Kill la Kill: The anime that got me into anime

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PurpleShyGuy

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Edited By PurpleShyGuy

A grown man’s appreciation for Japanese cartoons.

Kill la Kill spoilers ahead.

As the anime experts say, “It’s anime o’clock!” So what better way to celebrate than with the anime that started it all: Kill la Kill. My experience with anime beforehand was probably similar to a lot of other Westerners growing up in the 90s, which is to say I watched Pokemon, Dragonball Z and the odd Studio Ghibli film. In the West, animation is usually reserved for the younger audience or used for irreverent comedy shows like Rick and Morty or Family Guy, and there really isn’t much outside that. But go back a number of years when I signed up to Netflix, and I decided to browse the anime category, spurred on by a number of Japanese games I was playing at the time.

I unearthed some shows that the anime community recommended, such as One Punch Man and Violet Evergarden, which don’t get me wrong, are fantastic in their own right, but I still didn’t consider myself a fan. That said, I continued looking up some more suggestions, and that’s when the name Kill la Kill appeared, presenting itself as an action comedy. A good counter pick when compared to the cry-athlon that was Violet Evergarden…and my first impressions weren’t great. With those unfamiliar with the premise, Kill la Kill is a show about women wearing magical clothing that gets all the more powerful the more revealing it becomes – and looking back at it now, isn’t really that absurd for anime.

All images are gratefully censored by Disapproving Elderly Man.
All images are gratefully censored by Disapproving Elderly Man.

But back then, it was everything that made me dubious of getting into anime in the first place, the contrived plot points in service of getting as much lady skin on screen as possible. Yet, as I pressed on, I began to come around on Kill la Kill, mostly down to its madcap presentation and just its sheer range of expression. One thing I noticed is how much more varied characters are drawn in anime when you stack them up to their Western cartoon counterparts. The main character Ryuko Matoi will feature softer rounder details to make her look friendlier, or harsher, more angular features to make her seem more threatening, for example. I know this isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff in this type of show, but remember I hadn’t watched anime for years.

The world felt so alive, with so many fun little details that I eventually got pulled in. One thing I love about Kill la Kill is how it switches tones and structure between its two parts. The first part is more akin to your typical slice-of-life anime, with mostly self-contained stories that help you understand the various characters of the show. While the second part ramps up the stakes, with episodes that flow together to form a larger plot leading towards an exciting finale. Both parts serve their roles perfectly, with the first getting you invested in the cast, while the second getting you invested in the world. Even its fanservice becomes better as the men start stripping off along with the women, remember objectification is fine when it’s happening to both genders – I think? The nudity starts to represent more nobler themes such as freedom, rebirth, and the abolishment of classism and enforced hierarchy. While this doesn’t excuse the leering camerawork that appears earlier in the show, Kill la Kill eventually manages to use its nudity for a pretty decent message.

And despite its knack for up-skirt shots, Kill la Kill’s cast actually consists of mostly women with motivations going beyond kissing the sexy young man. It’s usually a trend in anime to have female characters be pretty much inconsequential to the plot, with their only purpose being the token love interest. But in Kill la Kill, Ryuko Matoi is avenging her father, Satsuki Kiryuin is trying to save the world, Ragyo Kiryuin is trying to take it over and Nui Harime is just there to be an asshole. If I have to choose between an interesting character that is objectified and a banal character that is shoehorned in, I’m taking the one whose defining trait isn't just: is a woman.

Thanks again Disapproving Elderly Man, you're making the Internet a safer place for all.
Thanks again Disapproving Elderly Man, you're making the Internet a safer place for all.

By the end of Kill la Kill I was thoroughly converted, in fact, I was actually a little mad at myself for writing anime off for so many years. Kill la Kill made me see why anime has attracted such a passionate fandom, but is it the greatest anime I’ve ever watched? Well, that’s a bit more difficult to answer, with the reason being that I’d never seen anything else quite like it before at the time. I do wonder if I were to watch it today, whether it would have the same impact. I believe that I would still have enjoyed it, but the reason why it left such an impression was because it felt so new to me. In fact, even months later, the anime shows I watched after always had me saying, “That was good, but it was no Kill la Kill.”

