A Dress ‘er Down, Beat ’em Up: Kill la Kill Review

Anime/manga is a beloved thing in part due to its ability to throw logic and sane notions to the wind. Some series go over the top with the plot, action or its characters, but a notable few that go far beyond even that. With that said, one of the most recent and prime examples, Kill la Kill, leaves a hell of a gnarly mark. Written and directed by Kazuki Nakashima and Hiroyuki Imaishi respectively, the same eccentric minds behind the highly regarded and imaginative hit Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, that should come as no surprise. The show was actually recommended to me and I’m glad I took the time to sit down and watch it via Crunchyroll on my PS3 and here’s why…

The overall plot itself isn’t in actuality, all too complex or muddled but it does have an unsuspecting amount of depth as it moves towards the endgame. Basically, you have the main heroine Ryuko Matoi who’s on a quest for vengeance against the person responsible for her father’s murder. With the killer wielding the other half of her “Scissor” Blade as her only lead, the search as led her to Honnouji Academy; a treacherous, almost barbaric school ruled by the tyrannical Satsuki Kiryuin. Shortly afterwards, Ryuko is “gifted” with a special, sentient sailor uniform (dubbed Senketsu) that transforms her into a superhuman ass-kicker allowing her to take the fight directly to Satsuki’s Student Council as well as Satsuki herself.

Ryuko and Satsuki have about as complicated a relationship as you can get. One thing is clear however, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near these babes when they cross swords.

Later on, other and, noticeably more evil, antagonists are introduced opening plenty of room for shocking plot twists from every angle. Without fail, those opportunities weren’t wasted with a relentless stream of exciting, left-field, revelations concerning the true nature of the primary characters and their connections to one another. The whole theme of clothes being a form of oppression on a range of levels also struck as very different, very unconventional approach and thus interesting on its own. Placing an otherworldly sci-fi-infused spin on the Life Fibers that make up the good/bad guys battle attire –as well as other things I won’t spoil—was a brilliant move that added even more fun to an already zany narrative.

Lending credence to the story, the team at Trigger has come up with a bevy of unforgettable characters ranging for absurdly badass to laugh-out-loud hilarious. Ryuko and Satsuki equally obliterate the mold and have a feud/rivalry that feels absolutely electrifying. Matter of fact, all the members of the Student Council’s Elite Four were far from cookie cutter, making for a vibrant array of enemies for Ryuko to face. Perhaps, one of, if not, the most entertaining characters to watch was Ryuko’s  immediate BFF Mako Mankanshoku. This chick is crazy, I mean her whole family appears to be nuts, but she’s above and beyond that. Combined with her good heart and bizarre outlooks though, I couldn’t help but love her characterization and I’m confident I’m not/won’t be alone.

Everybody needs a Mankanshoku in their life! She’s portrayed as the embodiment of everything a BFF should be practically and her family ain’t too bad either.

Then there’s the group calling themselves Nudist Beach commanded by Aikuro Mikisugi. Adding a welcome amount of quirk and sheer weirdness, his tendency to shameless strip in front of Ryuko yields some of the show’s funniest moments. Furthermore, everything within the series is wisely, and sometimes humorously, censored. On a similar note, while Kill la Kill doesn’t refrain from fanservice –given the nature of the core plot I suppose it’d be unavoidable—it’s all in good fun and is such a small focus that it doesn’t detract. Be warned though, there are a handful of pretty mature scenes (thankfully nothing bordering on untamed and/or extreme) that may unsettle some viewer’s considering the relationships between specific characters.

Ryuko issuing a friendly warning to those who place too much focus on the, ummm, smaller “details” pertaining to her show.

Visually, the animation somewhat wavers between decent and jaw-dropping, awe-inducing extravagance. From what I gathered, this may just be result of the loose art style which is on the cruder side compared to what we generally see from other contemporary anime. Adversely, it can be argued that the toonish direction taken works exceptionally well in the series comedic favors. On the flip side, the action scenes take Kill la Kill to a level that is mercilessly unmatched by others who share its genre. Full of fluid, intense and beautiful artwork, every fight will absolutely get your otaku blood pumping. Additionally, character designs are spot on all around; battle attires, or “goku uniforms/kamui” as they are called, are the highlights, woven with creativity and often delightful absurdity.

For a series like this, abstaining from heaps of violence and bloodshed wouldn’t be too unlike denying water in a dessert. The creators clearly recognized that and gave purpose to all the spilled blood. Prime example being Ryuko’s Senketsu and Satsuki’s Junketsu who function be feeding off of their partners’ vital fluids adding a constant risk-reward behind the girl’s killer transformations. Just be aware that the fights routinely result in buckets of the red stuff being splattered every which way with a few in particular requiring a remarkably high suspension of belief. Furthermore, extreme dismemberment becomes a regular occurrence during the home stretch so those who have a hard time appreciating old school brutality might want to soak it in slowly.

When it rains, it bloody pours. Seriously don’t ever sign me up for a blood shower…

Acting as the ribbon for this radiant package, the soundtrack is so magical that I’d be fine not listening to anything else for days upon days. There is a range of rocking ballads and moving melodies to enjoy that are sung in multiple languages all matching what you’ll be seeing. It comes as no surprise since the talented Hiroyuki Sawano is the one behind the music whose work can be heard in other recent hits, namely Attack on Titan, Blue Exorcist and Guilty Crown. Tracks like “Blumenkranz” sound so full of passion and vigor, aiming to light a lasting fire in the listener’s heart while others such as “Till I Die” effortlessly hit all the right tearful notes. Lastly, both openings and endings are great with GARNiDELiA’s “Ambigous” standing far above the rest.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vK5Sn-hGZ7M&w=560&h=315]

The first volume is being released in America right before Otakon so make sure you pick it up as soon as possible. The seiyuu’s do an excellent job bringing these marvelous characters and world to life and I’m sure the English voice actors will be able to rise to the occasion as well. Between the highly flexible, original story, satisfyingly rich audio and pleasant visuals, and unforgettable, hard-hitting brawls, once you start watching you’ll want to keep watching and never “lose your way” so to speak. There’s really no downside unless you %100 absolutely hate any kind of fan service in any way, shape, form or amount. Alright guys n’ gals, hopefully I’ll be back soon with another review so hang tight and don’t forget to express your opinions on the site.