No spoilers here, princess.
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that an anime was going to save the industry, I would be lounging on my yacht, receiving a lap dance from an Asian schoolgirl and sipping a glass of wine worth more than your parents’ car. But alas, the world is bitter, and here I sit in a bathrobe gulping a bottle of whiskey writing a review on one of those many anime who promised to save our community as we know it.
Unlike so many of the predecessors making the promise, at least Kill la Kill (afterwards KLK) had some potential. It was a dark horse candidate, an anime from a studio whose only solo works to speak of were a one-off called Little Witch Academia and something which I hesitate to call an anime, Inferno Cop. Yes, this was studio Trigger, a splinter group from Gainax originally responsible for Panty and Stocking and Gurren Lagan. With a track record like this, absolutely anything could have happened. As it turned out, EVERYTHING happened.
Story - 8/10
It’s usually about this time when I give a brief synopsis of the plotline (careful to avoid spoilers of course). That’s not something I can really do with KLK for two reasons. The first is that the vast majority of the plot after the first couple of episodes is a spoiler of some manner, and would definitely affect your viewing experience. The second is that it is so incomprehensible that you probably wouldn’t believe me. By “incomprehensible” I don’t mean hard to follow; in fact, the plotline is very simple. What I mean is that the plot of KLK was likely scrawled onto a napkin in a fever induced state by some member of Trigger who decided to experiment with PCP, mushrooms, and bath salts simultaneously.
What I can tell you is that we begin with our protagonist Matoi Ryuuko joining an academy which is more or less /pol/’s wet dream. Ryuuko’s father has just been killed, her only clue being that the culprit has the other half of a scissor sword used as the murder weapon. She finds that the student council president (read: dictator) of the academy, Satsuki, has some clue as to who might have done it. Too bad for Ryuuko, she isn’t the type to spill her guts on the first date, and the beginning of KLK amounts mainly to battles Ryuuko has with academy elites to try to convince Satsuki to give her something to work with. Did I mention that she has a magical uniform which drinks her blood, allowing her to “power up?” Yeah, a lot of people have those. It’s kind of important, actually. It also allows for lots of fanservice during the transformation scenes. And before them. And after them.
Once Satsuki is convinced Ryuuko is worthy of learning how things actually are, shit really hits the fan, which will surprise you considering KLK is a little more than eccentric to start with.
The environment is very fitting for the show; an incredibly oversized and elaborate academy around which the entire town is built, with the best students living in luxury, and underachievers in ghettos. There are a variety of locations, from those mentioned academies and ghettos to rival academies in other cities, as well as an obligatory evil lair and battleship. No complaints for variety, and they fit the ridiculous theme.
It’s all pretty digestible, though; just aliens, magic talking clothes, and skirts made out of Allah’s blood or something.
What makes KLK so enjoyable is how over the top it is. You can tell that Trigger really is the best-of-the-best (or worst-of-the-worst?) of Gainax. The way that KLK is delivered makes Panty and Stocking look like Maria-sama ga Miteru in comparison. If you aren’t ready for the most over-played cast in the medium, glowing purple nipples, an organization made up of nudists out to save the world, and an academy run like Hitler’s Germany, you should look elsewhere. It’s nothing if not self-aware. Every trope, every cliché, every moronic plot twist you could ever imagine can and WILL happen, but you will love every minute of it.
Kill la Kill is something that so few anime are.
Kill la Kill is FUN.
Animation - 6/10
Read to the end of the section before you become booty-flustered over the "okay" score.
The actual animation for KLK is, simply put, not that great. Please note that I am not insulting the style in any way whatsoever, but that’s getting its own special section later. When Trigger made Little Witch Academia, they bragged that it was produced using a higher number of quality in-between frames, which leads to more fluid, high-quality animation (this is addressed in the making-of-LWA documentary; watch it, it’s good). It looks like they just didn’t have the time or the money to do the same work for a full length animation, and it shows.
The framerate is noticeably choppy at times, something reminiscent of super low budget ecchi shows no one has ever heard of from back alley studios. It’s not always this bad, but it is frequent. KLK also pulls the age-old trick of near non-moving frames during lengthy dialogue sequences and thousands of copy-pasted character models. You see the same two generic student models for the entire anime. Of course, not every studio is going to put the time or effort into background characters that KyoAni does, but not everyone has a cave full of gold and jewels guarded by two dragons named Haruhi and K-On!.
