Review: Kill la Kill

Flashy, frenetic anime can be fun, but ultimately misses the mark by a bit.

Advertisements

The Lowdown:

Show: Kill la Kill

Studio (NA distributor)/ years aired: Gainax (Adult Swim-Toonami), 2013-2014

AniB’s thoughts: I’ve been sitting on doing a review of Kill la Kill for a little while, partially because there’s been other priorities to attend to, but also because I wasn’t sure how to put this eloquently to the people that like the show, or those who haven’t seen it yet, or maybe were patiently waiting for me to get around to it: Kill la Kill is overrated.

Yes, the show features a terrific soundtrack and came from the same people who did Gurren Lagann and once upon a time, Evangelion, and yes, it has the same kind of frenetic action you’d expect from a mecha anime in one that actually isn’t, but for me at least, the dynamics of the show were just… off.

It starts with the premise. I’m perfectly willing to accept “over the top” in anime, but this show in particular makes it part of its very fabric. It’s a potpourri of “high school meets Michael Bay action sequences meets convoluted premise” and while many people have reveled in that regarding Kill la Kill, it just never meshed with me. It didn’t find the same emotional thrust mixed with satisfaction as Gurren Lagann did (and which actually occupied a far grander scope, all things considered)…and then, there was the fanservice.

Oh, the fanservice. I’ve yet to write a treatise on fanservice in animation, but the vast majority of the time (about 95-98% in my rough mental estimation), it’s pointless, adds nothing to the story, cheapens the characters, and gives me a vaguely uncomfortable feeling about what I’m actually viewing. Kill la Kill, for all intensive purposes, is an ecchi anime, of which I suspect precious few will pop up in my review choices, and with good reason- it’s teasing nudity the whole way. I’m not into that. And this is the fundamental difference between something like Kill la Kill and the aforementioned Gurren Lagann, in which there’s one cringy comedic bathhouse episode early in the series along with occasionally playful teasing in the latter, while this entire series makes a point to expose its characters…and the main conflict involves clothing…or a lack thereof.

So does this mean Kill la Kill is a “bad show?” I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it’s not the masterwork some play it up to be, and it certainly has found a legion of anime fans that sing its praises. It also features some pretty amazing fight sequences (especially if you can get past the fan-servicing bit); the characters receive some pretty great development through the show (the central character conflict is actually compelling), and Ryuko Matoi is a strong, solid protagonist. (Cool fact- the character’s English VA plays Gon Freecss in the dub of HxH 2011.) Overall, I’d say one’s reception of Kill la Kill is dependent on one’s tastes. To that end, I’ve attempted to evaluate the show with a balanced hand noting the show’s perceived weaknesses against its strengths.


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D anime. Good looking anime that accentuated some things best left unseen, though the battles are spectacular. Character models are standard enough, tend to accentuate women’s breasts a bit though, and there are some truly spectacular settings illustrated as well. The use to make the obvious fan service look good however…not so much. 3.5/5 points.

 
Characterization: The series focuses on the story of Ryuko Matoi, a girl searching for the answers of her father’s murder who comes upon the main location of the show, Honnouji Academy.

Armed with a giant scissor blade, Ryuko’s a bit of a rough and tumble character, which come at odds when she discovers her sentient battle outfit, Senketsu (pronounced sen-ketz), transforms her into a very revealing outfit that also grants her great power. Because Senketsu is made 100% out of a special material called “life fiber,” it (rather he) has a life and personality of his own, although only Ryuko can hear him.

While at the academy, Ryuoko stays with and befriends Mako Mankanshoku (and her eccentric family). Bright and airheaded to a t, she often serves as the calming presence to Ryuko’s fierceness and determination, and has a good heart and a stubborn will…She’s also the main source of comic relief through the show, a role she excels at.

