Top 20 Anime of 2014 – #3. Kill la Kill

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Kill la Kill – A Love Story:
Layered and Meta Narratives a la Kill la Kill:
Embracing the Unquantifiable:
TBBBAA Kill la Kill Special Episode 25:

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Kill la Kill is radical. On the most basic level, it conveys the sentiment that anime is fucking cool about as well as an series could. Every aspect of its visuals is immediately appealing, from the stand-out character designs, to the unique and even experimental animation which ricochets between highly detailed movement in action scenes and cleverly conceived use of stills and lack of movement in comedic scenes, to the exquisite use of colors, shot composition, and framing. If I made a top ten list of the best-looking anime series of all time, I’m almost certain Kill La Kill would be on there.

Hiroyuki Sawano’s soundtrack is imminently memorable, and includes at least two of my outright favorite pieces of background music in all of anime. Between the bombastic sounds and visuals, perfectly choreographed and animated fight scenes, excellent voice performances on the part of the entire cast, and the profound sense of radditude which emanates from everything that goes on in the show, the second half of Kill la Kill earns its keep as perhaps the most awesomely produced animation of 2014.

Were I another reviewer, this would either be the moment that I glibly turn around and say that the production values are only the tip of the iceburg of what makes this series good, or the moment that I lament how the script and characters couldn’t live up to the production. However, I think it would be inauthentic to pretend that these production values aren’t an incredible accomplishment in their own right, that could’ve landed this show on my list by themselves.

There’s a reason that I spend all of my time watching anime as opposed to live-action TV and films, or reading books and comics, etc. It’s because I’m a fan of ANIMATION–and everything that comes along with it. Animation is the culmination of a great number of artistic crafts, and it is unbelievably rare for all of those things to come together perfectly. I’ve seen gorgeously animated shows with character designs that I didn’t like, or well-directed shows with poor artwork, or shows that would’ve been perfect if they just had the talent and budget behind them to take them to the next level.

Kill la Kill stands at the pinnacle of what animation production is capable of. There are innumerable scenes in this series which blew my mind in how creatively they were structured, timed, and choreographed. As someone who’s gone out of my way many times to watch something just because it is uniquely or beautifully animated, it’s not every day that a show can blow my mind with its animation; and doubly so when it can do so within a cathartic, easily appreciable narrative with highly appealing designs. There are scenes in Kill la Kill wherein the visuals weave a more complex and interesting narrative than the dialog, and that is a mother fucking accomplishment.

But indeed, there is more to Kill la Kill than just the animation, even if a lot of it is not immediately apparent. In fact, while I enjoyed Kill la Kill when I first watched it, I underwent a major paradigm shift later which greatly enhanced my appreciation of it, and which those of you who follow me both here and on my Digi Does Anime channel will have been witness to.

Initially, I primarily saw Kill la Kill for what was apparent. It tells the story of Ryuko Matoi’s quest for knowledge and revenge regarding the death of her father, which leads her into a long series of battles against super-powered students attending Honnouji Academy. The academy itself is run like a totalitarian government, with the badass Kiryuin Satsuki as its supreme commander, and while there are a number of side-characters with their own roles to play, the narrative continues straightforwardly until the late teen episodes, wherein it goes through some major twists before tying up in a huge final confrontation.

Many would argue that the pacing of Kill la Kill’s main storyline is uneven and perhaps even terrible, and I wouldn’t argue with that; but I also don’t think that Kill la Kill is ever bad or boring. I think Kill la Kill’s main problem is that on the initial viewing, it doesn’t fall in with conventional expectations. Viewers become impatient not knowing where the story plans to go, which makes it more difficult to enjoy the excessive battles and hammy dialog–especially in the early teen episodes. However, I think that this issue is largely resolved simply by rewatching. Once you know where the show’s going, it’s easier to sit back and enjoy each moment of the story, which in itself is pretty entertaining. I guess what I mean is that Kill la Kill wouldn’t necessarily get better if parts of it were removed; it would only lead to an easier first viewing. For a show that seeks to be remembered and rewatched, I think it was smart for the staff to pour everything that they wanted to into the series instead of leaving some behind just to tighten up the pace a bit.

Where I initially found myself confused with Kill la Kill though, was in trying to understand its themes. In spite of its seemingly straightforward narrative, Kill la Kill constantly bombards the viewer with symbolism on every level. There are countless lines of dialog which speak to bigger themes about things like nudity, shame, social darwinism, family, community, etc., alongside endless cultural references and visual puns. It’s a series which very much wants the viewer to think a little bit deeper about what they’re seeing; but a lot of the time it’s difficult to determine what exactly the series is trying to say.

