What’s in a Character: Nonon Jakuzure

Cute face, spunky, sassy personality: One of Kill la Kill’s Elite 4 takes center stage.

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Finally, after many months of waiting, the “What’s in a Character” series returns, with a piece about…Nonon Jakuzure? Yes, it’s true that I wrote about Kill la Kill here, with no minced words, but I have my reasons for this highly unusual pick. She might not be the main draw of her home series, but she has a way of stealing the show on screen, whether it be through her devastating musical endeavors or just being the right mix of sass and cuteness…Without further ado…here’s Nonon!

WARNING: Spoilers for Kill la Kill ahead.


“Why?”

Choosing a character from an anime that I’ve made no bones about on its gratuitous fan-service might seem strange at first glance, but in reality, Kill la Kill does have some key aspects that work incredibly well in its favor. In particular, it has both superb character design and some pretty good character development, especially when it pertains to its key characters. While these discussions often revolve around Ryuko Matoi, the lead character, or her arch-rival/half-sister Satsuki Kiryuin, they less often fall on the latter’s faithful elite subordinates and commanders- the so-called Elite Four- and in conjunction with that, even less often on any of the individuals within that grouping. One such individual just so happens to be Nonon, and boy is she something else.

Chosen as one of Satsuki’s elites, Nonon is definitively not meek. The defining trait of Kill la Kill’s indomitable band leader of doom is her unabashedly rude, pompous and overconfident front that she juxtaposes from a position of power, hidden under a thin layer of saccharine sweetness and inauspicious cuteness. While this alone does not make Nonon’s character worth writing about, the context in which she’s deployed does to a by and large extent- and so the question of “what happens when you throw this character into unexpected binds and insane situations?” unfolds dramatically in concert with Ryuko’s challenges of Honnouji Academy’s various clubs, inevitably leading into confrontation with Satsuki’s Elite Four.

One of the truly remarkable aspects about Nonon as that she’s not a sympathetic character (at first) or even a protagonist archetype, but someone who is the right mix of sweet and sour who can become in equal part likable. There’s a clever juxtaposition of her musical motif- the band conductor- against her actual personality, which is far more spunky and not at all what you’d expect. She might like classical music, but her way of fighting is a punk rocker at heart under all the fancy trappings.

Physically, Nonon isn’t that impressive or crazily proportioned like some anime girls (including this series). She’s fairly petite, and has no defining physical features that would normally mark her as a key threat…but in a classic reversal of form, she might in fact be the nastiest and trickiest Elite Four member to fight- and her specially powered-up series of Goku Uniforms through the series emphasize a nice blending of her aforementioned motif along with disproportional power to her appearance.

Prepare to be pummeled cheerfully, jauntily and utterly one-sidedly!– Nonon, to Ryuko upon entering battle for the first time

In battle, Nonon proves to be ruthless, overwhelming Ryuko for stretches in her initial uniform before ultimately tasting defeat after a fierce battle, overwhelmed by the power of Senketsu. However, in all her on-screen battle appearances, she never backs down from a challenge, suggesting a fair bit of courage despite the bravado and attitude she possesses. As adversity mounts for her and most of the main cast with the show’s second half, her mettle is tested along with the rest of her compatriots, especially the other Elite Four members, as the truth of Honnouji Academy’s purpose and the Life Fibers come to light, and the subsequent turn to join up with their former archenemy- Nudist Beach.

Initially serving as a supporting antagonist, Nonon’s role shifts through the series while remaining steady in one key respect: as a loyal friend and subordinate to the aformentioned Satsuki, and while her loyalty is admirable, it borders on fanaticism. Her outsized sense of importance and rank meets some harsh reality as the show rolls on though, but admirably her bond with her boss/friend does not diminish.

Nonon’s temperament becomes a bit more muted after the defeat of Satsuki by Ragyo Kiruin, the latter’s mother, and her own losses that she suffered to Ryuko (although the latter point also made her hungrier for personal vengeance that never totally came.) While she briefly enjoys a resurgence of success in the show’s “School Raids” arc, the total defeat and takeover of Honnouji changes her role and position. She becomes a rebel fighter along with the rest of the Elite Four in the eccentric Nudist Beach group- guerillas dedicated to destroying the alien Life Fibers that serve as the core plot point of Kill la Kill.

 


When you boil her down to her essence, Nonon Jakuzure is a piece of work, but one that seems to get better as you continue to watch her. She’s not the main star (but you can tell on some level she wants to be); she’s bratty and cannot stand getting her way initially, but instead of simply preserving that personality statically through the show, she grows from her experiences while keeping a trademark caustic wit and sass that fits her position as the most trusted of Satsuki’s inner circle. There’s a decent, believable backstory to her as well, and it’s a simple, yet easy way to justify the roots of her actions, along with her positive trait of true friendship…Often times, a solid supporting character doesn’t need too much to fit their role well, but Nonon goes a bit above and beyond that with her well-though out design, developed personality and continued importance in the show even after her major defeat to Ryuko. Oh, and she has a kickass theme:

What does that mean?

Also, I couldn’t help but think of this as well:

(Well, she is part of the Elite 4.)


Like what you see? Any further commentary on Kill la Kill or Nonon? Leave a comment!

Review: Kill la Kill

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

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!