerned, so if you've seen the latter, you know exactly how the former is going to look--exaggerated movements, colorful character designs, detailed and often bizarre facial expressions, almost rubber-band-y comedic movements, hyperstylized everything all the way up to 11, and so on. Gurren Lagann looked incredible back in 2007, and now Kill la Kill looks incredible today. You don't see anime that look like this anymore, and that's a tragedy and a shame.
To complement the visuals, we have a highly dynamic and incredibly solid soundtrack courtesy of Hiroyuki Sawano, who is known for his work on recent series such as Sengoku Basara, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Blue Exorcist, Guilty Crown, and probably most of all, Attack on Titan. Obviously, the man has been involved in some huge titles, and I can't vouch for all those, but if they're anything like what he brings to Kill la Kill, then I've got some album hunting to do. But as far as this series goes, you've got now-iconic vocal tracks like "Before My Body is Dry" and "Blumenkranz," and then a whole heaping plethora of outstanding background tracks including: Gamagoori's theme, Sanageyama's theme, Satsuki's theme, "Kill wa Ill," the Nudist Beach theme, the Elite Four's theme, and my personal favorite, Nui's theme. There's so much awesome stuff here, and I also gotta give special mention to the first opener, "sirius," for just being a fantastic pop song and featuring that awesome panning shot of the entire Honnouji Student Council. Great stuff. Brilliant soundtrack, all around.
And now according to my checklist up top, I gotta touch on the action sequences. Once again, if you've seen Gurren Lagann, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect, but if you haven't, you're in for a ride. High-flying leaps, exaggerated, contorting combat poses, huge lurches, intense perspectives, explosions, fire, manly shouting, earth-shattering duels, ludicrous maneuvers, and so on and so forth. The series features two characters engaging in a sword fight where the sheer force of their swords colliding sends shockwaves that turn a stadium into rubble, so if that in any way excites you, this particular ride will be up your alley.
I suppose now's a good time to mention that I got so sucked into the action because I was invested in the characters and the story, as crazy as they may be. I loved how straight-up badass Ryuko was without her turning into a boring grizzled one-note super-soldier. I loved how manic and energetic and generally dumb Mako was, and while that's one of those common anime character archetypes, Mako manages to stand out and be unique, and she amuses me greatly. I love how ruthless and jack-booted Satsuki was, and it got me thinking how it's been a long time since I've seen a female anime character so strong-willed and, well, badass (and this series gave me two!). The Elite Four are all great, I love Mako's family, the Club Presidents are all fun and memorable, Ragyo Kiryuin is a phenomenal Big Bad for the story, the Nudist Beach guys are really cool and really funny, and Nui is a brilliant deceptively-deadly villain. I love these characters!
It also helps that the story they inhabit is unpredictable, fast-paced, and really interesting despite its absurdities. There are so many bouts, brawls, twists, and turns that it's frankly amazing that it all managed to fit within 24 episodes. There is no slowdown whatsoever--hell, the "recap episode" is hilarious because it tells you the events of the previous 16 episodes in less than a minute and a half (and like I said, a LOT happens), with the narrator then remarking, "I bet your heart sank when I said this was a recap episode. Well, Kill la Kill is known for its breakneck pace, so the recap is done! Here's the opening and then the continuation!" That's right, the series moves along so quickly that its own recap episode can fit within the first two minutes of an entirely new episode. And this is not a series that's hard to keep track of, either; nothing passes you by, nothing is left unexplained. As far as pacing goes, Kill la Kill is essentially perfect. I would also absolutely love to talk about all the crazy twists and just how cool the final episodes are, but, y'know, spoilers.
Really, the only problem the series has is that its absurdity and the innumerable T&A shots (primarily during the transformation sequences, which happen every episode) will drive many people away. No matter how great everything else may be, that kind of thing is just insurmountable to some people. And if you are one of those people who demand more realism or modesty from their anime, well, nothing I say can convince you to watch Kill la Kill. Really, the most I can do for you is tell you to check it out for yourselves and see if it is too much, and that's it. If the opener I posted above looks too excessive to you, then I got nothin'. That's the show. There's more to it than that, but nevertheless, there you have it.
But if that kind of thing doesn't bother you, then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of Kill la Kill right away. With its bombastic animation, top-tier soundtrack, high-octane action, memorable characters, and attention-grabbing storyline, this has easily been one of the most fun anime experiences I've had in years, and I'm confident that, if you're game for an over-the-top action series, you will feel the same way.
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10. Considered by many to be the title that will save the anime industry, and with a humongous fanbase to boot, Kill la Kill is a runaway hit that delivers vibrant visuals, an intense soundtrack, likable characters, a twisting plot, and above all, a heaping dose of good old-fashioned fun.