My vacation is over and I am finally ready to create a brand new Anime Streaming Showcase. This week we look at Studio Trigger’s debut TV series: Kill La Kill. So sit back, strip down, and enjoy a frenzied fashionable fantastical fighting anime.
The last couple of series I’ve touched on have been relatively newer, so I think it’s time to jump back into the past a bit and explore a relatively older series: Kill la Kill by animation studio Trigger. Trigger has created a rather unique following in the anime fandom as a studio that likes to take risks and go against the grain. They’re still a newer studio, but have found success with series like Inferno Cop, Little Witch Academia, and today’s showcase Kill la Kill. It’s a show of fashion, action, friendship, betrayal, and insane battles that aren’t wholly stylistic, they contain considerable substance too.
Set in a fictional area of Japan, Kill la Kill protagonist is Ryuko Matoi, a new transfer student at Honnouji Academy. Ryuko immediately becomes friends and roommate of Mako Mankanshoku who helps fill in her on the academy and surrounding slums and expectations of Honnō City. Mako explains that Honnō City is a very trickle-down society, and all of your success is dependent upon your Goku uniform. Ranked by stars, the more stars you have, the higher pedigree and lifestyle you’re treated to, thus resulting in an easier, more fruitful life. Unfortunately it’s never that easy because Honnouji Academy’s president, Satsuki Kiryuin dominates everything around her and ensures a strong checks and balances system for Honnō City. Satsuki and her Elite Four, the Three-Star Goku Uniform cabinet, rely on resolve and strength to remain in charge and keeping their way of life as the norm.
Ryuko’s obviously the best antithesis of Satsuki’s worldview, and has been hunting Satsuki for years to learn the secrets of her father’s death. Armed with half-scissor-shaped longsword, and embarrassingly trampled all too easily by Satsuki, Ryuko stumbles upon Senketsu, a special sailor uniform that grants her the ability to stand up to Satsuki’s regime. What unfolds next is a foray into a fashionista feud that’s a fabulously flashy affair. Kill la Kill’s world revolves around Life Fibers, and every Goku Uniform is rife with them and can create astounding abilities and powers for the wielder, and the same can be said for Senketsu, so Ryuko’s never too far behind in the competiveness department. She’s fully capable of withstanding everything from one-on-one fights to battle royales, to obstacle courses and beyond. Ryuko’s a well-rounded heroine who’s never afraid to admit defeat and has little shame in running away. It’s a rare sight to see in anime nowadays, but it’s always a pleasant distinction to see in a genre that’s predominantly macho men beating the hell out of one another and winning on pride and sheer power.
Kill la Kill’s other strengths come in its story and presentation since Trigger have a pedigree of talents within their studios. A number of members are former Gainax associates who have worked on massive projects like Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, or FLCL, just to name a few. Trigger has this power within them to not only showcase amazing animation and stories, but highlight unusual, atypical characters into their plots. The full cast of Kill la Kill is certainly not free from being cast as various archetypes we’ve seen hundreds of times before, but there are a fair number that shake off the monotony a show like this could have been in less capable hands. Considering this was Trigger’s very first big production in terms of length and being a full-fledged series, a lot could have went wrong and destroyed the company, but everything in Kill la Kill ran smooth and helped create a memorable series for a bulk of the episodes. Director Hiroyuki Imaishi and his team created a visual tapestry in Kill la Kill that hits a variety of styles that despite following an arguably simplistic setup, is presented in a manner that’s full of life and beauty. Color pop and contrast in nearly every scene, the detail of individuals in the background, even subtle moments of defeat are bathed in a sepia-toned wash that dilutes Ryuko and emphasizes hopelessness. The pacing of Kill la Kill as a complete, binging effort is quite remarkable, especially from someone who watched it week-to-week as it aired initially and felt the pangs of a new preview taunting me for seven days. Kill la Kill is an easy show to put on and kick back to relax to, but it’s also a fun study for those who like to find the finer points of what the anime industry can do with tired tropes.
Rounding out a tremendous animation production we have Hiroyuki Sawano providing the soundtrack, and it’s easily one of my personal favorites he’s ever created. Songs are bombastic and themes are thematic and particular, with certain characters being treated with some of the finest songs ever featured in an anime. Ragyo’s theme in particular, “Blumenkranz”, is somehow creepily epic and intimidating simultaneously. It’s always a tune I find myself humming or poorly singing the German lyrics aloud to myself. Hiroyuki’s created an incredible discography for himself, and Kill la Kill is a very worthy addition to it.
Kill la Kill is a show that contains more fanservice than some might enjoy or prefer, but it’s simply pivotal to the plot. Some bits are certainly more egregious than others, and it’s not my cup of tea, but between Ryuko and the Nudist Beach characters, there’s some fanservice for just about everyone by the end. The plot runs smoothly throughout the 24 episodes, and while I personally felt it gets a bit stretched out in the latter half, it’s still so over-the-top that it’s hard to not at least be entertained by the action. You can enjoy Kill la kill via several avenues; Crunchyroll holds the series, Netflix also streams the series, along with Hulu so there are a number of sites to find it. It did air a couple of years ago on Toonami, so there is an English dub out there, but Crunchyroll, Netflix, and Hulu only contain the subbed version. Kill la Kill could be a show that’s fun too look back every few years to see its lasting power, and even after only a few years since its release, I still enjoy it.
Like most people here, I’ve been watching anime for many, many years. I owe blocks like Toonami for getting me into the medium. Shows like Dragonball Z and Ronin Warriors shaped my beginning years, while shows like Neon Genesis Evangleion and Cowboy Bebop showed me that there’s some true artistic ability and expression found within anime (moreso than big burly dudes punching and screaming for hours on end). I now try to watch anime showcasing many genres and storytelling. Anime is just another great, creative medium for telling stories, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on the series I enjoy with you!