Kill la Kill is a rare breed of anime. It perfectly mixes comedy and action while reveling in taking everything to the extreme. And the fact that it has now ended leaves each week looking a little less bright.
[Note: This is a review of the second half of Kill la Kill and thus contains spoilers. For a non-spoiler review, check out our review of the first half here.]
In my review of the first half, I talked about the enjoyable slapstick and sexual humor of Kill la Kill. But that's not all the anime offers in the humor department. Kill la Kill's story actually revolves around a series of puns. For example, in Japanese, the words for school uniform (制服 seifuku) and conquest (征服 seifuku) are phonetically identical—though they use different characters.
Thus, the bad guys' evil plan is to conquer the world with school uniforms and other clothes. Another similar pun is the one between “fashion” (ファッション fasshon) and “fascism” (ファシズム fashizumu) which sound startlingly similar in Japanese. Indeed, in the story, Kiryuin Satsuki uses fashion to turn the school into a fascist dictatorship.
But perhaps the best pun in the series is the title itself: “Kill la Kill” (キルラキル kiru ra kiru). In Japanese “kiru” has several different meanings: “kill” (キル), “cut” (切る), and “wear” (着る). So it makes pretty much the perfect title for an anime about a girl who wears a magical uniform (and fights other people wearing superpower-inducing uniforms), wields one half of a giant pair of scissors as a weapon, and is on a mission of vengeance to kill her father's killer.
So often in anime reviews, I address the importance of pacing (usually to point out how a series fails in that regard). Kill la Kill is one of the few series I have ever seen with perfect pacing. Kill la Kill has no filler episodes—i.e., something important happens in every episode, be that furthering of the main plot or better defining the world.
There are also no filler arcs. For example, after the midway climax, Ryuko is left without Senketsu as he has been cut up and spread among Satsuki's student army. In most anime, this would be drawn out into a season-long arc with Ryuko winning back a piece each episode. In Kill la Kill, it takes two episodes.
In fact, Kill la Kill makes fun of its own abnormally fast pace: The 16th episode begins by stating that it is a recap episode—a recap episode that is crammed into one minute and twenty-five seconds before the opening theme song.
Let's talk a bit about world building. When writing fantasy or sci-fi, it's important to lay down the rules of your world—the laws that make up the very nature of the created reality. As long as the narrative doesn't break any of the established rules of the world, it is “internally consistent.”
This is why we can suspend disbelief while immersing ourselves in a fictional world like Star Wars, for example. We see that Yoda can lift a spaceship with his mind by using the Force. And as Vader and Luke also can lift objects with the Force, we see it is normal for Jedi; and thus it fits in the world that has been established—despite being something that cannot happen in the real world. But if Yoda suddenly sprouted wings and flew into space where he can breathe and talk, it would contradict what we know about the character and the Force.
Similarly, despite the smorgasbord of over-the-top craziness in Kill la Kill, it is still internally consistent; nothing contradicts anything that has been previously established. Uniforms give you superpowers, a teenage girl rules over an island of people, and clothing can be a living thing that talks to you. This is normal life for the world of Kill la Kill.
In the review of the first half, I mentioned the fanservice in Kill La Kill. But the second half of the anime takes it to a whole other level. Most characters are reduced to nothing but a few belts or a strategically-placed sidearm.
Some characters even spend full episodes completely without clothes. The nudity in the show is rampant, but rarely sexual, and is often part of a running gag. It is never anatomically correct—no nipples or pubic hair or penises—but there is no denying that by the end, literally everyone and their dog is completely naked. Literally. So if extreme fanservice bothers you, you'd be wise to steer clear.
When broken down on a plot point-by-plot point basis, Kill la Kill is hardly original. It hits all the points you would expect of an action-heavy, transforming-hero adventure. The hero gets new transformations, the bad guy turns out to be not so bad, the heroine loses her powers, the hero is corrupted and joins the bad guys, the big bad seems completely unbeatable but the hero powers up at the last moment and prevails, etc. This is nothing you haven't seen before.
But what makes it so enjoyable is the way in which it hits these common notes—i.e., in the most over-the-top way possible. And as the pace never drags, each of these common plot points never overstays its welcome—it’s a lot like getting a short visit from an old friend. Well, an old friend who is a lot more fun than he used to be, at any rate.
I loved watching Kill la Kill. It made me excited for every Friday and never left me disappointed. If you can't enjoy/ignore massive amounts of fanservice/nudity, you may want to steer clear. But for anyone else, if you are looking for a fun, action-filled ride with tons of humor and a story that loves to play around with your preconceptions about magical girl anime, this is the anime for you.
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