Kill la Kill Half-Season Review
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Written: Kazuki Nakashima
Music by Hiroyuki Sawano
American Distributor: Aniplex of America
Voice Actors: Ami Koshimizu, Ryōka Yuzuki, Aya Suzaki and Toshihiko Seki.
One of my favorite anime studios has always been Gainax. From the studio behind “Evangelion,” “His and Her Circumstances,” “Gurren Lagann” and “FLCL” to name a few, Gainax has created some of the best anime in the history of the genre. In 2011, Hiroyuki Imaishi left Gainax and created a new anime production company, Trigger, where they produced their first project, “Little Witch Academia.” Fans of Spoiler Alert with recognize that I put Academia on my list of my favorite films of 2013, so that speaks to how much I liked it. Excited to see what there first TV series would be, I was blown away by “Kill la Kill.”
Taking place at Honnouji Academy, Kill la Kill is a revenge story set around 17-year-old vagrant student Ryuko Matoi. After the death of her father, her search for his killer leads Ryuko to the academy and the head of its student council, Satsuki Kiryuin. The only clue she has to the killer’s identity is the sword she carries, one half of a scissor like weapon, the other half is carried by the murder. Not giving up any information, Satsuki sends her goons who deal with Ryuko pretty easily. Escaping to her former home and shamed over her defeat, Ryuko finds a living sailor suite named Senketsu that was designed by her father. When worn, Ryuko gains great power from Senketsu and fights her way through the student council to get the answers she seeks.
I feel like before I talk about what I really love about this show I have to address the elephant in the room.
Anime has a history of, you know, not treating female characters with the utmost respect. Shows like “Queen’s Blade” and “Ikkitosen” are created for the sole purpose of showing women in revealing clothing with a story as small as the clothing covering there boobs. (Hint, it’s not a lot.) By looking at the photos, “Kill la Kill” looks like another visual orgy of jiggling boobs and butts, but I think there’s a bit more to “Kill la Kill,” with the theme of Ryuko growing from adolescence into adulthood with a female-power-fantasy twist.
When she dons the Senketsu, to power up, Ryuko must sacrifice blood to transform into her kamui to defeat her enemies. For the first three episodes, Ryuko is embarrassed by what she has to wear, hates that men ogle her while she fights and feels shameful for having to dress that way. It’s not until Satsuki gets her own kamui that Ryuko shames Satsuki for wearing the same revealing outfit. Standing tall and confident, Satsuki drops this on Ryuko:
“This is the form in which a Kamui is able to unleash the most power! The fact that you are embarrassed by the value of the masses only prove of how small you are! If it means fulfilling her ambitions, Satsuki Kiryuin will show neither shame nor hesitation, even if she bares her breasts for all the world to see! My actions are utterly pure!”
Essentially, the gist is that you can’t control how people view you, so never feel shame about it. It’s a pretty powerful statement that reflects how society shames women for certain behavior, and I like the set-up of seeing Ryuko’s insecurity waning as the series goes on and she grows into a confident, loyal, and empowering woman.
The other thing is that the series is told through the male gaze, since the director and writer are male, but I find that the storytellers are more respectful to there creations then others. Director Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch (2011) is a crass film that, on one hand has his “strong” female cast cutting down robots and blowing everything up, but are also usually under a constant threat of being tortured, lobotomized, murdered and raped. Snyder seems to believe that a strong character means that they can defeat any enemy, but he’s missing the point completely.
Whereas with “Kill la Kill, “Ryuko and Satsuki are confident of there abilities, but it’s the other things that make them strong characters. Ryuko is willing to put herself into danger to protect the others that she loves, even if it means that she might be in serious danger. Ryuko is also stubborn and hot-headed, and her bravado will get her hurt, but she learns from her mistakes and that’s where her character’s strength comes from. Satsuki is the confident women at the head of the academy and has earned that confidence, not just though intimidation, but though helping others along the way and being a devoted leader that inspires others in the school.
The rest of the cast is also pretty great, including Ryuko’s friend Mako, who has some of the best lines in each episode and is a part of the coolest action scenes in the show.
Everything else about the show is pretty top-notch. The action is outlandish with each fight upping the ante in how insane the show can get and the animation has so much going on that it’s visually almost too much to take in, but it’s all choreographed so well that you get everything. The design of all the characters and with the setting of the academy and the slums on the outskirts of it are all pretty fun with great colors.
The announcement that Aniplex will be releasing it in America is a little disheartening, as Aniplex hasn’t had the best track record of letting fans buy there stuff easily and cheaply. What is nice is (if you don’t mind subtitles) that sites like Hulu.com and Crunchyroll.com are releasing episodes of “Kill la Kill” almost the same day as when it airs in Japan. Currently, the show is on break but as of writing this, new episodes should be up sometime this week. “Kill la Kill” is fun, funny, daring, exciting and dramatic, and I’ll be waiting for the next episode.