I know I’m a bit late in talking about this one, but I wasn’t able to watch it for a while. Having finally watched all 12 episodes of the first arc of Kill la Kill, I’m struggling to write a review of a show that is this unique. Kill la Kill stares Ryuko Matoi, a young lady who is a bit of a delinquent. She comes home to see her father murdered and goes on a search to find the murderer – recognizable because half of the weapon used to kill him, a giant pair of scissors, was left behind. Her search leads her to Honnouji Academy, a school that is controlled in virtually every way by the student council led by Satsuki Kiryuin.
It’s a fairly straightforward premise, but nothing else about this show is. Kill la Kill uses absurdity and a rather crude take on humour to provide commentary on several very interesting and intelligent issues, but never in a straightforward enough way as to feel controversial. It isn’t breaking any new ground, but it’s still very interesting to such an interesting way of exploring these issues. It reminds me a lot of Angel Beats except with a much broader reach.
To take a step back though… Honnouji Academy is more than just a school, it is basically the entire city to some degree. Standings within the school determine a family’s social and economic standing within the city, and are delineated by the type of uniform a student has. The uniforms are not simple clothing however, they also imbue special powers upon the wearer. No-star students, such as Ryuko’s friend Mako, do not get any additional power and live in the slums. As you get more stars, the uniform grants additional strength leading up to the strongest – the 3-star Goku Uniforms worn by the members of the student council other than Satsuki which grant overwhelming power to their wearer.
Ryuko enters into this with nothing and challenges them, and is beaten senseless. Afterwards, she stumbles back home and falls into her father’s secret lab and stumbles upon a special uniform known as Kamui Senketsu, a piece of sentient clothing that bestows upon her powers surpassing even the Goku uniforms. Using this uniform, she attempts to assault Honnouji Academy in an attempt to get Satsuki to tell her the truth about her father and to avenge him. Initially anyways…
One thing that I find so impressive about Kill la Kill is that the show features several scantily clad women – Senketsu, for example, is a standard school-style sailor outfit normally, but when Ryuko activates its power it transforms into an outfit that can barely be called one, since it hardly covers anything – but always manages to avoid feeling like mere fanservice, even during a rather disturbing massage scene. The over-the-top insanity of the show helps a lot in this regard, but I think that the personality and self-aware nature of the characters plays an even bigger role in this.
The show features four characters that I would classify as main characters: Ryuko, Satsuki, Mako, and Senketsu(yes, Ryuko’s outfit). None of these characters are one-dimensional or flat. Every one is a well developed and multi-layered personality – even if Mako often appears a bit simple. They accentuate these characters with a variety of characters who are little more than caricatures of common tropes providing a means for the characters to show new and interesting facets to their personality.
Ryuko battles her way through tennis balls, whips, musical notes, needles, sports equipment and just about anything else you can imagine on her way to Satsuki. Wielding her giant half-scissor, she tackles foe after foe in battles that continually get both more absurd and more entertaining.
Needless to say, I’ve found the show to be quite entertaining. The animation isn’t ultra-realistic, the humour is a bit crude, and not everything makes sense… but it’s a perfect showcase of the type of thing you can only do in an anime, and also of the reason why I love anime. It’s eccentric, exciting, and also fairly intelligent despite the insanity. I can’t wait to see what the second half of the series has to offer.