Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Screenplay: Kazuki Nakashima
Based on an Original Premise
Voice Cast: Ami Koshimizu (as Ryuuko Matoi); Ryoka Yuzuki (as Satsuki Kiryuuin); Aya Suzaki (as Mako Mankanshoku); Toshihiko Seki (as Senketsu); Hiroyuki Yoshino (as Hōka Inumuta); Katsuyuki Konishi (as Tsumugu Kinagase); Mayumi Shintani (as Nonon Jakuzure); Nobuyuki Hiyama (as Uzu Sanageyama)
Synopsis: At Honnouji Academy, the daughter of the head of a global fashion corporation called Satsuki Kiryuuin (Yuzuki) rules the student body and even the teachers with a velvet lined iron fist; the entire island right down to the homes are set in a class structure where the highest tiers were special school uniforms lined with life fibres, living fibres which allow for growth in superhuman abilities in the wearers. With an Elite Four under her to control the students - Ira Gamagoori, Uzu Sanageyama, Nonon Jakuzure and Houka Inumuta - Satsuki hopes to dominate the entire country of Japan in terms of the school system. However there's a new transfer student to the Academy called Ryuuko Matoi (Koshimizu) out for revenge for Satsuki killing her father; armed with a giant half scissor blade, able to destroy life fibres, and gaining a living schoolgirl's outfit she calls Senketsu (Seki), a living being which gives her greater strength than regular life fibre uniforms, she will be a problem for Satsuki. Helped by the hyperactive friend and personal cheerleader Mako (Suzaki) and an anti-life fibre rebel group of naturalists called the Nudist Beach led by Aikuro Mikisugi (Miki), Ryuuko intends to cut the heads of the Academy down to size.
What exactly can be added to the opinions on Kill La Kill when everyone else has already reviewed it, drawn fan art of it, cosplayed as characters from it, drawn erotic fan art of it and much more, something that is already seeb as a cult series that people will still talk of for a few years at least? That it's in hindsight Imaishi, after setting up his own studio called Trigger after leaving Gainax, created something that for all its ridiculous gore and hyper sexuality - famously Ryuuko's super transformation which hasn't put off male and female cosplayers dressing as her and even bringing about a special form of bra padding for sale - is really a tribute to the kind of action programming usually designed for children, usually episodic and can be understood by Westerners and those who even watched live action shows like Power Rangers. The type of show where each episode threw any threat at the heroes - mind control, betrayal and plenty of super powerful minions - only for the heroes to overcome it all through passion, courage and blood-mindedness. It's the kind of thing, slightly betrayed by the J-pop but forgiven in Kill La Kill because of its good music and a great end credits song for the first half of the series, that should be scored with the most bombastic and cheesy eighties guitar rock song possible. In comparison Gurren Lagann (2007), while in the same mould, was far more complicated as it literally split in plot with a drastic time jump forward in the narrative in the centre of the series, whilst Kill La Kill does all its plot twists and dynamics in a straight forward plot, set within only a few settings and the same time frame, which is charged through in its twenty four episodes and bonus ending episode with as much adrenaline as possible.
Since Imaishi 's trademark is very fast paced and hyper in pace, this means that the episodic tone of such shows is taken to an absurd extent where a strife can be thrown at the protagonists and be dealt with in the first fifteen minutes of an episode, more strife ready immediately afterwards in constant bombardment as plot twists keep appearing. Far from becoming problematic and eventually desensitizing, the show's tone works because it fully embraces the structure of serial storytelling to an extreme, the personality from the show's quirks and peculiar plot line intertwining fashion and fascism that was the original catalyst for the show. It's helped by the fact that Imaishi has never allowed bad animation into his directorial work, nor accepted anything aesthetically ugly to appear on his animation, unless it was deliberately chunky on purpose. The same kinetic tone of (entry # 23) Dead Leaves (2004), his debut, continues all the way to Kill La Kill nine years later with incredibly ridiculous action set pieces, the tone set by how much the bold, three dimensional red text onscreen in abused to name every character and move that appears and the general sense of deliberate overkill and exhilaration in the story's presentation.
