The weird and wonderful world of anime is something that draws extreme reactions from people, either of admiration or ridicule. It’s not easily ignored though, and its influence does seep into a good number of video games. With that in mind, it’s worth a look into it with an open mind. As the first anime review for this site, Kill la Kill is perhaps the ideal title to start with.
Kill la Kill is a 24-episode anime series made for TV by Trigger, a studio founded by former Gainax employees Masahiko Otsuka and Hiroyuki Imaishi. Otsuka had been the director for famous Gainax titles such as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, which explains the influence and visual style utilized in this series. The story is about Ryuko Matoi, a new transfer student in Honnouji Academy, and she’s it trying to find the person who killed her father. She carries with her a giant scissor blade, and her Boundy has the other half. She then goes up against Satsuki Kiryuin, the almighty president of Honnouji’s student council.
In the midst of all this, there are powerful organisms called Life Fibers, which are like threads of extraterrestrial origin that can give wearers extraordinary power. These fibers have been incorporated into the highly-coveted Ultima Uniforms of the academy, which are then used as status symbols within the establishment. In order to get the answers she seeks, she must first defeat all of those who get in her way, especially those who wear those Ultima Uniforms, and then eventually get to Satsuki herself. That’s when she is shown to have found Senketsu, a sentient uniform made of purely Life Fibers that quickly makes itself worn by Ryuko. She then attains tremendous power, which is what she needed to fight against all who seek to subdue her.
It’s an anime that definitely pulls no punches with its style and tone, as well as delivery. The first episode introduces the premise, most of the major characters, the bold visual and animation style, and the supersonic pacing, all in one shot. It creates establishment, tension, and expectation in a quick yet smooth transition that leads off to the succeeding episodes. It knows exactly what it’s supposed to be, and it gives audiences a kick in the teeth after catching a glimpse of that endearing twinkle in its eye. Subtlety falls by the wayside as bold cinematography and visual design are used while not sacrificing the quality of the animation itself.
What this series is best at is how it built up momentum, then maintained its intensity right up to the last episode. It didn’t jump the shark or let up in for the most part, which means that viewers always had something to be excited about before watching succeeding episodes. Even with its “slower” episodes, the pacing was still pretty fast, and those “slower” and “quieter” moments (if you can call them that) served to establish plot elements that were crucial to the storyline. Trigger has done well in that balancing act, which is definitely not easy to do, even for such an action-packed title.
It also does well with its character designs, especially with the main characters. Ryuko and Satsuki are very distinctive in their appearance and demeanor; the former with the red highlight on her bangs and her headstrong attitude, and the latter with her long hair and fringe that tops off a confident and elegant demeanor. It’s also cool that they chose Japan to be the setting and not some over-the-top yet arbitrary fantastical setting that a lot of other anime seem to be in, so anime fans who are with that country’s geography can follow the narrative much better.
But due to that pacing though, there are also quite a few faults. For instance, most of the minor characters end up being ineffectual in various ways, but that’s also something that’s unavoidable in such an action-packed show. There is also an abrupt shift of focus in the middle of the series, which makes following the story rather difficult for some. At the very least, if there are ever new characters and settings are added in the middle of the story, they get introduced with big bold red typography, which serves to accentuate Kill la Kill’s visual style, which has been influenced by past Gainax works.
But while those character designs are very good, the characterizations do leave much to be desired. The protagonist herself is not a very deep character, showcasing a temperamental personality without much substance at first. She does smooth out later on in the series, especially with her bond with Senketsu. As viewers will find out later (avoiding spoilers here), Satsuki would turn out to have deeper character development throughout the series as she herself goes through various stages.
This is a series that even the most vehement detractors of anime could enjoy, once the few quirks and pet peeves can be put aside. Kill la Kill hits hard and fast from start to finish, and that’s what makes it good. For a more complete review with spoilers, click this [link].
Final Score: 8/10