Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kill la Kill

Is it just me, or has anime sucked lately?

I think its been about two years since I've seen an anime series I legitimately loved:  "Macross Frontier" back in the ignorant Dark Ages known as Spring 2012.  Since then I've had the misfortune of watching various shows that were never actually completed, the occasional drunken calls to my ex-girlfriend, "Bleach", and the personal low point of my entire blogging life, The Anime That Shalt Not Be Named.  Oh and... um... "One Piece", that's a lot of fun.  The less said about all that, the better.  Perhaps there is something fundamentally wrong with the entire industry.  Maybe the creative power that once brought the world such masterpieces such as "Eureka Seven", "Samurai Champloo", and "FLCL" simply have disappeared, the industry itself has sold out.  Or maybe I've just grown older, more sophisticated.  This is a genre mainly targeted at teenagers, after all.  I'm a young adult now, I've been through a lot, my tastes might be more grounded, serious, and introspective.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!  Oh, I can't finish that paragraph without laughing.  Here's "Kill la Kill", a currently-airing, anime about a schoolgirl who fights ridiculous bad guys while wearing barely any clothing with absolutely no grounding in reality.  And its one of the best cartoons Japan has made in a long time.

If there's an particular cancer that is killing modern anime for me, its called "high school".  I'm not saying that high school cannot be a dramatic time for a lot of people, and that interesting stories cannot be told within a high school setting, only that too many animes take place in high schools lately.  Most of my favorite animes take place in either outer space or some fantasy setting, usually with a giant robot somewhere in the mix, not a Japanese high school.  I've been to high school, I wasn't impressed, I mostly spent my time nose-deep in a book.  Hell, in my younger years I used to watch anime to get away from high school.  Luckily "Kill la Kill" is totally different.  It takes place in... a high school.  But one in which there appears to be no classes, none of the usual cliche cast members*, and there are no life lessons.  Instead the school is a battleground full of superpowered freaks and a maniacal plot to conquer the world with magical clothing.

"Kill la Kill" was created by Studio Trigger, a new anime production house born out of a rebel faction within Studio Gainax, who are fighting for their freedom against the Seven Evil Gainax Warlords who control Japanese Cartoons.  Or more likely it was a completely friendly departure of Hiroyuki Imaishi, the director of such things as "Dead Leaves", "Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt", and most famously, "Gurren Lagann".  If you're at all familiar with Imaishi's work, you'll know his specialty is extremely high energy, fast-paced, over-the-top, colorful adventures that ultimately do not make a lick of sense but nobody particularly cares.  One of these days I have to actually go ahead and watch all of "Gurren Lagann" since I don't think I gave that show a fair viewing.  And as for "Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt" - I'm saving that one for a rainy day, because I know that's going to be something truly insane and really special.  Anyway, "Kill la Kill" is being made by the people who brought you a show about a walking battleship and a giant robot the size of a galaxy, so you know its not going to be particularly grounded.  Even when Imaishi seems to get dramatic, there always seems to be some kind of hidden joke embedded somewhere in the pacing or the animation.

Anyway, more important than anything else is going to be this particular detail.  The heroine of the story is Ryoko Matoi, a seventeen-year-old punkess whose father has been killed by the mysterious fashion conglomerate, the Kiryuin Syndicate.  To find her father's killer, Ryoko carries around one half of a giant pair of scizzors which were used to kill him - his murderer would have the other blade.  She's going to school at Honnouji Academy, a mountain in the middle of Tokyo Bay with its own city, topped by a massive high school, run by the absurdly imperial Student President, Satsuki Kiryuin and her Elite Four Warlords of a student council.  Now, here's that detail I mentioned.  Ryoko has a magical sailor uniform, which when transformed, gives her superstrength and whatever powers the plot demands.  Unfortunately, her magical form looks like... this:


So yeah.  This show isn't exactly taking itself seriously.