It depends on your personal taste whether the tone of Kill La Kill is desensitising to a major fault or whether it's incredibly energising and leaves you on a constant high from all the cliff-hangers. The personality is what helps, Imaishi deciding to create a story based on the idea of clothing representing conformity and doctrine, where the clothes literally wear the wearers rather than the other way around, running with the clothing and sewing iconography in everything from the weapons to super-moves. Within this the characters are the stereotypes of anime giving Imaishi's trademark eccentricities and energy. Ryuuko Matoi is the tomboy protagonist who is blunt and hard-headed, the kind of figure capable of learning from mistakes and weaknesses for the sake of drama and surrounded by people willing to help her in her determined goal, all of them memorable in visual appearance and personality be they the good guys or bad guys. From Mako and her monologues with choreographed hand movements and random tangents to the Elite Four, tough but also mortal with their own quirks, the characters Imaishi has in his work have been the thing that wins viewers over ultimately. This becomes a masterstroke for the plot as well when the story starts to show more sympathetic sides to Satsuki Kiryuuin, the cold figure but one with a humane view of her henchmen, foreshadowing how the show twists the initial plot on its head in the finale in terms of the span of events.
If there's any issues with Kill La Kill it's only that, like Imaishi's other work, he could've easily trip over if he wasn't careful and have something in his stories which make little sense or stick out like a sore thumb if you think about it too much. Kill La Kill jumps over plot points quickly and it could've easily devolved into illogical tangents which come off as confusion rather than ridiculous in an entertaining way. Sometimes its scorched earth policy in plotting offers great moments - the cliché of the hero renouncing their position in fear of becoming a monster gets swerved in a great way here. In the opposite spectrum it could've easily fell over something incredibly stupid - the one which nearly raised an eyebrow from myself is when the real villains are revealed to be incestuous lesbians with a fetish for fabric, thankfully side stepped knowing Imaishi has always had a very liberal viewpoint of sexuality - where there is a gay side character on the heroes side of Gurren Lagann whose despite his broad personality can be serious and competent when need be - and it's one of the most kinky anime directors in terms of equal opportunity and liberal fan service and sexuality, exemplified by the fact that the rebel team helping the heroine, Nudist Beach, is literally a nudist group whose leader gladly poses bare chested during his grand speeches with abs and nipples that glow purple when air reaches them. Imaishi has always tightrope walked between being merely tasteless and being deliberately absurd; Kill La Kill gets away with some abrupt plot twists, including outright absurd science fiction by the end, because it's manic tone pulls out the least expected things possible with such a simple plot. Somehow the series starts with Ryuuko and Mako negotiating a life threatening obstacle course to school that needs to be completed in a set time limit, like a more dangerous version of a plot found in a children's cartoon, and then ends over twenty four episodes later with the Earth at risk from living fibres on an apocalyptic level, the twists about who is who, what they are and who their relatives are, piled onto each other abruptly one after another, and manages to get away with it because the tone is dealt with perfectly. Anything that could be utterly clumsy is countered by Imaishi having always been an equal opportunity individual with a taste for the insane.
Because of such virtues, it's great to see such a fun and accomplished series do so well in terms of popularity whilst still being as weird and deliberately silly as it is. The only concern left after seeing this series finally, as I said in the Dead Leaves review, is that Imaishi should consider taking a whole 180 degree turn in tone for his next few projects so that he does not need to repeat himself, Kill La Kill perfect as it is and not needing to be spoilt by something repeating it's style with less interest. Space Patrol Luluco (2016), his latest, is a very short sci-fi comedy series which is hopefully a good start but I feel his next large scale project, if it comes, should be different from the action template as well; even even Panty and Stockings With Garterbelt, whilst an action series, was more of a Cartoon Network cartoon for adults, and if anything emphasising the comedy for a while might be perfect for him unless he decides to step into uncharted territory with another genre like drama. Might be insane to imagine it, but it would also be a shame when, including its bonus twenty fifth episode which ties the show up in a perfect little bow and clears out anything that would've been loose threads in the original finale, Kill La Kill after leaving with an emotional end and a smile on your face was spoilt by a rehashing of its best aspects.