Finally, I’ve caught up on Kill La Kill. Not that it is a particularly long series; only twenty three episodes have aired as of yet, far from the impressive three hundred and sixty six episodes that Bleach can boast or the mammoth six hundred episode series of One Piece. I haven’t fallen out of love with anime either. While I don’t watch it as avidly as I once did, I still find the entire medium to be really powerful and entertaining, at least when it is at its best. There so much anime out there that finding one that actively captures your imagination can be a tough slog.
It didn’t even take me that long to watch all the episodes so far; a couple of weeks at most. Unlike when I was overloaded from my Bleach binge, the problem here was simply time. Lately, western, live action television has just been so demanding that I’ve struggled to find the time to invest in anime. The Blacklist and Chicago Fire are just two such shows that I have found myself really enjoying and that is to say nothing of the fact that Game of Thrones will return in two weeks as well as the imminent release of the HD remastered version of Final Fantasy X. And The Americans just recently returned. And I’ve been curious about True Detective.
So you see the dilemma. As far as first world problems go, it is a biggie. But recently I did find myself with two weeks where not all the shows had quite fully returned from their mid-season breaks and thus I decided to devote some time to a new anime; Kill La Kill. Why Kill La Kill? Honestly, it was off a recommendation from a friend and I was intrigued to see what Trigger, founded by animators Hiroyuki Imaishi and Masahiko Ohtsuka, could do outside of their previous Gainax employment.
Gainax is probably best known for their work on Neon Genesis Evangelion and most recently Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann which was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi. Watching Kill La Kill, it really shows that Imaishi came from Gainax and was involved in Gurren Lagann. The art style seems very similar but the animation itself is also very dramatic marked by very stylistic moments of poignancy. Even in terms of story, there are clear similarities such as a very simple goal acting as a gateway into a much grander plot. This isn’t just used by Imaishi; it’s evident in many anime shows and western television programmes but whether conscious or not, it seems that Kill La Kill was, at least, inspired by Imaishi’s work on Gurren Lagann.
If you are unaware of Kill La Kill, the story follows a high school student, Ryuko Matoi, who transfers to Honnouji Academy in search of her father’s killer. The school is ran by the student council president and heir to the Revocs Corporation, Satsuki Kiryuin, a cool and detached girl who offers to tell Matoi all that she wants to know provided that she can defeat her and the elite four, who are the school’s club captains and Satsuki’s own personal defenders. Wielding a scissor blade, which is exactly what it sounds like, Matoi takes on the school and soon finds herself defeated. Following the advice of a mysterious disrobing teacher, Matoi returns to her father’s house and finds a hidden trap door. In the basement, Matoi finds Senketsu, a sentient Japanese sailor school uniform that when worn by Matoi transforms and gives her superhuman abilities at the expense of her dignity.
Scantily-clad but empowered not only describes Matoi’s transformed state but also the series as a whole. There is a lot more fan service in this series than other shōnen anime such as Dragonball Z or Bleach. This is certainly true after the introduction of ‘Nudist Beach’ an anti-clothing group that is opposed to Satsuki and the Revocs Coporation, a clothing conglomerate, with many of the characters disrobing, though it stays firmly in ecchi rather than hentai by covering sensitive areas with sunspots. Mostly this is played for comedy such as the reactions of certain characters to the aforementioned sunspots suggesting that they can see what the audience cannot, but there are also moments which are extremely disturbing because of the nudity. Satsuki’s relationship with her mother Ragyo Kiryuin is certainly an example of how creepy the series can be.
Don’t let the fan service fool you. The action in this series is fast paced and hard hitting, becoming more interesting to watch than many battles I’ve seen from the Bleach anime, though it is fairly grounded in the Dragonball Z mode of things, i.e. can’t beat an opponent? Here’s a new transformation. The series can also get as dark and depressing as Attack on Titan and Neon Genesis Evangelion, especially around episode fifteen or so.
It is the music and the clothing motif that most drew me into Kill La Kill though. Musically, the soundtrack to Killl La Kill is brilliant, subtly capturing both the dread of any given moment with the optimism of the next. Ryuko Matoi’s battle with Nonon Jakuzure which uses actual orchestral pieces such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 “Fate” is one of my favourite fights from the entire series. The clothing motif as well, I found intriguing. We all wear clothes and even subconsciously we have clothes that we prefer to wear because they are more comfortable or for sentimental reasons. Imagine then if that was what clothes wanted you to think, either because they were trying to befriend us or because they are malevolently biding their time. According to creator, Imaishi, the concept sprung from the similarity of the words fashion and fasism in the Japanese Language. It is a really cool little idea that really brings the entire series together. There’s also a slight connection to 2001: A Space Odyssey that I don’t think was intentional which I found interesting but I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to watch.
Kill La Kill is a really enjoyable new anime, although it does have its pitfalls. As above, battles tend to be won less because of strategy and more because of some previously undisclosed ability. Also a lot of the major plot points are pretty predictable and you will probably see them coming before they happen. But while the flaws are annoying, they are minor annoyances in what is a very pleasurable and intense series. If you are looking for a new anime to try, Kill La Kill gets my vote.