Kill la Kill – an enjoyable, but forgettable experience
March 30, 2014 Leave a comment
Kill la Kill has been one of those series that I enjoyed watching, but never really found anything remarkable about either the story or characters. It is a series that takes the madness of vintage Gainax anime, turns everything up to eleven, and simply throws it at the audience hoping that something will stick. And unfortunately for me nothing about the series ever made me look at it and think that it was a truly wonderful anime with great story and engaging characters, quite the opposite in fact.
But before that let us start with the animation, an interesting hand-drawn style that is stylistically pleasing and has a certain aesthetic that many anime, with the computer coloured animation lack. It reminds me of anime like FLCL and Abenobashi, with loads of movement lines that are reminiscent of a manga, and block colour. It isn’t exactly as complex or beautiful as a piece of Ghibli animation, but then we are talking about an anime series rather than a film with a substantially larger budget and time to work with. The use of big red titles to announce characters, particular attacks, and other bits of information that studio Trigger want us aware of was also a nice touch, fitting into the over-the-top style that this series was clearly looking for. But now we come to one of the major issues with this style, its repetitive nature. The initial impact of this animation style, and the use of the red titles was wonderful, but it soon fell into a particular pattern and rhythm, the titles became part of the background, and the animation lost the initial impact as it also settled into a series of repeated actions and reactions.
Similarly the characters felt rather bland and one-dimensional, they didn’t really grow or change until the last couple of episodes and lacked anything that marked them out as interesting or particularly unique. One of the major problems with Kill la Kill is its introduction of Satsuki as the final boss at the very beginning, only changing this towards the end when her, and Ryuuko’s mother was introduced as the true final boss. By doing this we had about three quarters of the series taken up with the same conflicts, arguments, and shouted dialogue between Ryuuko and everyone else in Satsuki’s academy. You could watch episode one, and then watch episode 12 and get what was essentially the same story, with the same arguments, same transformation sequences, and same animation. It was repetitive to an extreme and on a level that not even Shaft with their constant shots of school tables, random backgrounds, and inconsequential bits of urban furniture could not match. And this made it often quite dull to watch – when you pretty much know what will happen in the next episode, or can at least guess how characters will react and the sort of things that will happen, the element of surprise, of suspense, and enjoyment quickly disappears from the series.
Ryuuko as a main character is one-dimensional and seems to just be angry throughout the series, first at the death of her father, believing that Satsuki was behind it all, and then just generally angry, hard to tell at exactly what. Similarly Satsuki is domineering and arrogant, and apparently bent on world domination throughout much of the series, then domineering and arrogant, and attempting to stop world domination towards the end of the series. As main characters go they aren’t especially interesting, and quickly fell into a set of repetitive actions, reactions, and statements. Of the series characters the only ones that really left an impression were the Mankanshoku family, with Mako leading their immoral, and entertaining brand of madness, Gamagoori because he is massive and clearly the cutest character in the whole series, and Senketsu because he is a talking sailor uniform with more class and style than the rest of the cast put together. As for the rest, they are very forgettable and generally inconsequential to the outcome of the series, despite apparently being essential to Ryuuko’s eventual triumph. I feel that the cast was too over the top for its own good – a few exaggerated characters stand out from the rest, but when every character is exaggerated in some way they quickly blend together, in much the same way that the episodes of the series seemed to blend together into one, slightly over the top whole without anything to really differentiate them from one another.
When watching Kill la Kill I was constantly reminded of past works by Gainax, and while Trigger is a different studio, many of the main staff involved in the production of Kill la Kill are ex-Gainax and have worked on some of my favourite anime from that studio. I remember the madness of Abenobashi as Arumi and Sasshi as they travel through the surreal manifestations of Sasshi’s imagination, creating a world where the escapism that many forms of popular culture becomes the central characters realities, reinforced by Sasshi’s unwillingness to return to reality, thus trying to escape from their everyday lives. I remember first watching FLCL as a vespa riding crazy person whacks Naota with a bass-guitar, along with the giant plant in their city which is clearly a big iron designed to iron the universe flat. This sort of madness is memorable; it is something that has stuck with me since first watching these series, and it is that sort of madness that I constantly remembered while watching Kill la Kill. And here lies my central issue with Kill la Kill, it is entirely forgettable, a series that tries to use the same sort of madness that earlier series which Imaishi worked on used to such great effect, but in doing so it lacks something important to differentiate it from other, arguably superior series have done before.
I certainly enjoyed watching Kill la Kill, finding enough in a number of episodes to keep me watching, but such an experience was brief, and I often forgot about the episode soon after. This anime reminds me of a summer blockbuster, it could be a ridiculous action film that you can enjoy wholeheartedly while you are watching it but fails to leave any lasting impression on you once you leave the cinema. It is not clever, or particularly sophisticated, and there is nothing about the series that makes me sit down and think about the events, and dialogue, instead it is consumable entertainment. Ultimately in reminding me of how good FLCL, and Abenobashi were Kill la Kill has shown how normal it is, and how it hasn’t done anything to differentiate itself from series that now over 10 years old (FLCL was 2000-2001, and Abenobashi was 2002), which disappoints me a little. And to say that finding Kill la Kill an enjoyable, but also forgettable experience disappointing also suggests that I was expecting something more from studio Trigger. But instead I was presented with a very repetitive series on the level of most Shaft anime in the last few years, one with one-dimensional characters, and an unimportant story. While I didn’t hate the anime, my thoughts can best be summed up with the title of the post: Kill la Kill, an enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable experience.