While it is in my upper echelon of anime picks, I can understand if people think Kill la Kill is nothing special, but what’s more important is that it showed me the appeal of anime. And thanks to it, I’ve now had the pleasure of watching shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Mob Psycho 100, Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy, Black Lagoon, Fate Zero (the only good Fate show incidentally), Land of the Lustrous, Dorohedoro, Made in Abyss and many more.

It has also lead me to Keijo………and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Keijo: mankind's greatest mistake or greatest achievement?
Keijo: mankind's greatest mistake or greatest achievement?

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j-mack

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Kill la Kill is my favorite anime that I have the hardest time recommending. I like that studio, their anime often has a little more going on than you'd expect.

My introduction to anime was FLCL (actually dubbed robotech but I didn't know it was anime at the time) and that's kinda similar in being everything you'd expect in anime turned up to 11 plus great music.

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Justin258

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Paging @zombiepie...

...@s don't seem to work on mobile.

Anyway, I'm happy to see more people get into anime! But I couldn't take Kill la Kill. It really wasn't my thing.

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ZombiePie

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Paging @zombiepie...

...@s don't seem to work on mobile.

Anyway, I'm happy to see more people get into anime! But I couldn't take Kill la Kill. It really wasn't my thing.

Yeah... one of my claims to fame during the Whiskey Media days involved me publishing a series of highly negative reviews for Kill la Kill. I wont repeat the entirety of that sentiment here as, the user in question shares how the show rekindled their love for anime. However, Matoi is a terrible protagonist, the show lecherously exploits the male gaze, and everyone who likes the show fails to remember the late story arc where the show makes light of sexual assault.

Though, getting an actual death threat for my negative review of Kill la Kill on Anime Vice sure was something. Admittedly, the line that got me into trouble was: "Look, if you like mindless action; that's fine, you do you. But at the same time I see a lot of you giving people excited about Michael Bay Transformers movies shit, and I want you to really think about who is the kettle and who is the pot." Someone even linked me to a multi-paragraph essay how Trigger was using Mako as a proverbial "Greek Chorus," which I couldn't help but scoff at.

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PurpleShyGuy

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@zombiepie: Whoops, didn't mean to bring up any bad memories. I know anime doesn't have the best public image, and unfortunately it sometimes earns its dubious reputation. I'll be the first to admit that Kill la Kill has problematic elements, and it certainly isn't the most complex show in the world, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy watching it.

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Mezmero

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Eh, you could do worse but you also could probably have done better. Then again my first animes were the early TV dubs of DB(Z) and Sailor Moon so unlike me you benefit from having a broad array of titles to choose for your first. I've only seen the first episode of KLK and it seemed neat but wasn't really something I wanted to sink my teeth into at the time and I may go back to it some day. When it comes to Trigger shows I sort of view them as anime palette cleansers, when you just need something wild to kind of soft-reset your anime sensibilities. Fortunately I still watch enough cartoons that I don't really need my palette cleansed all that much.

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colourful_hippie

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#6  Edited By colourful_hippie

My gf and I enjoyed it but we understand that this is the kind of show you have to put way too many caveats on for someone coming into it brand new because there's a lot of bad things going for it.

If you want to turn your brain off and watch some great animation, cool fights, and funny moments with deviant pervert shit sprinkled throughout that also sweeps sexual assault with hints of incest under the rug then sure go right ahead.

I guess my bigger issue is with the people that put this on some pedestal of perfection and dismiss critics as being grumpy old prudes. Those kinds of fans and the types of people who think wearing ahegao shirts in public is funny and edgy make a complete circle in a venn diagram.

