Kill la Kill Review: Pull the Trigger and Hit the Mark
The Winter season of anime is coming to an end. All the shows that began are starting to end and we can see a Stand user walking towards us on the horizon, silhouetted by the rising sun (See what I did there?). With the cold of Winter came an anime that has taken the Internet by storm… Or at least Tumblr. I don’t use many social networking sites, but I really noticed it there. Screenshots, animated GIFs, fanart, shipping, music! All of these stampeded my homepage to such a degree that I finally had to sit down and watch it… But also because The Best Friend Zaibatsu told me to. I binged all twenty-four episodes in one day on Crunchyroll and I’m still alive, mostly. And what I have to say is as follows…
Ladies and gentlemen, Kill la Kill.
Kill la Kill begins with a high school student being horribly beaten to death by a large, two story tall Disciplinary Comity student for stealing a classy school uniform. This is only two minutes in and the show’s already living up to its title and proving that this is going to be one of those animes that’s completely bonkers. We then meet our hero, transfer student to Honnouji Academy, Ryuuko Matoi: a black haired girl with a single swooping red highlight, a black and white Letterman jacket and determined eyes. We soon learn that Ryuuko has come to this school to find the culprit who killed her father and to exact revenge. Her only clue is the weapon she wields: a large, red scissor that she uses as a sword. All she knows is that the owner of the other half is her father’s murderer and she will fight anyone who gets in her way.
She meets an eccentric classmate named Mako Mankanshoku — bearer of such powers as low frame animation and Hallelujah rays — who teaches her the structural hierarchy of the school and the surrounding town. A student’s ranking in school affects where their family lives and the ranks are determined by your club activities and your skill in them. Slacker students, such as Mako, live in the slums and have no ranking, while students who participate in sports or other clubs have one to three star rankings. Those with at least one star are given a special “Goku” uniform that boosts the fighting power of the student and their individual skills. The more stars you have, the more powerful you become.
Ryuuko is soon introduced to the Student Council President and ruler with an iron fist of Honnouji Academy, Satsuki Kiryuin, who Ryuuko belives knows all the secrets behind her father’s death. Though she wants to directly confront Satsuki, Ryuuko must first defeat her entourage of club presidents to get to her. Unfortunately, Ryuuko’s arrogance gets her quickly brought down by the Boxing Club Captain. Ryuuko and Mako make a quick escape before more damage can be done and hide out in Ryuuko’s father’s now burnt down mansion, where they discover a underground lab of sorts full of rubble. Ryuuko accidentaly discovers a living, talking sailor fuku by the name of Senketsu who forces himself onto her. Senketsu, whom can only be heard by Ryuuko, is actually a powerful battle armor developed by her father and is capable of transforming into an extremely sexy piece of clothing that boosts Ryuuko’s power to unbelievable heights with only the cost of some blood. She returns to school with Senketsu and begins her long and arduous fight to defeat the student council and ultimately Satsuki.
Before I go into the nitty gritty of the review, there are some things I’d like to mention about the people who worked on Kill la Kill. The company who made this show is called Trigger, which was founded by previous Gainax employees. Gainax is well known for creating animes such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, Gurren Lagann, and Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt. One of these shows in particular has been the reigning king of anime for me, and that spot is held by Gurren Lagann, with FLCL being the prior holder to the title. Now, all the shows I’ve mentioned have been, in my opinion, works of art. FLCL and Evangelion were two of my favorite shows to watch late at night on Toonami when I was a kid. Then high school came, and a show came out that would change the way I got hype at anime forever: Gurren Lagann. I love Gurren to death. This show was the first time I had ever yelled “OH MY GOD” and “EEENNNGGGHHH” at my TV. Almost everything about that show was perfect… But, as much as it saddens me to do this, I must take its crown and give it to the heir that I never knew was there.
How’s the Story?
