The story of Ryuko Matoi, a very angry girl who transfers to Honnouji Academy seeking revenge for the death of her father. Part spectacle action, part comedic parody, and part earnest drama; there’s more to Kill La Kill than bloody fights, the skimpiest of outfits, and butt jokes.
Why it’s on the list
This is spectacle anime done right: Visually striking, ridiculous and weird. Kill La Kill goes for over the top action and succeeds at going over the top. It’s ridiculous. A huge reason it works is its pacing, which is amazingly on point for what is in a lot of ways just a tournament action show. The show is always pushing forward, with action and plot keeping pace. Kill La Kill blows through more plot than most shonen tournament shows get to in a hundred or more episodes, and it does so at a rate that feels correct. Everything still hits with the appropriate weight and emotional impact.
In addition to being well paced, Kill La Kill avoids the structural traps a tournament show with some ambition can fall into. For all its bombast, it shows restraint in the way it structures its plot. Too often a show will make too many promises to the audience about plot and future fights, and then drag its feet for episodes on end without fulfilling those promises. Kill La Kill fulfills almost all its early promises by the halfway point, and only around then starts to set up the bigger plot for the second half of the series.
The other mistake it avoids is drowning the audience in exposition and backstory up front. Way too many anime feel the need to cram backstory into their first episode and I hate it. Backstory only matters after we already care about the characters and their world. Until then it’s just noise. Kill La Kill bursts forth with action and spectacle, and then bothers to explain itself later when necessary. When we learn new information it feels impactful because we already know why it matters.
The show is also very funny, and finds plenty of time for comedic moments, even as the more series melodrama kicks into high gear in the latter half. The show is never not ridiculous, and yet still manages to hit some real emotional moments. It’s impressive. This is parody in the true sense, as the animation team will deliberately copy the look or even style of older shows. Whether that’s animating flashbacks with the style of much older anime, or copying visuals out of Evangelion because of course.
Beyond all that, Kill La Kill isn’t simply mindless action and funny parody; this is a really good coming of age story. Everything that’s here: the action, the nakedness, the weirdness; is all for the sake of the main characters and their adolescence.
Why it’s not higher
That simplicity of structure that I do totally think is to the show’s benefit, also puts a cap on high it can get on this list. The show never explodes beyond its own form to become something greater, it just executes very well on its goals. Although there are times where the animation and drawings can’t stand up to the show’s ambition. The very formulaic structure means that the show is also pretty predictable and never quite blew me away in the way that the top ranked shows did.
Thank You For Your Time
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