What’s the show? Kill La Kill (2013).
Is it French? No, don’t be stupid.
Okay, so what’s it about? People don’t kill people, clothes kill people.
And what’s that supposed to mean? This show’s about magical clothing that makes people drastically more powerful…
Oh, I see. So who’s our main character? It’s about Ryuko Matoi who’s on a search for vengeance for whoever’s responsible for killing her father, her journey leads her to Honnouji Academy, which is run by the totalitarian student council headed up by the dictator-esque student president Satsuki Kiryuin. The powerful Goku Uniforms that the students wear do have a weakness, Ryuko has a powerful scissor blade that can cut these ‘life fiber’ infused uniforms. But when she’s swiftly defeated by one of the president’s henchman, she goes back to the burnt husk of her family home to lick her wounds, where—in the basement—she discovers a talking sailor uniform that clings to her body and imbues her with the strength to defeat her newfound enemies at the school!
Sailor uniform? Like Donald Duck? No, like Japanese-high-school girl style, also it’s ~transformation~ is a little bit revealing. Just a little bit…
Oh no… and here was me thinking for just a moment this wasn’t going to be a pervy show… I know you won’t believe me but I honestly don’t think it is, like, okay sure, if you’re new to anime and this is among your first exposures to the genre I could understand being a little, um… wide-eyed at the outfits that Ryuko and Satsuki end up wearing while fighting each other. But this “fan-service” is portrayed completely different to that of something like High School DxD or even something milder like Fairy Tail.
How so? Well it’s drawn differently.
Huh? This is hard to explain without seeing the show in motion (gifs can only do so much). Having a loose art-style and a certain visual tone and a fast-paced comedic edge let’s the show get away with something that perhaps in another show might seem exploitative.
But doesn’t it still have those kinds of close-up perv shots that those other shows you mentioned have? Why’s it matter if the art style and tone is ‘looser’? The way it frames these shots within the context of the narrative creates a different visual tone. There’s not the ‘soft focus’ slow zoom or suggestive moans or shots that linger too long. Yes, Ryuko is in a sexy outfit and yes she is a sexy girl but the show isn’t going out of its way to present these elements as anything other than just scenes that are happening.
I’m still not sure I understand. If the intent was to solely arouse people with the fan-service here it would look different and be presented differently. I’m not saying the fan-service doesn’t arouse people, of course it does, for some people a fully clothed woman is titillating, for some people a can of beans is titillating. I just think the execution of the fan-service is in such a way that makes it different from other shows that have similar amounts of fan-service.
But what about the transformation scene? If anything that’s a parody of ‘Magical Girl’ transformation scenes, and again it’s not filmed with the ‘soft core pornography’ vision some of those scenes end up looking like. It’s matter-of-fact about how this outfit ~clings~ to Ryuko and it’s all the more “realistic” for it.
You’re not going to try and claim this show is “realistic” now are you? Realistic in-universe, this show is a wild ride from beginning to end. The only wholly realistic thing in this show are the relationships formed. Especially between Ryuko and her new best friend Mako Mankanshoku, who—I must say—is an absolute delight to witness.
Best girl then? No. She’s too ‘comic relief’ for that, at least in my opinion. She’s perfect comic relief and as mentioned before the relationship that builds between her and Ryuko is beautiful and joyous to watch, but no, best girl easily is Ryuko.
The main character is your best girl, huh? That’s rare for you. A true testament to the strength of the writing here, not to mention the voice actress’ performance. I love how strong and loud and outspoken she is, but she is also has insecurities and vulnerabilities, she’s just a very well-rounded character.
And who are the other characters? Oh boy, heaps of ’em. There’s the ‘Elite Four’ who are Satsuki’s strongest goons and wearer’s of the ultra powerful 3 star Goku Uniforms all of them are fun characters, and even have a bit of character development thrown in too. There’s also Mako’s family (Mother, father, little brother, smol doggo) who while underdeveloped as characters, are at least loveable and supportive of Ryuko, who ends up moving in with them.
Anyone else worth mentioning? There’s the paramilitary group ‘Nudist Beach’ who as their name suggests are opposed to not only clothes containing ‘life fibers’ but most clothes in general. Their leader, the handsome Aikuro Mikisugi, is hilarious, some of his subtle animations’ as he’s talking to Ryuko made me laugh so hard.
And what about the school president herself, Satuski? Her arc is an especially well-written and interesting one throughout the show. I was very surprised and happily so, with the way they went with her character. I’ll leave it at that to not spoil too much for those who haven’t seen the show.
So what do you say to people who haven’t watched this show because they’re concerned about the fan-service? I think, even if fan-service is something you ~dislike~ the way it’s presented here could allow you to still enjoy the show. However, i’m not going to pretend like it doesn’t exist and for some people—even with it’s framing considered—will still be too much for them to tolerate.
So final score and recommendation? Kill La Kill strikes the perfect balance of so many things that make for a memorable and entertaining experience. It has easy-to-follow but still kinetic and exciting action scenes, it has a rich universe that’s never too complex to follow, it has an interesting and well-developed story that unfolds with each new episode and it has a colourful cast of characters that are all fun to watch. But most unexpectedly, and the thing that has me remembering the show so fondly even after how long it’s been since I first watched it, is it’s heart. What could have ended up as just a flashy and entertaining experience is imbued with a sense of friendship, family, love and loss that makes it among my favourite anime of all time. 93 out of 100.
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