It would almost be a disservice on my part if I did not, in contrast to the public opinion, bash the season’s most popular series. Fortunately, Kill la KILL has not made taking such an angle any particular feat meaning I have plenty to pointlessly rant about, which is all we do here, really. In fact, it has left me with so much to say that I almost don’t have to mention nuclear power plants today.
The premise of Kill la Kill is simple enough for everyone to understand it, up to and including lobotomy patients, although the jury is still out on whether the same can be said for congressmen. The protagonist, Matoi Ryuko, initially demonstrated admirable traits such as being snarky and possessing good humour. Unfortunately any vestige of said virtue was all but repudiated in favour of typical shounen determination by the end of the episode, transfers to a “school” which is anything but a facility for education. She carries half an enormous scissor, scavenged from her dead father’s body, and seeks the truth of her peculiar weapon and of her father’s killer. This school apparently boasts a strict caste system, led by Der Führer student council president and based on student talent and ability. They are enforced by their Goku uniform, a special type clothing that empowers its user based on the number of stars on it, as designed by said deceased father and named in unsubtle reference to another show that favours pointless power-ups, shouting and fighting. Our heroine shows up, gets her arse handed back to her, finds a special school uniform only she can wear, which we have already established is quite rapey, destroys a small boss and then rolls the credits.
Much in the same way that Tengen Toppa Guren Lagann was a celebration of the simple, determination-break-physics tropes of the 80’s mecha genre, Kill la Kill embraces the 80’s shounen genre in all its four-generals, stepping-stone boss fights, pettily pointless villains and excessive yelling glory. As an opening act, Studio Trigger has decided to revive a framework of anime so done to death that your average modern-day director baulks even from a parody of it. Whether Kill la Kill will go full Monty in its glorification of turgid dross or dramatically deconstruct it remains to be seen, but with Guren Lagann as the best point of reference, all evidence suggests the former.
The setting itself reminds me somewhat of Medaka Box (the somewhat enjoyable manga and not the disastrous anime by, incidentally, Trigger’s progenitor Gainax), in that it is a school dominated by the student council president by way of family connections to the ruling body, offered merely as an excuse to host a plethora of fights themed off various student roles. Unlike the benevolent Kurokami Medaka, Kiryuin Satsuki is apparently the spiritual successor of the Third Reich (which, not coincidentally, was mentioned casually in the opening scene), and runs the school with an iron fist alongside her posse of boringly typical bosses. And for that, the show is one step closer to boring me into a coma: the villain is as pointless as this very article and possible more so than the show itself. They seem to have no proper motivation to be evil other than to serve as an obstacle to solving a cold case better left to the police. There is no way to develop sympathy or empathy with any of the character, because they are video game bosses from the last decade. The entire show threw any final shreds of subtlety out of the window when the Big Bad paraphrased 1984 in her introductory scene.
Seriously though, Nazi antagonists? Four generals of the student council? Tiered power level system? Protagonist-only power ups? Drills? Female armour that protects one from nothing but modesty? This show is three tropes away from activating a wormhole to the past when these things were still cool. Speaking of which, why does Kill la Kill get a pass when every other video game, harem anime and movie in the past three years with a character that shows even a little bit of chest and midriff gets booed off the stage, when Matoi’s new outfit makes Strike Witches look positively Victorian by comparison?
After all that I’ve said, what can we praise this show for though? For one, the animation, for which the plot is an excuse rather than a vehicle as it should be, is exquisite. The style of animation, which, is an amalgam of that of Guren Lagann and Trigger’s staff’s other work, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, ignores all facets of reality in favour of thick lines, misconstrued proportions, and bright colours, is definitely not of my taste, but is definitely smooth and well-done. And while this unrestrained form animation lacks subtlety as much as beauty, the skill and work of the animators is nevertheless apparent. However, the show somewhat excessively abuses camera pans (much like the ones used to exhibit the full size of the mecha at the beginning of Gurren Lagann) and gigantic, nigh unreadable red text to the point of being repetitive and tacky rather than stylishly unique.
I also somewhat enjoy the role and presence of Mankanshoku Mako, the no-star, no ability, and no-brain friend to the hero who lacks sense of decorum as much as she lacks presence. She is, at the moment, nothing more than a parodic caricature of the plucky, talkative and happy sidekick, but one which I found mildly amusing. She may be as one dimensional as the rest of the cast, but at least that dimension is funny.
As you may have figured out by now, Kill la Kill, much like its apparent spiritual prequel and predecessor Tengen Toppa Guren Lagann is imbued with almost every quality that this writer disdains. And given that nothing of its tone changes in the foreseeable future, I shall watch this show more out a sense of duty than pleasure, much as I did with Guren Lagann, all the while disapprovingly tutting at its already growing number of rabid and uncritical fans.