Full Series Review: Kill La Kill
Introduction and Plot Overview (Warning: Spoiler Content Ahead!)
At first glance, I didn't really think I was going to like this show. I mean, it just looked like another stupid, action-y, fanservice-y pile of stupid anime action. But this anime soon grew on me, for reasons I will discuss later.
You start out with protagonist Ryuko Matoi, a teenage girl living in a kind of abandoned and run-down place, who doesn't remember much about her past. She soon teams up with Mako, a girl whose parents are poor, whose dad is a shady underground doctor. Mako's mom likes to make "mystery ingredient" meals. Hm...
So, she gets taken in by Mako's family while they conveniently explain the kind of world we're dealing with here: the community is all under the control of the absurdly powerful local high school's student council president; Satsuki Kiryuin. Satsuki controls not only the school, but the town. Every aspect of life for the students revolves around how well they do in competition with others. Each after-school activity president's power derives from "Goku Uniforms", very high-tech clothing. The students are all locked into "survival of the fittest" battles to increase the privileges awarded to members of their club and to increase the physical capabilities of their Goku uniforms.
Meanwhile, Ryuko doesn't give a hoot about any of this. Her motivation is simple; she wants to find out who killed her father, and get more clues about her mysterious past. One clue is that she has a red sword that looks like half of a giant scissors. This blade was used to kill Ryuko's father. When she sees that Satsuki Kiryuin has the other half of the blade, she sets her sights on challenging Satsuki, in order to force her to reveal more information about her father's death. However, in order to get to Satsuki, Ryuko must take on pretty much the entire school. Through many fights, she learns to use a powerful "sailor fuku" style uniform her father left her, with the help of a mysterious teacher. Wielding the Scissor Blade, and using the sentient clothing, who she dubs "Senketsu" (fresh blood), Ryuko soon becomes unstoppable.
However, it's when she starts dueling the powerful "Elite Four", club presidents who make up Satsuki's inner circle, that things start to get interesting. A duel between Ryuko and the Kendo Club president gets interrupted by Nui Harime, a mysterious and ridiculously girly woman, who seems to wield considerable power. In that she's able to send Kendo-boy flying, his elite Goku Uniform in ribbons, with just a flex of her pinky nail. What is going on here?
Even worse is when it's revealed that Nui was the one who killed Ryuko's father. This caused Ryuko to lose control of her Senketsu and eventually to lose her consciousness altogether, since Senketsu and other clothing made with "life fibers" draw on the wearer's blood to activate.
When Satsuki goes on the march, using her school as a military in an attempt to take over the other regions of Japan, Ryuko is unconscious for a while, and her Senketsu was taken from her. It doesn't take long for her to recover the patches of Senketsu, with some help from Mako.
But it's still not so cut-and-dried as Ryuko believed, believing that she might finally be able to get revenge on, and to beat answers out of, Nui or Satsuki. Events unfold that show that all along, Satsuki was really doing everything she was doing with the intention of rebelling against her mother, Ragyo Kiryuin.
It was from Ragyo that Satsuki got her power over Honnouji Academy. Ragyo rules an empire based around the creation of "life fiber" fabrics; clothing that can dramatically increase a human's abilities. But is this technology the ally of mankind, or is it trying to take over?
So, as Ryuko begins to realize, the real enemies all along were Nui and Ragyo, not Satsuki. She realizes Satsuki was merely pretending to follow her mother's will in order to make the Honnouji students strong enough to, she hoped, rise up against Ragyo. By doing this, she hoped to free humanity from her mother's oppressive designs (literally, she was oppressing people with fashion designs).
I won't give away the major plot spoilers, but the ending is of course, triumphant. Suffice to say, the show satisfies in every episode, but the last 4-5 episodes are truly amazing.
Review/ Discussion of Themes
So, a show with this much violence and near-nudity and immature humor might not be for everyone. However, I thought that this show had meaningful commentary on clothes, not just as ordinary objects, but as symbolic marks of rank and distinction, symbols of hierarchical power in society. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to what we wear than we think.
Like mecha (giant robot) shows, Kill La Kill explores the meaning of a world that is increasingly reliant on technology. It asks, does technology go to far? Does it have the power to control people? Are we slaves to material things? Or maybe, we're enslaved by our own material desires or need for power and glory? These are meaningful conversations to have. This show, like other animes, uses humor and absurdity to show the absurd side of human nature.
One thing I really like this show for is female representation. In a lot of action shows, the villains, major characters, and protagonists are all male. That is one problem I had with YuYu Hakusho, even though that remains one of my favorite animes of all time. This is a feminized, but still very hardcore and "unladylike" shounen; the villains, major characters, and protagonist are all female. And yet, it doesn't seem forced, or like a parody of femininity. It is silly at some points, but the main plot is handled with realism, depth, and heart.
I would say that Kill La Kill is perhaps not as consistent, serious, or obviously philosophical as some other animes. However, it's still very much an entertaining and enjoyable show, while still making some more subtle philosophical points about power, politics, and human nature.