Tools of the Imagination — Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill
Produced by Studio Trigger, directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, written by Kazuki Nakashima, released 2013, available on Crunchyroll

FLCL meets Kill Bill

There’s really no way to concisely describe Kill la Kill without some combination of ‘X meets Y’.  It’s like Looney Tunes meets Street Fighter.  The Brave Little Tailor meets Fist of the North Star.  Brave meets Unforgiven.  Sailor Moon meets Blame.  It is simultaneously hyper-violent and child-like.  It’s overly sexualized and yet also quite tame.  The entire show seems based on polar opposites and the gravity and energy between them.

The story is that our heroine, Ryuko Matoi, has come to Honnouji Academy, to find out who killed her father.  The academy, which is run by the student council, seems to run the entire nation as well.  The student council are all equipped with Goku Uniforms, which grant them idiomatically appropriate superpowers.  Ryuko finds her own super outfit (which she names Senketsu) and sets out on an overly-complicated process to topple the student council.
Story – 3 out of 5
The story is thoroughly formulaic, but it provides the necessary framework to give us a very colorful world.  It’s a paint-by-numbers revenge-by-way-of-martial-arts-tournament sort of tale, but with a spunky female protagonist and a thematic set of enemies that are all four-color enough to feel more like comic book villains than manga enemies.

Art – 3 out of 5
The art is at the same time mediocre and deceptively good.  The characters are illustrated very cartoony and very exaggerated, but it’s done so with an eye towards consistency.  This is a good example of knowing how to break the rules properly.  The hyper-kinetic character designs are done more as parodies of themselves than overcompensation or exaggeration.

Animation – 4 out of 5
This isn’t the best animation out there, but it’s up there.  The movements are smooth and well-executed, giving the drawn figures incredibly believable actions.  Multiple times per episode, there’s a stunning show that blows one’s mind and throughout at beautifully-done shots that are parodies of their own troupes (much like the character designs themselves).

Characters – 2 out of 5
This is, sadly, where things fall apart.  The characters have very little depth.  Even the main character Ryuko is exceptionally two-dimensional.  She seems to only have three emotions: amused (usually by her friend Mako or her family), cocky, or enraged.  Nothing else comes up.  No variation in behavior or situation ever seems to come up for any character and growth is pretty much out of the question.

Acting – 3 out of 5
Listening to the Japanese cast, the best that can be said was that the performances were all adequate.  There were no stellar performances, but then, the script (and the story in general) didn’t give the actors much to work with.  This show is all about the visuals, and that regrettably shows in the acting.

Overall – 3 out of 5
This show is okay, erring on the side of entertaining.  It seems too much of a stretch to call it good, but it is funny (especially for the sharp-eyed fan; there are a lot of little jokes in the background).  It very competently hits all the notes and has just enough richness to the setting to pass for substance in the narrative.  There’s nothing remarkable about the show, but it’s definitely good for quite a few giggles.

Published by Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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