Over six years ago director Hiroyuki Imaishi and writer Kazuki Nakashima collaborated to create the seminal and venerated manly mecha series Gurren Lagann. Now they are back in the saddle together helming the first tv series to come out of Trigger, Imaishi's upstart studio. Kill la Kill focuses on 17 year-old Ryuko Matoi as she searches across Japan to find her father's killer. This quest takes her to Honnoji Academy, where she thinks she'll finally end her mission. Does Trigger kill it or....you know what? No. I'm not going to end the opening paragraph like I normally do, let's just get to the review.
They're Going HAM
There's really just no way to say it eloquently, Kill la Kill is simply 110% pure concentrated balls to the wall, pedal to the metal badass. Every episode of Kill la Kill left me even more pumped up than when I went in. And virtually each subsequent episode tops the previous one in terms of badass levels, so it is a constantly escalating scale of awesome. And it isn't just the main characters that get to go HAM, either. Virtually every character with combat capabilities and a name get a chance to shine, especially towards the end of the series. To put it another way, the following video is more or less how I reacted to each episode of Kill la Kill.
Granted with less food references and more anime references, but still, similar reactions.
Demands Your Full Attention
I honestly cannot believe how many times I see people say Kill la Kill is a turn your brain off type of show. It is not. Kill la Kill requires your full undivided attention. There are just too many references and theming for you to coast through this show on autopilot. Can you? Sure, you could totally just watch for the balls out awesome fight scenes, but then you'll miss out on some rather nice character details that you'd have a better chance catching if you paid attention.
A Legendary Tribute
Kill la Kill is stuffed to the gills with references and tributes to the works of the legendary Go Nagai. Nowhere is this more prominent than in Satsuki's vile mother Ragyo, who might as well have been plucked straight from Nagai's mind.
Predictable Yet Still Shocking
I'll be up front, Kill la Kill can be a tad predictable, in that you can probably guess most of the major twists and turns the story will take long before they happen. Despite this, when the twists finally did happen, they were still legitimately shocking to me. Which just goes to show how you present the twists can affect how effective they are.
To say that Kill la Kill has a fluid, dynamic, and down right cartoonish animation style is putting it lightly. It is still a treat to see just how flexible the characters are and how generally crazy the animation can get. When so many series have stiff, rigid animation, it is just so nice to see something that isn't afraid to inject some life into what we are seeing.
Unique Character Designs
I've had the pleasure to watch anime for nearly twenty years, and in that time I have seen very few anime to come close to just how varied and unique Kill la Kill's cast is. Aside from the nameless mook armies, no two characters look exactly the same. With a cast as big as Kill la Kill's I honestly can't tell you every character's name, but I can instantly recognize their design, even the bit characters with barely any screen time.
Hiroyuki Sawano is one of the best composers in the anime industry today. He created the awesome soundtrack that helped make Attack on Titan as great as it was, and he doesn't slouch when it comes to Kill la Kill's either. I don't think I can name another anime series that was so enhanced by its soundtrack. Without Sawano's music, this anime just would not be the same beast it was. For an example of this show's awesome music, check out the main theme that is pretty much played whenever something badass happens....which means this song, or a variation of it, plays a lot.
PLOT That Aids the Plot
You pretty much can't go anywhere without finding someone who detests the fanservice found in Kill la Kill. However, this fanservice is not only justified by the plot, it plays one of the central roles to the overall theming of the series. On top of that, there is equal opportunity fanservice, with actually far more men being in a state of undress than women.
Mako, Ryuko's primary best friend, will randomly interrupt each episode, with each interruption accompanied by a divine shower of light and a chorus of Hallelujah. Every single one of them are hilarious and they feature some of the whackiest animation in the show. I honestly looked forward to them the most in each episode, because I couldn't wait to see what would happen. The funny thing is, towards the end of the series, I mostly stopped reading the subtitles during these scenes, because I somewhat became accustomed to Mako's weird gesture-based language.
Several of the characters in Kill la Kill are rather complex. More specifically the characters with some kind of personal connection to Satsuki, like the Elite Four, Ragyo, Nui, and of course Satsuki herself. Unfortunately not all of the characters are tailored the same...
Somewhat Shallow Lead Character
Look, I like Ryuko. Really, I do. It is just...compared to some of the other characters in the series, Satsuki specifically, Ryuko is a rather shallow character. For most of the series she has a one track mind, only ever focusing on the current goal at hand. That can be fine, and I still think she's a total badass, I just wish there were more layers to her.
Some Important Character Details Not in the Show Itself
Remember how up above I said the Elite Four were complex characters? Well, not all of their character details are in the show itself. Sure they are still pretty awesome characters in the show just based on what the show covers, but some of their most key character details are left out of the show and can only be found in extra material that you have to find for yourself. But once you do find it and read it, it greatly improves the four of them.
Plain and simply, Kill la Kill is one of my all time favorite anime series. I think it is one of those few series that will live on for years to come, much like its spiritual predecessor Gurren Lagann. In addition to that, despite being a show full of tributes and some predictable tropes, I think Kill la Kill is the most original anime to come out in a long, long time. I can firmly say I have never seen an anime that is truly like Kill la Kill.