There are positives, such as a wide range of backgrounds which are all well drawn. It is very reminiscent of LWA here, and one can see that the same effort was put forth in making a nice backdrop. It avoids the pitfall of having only “house”, “classroom”, “hallway”, and “street” as the only locales, and goes above and beyond with variety here. I will come back to discuss these locations in the style section.
While I normally discuss character models and color-palette here, they will be addressed in KLK’s special style section later on.
Well, that really wraps it up for actual “animation.” Style will continue after the following messages.
Sound - 9/10
The soundtrack for KLK is pretty close to perfect. I can’t think of a single thing to complain about aside from the rapper in the full version of “Before My Body Is Dry” and that the second OP wasn’t nearly as good as the first.
The voice acting is, likewise, excellent. Every character overplays their role exactly as they need to. You can tell the actors and actresses had a good time.
I wanted to make a special point to recognize the voice of Nonon. Her voice touched my heart, and possibly other parts of my body as well.
Characters - 9/10
Because of the nature of KLK, the characters needed to be extreme. From minute one, you can tell exactly how this anime will be: the disciplinary leader of the school dives out of a window to catch up to a misbehaving student, and proceeds to use a whip of thorns to beat him. The student council president is literally put upon a pedestal and rules over the students with an iron fist. Hell, even the student body is actually an army with personnel carriers and Chinooks. Oh yeah, and then there’s the whole point of the show, almost all of them have superman outfits.
KLK has a relatively large main cast: Ryuuko, our protagonist, Senketsu (her magic clothes), her eccentric best friend Mako, Satsuki the dictator president and her four “devas,” the secret organization that I can’t talk about with my pants on, and the bad guys.
Trigger demonstrates something interesting with the cast of KLK: characters do not need a well thought out backstory to be compelling. In fact, the two main characters, Ryuuko and Satsuki, have pasts that could be explained in a single sentence each, and none of the other cast fare any better. The villains have absolutely no reason for performing their nefarious plans, let alone backstories, and the entire plot is barely held together by threads (heh). But I didn’t care, not for one second. The purpose of KLK was hardly to tell a story, or to make a point. It was to entertain, and the cast did a superb job of that.
The only aggravation comes from the villains. This is the one point where things start to make me raise my eyebrows, because they have ridiculous plot armor along with no motivation for essentially destroying the world. Even if they did, it almost certainly would have been idiotic and hardly better than none at all, but I was still left wanting something, just a morsel of explanation here.
Still, the cast knocks it out of the park. I don’t want to explain each one of their running jokes or eccentricities, because I promise it would be more enjoyable to discover them for yourself.
Enjoyment – 10/10
I think that you can tell by now I enjoyed this anime. No, there is no substance, the plot is moronic, and the characters aren’t explained. It just doesn’t matter though, because the way that Trigger presents it, you won’t care. KLK is the essence of entertainment. It IS that feeling you get when you watch an epic battle, or hear a hilarious joke. It condenses all of the good feelings one can get from watching a show and presents them to you without the fluff that comes with them. If a great anime is like an ice cream sundae, KLK is like spraying whipped cream into your mouth straight from the can.
Now, let me go back and address a few points from earlier before giving the all-important conclusion.
BONUS SECTION: STYLE – FABULOUS/10
At the time of this writing, Trigger has only made three anime by themselves: this, Little Witch Academia, and Inferno Cop. Every one of them is completely different, with nothing in common from genre to character design. This means they could go any direction with this anime, and they went for EXTREME.
Character designs are as diverse as they get, which is nice to see. Every character gets a style of their own, which matches their personality traits and generally the humor that comes with them. Trigger didn’t pull any punches.
When a loli with a voice made of actual sex turns into a spaceship that shoots musical hearts, you know that you are watching KLK.
The environment is almost as ridiculous. Just look at the damn school.
Look at the “field trip” arc.
Look at completely irrelevant boxing club president.
This is what makes up for all the shortcomings. This is what makes this anime superb.
But the big question remains: Did Kill la Kill save anime?
Conclusion - 9/10
Nope. Anime never needed saving in the first place, but that’s another story. KLK did not introduce anything new to the medium, and didn’t break any new ground in anything but sheer absurdity. What it did do was entertain me, and so many others. It set a new standard for fun, and showed that Trigger, a brand new studio, can already fight with the best of them. If this is their first full length anime, who knows where they can go from here? I think I speak for much of the community when I say, “I look forward to finding out.” And I still can't get this damn smile off my face.