Now my hyper-enlightened superbrain which is far more evolved than my sexist base ancestors is immediately furious over this.  Look how its objectifying women, high-schoolers no less!  This is just another step along man's century's long rape and abuse of the Sacred Feminine... and I don't care.  If you're the type who actually does think that way, you will hate "Kill la Kill", because you're probably looking for some kind of deeper meaning or intelligence to your cartoons, when what I'm looking for a hyper-charged festival of excess and energy.  Yeah, that's fanservice, pretty blatant, probably inexcusable on an intellectual level.  But who cares?  Nothing else in this show seems to have any place in reality, it kinda stopped making sense when they let a School President turn her school into a training ground for an alternate army to - I'm not really sure what Satsuki's plan is, actually.

Oh, and the sailor outfit?  It talks.

Hiroyuki Imaishi's animation always seems to be more "cartoony" than other animes, if that makes sense.  His drawings always have thicker lines and heavier colors than generic Japanese anime, and he usually throws about a million different kinds of action in every work.  For this show, the first battle is Ryoko vs the president of the high school boxing team, who is using what appears to be a pallet of bricks as boxing gloves.  Ryoko's best friend is Mako, a bubbly girl who is probably insane on several levels, who typically blows big sleep bubbles in class and tries tears the size of limbs.  Mako's dad and little brother and pet dog like to spy on Mako while she's taking a bath.  Ryoko fights with a giant scissor blade, this is a weird show.  In episode four, a breastfeeding mother quite randomly pulls a machine gun out of nowhere and starts shooting at the heroes - without changing expression or putting her baby down.

*Nosebleed*  *Nosebleed*

What's really cool about "Kill la Kill", besides everything, is that the plot, despite being thoroughly ridiculous and more than a little bit stupid but entirely shameless and unpretentious, actually is traveling in interesting directions.  There are more than a few mysteries to keep you watching, beyond more than "why did they murder Ryoko's dad and who did it?"  Most of the villainous characters begin as little more than one-dimensional bosses, but as the episodes have flown by, they've become more and more developed, if not sympathetic.  Even Satsuki, the Empress of Evil Academy, is growing more and more likable.  Not to the detriment of the protagonist, its just the story has traveled in interesting directions, and the show has introduced a cute little girl who is THE DEVIL HIMSELF.  One of Satsuki's minions is a huge burly guy who is obsessed with the rules, Ira, and he's one of my favorite characters now, even though on another program he would be just one character trait repeated endless.  Here he's got depth.  I honestly cannot predict where "Kill la Kill" is going to go, and that's what makes a cartoon interesting and worth watching every week.

The music?  Just awesome.**

Currently "Kill la Kill" is only at episode 14, out of, presumably a typical anime run of twenty-five or twenty-six episodes.  It hasn't concluded yet, so there's a chance that the remaining shows could be absolutely terrible that ruin everything I loved about what I've seen so far, but I doubt it.  If anything, its only going to get better.  Satsuki's mother is even more badass than she is, and ten times scarier.  Whatever the conclusion here, "Kill la Kill" has been an extremely fun ride.  Studio Trigger's first release has been explosion right out of the barrel, with the bullet going to straight to your brain.  I love this show, and you should too.

* Every high school anime has the following people in it:  slutty rich blond girl with huge tits, slutty teacher with huge tits, red-haired childhood best friend who made a promise to marry him, possibly-autistic girl whose cheeriness and reactions to the world around her seem entirely devoid of rational thought, extremely boring virgin boy who is hunted after by many girls, extremely boring handsome boy whose face sparkles but lacks any personality, various thugs, somebody from Osaka with a silly accent, some boy who looks exactly like a girl, a loli girl who will get sexually assaulted, a shota boy who will get sexually assaulted, and a robot girl who is the key to the apocalypse.  See why high school anime bores me?

** I had another link to share but Youtube last night apparently killed the entire OST that was uploaded, leaving only that one link, which will inevitably get taken down soon enough.  The songs are "Blumenkranz" and "Before My Body is Dry", steal them if you have to, but they are definitely worth listening to.