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Relkin

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#7  Edited By Relkin

This show got me back into anime after some years of losing interest in it, so I'll always be very fond of it. It is my favorite anime; one of my favorite tv shows period. That being said, I've found most of the discourse around this show to be...shitty. A lot of shitty dismissive and needlessly rude attitudes on the side of those criticizing it, and a lot of shitty knee-jerk reprisals from those defending it who consider an attack on the show to be an attack on their character. As much as the above is considered to be par for the course for internet conversations, I've found that it's especially acidic where this show is concerned.

I'm happy to hear you enjoyed it, OP. Thanks for sharing.

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FacelessVixen

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One of the many shows that I want to watch but don't because I want to do other things more often.

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PurpleShyGuy

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@relkin: I was actually considering not even posting this at all, due to some of the show's more uncomfortable scenes. Hopefully I've made it clear that while I love Kill la Kill, it has issues.

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damodar

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#10  Edited By damodar

Issues abound, but overall, I think Kill La Kill is pretty great. It's got a ton of heart and the animation is so creative and expressive. Just yeah, not the easiest to recommend.

If you haven't checked out Little Witch Academia, another Studio Trigger joint, I think that's a much easier recommendation, way fewer qualifiers needed. It has those qualities I mentioned for KLK in spaaades. It also very much does the same thing with the arc of the show where the first half is basically all little self-contained slice of life adventures and then the back half is more serialised narrative. But yeah, it's just very charming and sweet and the whole thing feels like it was made with so much love and care.

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ZombiePie

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@topcyclist: The story arc involving Satsuki and her mom is unforgivable. It is shot lecherously, much like the rest of the anime, and with a scene involving actual sexual assault, I cannot overlook that. If people liked it for what it is, fine, I'm okay with that. But do not subscribe an empowering message to the show when it in fact commits a lot of the hallmarks of problematic depictions of females in anime.

Also, I still maintain that Kill la Kill in general does not respect your time. You have two tournament arcs and Matoi's origin story does not kick in until about the show's halfway mark. Which to me is emblematic of Trigger's inability to write a coherent story. the show is a poorly paced Frankenstein's Monster, but you kind of know that going into anything from modern Trigger.

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chaser324

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#13 chaser324  Moderator

For me, Kill la Kill was a show that I clearly recognized is bad but still enjoyed - although I think the show does get progressively worse as you get farther into it.

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GunstarRed

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I fell pretty out of love with modern anime a pretty long time ago, but I have tried to watch Kill La Kill on three separate occasions (eps 1-3, 1-3, then 1-6) mostly because of my love for Gurren Lagann. I rewatched that show about a year and a half ago, and I was just as enamoured as when it originally aired, but Kill La Kill does absolutely nothing for me. The art and the animation is incredible, and I love the style so much that out of the three newish shows I've seen/completed/enjoyed in the last five or six years, two of them have been by Trigger. Darling in the Franxx is Evangelion for babies + Fuckable mechs, and SSSS. Gridman appeals to my love for tokusatsu bullshit, but I always feel like I'm missing something with this show, like I should "get" it, but after reading some of the posts here about things that happen in it, maybe I just need to let this one go.

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mikachops

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#16  Edited By mikachops

Kill la Kill is an amazing 10 episodes, a tolerable at best ~2 and an absolute dogshit remaining.

It starts as this great exploration of gender roles and a bastion of sex positive feminism with beautiful experimental art and oodles of style but soon drops all of that and devolves into the most nonsense shounen anime I've seen in a long time, but not in the fun or subversive Guren Lagen way. It starts introducing just the worst tropes of modern trash anime, particularly the psycho moe girl that they spend way too many episodes on, a really slapdash attempt at world building and a sudden introduction of hyper violence and blood.

It's also really clear they ran out of budget or changed animation teams half way through because it drops in quality and creative direction so sharply at a point.

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nthnmllr

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#17 nthnmllr  Online

I don't wanna look at naked teen girls, sorry lads