Opposing Ryuoko through most of the show is Honnouji’s fierce student body president, the formidable Satsuki Kiryuin. Armed with a will stronger than steel and a blade to match, she rules Honnouji in a way that it is much more a military base than really a school… She is flanked by her “Elite 4” (no, not Pokemon)- Ira Gamagoori, a massive man with a personality to match who serves as head of discipline; Uzu Sanageyama, a one-time street boss turned loyal swordsman; Nonon Jakuzure, the only girl and a friend of Satsuma since they were children, and also a music nut; and Houka Inumuta, her information specialists and tech systems guy.

Also to be noted among an extensive supporting cast is Raygo Kiyuin, the mother of Satsuki and head of the REVOC Corporation, a clothing line that has almost monopolized the whole world… Overall, these are actually pretty good characters for the most part with some strange elements and stereotypical tropes; the supporting cast on the whole is okay. 4/5 points.

 
Story quality: Overarching story. While the tale moves at a great pace (and one particular episode deals with the dreaded recap episode in the best way possible), there are other flaws inherently present. Mostly, this is because the storyline of Kill la Kill might be the most convoluted albeit complicated arc out there… (spoilers:)

Life fibers, the threads that form Senketsu, and give clothes known as Goku Uniforms their power, are in fact apparently a sentient alien parasite that devours its victims and destroys planets. Seriously, I can’t make that up if I tried. Raygo Kiryuin, the big bad, tries to co-opt this scheme of destruction while the subtext of Ryuko vs Satsuki plays out, the two eventually coming to a head… the paramilitary organization is literally a group called Nudist Beach (they eschew clothes…) and most adults in this series seem fairly useless. There is some strong emotion built into the plot as well as some decent plot twists, but overall, the end product is both somewhat entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time. 2.75/5 points.

 
Themes: Family struggles, friends, and some other self-discovery stuff. For Ryuko, it’s about forging her path against the path of someone like Satsuski, and so ideologies clash, literally exposed with bare ambition. Honestly, this show isn’t the strongest on themes, but it’s passable considering everything. 3.25/5 points.

 
Don’t insult the viewer: Fanservice. This is the single biggest issue with Kill la Kill, and it’s obvious how intentional that decision was with characters even commenting on it in universe. One one hand, it sorta works because there’s an in-universe explanation, but… if you’re not into nudity (or very skimpy outfits), I’d stay far away (and frankly, i don’t condone it in the slightest). There’s also a fair bit of blood in some scenes, and to that end, you have been warned. 2.5/5 points.

 

Total Score: 16/25 (64%). A bizarre mix of different anime tropes with more than a little fanservice, Kill la Kill is unique…sometimes in the (very) cringeworthy sense, and other times in interesting, unique, and even very funny ways. I wouldn’t personally recommend this to anyone under 18, but depending on your tastes, it is potentially worth a watch.


Like what you see? Have something to say about Kill la Kill? Leave a comment!

Author: anibproductions

I am the founder and writer of AniB Productions, currently a fledgling blog with a focus on animated shows from both the East and the West. Love Buffalo sports, good political discussion, and an interesting conversation wherever I go.

12 thoughts on “Review: Kill la Kill”

  1. There is an argument about the show being overrated. Yes, I believe it is as well, since people tend to forget how disappointing everything is. But I think the creators were banking on the big response, since people basically asked them to do this kind of anime. An epic, over the top show that is full of fan service from the visuals to the animation. It’s just brimming with fan service, both good and bad.
    With that being said, TTGL is also overrated for the same reason KLK is, right? Both damn good shows though.
    Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve wanted to write about this show for a while specifically, but waited knowing the potentially controversial reaction it could get… but I was mostly being honest. KLK isn’t bad, but it’s not the masterpiece some people also make it out to be. Mostly it’s a very fast paced, high energy, fanservicing anime that is in the same mold of TTGL (Same people, same sort of idea) but does some things differently…and that’s how I mostly came to the conclusion I did. Enjoying your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I want to ask though, if KLK is overrated, is TTGL the same? Well, considering they’re cut from the same drugged up cloth. XD
        I wasn’t impressed with KLK as well. It was too long, imo. The anime was good when it was just girl on girl fighting, but aliens had to happen and a woman ith awesome rainbow hair. Too much like TTGL, but lacking the flair for it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hmm…I think TTGL was a “love letter” to mecha anime, which is what a lot of people think, while KLK might have been trying to emulate the former (and isn’t mecha anime). Something in Gurren Lagann completely clicked that made all the over the top stuff really satisfying in a hard to explain way that didn’t quite happen here. (Also yes…when you stop and think about it for two seconds, sentient alien clothing threads is a really, really strange anatgonist.)