The paradigm shift which I experienced came from going to analytical panels at Otakon, and from reading the mammoth analytical post Kill la Kill: A Love Story over on Chromatic Aberrations Everywhere. Simply put, these analyses gave me a new perspective on the themes and allusions which the series was going for, and put my mind at ease that the series did, in fact, have clear goals with its themes, as well as enhanced my overall interest in what it had to say.

I won’t bother diving into those themes again in this post–partly because I’ll never be able to top the Chromatic Aberrations post, but also because I’ve already dedicated two of my favorite videos on this channel to explaining my perspective on this series. It’s possible that knowing how I perceive Kill la Kill and its themes will do nothing to improve your opinion of the series, and that’s okay–but as far as explaining why this is my third-favorite anime of 2014, I hope that these give you the tools to understand the way that I feel.

Episodes thirteen through twenty-four of the TV series aired in 2014, and while these contained more of the plot-centric episodes and some hugely memorable moments, I can’t say whether I liked the first or second half of the series better. I will say however, that the OVA resolution which came out later in the year finally solidified Kill la Kill’s place among my alltime favorite anime, and was perhaps the most emotional episode of the series for me. I did a twenty-minute podcast on it with my little brother over on Digi Does Anime if you’re interested in knowing why. As for Kill la Kill, you can watch the series legally for free on Daisuki and Crunchyroll.

So, what did you think of Kill la Kill? Let me know in the comments below, and in case you missed them, check out my videos on #4, Space Dandy, and #5, Ping Pong, and stick around on my channel to see what my second-favorite anime of the year will be tomorrow.

One thought on “Top 20 Anime of 2014 – #3. Kill la Kill

  1. It’s is my favorite show ever because it’s the only thing for which I have a feeling of escapism. I don’t find any single plot of land on this planet to be ‘boring and normal’, I don’t want to live in a fantasy universe, and I’m generally satisfied with where society is going so I don’t really insert myself in a science fiction either.

    There’s only one thing I don’t like about reality: physics. Everything takes so fucking long, you can only jump a few feet in the air, your brain has chemicals that make you feel bored or irritable; there’s lots of moments where everything feels mediocre and lukewarm. Life has no soundtrack, and the world doesn’t have a beat; the rhythm of reality has no structure.

    All of these shortcomings are corrected, and the energy of life is accelerated to transcendental brilliance in the universe of Kill la Kill. Everything is cool and fun; every word and action work together in an intricate flow. Kill la Kill is what I fucking want real life to be like

    The complaints about the first 14 episodes ‘not having a plot’ and being too slow baffles me every single time. As soon as the end of episode 2 set up the next confrontation, I was like “Oh, they’re going to be in this school for a while. And it’s going to be a while before the unknowns get revealed.”
    I guess those partial to action anime come into a show expecting constant plot revelations. I guess I’m way more used to western writing where it’s like, “here’s some shit you don’t get to know, now wait a fucking long time” but whatever it totally works here!
    Having the characters running around trying to figure out what to do, and kinda just hanging out for the first half of a story is brilliant setup and establishment; the bigger of a variety of situation and statuses you get to see a character in, the deeper they’ll become and the fonder the audience can become of them.

    I overwhelmingly adore its combat philosophy: the fights are the themes. Many stories that have fighting try to tie the lessons and ideas the characters learn into how they’re able to win, but Kill la Kill takes it all the way. The themes are what the characters are really fighting about, but at the same time the themes are just sitting there in the background. Ryuko wins from what fighting skills she pulled off, and what concept she learned, and what the flow of the narrative dictated. The actions of the characters are determined by the laws of exciting pacing, yet they also make sense, even though they don’t. None of these things are really true, but also all of them are. When a character begins their big moment, they more or less grab the CD player remote and play their song.

    The character development, the literal actions and movements on screen, the thematic backdrop, the music, the story, the pacing and the style are all connected in a chain of causality in a manner that goes against common sense and logical writing that doesn’t hold up coherently and also totally holds up coherently. The things that in any other show that are separate and distinct become hybrids of each other in Kill la Kill; they put each other on and synchronize into one entity that doesn’t and can’t ever make sense, cause that’s how this show goes

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