Twelve Days of Anime – Kill la Kill, an Enjoyable but Forgettable Experience
December 19, 2014 Leave a comment
Whenever someone mentions Kill la Kill people seem to go into trances, explaining the brilliance of hand drawn animation, the wonders of Mako and her eccentricities, and eulogising about the brilliance of studio Trigger and the geniuses behind it. The only other series I seem to see as much hype surrounding have been those from Type-Moon, and perhaps a couple of Shaft anime. As for me, I found it an enjoyable, but entirely forgettable experience, and one that left very little impression on me. During the winter season I explained that Kill la Kill was a series that I enjoyed watching, but never really found anything remarkable about either the story of characters. It was a series that took the madness of vintage Gainax anime, turned everything up to eleven in true Spinal Tap fashion, and threw what was created at the audience, hoping that something would stick. Unfortunately for me, nothing about the series ever made me look at it and think that it was a truly wonderful, memorable anime, one that may become a classic with engaging characters and enjoyable story. Even now my thoughts remain the same, even more so as until recently I had completely forgotten that the series even existed.
Does this mean that I hated the series? Far from it, it was an anime that I thoroughly enjoyed watching, and the madness on screen was rather entertaining. The characters were suitably eccentric, and the animation style, coupled with the use of those giant red titles and other little artistic flourishes made it an enjoyable series, much like watching a silly action film at the weekend. However, there was very little about the series that remained particularly memorable, I enjoyed each episode, but them promptly forgot about it, only to watch something else. Much fuss surrounded Senketsu, and the use of skimpy clothing as representative of power and abilities, themes that I should have been fascinated with given my interest in such things, yet this was not the case this time. Furthermore, I found the characters entertaining, but also quite bland and one-dimensional, with many of their eccentricities simply lost in the madness.
When I watched Kill la Kill I was consistently reminded of past Gainax works such as Abenobashi and FLCL. I remember the madness of Abenobashi as Arumi and Satoshi travel through the surreal manifestations of Satoshis imagination. The worlds that the series visits represent the forms of escapism found within popular culture, which is further reinforced by Satoshi’s unwillingness to return to reality, thus trying to escape from their everyday lives. The series mixes elements of history and religion with the surreal and imaginary, creating an eccentric, but entirely memorable set of worlds and characters. Similarly, I remember first watching FLCL as Haruko smacks Naota across the head with a bass-guitar, while riding a Vespa. I also still remember the giant ‘plant’ in their city that is clearly a very big iron designed to iron the universe flat, along with duelling guitars and robots coming out of people’s foreheads. This sort of madness and eccentricity is memorable, it has remained with me since first watching these series, and helped shape my view of anime, it is also the sort of madness that I was consistently reminded of while watching Kill la Kill. And here lies my central issue with the series, it is entirely forgettable, a series that tries to use the same sort of madness that these earlier series employed to such effect. But, in doing so there is little that differentiates Kill la Kill from these more memorable, and in many ways, more enjoyable series.
I certainly enjoyed watching Kill la Kill, and don’t regret sticking with certain more tedious moments, but the experience was brief. This anime reminds me of a summer blockbuster, it could easily be a ridiculous action film that you can enjoy wholeheartedly, but fails to leave any lasting impression once it has finished. It never stuck me as especially clever, although while writing this post I realised that there were a few moments that were interesting and well produced, but there is little about the series that made me sit down and think about the underlying themes that it may be trying to explore. Instead I see the series as consumable entertainment. Ultimately, watching the series and writing this post reminded me of how good FLCL, and Abenobashi are, whereas Kill la Kill is very ordinary, and does little to differentiate itself from series that are now over ten years old (FLCL was 2000-2001, and Abenobashi was 2002). In writing this post, and thinking about Kill la Kill, I am even more disappointed in what was an enjoyable, but forgettable experience, especially because I wanted it to be something else, something with more depth, a series that I can enjoy and remember as fondly as I remember FLCL and Abenobashi.