        Like

  2. From what I’d heard, I had a feeling this anime wasn’t for me, and your review seems to confirm that. I know that even shows with rampant fanservice can still be enjoyable (like Konosuba or No Game, No Life), but when it seems like the whole point of the show and a constant distraction, it’s too much. A good review, but I’ll be skipping this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I guess it shouldn’t be to surprising that the original otaku pandering company made a series like this.

    I have to admit when I heard about it I just thought it was a pretty standard shonen battle series but with a primarily female cast and the traditional over the top stuff that Gainax is known for. Like the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha series but with more traditional combat as opposed to magical girl stuff, and more over the top because Gainax. Find out about all the first was legitimately surprising at first, but really does seem obvious in retrospect.

    I can’t say I definitely would have watched it without the fanservice, but with the fanservice I probably won’t ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people it really resonates with; others, I can easily see it being very offputting. As someone who writes about this stuff considering all angles, I did my best to see both the show’s strengths and potential flaws. Fanservice indeed is the major tipping point for most people over KLK. It’s very much personal preference.

      Like

  4. Hello,

    I think you misundestood the actual point of the series, it´s much less a show that wants to be „quality“ anime and is instead more focused on using the subversion of a plethora of typical anime tropes to transcend the limitations of its medium (a lot of which are actually rather imposed by the demands of your usual anime viewer than the medium itself) similiarly to Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, the specific usage of fanservice being the best example for this. To be more exact, I think that the writers of the show first and foremost wrote a narrative structure and developed an art and animation style that was very much their own and felt fun and unique to them, making the series an experimental show above all else.

    Just take episode 4 for an example, which is basically nothing but filler and adds nothing to the story, but explores how far a „be late for school“ plotline can actually be driven and toys a lot with the viewer´s expectations along the way. It is in my opinion Kill la Kill´s best single episode, whereas the tournament story arc later on is very similiar in tone, whether it´s Ira Gamagoris refusal to actually attack Ryuko or Nonon Jakuzure blasting the whole fighting arena to smithereens only for the battle to continue in the sky. Furthermore, Nui Harime is the best example for how the art style of Kill la Kill is entirely unique, with how she is being able to use 2D paper animation to her advantage in a 3D world or break through various other means of editing techniques in universe. It is therefore no wonder that the show starts to lose steam during the Tri-city raid arc as most of the fresh ideas of the production staff seem to be used up and that it takes a complete nosedive with episode 16 onwards when they try to give a solid explanation to everything and develop a more standard story arc for Ryuko without there being much of a need for either of them (accordingly Space Patrol Luluco is a nice example for how good a completely incongruent plot can be).

    In conclusion, I think that Kill la Kill should not be measured by how much it holds up in terms of being „good“ anime, but rather by how much innovation it contains for the medium as a whole (hence the whole „Trigger saved anime“ meme).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thanks for dropping by and commenting- you’ve got some detailed insights!

      Kill la Kill is in an interesting realm of space to me as a neutral observer. I don’t doubt at all that it innovates in unexpected ways, but also can’t honestly say every bold move in the show works out either. Fanservice, regardless of one’s opinion or innovation with it, will always serve as a catch-22 for viewers; even when done well, it carries the stigma of being “pandering” to a given audience, and while the targets in question may eat it up, I’m also obligated to think about this from the point of view of someone who isn’t a die-hard KLK fan or just a casual viewer of animation in general.