The story for Kill la Kill is a little nonsensical, which is the tamest way to say it. Another would be “IT’S FREAKING NUTS.” Like I mentioned above in the synopsis for the first episode, Trigger lets you know that this show is going to be a roller coaster within the first two minutes. This show is all about scale and how they can break that scale and they for sure make you feel it. The pacing is quick and punchy. There’s never a dull moment even when there is downtime from fighting to advance the plot or to develop some characters. The story is interesting and always kept me guessing as to what was going to happen next. I haven’t been so involved in a series in a long time and that’s such a breath of fresh air.
How are the Characters?
I’ve watched many an anime in my time and would gladly call myself a weathered and learned individual on the subject, and I’ll tell you that there’s one thing that really makes this show different from other shows when it comes to characters: I actually remember their names. With a cast as large as Kill la Kill’s, it’d be easy to forget many if not most of the character’s names. I’m not Japanese, I don’t know/speak Japanese, so you have to really make me care about these characters to even get me to remember their names. Heck, I’m bad with English names! I love Gurren, but I can only remember, like, five of the character’s names, but I know for a fact that Kill la Kill has over ten that I’ll always remember.
To make a long story short, yes, the characters are great. Every single character that has a face (and even some without one) is really enjoyable and gets emotion out of me. Even the Elite Four of the Student Counsel all have distinct and rememberable personalities that grow and change as the story unfolds. That shows that Trigger loves every single character that they made and want us, the viewers, to love them as much has they do.
What About the Animation?
This animation in the show is downright beautiful. The art style is heavily stylized and almost simple like Western animation. This show is a cartoon by definition. Characters make unrealistic, funny faces and their bodies bend and stretch to a rubbery consistency. I love it so much. As an example, have you ever seen a frame by frame shot of Disney’s Aladdin? In that movie, Aladdin’s body and face bend so drastically that you’d think he was a goo monster disguised as a “hyoomaan maan” to gain information of our culture for eventual domination. Now, remember how good Aladdin looks? That’s how animation is supposed to be done and that’s exactly how Kill la Kill is animated.
The action scenes are also spectacular to watch. There is so much going on but it all looks so seamless and it flows together so well. Trigger knows how to animate a fun and exciting battle where you can feel the intensity of each slash, punch, kick, and throw. There are certain scenes where you can tell that they were saving money by using flash animation for the bigger fights. This isn’t a bad thing though. Whenever it’s done it feels in place with the show and just gives it character. These scenes, when flash is used, are almost always humorous scenes where the low animation budget actually works and looks hilarious. I could go on for hours about how good the animation looks, but I’ll save you from that kind of torture. My friends on the other hand are not spared this fate.
And the Music?
Music is super important in any movie or show but it’s often looked over by many people. Music sets the mood and tone and describes the intensity of the scene without characters having to tell us. This is true for anime too and Kill la Kill gets it. KlK uses many genres of music like orchestral, J-pop, rock/punk and even rap. All openings and endings have great songs, but the show needs to hold up too and hold up it does. Whenever Ryuuko has a moment of true power the music picks up with the most perfect song for that fight to get hype with. The music alone had me clenching my fists as the fights happened because I could feel it. I’m for sure getting the OST and that’s saying something for a guy who doesn’t like anime soundtracks on his iTunes playlist.
In conclusion, Kill la Kill is the best anime I’ve ever seen. Everything about it is perfect: the story, the characters, the animation, the music… It was all finely crafted by the hands of true artists. The action scenes are amazing and suspenseful with the scale of power being immeasurable. The show may seem like fan service and pandering to a certain demographic at first, but you soon realize that the fan service is all strongly backed by story and make perfect sense in the world of Kill la Kill. I had the hardest time writing this review because I just wanted to ramble constantly about how much I love this show and every little detail. I can’t push this show enough. If you love anime and you haven’t watched it yet, go watch Kill la Kill ASAP. If you have watched it and love it like me, do it again. I want Trigger to know that their show is awesome and that they should release a $600 Complete Blu-Ray Box Set just like what Gainax did for Gurren Lagann.