Series: Kill La Kill Original Release Date/Run: October 2013 – March 2014 Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Magical Girl, Ecchi Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi Writer: Kazuki Nakashima Studio: Trigger Number of Episodes: 24 + 1 OVA Overview: Kill La Kill takes place in Honnō City at a fictional High School called Honnouji Academy. The student council, led by Satsuki Kiryuin, rule over the students of Honnouji Academy with an iron fist. This is until new girl Ryuko Matoi, who wields half scissor blade, appears on a quest for vengeance against the user of the other half scissor blade. Little does Ryuko realize that the student council and members of the school clubs are given special outfits that grant them special enhancements, powers and abilities making them a force to be reckoned with. Each outfit is given a star rating, with one being the lowest and three being the highest, however, there is far more to the materials used to make these outfits that Ryuko comprehends. Personal Opinion: Kill La Kill is like that person that drinks themselves drunk without fail; they’re incoherent and obnoxious, like to ramble and make little to no sense yet they spend a great deal of time and effort trying to rationalize their story; but they’re sure a lot of fun to watch. Okay. Perhaps that’s a little harsh to say, after all I enjoyed watching Kill La Kill a lot, and contrary to my initial statement, overall it is a good series. I stress “good” not great as Kill La Kill has some monumental flaws that inhibit its ability to make a strong narrative and thematic impact and make it a great anime. In the defense of Kill La Kill, such flaws would otherwise completely destroy any other anime, however; one of the wonderful things that Kill La Kill demonstrates is that a piece of art/animation can redeem itself by being much stronger in other areas. It’s creative, has good characterisation, well implemented and executed comedy, a vibrant colour palette, is well-paced and overall a lot of fun. Basically, just because a piece of art/animation might be lacking, weak, or a complete loss in a couple areas, it can make up for this by delivering on other areas. If I were to sum up Kill La Kill in a few words, they would be; “good but inconsistent”. The plot starts off pretty straight forward and logical both from a narrative and thematic perspective only to abandon that to go into an obtuse direction, which is usually fine if it’s well set up and foreshadowed. The issue here however, is when the plot decides to take an abrupt turn in direction, it fails to set up or foreshadow most of the later plot threads and then as a result, spends a great deal of screen time rationalizing this drastic plot change to the audience with an expository info dump. While this is true and I stand firmly by it, I will also admit the direction it goes in is at least entertaining and the only reason it barely works is because of how over the top and outrageous the tone of this show is. It’s at that point I feel almost like the storyline of the show is meant more to serve as a vehicle for all the hysterics the show has to offer as opposed to making logical or narrative sense. That’s neither a compliment nor a criticism. Thematically Kill La Kill gets sloppy and messy; the ideas and their development are brought up at times in an episodic fashion; which works out alright and a few ideas are even explored throughout the series, which does work in its favour. However, since the storyline undergoes a drastic change in direction without a strong set up, many thematic ideas get abandoned the same way certain aspects of the plot does. This gets particularly jarring for anyone wanting to dig a little deeper or truly pinpoint what it is that Kill La Kill is attempting to say on a narrative level. What I will give this show is of the few thematic ideas that work, the idea of the bonds of family, friendship, togetherness and unity is the one particular concept that is pretty consistent throughout, which is probably one of the few things consistent about it. Granted, there are some good smaller ideas that feed into it, such as the episode where the family Ryuko is with ends up getting drowned in status and materialism and as a result, forget who they are and what’s important. This is one of the stronger episodes not only because of the character interaction but how its conclusion reinforces some good thematic ideas while setting up some plot and character motives. This episode also provides some great world building and social commentary on various levels with the sociological hierarchy of the setting by exploring its structure in greater detail. The reason this works is that Kill La Kill establishes elements of this thematic idea early on in the series quite well by using visuals with something as simple as repeatedly showing the structure of the town Kill La Kill takes place in; it’s literally set up as social pyramid with the wealthiest high status population on top and the poor on the bottom. Now, there are some other good, well thought out episodes that do this where the thematic idea is more character and situation based and works as a stand alone episode since the idea is resolved, however; the issue with some of the other themes that come up in a similar fashion go unresolved and they’re never revisited. That brings me to the thematic mess that plagues Kill La Kill; I see there are some ideas that begin to develop, but are either just lip service, or they’re not developed to the extent the narrative demands or they get abandoned all together. As an example, one of the thematic motifs which are fate comes into play here, however, unfortunately this thematic idea comes and goes and is as transient as a flaky person’s promise. It’s really sad too because there are some great opportunities here where this thematic idea could’ve been integrated into some of the other ones. The result is that the show presents but fails to develop the thematic idea of fate beyond a surface level. There’s the scissor blades, the red thread motif that comes up, the way characters are connected, but aside from great imagery once in a while, it’s not as developed thematically as it could’ve been. Instead, the theme of fate becomes subordinated as a plot device as opposed to a thematic one. The result here is that instead of using the thematic idea of fate to really analyse its own philosophies or exploring the characters’ perspectives, it exists as a means to rationalize the convoluted plot. I feel that a lot of great ideas could’ve been put to good use, from something as simple as doing more with the gritty aesthetic of the series contrasted with the lighthearted comedy, to the tyranny and oppression motif complete with 1984 references and high school life. Despite as harsh as I’m being to Kill La Kill, I still