I’m not very fond of Anime. It’s not a philosophical thing or any kind of derision towards cultural differences. I quite like Japan and I’m often first to defend them when people say “Oh Japan” from some kind of strange position of superiority. Where we fetishize violence and firearms they seem to fetishize sexuality, the latter of which seems to me to be far less perverted than the former (if we are using words literally).
For about a year I was seeing pictures from Kill La Kill on all sorts of places and even hearing a bit about it. There was some controversy about how Kill La Kill makes wrist slitting this new sexy thing and that it would lead confused teens to just start offing themselves en masse. I suppose I should just address that now and move onto the review proper. This controversy has literally no merit and everyone that pushed it forward underlines a very problematic sector of society. Ignoring the real issues that genuinely harm people to take cheap jabs at things out of context and from a level of ignorance that is stunning in every regard. These people are the double rainbow of stupid.
At any rate, Liz started watching this and I found myself amused by it on multiple levels almost immediately. [Jarring tense shift time!] The characters are all incredibly colorful, each one is written to a level that I find very satisfying. Even the one character that I found myself hating (for all the wrong reasons to hate a character) ended up being largely justified near the end. Much of this anime needs to be experienced in earnest and without tainting I think, which meant that I had a very difficult time finding a few images for this review that didn’t really ruin anything. Though I must admit catching scenes I saw out of context in the anime made me laugh because I finally got them.
The internal consistency of this show is just so damn good. Everything from the usage of nudity to the over the top violence all makes sense. The further you get through the anime the more everything makes sense and the more you appreciate every little hint and foreshadowing piece they had in the beginning. Even though you can (and probably will) predict a few of the twists just watching how those twists unfold is a thing of beauty. I was staying up late just to finish this freaking thing. Every episode would end on something that wasn’t necessarily a cliffhanger but I was so interested that it effectively was.
Moreover things I really really wanted to happen ended up happening and it got me all delighted. I loved every hero character and the vast majority of the villains. The only exception is the obligatory adorable superhero character.
I wanted this character to burn from the moment she was on the screen. But her arc is actually pretty good too. She ends up not being a waste of time and space and most of the time that she pissed me off ends up being validated. If I watched this again I wouldn’t mind her anymore but until things became a bit more clear with her character it was certainly aggravating. If you find her mind numbing when she’s introduced give it a few episodes, she comes together in terms of character design and personality rationale.
The elite 4 are a series of characters that protect the antagonist in the show. You’ll have to forgive me that I don’t remember basically anyone’s names but the folks below are all pretty awesome. Each one of them has a great backstory that reasonably leads into the character they become. I liked all of them quite a lot and none of them overstay their welcome (though the voice actor for the little female character is a bit tough to take in long bouts).
Their leader (who google tells me is named Kiryuin) is pretty great all around as well. Her character design and personality are basically perfect. She commands every scene she is in which fits perfectly because that’s exactly the kind of character she is supposed to be. She’s an absolutely horrendously powerful young woman who controls an entire city, much more she is not afraid or embarrassed of this power. She uses it tactically and doesn’t suffer from the LaLouche problem (He’s selectively stupid when it helps prolong the series).
The elephant in the room is likely the costumes that the characters wear. There is a lot of skin shown in this show. It’s pretty much gender neutral nudity (I’m actually not sure if men spend more time naked on screen than women in this, its a close battle if not), and all of it makes sense. You might not catch it near the beginning but as the show moves on the mixture of parody and story are tight. There is an internally consistent reason for it and by the end I have no problem with it.
I didn’t in the beginning either but I’m not one to get all uppity when people have outlandish outfits. I don’t feel like stifling what people want to draw (or wear in the case of films) just to fit my own prejudices for how people should act, look, and dress.
I’m having a tough as nails time finding an image that isn’t either fanart or spoilerific. You’ll just have to see it for yourself I guess. I really want to talk more deeply about the nudity and sexual themes in this just because they are so spot on. But we’ll save that for another post with spoiler tags. Needless to say that it makes complete and total sense once you get to the end (lets just say that they COVER it quite well by explaining how Ryuko feels near the end…)
The animation in this show is great. I loved every second of it and their artistic range is absolutely delightful. It’s not my favorite but its certainly in the top 5. I’m a big fan. It might not be for you but I have absolutely zero complaints.
And I suppose we’ll close this out with the negatives. I already covered the pink girl and how she is initially quite irritating. Additionally there is some of the painful tropes of “I’m going to act out of character in because I’m emo.” that come near the last quarter of the series. It only lasts for about a single episode and that’s what made me alright with it. They dive into some negative tropes (like liar revealed stuff) that normally take entire damn seasons of anime’s to resolve (sometimes its the entire damn plot of htem) and they take care of it in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or a full episode. Never longer and I deeply appreciate that.
The positives are many for a show that can easily play itself off as shallow and vapid but that provides you with wonderfully deep story. Honestly the longer you think about Kill La Kill once its over the more you realize how every little silly thing was really well done and had a really solid point. I’m all for senseless violence and nudity but to have every ounce of it have a really ingrained and internally consistent is just a work of magic.
I’m told that this anime was made to sort of poke fun at the tropes of other anime and exaggerate them to the maximum. I feel like they failed because they took a bunch of things that normally infuriate me and they wrapped them up in a tight little story that was just a delight. They had so many opportunities to milk this thing for a hundred episodes and they didn’t. This could have been another vapid mess like Attack on Titan or Code Geass. But it wasn’t, I’m incredibly impressed and don’t regret a single minute of watching this show. Started out good, turned into something great, and though I strongly disagree with one of their decisions in the conclusion I’m almost convinced it’ll be resolved in the movie.
With that in mind I’m taking that disappointment with a very light heart and strongly suggesting you watch this. If you have even passing interest in Anime I hope that it delights you as much as it did me. Because as an incredible cynic of anime (something that I’ll cover more in my review of East of Eden, coming soonish) I can’t believe something this good was done. I’ve liked other Anime in the past but…wow man. Glad I didn’t miss it entirely.
Honestly there is tons more I forgot to mention. The lead is great, her friend is great, the secondary characters are almost all great (the rest are just good). The mixture of light hearted and (surprisingly) dark content is done in a way that creates a delicious dish. I’m only stopping myself now because I could talk about this thing for longer than is necessary since the average person left a hundred sentences ago.
- What I liked.
- Great characters each with their own fantastic backstory and design.
- Excellent story that manages to make the ridiculous completely believable in the context of the universe. It is internally consistent.
- Absolutely gorgeous animation style that quickly became one of my favorites. It’s simple when it needs to be and detailed when it needs to be.
- The negative tropes of storytelling are used extremely sparingly. Avoiding a common crutch in anime.
- What I disliked.
- One of the choices in the ending hit a very strong cliche in Japanese anime and upset me. But I have a feeling it will be resolved proper in the movie that is coming soonish.
- That uh…that’s it?
Lets not overlook that this friggen sailor uniform has more character than entire casts of plenty of other popular anime. Blows my damn mind.