Kill la Kill is a titan, a smash hit among anime fans of all kinds of tastes and opinions. It was easily the most popular anime to debut in fall 2013, drawing in hordes of people who liked action, Gurren Lagann, cosplay, and shameless fanservice, and regardless of what had you curious, it delivered, and it even left you with much more than you were anticipating. Despite what the revealing character designs led people to initially believe, this anime had a story. A damn good one.
It starts off simple enough. It’s a revenge plot: Protagonist’s dad was killed, she’s out to find out who did it and have them killed. From the beginning, that’s the plot you’re presented, but what interests you clearly isn’t the plot at this point. Your first impressions are surely going to be of something else. The show throws so many unique details at you in the first episode alone you can’t help but realize there’s more to Kill la Kill than what piqued your interest. The show has a strong and undeniable style to it.
By style, we could be talking about the way the art is drawn. We could be talking about how characters typically speak, act, and interact. We could be talking the way shots are framed, lighting is taken into account, or any number of things that could create a unique and impactful image in just the way things are placed. By style, we’re kinda talking about all of that. Kill la Kill carries with it’s visual and narrative style a lighthearted and (somehow simultaneous) semi-serious attitude, throwing humor into the dialogue and animation without making it a focus point. It keeps the story flowing and at the forefront, but spices it up with subtle and not-so-subtle details all along the way with an amount of care you can’t help but notice. Watching and thinking about all the detail a single shot probably required is one of my favorite things about watching movies and TV and whatever else, and any show that has me thinking about it all the time is surely doing something right.
This fast-paced, over-the-top, humorous vibe Kill La Kill plays unrelentingly the whole way through gives the show character beyond the characters themselves, but just like the characters themselves, it is impressively fleshed out, which is completely necessary with the way the show is paced. After the revenge plot is presented and it is shown that Ryuko has to fight Honnouji Academy’s Elite Four, the fights are drawn out to around 4 episodes of action. In most other cases, this would get very stale very fast, but of course, Kill la Kill wouldn’t let a stale action sequence slide. As repetitive as it may undeniably be to watch, it’s never a drag. To defeat her enemies, Ryuko most first find her opponents weakness and exploit it to obtain victory. This is executed with swift animation and self-aware action sequences and dialogue, giving it the unique tongue-in-cheek style it’s boldly boasted from the very first few minutes.
After this battle with the Elite Four, the plot thickens beyond a revenge story-line. New characters are introduced, new morals are thrown in, and we get a bit of character exposition. At this point, everything begins to feel like it’s becoming fully recognized. The show will still throw heaps of twists your way, it will still drill you with ridiculous fighting sequences, it will still be goofy and lighthearted alongside it’s darker parts, but this time everything will be so much sweeter. A bit more story goes a long way. An anime that was once great for tuning out and watching shit go down will now have you plowing through episode after episode to see where a plot stuffed with bloody battles and possibly pro-nudist undertones leads to next. With the fights being so drawn out, there is little time left for exposition, but when either has it’s time and space, it utilizes it to a pretty satisfying extent. The whole show becomes a lot easier to digest, easier to enjoy, once it’s full potential is exposed.
And from then on, you sort of know what to expect. Yeah, Kill la Kill’s story will remain unpredictable, but you know what they’re out to achieve stylistically. The art is bold and sharp, the humor’s goofy, the dialogue is witty (or cheesy for the sake of being cheesy), the characters are still lovable (or really easy to absolutely despise if they’re an antagonist. Like seriously. Huge assholes.) Through and through, it’s still good, but once it’s fully realized, it’s just that much better.