KILL la KILL is nothing short of a hilariously wild ride. The show grabbed me by the second episode and didn’t let go.
“Blow it out your ass!” —Ryuuko Matoi
“Ask not the Sparrow how the Eagle soars” —Satsuki Kiryuuin
TL;DR: KILL la KILL is completely and utterly, 100% ridiculously over-the-top in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY!
This is going to be bit difficult to really evaluate because what I usually focus on for this category and where shows can earn high marks is depth and originality of plot and use of characters. KILL la KILL, however, isn’t really that deep of a story (in fact, when it tries to delve deeper is sometimes when it stumbles) and it’s not really that original once you get past the surface elements. And yet, Kill la Kill was compelling, profoundly entertaining…addictive even. So forget about looking for a story that’s going to make you think or contemplate your views on the world. KILL la KILL is about taking everything you know and love about an action anime and turning them up to 11 (or perhaps, over 9000!!!). This is why this anime is great and in a way, why it is original (though not completely). It embraces the tropes and clichés of the action genre and doubles down on all of them. Ludicrous fight scenes, overly elaborate transformations, new powers that seem to appear out of nowhere, you name it KLK takes them to another level. In one sense it’s poking fun at itself and action anime in general but on the other hand, what makes those classic styles so great is that they’re AWESOME! They get your blood going, you feel like you’re a part of them, rooting for the hero to, somehow, desperately pull out some sort of ace up her/his sleeve (and, of course, you already know they will but that doesn’t matter)!
Now, all that said, KLK isn’t completely shallow and that’s why I feel this show is special. It has some seriously good references and allusions both to other anime and beyond. It also makes some real points about what truly motivates us humans. Is it fear, or greed, or perhaps something else entirely? Now I mentioned that sometimes when the story tries to go a little deeper it falters at times and this is true. Some of the big lines outlining the themes of the show come off as a bit awkward. I’m thinking it may just be a “lost in translation” sort of moment or it could just be a fault in the show. Still, this is minor at best and isn’t something worth passing it up for.
You probably won’t be surprised based on what you’ve read so far that this anime relies heavily on comedy and boy does it deliver! This show is truly laugh out loud funny. Some of its humor is witty, some is crude, some is situational banter, and some is classic anime slapstick. It has a bit of everything in the laughs department and should not fail to amuse even the most humorless among us.
Finally I’ll touch on the show’s ecchi aspects. The Kamui uniforms like Ryuuko’s Senketsu certainly leave little to the imagination. But like other aspects of the show KLK is using this to poke fun at some of the more revealing outfits worn by female heroines in anime. Also, later in the show quite a few of the cast are nearly naked, not just the ladies so it’s much more equal opportunity than most ecchi anime. And at least this anime actually has a plot point that at least attempts to justify the reason for the lack of clothing unlike most ecchi shows.
KILL la KILL’s cast of characters are exactly that: characters. Each as larger than life and over the top as the story. One thing the show does particularly well is allow for changing reactions to them over time. Characters I disliked at the beginning I loved by the end. Of particular note are the heroine protagonist, Ryuuko Matoi and her best friend, Mako Mankanshoku. These two stood out as the most interesting to me. Ryuuko is a wonderful new strong female lead. She’s a total tomboy, and has no girly moe traits whatsoever which is a refreshing change of pace. She curses freely, says exactly what’s on her mind, and has a seemingly boundless willpower. She’s a total badass, and I think this hasa lot to do with KILL la KILL’s appeal. Mako, on the other, hand certainly does score some major moe points with her cute voice and ditsy demeanor. Why then does she deserve a highlight? Simple. She has the same boundless determination as Ryuuko and she’s actually very insightful. Her big speeches (you’ll always know when one’s coming because she’ll raise her arms to the sky and cross them while a spotlight out of nowhere illuminates her), while completely frantic and often all over the place, are often the most reasonable and wise comments made in the show.
Voice Acting: 10/10
All the actors did a fantastic job in their roles and I have to think this show would have been particularly difficult. I mentioned how much energy this show has to it and if the actors didn’t bring 110% of that to their roles the show would have suffered greatly. I thought hands down the best performance was from Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi. She is still relatively new to the business but she gave a career defining performance I felt. I am most definitely looking forward to hearing more from her. Other notable performances included Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako; Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin, the story’s antagonist; Patrick Seitz as the indomitable Ira Gamagoori; Stephanie Sheh as the mysterious loli Nui Harime; and Laura Post as Ragyou Kiryuuin.
Trigger, a relatively new studio brought an excellent and unique animation style to the show that perfectly complements the anime’s high octane atmosphere. I can’t really find better words to describe the style except for intense, in your face and highly stylized. It may take some getting used to but it grows on you fast. I look forward to seeing more from them.
KLK’s soundtrack presents a bit of contradiction. I personally found all of the OP and ED songs to be lackluster when put up against a series such as this. They’re not bad but I felt that there had to be songs better suited to the show than those chosen. However to me, the music during the anime itself matters more than openings or ending and here is where it was spot on. KLK’s music really does help amp up the excitement and further pulls you into the action. I thought of particular note was the insert song Blumenkranz sung by Cyua with lyrics by Rie Sawano and music by Hiroyuki Sawano (who composed other music for the show as well). You might surmise by the song’s name that its lyrics are not Japanese but German which fits well as this is essentially the Kiryuuin theme who run their organizations with fascist stringency. Another great insert song which you can think of as the Ryuuko/Senketsu theme is Before My Body is Dry sung by Mika Kobayashi with lyrics by mpi and David Whitaker and once again composed by Hiroyuki Sawano. Whenever you hear “Don’t lose your way!” you know something awesome is about to go down.
KILL la KILL is nothing short of a hilariously wild ride. The show grabbed me by the second episode and didn’t let go. Is it a masterpiece? By no means but it is unique in its own roundabout way and I think it offers something refreshingly new to the action genre. If you can’t eliminate your clichés, take them to the next level. Be satirical and serious at the same time, why not? If you’re looking for over-the-top action, tons of humor and an interesting if not wholly original story, KILL la KILL should be exactly what you need.
Recommendations for further viewing:
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, FLCL, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt