Monday, May 5, 2014

Anime Review: Kill la Kill

Last year when I went to my first Otakon I decided to try and hit up all the industry panels I could since I'd never been to a con large enough to host industry panels at before (well, Funimation had one at Animazement my last year there which was actually talking about how the company worked and was actually rather cool!). In the end I decided it was a worthy experiment but there wasn't much of a difference between reading the news online in a few minutes and sitting for an hour in a room while they slowly dole it out to you. "Much" anyway, it was rather fantastic being in the room when Funimation started playing the Cowboy Bebop theme and when I was in the Aniplex panel my jaw actually dropped when they said "oh and we've got one more title for the fall, it's a new show" and started playing Kill la Kill's trailer. By that point the internet was practically in raptures about how great Studio Trigger's new show would look ("sasuga sakuga!") and while I wasn't so sure about the show based on the premise it was still more than enough to get me to try it out!

Kill la Kill


Ryuko Matoi has one reason for coming to Honnouji Academy, to find the woman with the other half of her scissor blade who murdered Ryuko's father with them. Ryuko is a bit of a yankee but even she might not be able to compete with a school where the students are bolstered by super-powered uniforms and third-year student council president Satsuki Kiryuin. But it appears her father left behind a gift from her, a super-powered uniform of her own and with that she's all set to fight her way to the truth!

The most talked about thing about KLK is how it looks so let's start there. As other people have noted, usually a show doles out the amount of budget they have equally across each episode/part of an episode, barring cases where they run out of time and the quality just crashes. KLK instead decided to put as much money as they could into the biggest, most ambitious action scenes they could and then use the rest for the other 90% of the show and planned it in such a way that it appears stylish instead of cheap. If some scenes are done using limited animation the first time (sometimes I wondered if they had drawn the character on a single cell and then just moved it around the scene stop action style) then that's how it would be the entire show. So the show never appeared to have a "drop-off" in quality, that's just how it was! Combine that with a bit of CGI, some special effects, and rather hilariously putting the flashbacks in sepia toned letterboxes (and giving the characters 80s/90s hair styles) and the show seems to have put much more thought into being a visually cohesive show than many others do.

But when people talk about the shows looks that's usually not what they mean, they're talking about the costumes. There are shows that are NSFW and then there is KLK which starts with a lot of partial nudity and ends with 90% of the cast buck naked. I'm not fond of a lot of the battle outfits in the series, of either gender, and while I've seen a lot of people claim that Ryuko and Satsuki's especially striperiffic outfits are empowering I have to disagree. I disagree on the grounds of 1. it's kind of hard to say that carton characters get to fully choose how they want to come off to the viewer (given that they're even more fictional than characters in live action shows) and 2, the staff of KLK is by and large male, I believe I heard that excluding the voice actresses there are less than five female staff members on the show. Sure you can have large groups of guys who are feminists but pardon me for being skeptical here*. 

Moving onto the rest of the show, while the plot of the show is crazy enough to be quite entertaining the characters came off as flatter than intended for me. Ryuko never quiet gets the character development she needs, she starts out, almost has it but since then the show would have been without a conflict for a little bit she then muddles around and doesn't come out for the better, which I think did hurt the show in the end since it's making such a bit fuss over her development which didn't exist the way the show said it did. The show also had to retcon Satsuki a little bit so that her sudden development made sense but that hurt the show far less (and I understand why the show tried to play its cards do close to the chest for her, which explains why this took so long to happen, they weren't fooling anybody). While Mako is arguably The Best Character in the show no one is going to say she's a well-rounded character at all and honestly the closest character I can think of who felt rounded was a guy from the Nudist Beach faction. And when you start off with a crazy idea, it turns out to be true, and then you change your way of thinking once the crazy threat it gone that doesn't really feel like development either, this show just didn't get how to write the complicated characters it thought it had.


Did I enjoy the show in the end? Yes actually and more than I expected. It's true that by the end I was more interested in seeing just how insane the show would get than how invested I was in the characters but that's a kind of entertainment too. And, as I started this review with, Trigger out a lot of thought in how the show looked (and the music which I thought was pretty bombastic) which certainly made the show fun, even if I was perpetually worried that someone else would walk in during the shows more naked moments. It's a wild ride, one I'm not quite sure I'm willing to repeat and I recommend it with some reservations but for anyone who wants to check out what was undoubtably one of the more popular series of 2013 (and to figure out what the heck is going on with all of these skimpy cosplays at cons) you can find it streaming on both Crunchyroll and Hulu. 




*also, why is it always that a woman is considered "empowered" when she's walking around in a skimpy outfit and yet the term never pops when say I wear a t-shirt and cargo pants. I feel like the word had good intentions but is practically useless these days.

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