I wasn’t expecting to love this show as much as I did. Trigger has quickly become one of my favorite anime developers. The better half of Gainax’s creative team lives on, and that spirit permeates throughout this entertaining thrill ride of action anime.
I became endeared immediately because of how much Kill la Kill feels like an anime from the 90’s, the era I grew up and loved the most. It was a simpler time, when charm, wit, and a straightforward mentality towards story writing ensured a memorable experience, and today’s stuff can learn a lot from this.
STORY: With Kill la Kill and the way this show is structured, less is definitely more. One of my biggest gripes with a lot of recent anime I’ve tried to watch isn’t so much that the writing is bad, but events like learning about the characters and its central plot lacks cohesion. In short, character-driven stories usually mean having to slow everything down in order to flesh out the protagonist and the main plot suffers, unless cleverly done. RaXephon and Casshern Sins are some of my more poignant examples. A character study isn’t a bad thing, but too often I see a series grind to a halt because MORE STUFF has to be revealed!
With Kill la Kill, Ryuuko’s motivation is made very clear from the first episode, hell, the first couple of MINUTES! It never derails from that: she wants vengeance for the death of her father and Honnoji Academy is responsible. Along the way, the reasoning becomes clear and the series doesn’t have to dangle the mystery over your head, so that albatross isn’t weighing you down. Even early episodes, which follow a fight-of-the-day formula, can’t be considered wasted filler (which has become a dirty word because people are sick of having their time wasted), moments like Ryuuko’s bond with Mako and her family establishes more of a reason to fight, not to mention her bond with Senketsu serves as a subplot in and of itself. It stays on track, doesn’t veer away, and the stakes and battles get more intense as the series progresses, all while retaining a lax, tongue-in-cheek nature that’s such a contrast to the brooding, melancholy cesspool a lot of modern series have become. SCORE 7.5/10
ART: People I’ve talked to have considered the art to be a turnoff, and I can understand that. Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but I have nothing to back that claim. Again, it looks like shows I grew up watching, and while it may not win any beauty pageants, Kill la Kill’s art and animation are very distinct and really stands out. The characters’ faces show a lot of grit, intensity and drive and the comedy faces are ludicrous and overblown, but in a very good way. The battles are vibrant and explosive. Every frame is packed with information and nothing feels wasted. It does everything that other titles I’m watching feel afraid to do. Amagi Brilliant Park and Bodacious Space Pirates, for example. I like both of these shows, but their gorgeous animation and style doesn’t sacrifice itself too far away from it’s pretty palette to make some of the jokes a lot funnier than they were.
There is also a lot of flesh and fan service in Kill la Kill. Ryuuko’s Senketsu looks too absolutely ridiculous to call “sexy”, but if it floats your boat. As a married man who has been pretty bored with fan service in anime (I’ve seen buttocks and panties from every angle, massive cleavage, overboob, sideboob, underboob, Jiggles Counters…), especially now that I am more than half the average age of these girls, I was a little pleased that there IS some context to some of the nudeness. There’s actually a point where dignity and shame effects the way Ryuuko can utilize Senketsu. Maybe I’m overanalyzing, but I like it when there’s a reason for things. SCORE: 8/10
SOUND: Talking mainly the English dub of the show, everyone did a remarkable job and this is one of my favorite English tracks in quite some time. Erica Mendes adds the right amount of toughness and nails to Ryuuko’s tone without sacrificing any femininity. Mako, voiced by Christine Cabanos, was one of my greatest concerns, feeling nobody can channel that energy. By golly, does she nail it!!! It’s so great! She sounds like Minnie Mouse after drinking a six-pack of Jolt Cola! Senketsu, voiced by David Vincent (I’m not a fan of his, mostly because he voices Jin Kisaragi in BlazBlue, who I HATE…I know it’s not fair, but GOD!!) is really good. I’m glad the approach for his dub was kept low key, the LAST thing I needed was another shrieking Kon-styled character. I know English dubbing seems to be the bane some people’s existence in regards to anime, I’ll continue to be a staunch supporter of the art. Take my word, for whatever that’s worth, this dub is really great. SCORE: 10/10
CHARACTERS: What does a successful story need? A great cast of lovable personalities!! Kill la Kill’s cast is bursting with a wide variety of entertaining heroes, vagrants, even the villains have a wicked, twisted charm to them, especially when you get to Harime. These characters aren’t heavily written. Much like the plot, they are pretty straightforward, but still retain a great deal of depth and substance. Touching again on how nothing is wasted, no character feels useless or out of place. Lady Satsuki is such a great heel persona, she has as much charisma as Ric Flair. The Elite Four, her subordinates and the best of the best, are each amazing.
Normally a revenge-driven character isn’t my kind of party, but as long as that character’s journey comes off as someone I would like to root for, I can get behind it. I would call Ryuuko Matoi a female equivalent to Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star, but she’s so much more likeable and diverse, like having a facial expression, (I kid FotNS) but she has her own integrity. She doesn’t have to be regulated to being a simple “badass chick” that just has to “kick ass” to be considered cool. Her more human side shows when she gets cocky in battle (nothing wrong with a bit of bravado) or Mako and her family reminding her of how her courage and fight represents those under the thumb of Honnoji Academy. That grounding rod makes Matoi cooler than any damn Bankai power-up or Super Saiyan level. Mako Makanshoko, I can’t put in words just how much I love this girl. In this dark age of anime, I can look at her naïve, innocent smile and feel better instantly. Characters like her and Haru Miura from Katekyo Hitman Reborn are motivation that keeps me from giving up on most anime. Fight the good fight, you two!! SCORE: 9.5/10
OVERALL: This anime has been a delight. It’s simple, satisfying, and has a distinctive wit about it that truly makes it stand out form not only other shows of the genre, but most titles in general. Its brash content and attitude might not be a palette for some viewers, and there’s no problem with that, but I feel this is a true gem, a near perfect score, and I’m glad I can own hard copies of it to add to my collection. FINAL SCORE 8.9/10