      It’s actually quite fair to credit the innovation on a given show, while critiquing the whole. You even said the show lost steam around the Tri-City raids, and I’d tend to agree on some level. Heck, I wrote an entire character piece on Nonon Jakuzure (if you haven’t seen it) that gives some credit to that specific character, and I also believe the show has some outstanding design choices and a very good music score as well. The grading system that was designed is supposed to be as unbiased and fair as possible to any given show when I’m evaluating it, so I don’t take lightly the end score, nor my own analysis of the show. However, it’s important to have an open discussion about any given show, and I think you made some excellent points. (I also was well-aware the KLK review would be a lightning-rod, so you’re not the first!)

      Just two other points I wanted to mention:

      -I have nothing against episodic plot threads either; in fact, I’m quite fond of either/or with story driven arcs, although a self-contained episode must always understand the purpose of its self-encapsulation. This narrative style is mostly present in Western animation, which has a lot more of episodic-style shows, but for an anime example I’m fond of, I’d refer to something like Nichijou, which does this very well through surrealist/exaggerated visual comedy in the “slice of life” genre.

      -On episode 4 of KLK: Very technically ambitious, quite a bit of silly fanservice (but this is KLK), innovative little idea for an episode, no doubt. I do think it’s a solid piece of work on the whole.

      Like

      1. Of course, ultimately when it comes down to personal preferences, I think its very much valid to not really like how Kill la Kill plays up its humour or to think that the super-skimpy outfits and heavy use of fanservice go too far to be actually enjoyable, still the fanservice aspect of it seems to be the most misunderstood part of the series these days, some couple of years after its original airing, as I think that it is never to be taken at face value but should be treated as a straight up joke.

        I mean it´s undeniable that there are A LOT of small shots like this one in the series (https://imgur.com/CeBEZlF), which really have a strong sexual tone to them, but coming from someone who really can´t stand any of the (in many cases quite popular) ecchi series or actual fanservice, I think it´s possible to „ignore“ the obvious exaggerated fanservice and see it instead as some kind of subversion and joke that ultimately doesn´t actually hit the mark of pandering to fans with almost nude shots of the characters. Take this „changing“ shot for an example (https://imgur.com/6UxFhzg), it´s drawn in such childlike simplicity and it´s so short, just as if to make fun of marking out the changing of clothes of anime girls as big as a deal as it is done in every other series. Something similiar could be said for all the „mako moments“ in the show, which are often filled to the brim with sexual imagery and inuendo but are still straight up comedy and basically „safe for work“ (https://imgur.com/QNz0jx4).

        Apart from these more subtle ways of tackling the issue of the stupid overusage of fanservice, there are also more moments in Kill la Kill which are a lot more obvious, such in this shot, where Ryuko´s embarrassment because of the skimpiness of her battle suit manifests in waves of steam coming out of it (all accentuated further by the sound editing) (https://imgur.com/mQ3qMAR), hammering home the point of just how embarrassing the majority of the featured outfits actually are or in this shot of the tennis club president, whose naked body is being gloated over by the other students while being passed out (https://imgur.com/EQ43UKc), probably referencing how easily people rave over nudity whenever they think that they are beyond immediate repercussions (or can do it secretly maybe). Furthermore, I compiled these few example from doing nothing more than skimming trough two episodes of Kill la Kill and I think I can trust my memory when I say that there is tons of that stuff in the complete series, however it should also be noted that Trigger kind of „lost their way“ with this thing again in the second half of the show with the Nudist Beach gear, which really doesn´t add much to the subversion but is rather plain fanservice.

        A big part of the reason why this aspect of Kill la Kill´s fanservice is not being perceived as much nowadays has probably to do with the fact that people will now rather binge watch it than watch it on a basis of one episode per week, which makes it more difficult to take note of the little details that ultimately form the subversion part of it in contrast to its outer layer of flashy animations and soundtrack, also this way the ending to the show will have a much bigger impact compared to the rest and then it really isn´t all that good. Ultimately though, I would even go as far as to describe Kill la Kill as the „fanservice“ show to end all fanservice shows in a way, because the entire trope is being taken to such an extreme and ridiculed so often that it makes just every other type of fanservice look bad, making the show something akin to the (much needed) definitive deconstruction of fanservice as a whole.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s