Copyright again, huh?  Seriously, International Law, you're starting to piss me the fuck off.  We need an Al-Qaeada specifically to destroy copyright restrictions.  Do you think Homer got sued by the guy who taught him to sing the Odyssey?  Maybe.  But in Ancient Greece, they would have settled it like men - WITH FISTS, not with bitchy take-down notices.  If you gave a Spartan a Cease and Desist letter, he would have kicked you down a fucking well!  If Fox wants to take down another one of my videos, I'll show them the business end of my katana.  I wouldn't mind a sword fight with Seth McFarland, I'm ready to die for my blog, is he?


  1. While the pacing seemed a bit off in some of the episodes near the Four Devas arc, I do feel KLK climbed from being around the level of PSG and FLCL to something I can hold next to TTGL. However, the best of Imaishi's works is a little Trigger miniseries known as Inferno Cop.
    It doesn't get crazier than this, honestly.

  2. Glad you like it blue. I recall from a discussion forum that the fanservice is surpose to have a meaning. Something along the lines of "Just be yourself and to hell what anyone else thinks" but I forgot.
    With so much anime having fanservice you get use to it after awhile.

    On a side note have you thought about doing a review on Attack on Titan.
    Seeing how it's pretty much the no.1 anime of 2013 having achived the level of popularity that rivals One Piece within a few months I'am kinda surprised you haven't mention it.
    With no fanservice and tearing up many shonen clichés I genuinely think you may come to like it.
    But this is all just my opinion, the choice is completely up to you.

    1. Way ahead of you, Anonymous. I'm on episode 6.

  3. Well this was different.
    To be honest studio Gainax and anything related to them weirds me out a bit. Still one of these days I will watch some FLCL, on top of hunting down Eureka seven episodes and some way to catch kino's journey.

    Still glad to hear your watching some good anime again.
    Sword Of Primus

    1. A anime that focuses on fun instead boring romance plots and super creepy fanservices of 13 year old girls? And it's by the guy who did Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt & Gurren Lagann? I'll take three please.

      Don't worry Blue it's not just you with the whole anime thing. For me I don't mind if the guys and gals get naked, it's just when they do it needlessy or they're just doing it to draw in the creepers who are sexually attracted to twelve year olds. The only thing I can recommand reading and/or watching is Attack on Titan. That thing is bombastic.

    2. Yeah for me its the creepy fanservice that's keeps me away from Studio gainax. Plus some of the voice acting is bit grating for my tastes, *** coughs, shinji ** coughs. But I do respect that a lot of effort was put into these shows. And FLCL and Gurren Laggen I do want see at least the first few episodes to see if there worth it. Still I do like some anime ( most of which was recommended by Blue) like cowboy bebop, trigun FMA ( 2003) and Angel Beats.
      Its just a lot times you have to sift through the creepy crap to get the gems.
      But that's just my take on it.
      Sword Of Primus

  4. Glad to see that you're enjoying this show as much as I am. Probably my favorite moment in the series is during the fight with the pink-haired music girl (her name escapes me at the moment), after Senketsu switched to the flying form, Ryuko was still having some trouble attacking Pink Hair when she realized "Wait a minute, I can fly! To Hell with this tournament crap!" and made a beeline for Satsuki. Sure, she was intercepted and had to go back to fighting in the tournament, but I don't think any other anime protagonist would have even thought of trying that.

    Also, you really should watch Gurren Lagann, Blue. It's overall style is just like Kill la Kill, so I'm sure you'll love it.

  5. So far amongst my own friends, they don't seem to like Kill la Kill simply because of the art style-- which is pretty disappointing. Sure this show tends to get ridiculous, but as you said, I don't really think it's predictable at all. Attack on Titan is really good too, interested to hear your words on that, if that's coming. I personally really like Magi so far: pretty fun and still with quite a bit of political intrigue. It does seem to have a lot of characters so far, but I feel most of those so far are being developed/handled nicely. Sword Art Online is also pretty big, although I have mixed feelings about it considering how the latter half of the first season went (needless to say, not good).

    On another note, I, Frankenstein is out... and it seems to have failed tremendously.