Most of our entries for the 12 Days tradition have been shows that follow a well known genre and excel on its basic rules. Kill la Kill follows the same pattern; filled to its very core with cliches, including, among others, the “tough and macho as hell” heroine, “friendship always triumphs” philosophy and the “unreasonably evil” villain, one would expect this to be just another story with fights and fanservice. Yet, in contrast to most shows out there, which feel small and time killers, Kill la Kill was huge and did its best to become unforgettable.
Foxy Lady Ayame: I remember when we watched the first PVs for the series. We had thought it’d play out in the same vein as Akuma no Riddle; in a way it did -there was shipping subtext everywhere- and gladly for the bigger part it didn’t –AnR was a snore fest. Kill la Kill starts as the story of revenge of Ryuko Matoi, who seeks the murderer of her father, but ends up larger as she challenges Satsuki Kiryuuin and her tyrannic school system. Scissors, powerful uniforms and pumped up battles, political suppression and revolution are what KLK throws our way. Let me assure you, it’s one hell of a wild ride.
Now as things have it, a show with skimpy outfits, produced by big names like Imaishi was meant to spark controversy very soon. From the first episode the viewer gets plenty of boob-jiggling and, occasionally, panty shots. There are also rapey elements and sexual assaults. This steered unrest among feminist anime fans. Some seasoned fans also complained how shows like this and Space Dandy get promoted to the West and people “get the wrong idea” about anime.
My answer to this is simple: if you find it too unpleasant to watch, if it’s triggering to you, don’t watch it. I’m not going to pretend this is a series for everyone. Still, it’s remarkable that fanservice is shot in quite creative ways during the battles. As the show progresses it gets less obnoxious. We also have the glorious Mikisugi Aikuro with the glowing nipples and …uhem. He and Mako were the initial reasons I kept watching and I didn’t regret it. As for those who might seek a good excuse to watch a shamelessly fanservicey series, you can try reading the unpleasantries imposed on the main character as metaphors for puberty. There’s some stuff about class awareness and Japanese history in KLK, too. Just scroll down at the bottom of this post, in the further readings. For me, though, what mattered the most at the end of the day was that I kept expecting next week’s episode and I had great fun watching it. It was ridiculously over the top and full of life. Few titles sweep me up my feet this way.
Neko-chi: One the most noticable things in KLK was its retro air. When we first started watching it, I thought of it as the most Nagai-ish modern TV show. There are many actual homages to older manga and anime. The most well known homages are the two endings, but one can find more cases than those. The quote below, taken from an interview with Dai Sato, screenwriter and mucisian, well known for his participation in Cowboy Bepop, Wolf’s Rain, Samurai Champloo and Terra e, says it all.
Space Dandy also encompasses a deep respect for ’80s culture, Sato said, noting the series’ affection for early technological gadgetry that seems amusingly outdated by today’s standards. He also noted that Kill La Kill likewise references ’70s culture and early shoujo manga and anime.
“I also feel that there’s a real movement right now, a real popularity in looking back at the Golden Age of anime in the ’70s and ’80s and thinking about how that style can be incorporated into new anime.”
Why is that so important? Firstly, paying homage to one’s influences is a great way to connect different generations of viewers. It gives a motivation to newer audiences to watch classic titles from the past, while older fans have an extra reason to get closer to totally new title.
KLK was the first original TV series aired by Studio Trigger. Most people were skeptical about what to expect from a newly found studio but I believe that the end result was more than impressive. Even though you surely have heard many complaints about the animation, I believe that most of them don’t do KLK justice. Even though there are many moments when the animation looks childish, the story’s tendency to take itself lightheartedly makes them fit well with the overall result.
On a more personal note, one reason why I find Kill la Kill to be special is because of its connection to clothing. For the biggest part of my life I have been indifferent about my appearance. Why was that? Let me remind you that I am a transgender woman. The only clothes I was expected to wear were boys’ fashion. I was expected to do so, so that I could be identifiable as a man. In other words, clothes were my mask, the way I (and my family) could cover what and who I was. So I didn’t care if I looked ugly and, more importantly, if what I was wearing made me feel even uglier. Now that I recognise my true self I find myself following the opposite direction, using what I wear to empower myself mentally.
KLK gets things exactly right. Fabric has power over us. It gives us more than just protection from cold and rain. Be it hierarchy and acceptance, power and opportunity, origin and a inspiration, there are many aspects of our well being that depend on them so much that we often tend to forget about them.
Foxy Lady Ayame: The theme that was important to me was that the best family is the one you choose for yourself. Feeling like a stranger in my own house is where I can relate with Satsuki. Even though at first I didn’t like her much she was a person I could respect for her ability to reach different people and earn their trust and loyalty. Her family expands at the end of the series and the screenshot above is the culmination of this theme which had me go DAaaw at my screen. A good family keeps warm each other while baring themselves to one another.
One thing we mustn’t forget to mention before we are done with the post is the music. Sawano Hiroyuki, who also did the OST on Attack on Titan, worked here, once again producing great results. Don’t lose your way was very catchy and energy-boosting, Blumenkranz was also good, but unfortunately its German were poorly pronounced. If I have to make a comparison I think I prefer AoT. That doesn’t mean that the KLK‘s OST didn’t deliver in general.