like the series and have plenty of good to say about it. One of those areas is the characterisation and because of how it’s executed, it’s practically the glue that holds the series together. The characterisation is very efficient with how it goes about fleshing out and developing characters. Everyone in the main ensemble cast are given a good backstory of who they are, how they met each other and where they fit into the story without eating up too much screen time. Then there’s some strong implicit fleshing out and development of the characters with how they’re presented visually and how their actions, motives and behaviours convey their place in the story thematically. While some of this can get repetitious, I find that it reinforces a particular character’s goal thematically and how it affects them as a person. This adds a strong dynamic to the already interesting and enjoyable ensemble cast, and while that’s a fine thing, like any good art/entertainment that has an ensemble cast, it ensures narrative stability by anchoring the main story line to two primary characters. This is one of the definitive strengths of Kill La Kill that allows it some redemption over its flaws. In the comedy department Kill La Kill does exceptionally well with the combination of elements like the animation, visuals, dialogue and music coming together here contribute to the strong execution of humour and jokes while also providing something relatively fresh, unique and effective. There is a nice variety of jokes to be had here including everything from how a joke is executed to how it’s introduced and built up gradually and escalated to be called upon as the series progresses. The humour is even effective at times for foreshadowing and to even make a thematic point. Out of all the jokes in the series, I’d say there’s only one that I really have an issue with and that’s mostly due to my personal experiences, understand, it’s how the scene is handled; how the joke was executed with its content and framing that bothered me. Aside from that one issue I have with the humour, if everything else in this series was as consistent, effective and well executed as the comedy; it would be a phenomenal show, however; my prior criticisms still stand. As I hinted at earlier, the animation, visuals and aesthetic contribute well to the humour and the thematic ideas that whether they undergo development or not. The series has an inviting aesthetic to it and does a great job of establishing the tone of any given scene. It’s also pretty cool to see a slightly unique character design style come up. There’s also some great framing which supports the humour, characterisation and even some of the dramatic scenes and thematic ideas the series brings up. Overall, this is where the show’s creativity and unique style really shine and compliment a lot of what it does well. This adds a lot to many of the fast paced, intricate action sequences that occur on Kill La Kill which makes them a lot of fun to watch. What I really enjoyed here is how the animation is utilized, from how some action scenes are framed with how there’s a 360 view to how and when close up shots are executed. The action, like the characterization and comedy, is a definitive strong point of this series. That said the animation gets pretty inconsistent at times; while there are some breathtaking, intricate, fast moving action and comedy scenes that are ridiculously well animated as well as some great establishing shots, there are times where the illusion crumbles. What I mean is that there are times where it’s easy to tell when a key frame is being manipulated around or enlarged to create movement. The issue here is that while many anime put this style of animation to good use and hide it in plain sight making it almost unnoticeable, Kill La Kill actually tries harder to hide it and as a result, it becomes more obvious and somewhat cheap looking at times. The only other aspect to bring up regarding the visual presentation is that Kill La Kill does consist of some ecchi fan service scenes such as the magical girl transformation, the occasional bath scene and naked men and women charging into battle. While the majority of the ecchi fan service is meant for comedic and thematic purposes, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s ecchi material. I’ve heard people rationalize the fan service here as “lamp shading” or “parodying” actual ecchi stuff, which is fine, however; I disagree with this interpretation of it considering how gratuitous it can get regardless of whether it’s meant to make a thematic point or it’s done to parody ecchi in anime. The point is that there are people who enjoy anime who find such content alienating for numerous reasons and that’s fine. It’s also fine if you’re cool with it. I’m not trying to discourage people from watching it, by all means, if you want to try it, go ahead, I’m just letting you know it’s there. The music is amazing, Hiroyuki Sawano, who also composed a solid score for Attack on Titan, composed the music for Kill La Kill which consists of a variety of melodies that complement and enhance any scene in how; from something comedic, to dramatic to suspenseful action; it helps to convey the tone of a scene. A cool example is the use of exotic scales during some of the comedic parts, particular something that sounds like the harmonic minor that complements scenes where Mako does these frantic monologues. These parts are funny on their own because of their energy, content, and visuals, but it’s the music that completes the execution of these scenes. I watched Kill La Kill in English as I do most of the time with anime and for the most part it’s done very well. All the actors do a great job on this show and I feel they fit the characters they play very well. The only real issue with the English dub are the first couple episodes with the character Ryuko. It’s pretty easy to tell that the voice actor playing her is not as experienced as the rest of the cast and is getting into the groove on those first couple episodes. Even Erica Mendez, who plays Ryuko has admitted to wanting to redo those first couple episodes because she feels her performance is lacking there. Despite that particular issue, Erica Mendez does find her bearings and is able to settle into the role nicely and even on those earlier episodes the timbre of her voice still fits the character and that’s an important thing for me. Kill La Kill is messy and inconsistent when it comes to its plot and themes, but makes up for this with its creative approach to its animation and visuals, well executed comedy, fast paced and suspenseful action and its colourful cast of characters. Overall, this is one occasion where the style, fun and rule of cool contained on Kill La Kill is enough to carry the series despite its inconsistent and at times, incoherent substance.