Review for Kill La Kill: Part 2 - Collector's Edition
Lightning doesn’t strike twice. Back in December, I got lucky with the first volume of Kill la Kill that I reviewed. A bit of a postal kerfuffle meant that I got a retail release version, which came with the artbook and deluxe packaging. Being a greedy (but silent) get, I discreetly hoped that the second part of Kill la Kill would turn up in similar fashion for review. Like that was going to happen! This time around, I got the usual reviewer check discs, simple white Blu-ray screeners. No packaging, no artbook. Now I have to see if the show is actually any good, without the additional bribery of cool stuff. Who am I kidding! This is Kill la Kill. I’d watch this show if All the Anime sent it to me on VHS! (Note to All the Anime, please don’t send part 3 on VHS).
Satsuki Kiryuin has her plans for world domination well in hand. After all she’s the head of the student council at Honnouji Academy, a school around which a city revolves. That may not seem like much, but when the school uniform can literally bestow superpowers upon students that she deems worthy, and when she plans to send Honnouji students across the country to do battle with rival schools, then her power grab doesn’t seem so outlandish. It’s all down to the Life Fibre, imbued in the school uniform. 10% Life Fibre creates the 1 Star uniforms, 20% the 2 Star, and 30% the 3 Star, any more than that invites loss of control.
It all seems to be going so well for Satsuki Kiryuin and her Elite Four, then a loud and undisciplined transfer student named Ryuko Matoi arrives, wielding half a pair of giant scissors, and with a chip on her shoulder. She wants to know just who it was that murdered her father, the owner of the other half of those scissors, and seeing as Satsuki recognises the blade, she’s just jumped to the top of her suspect list. There’s not a lot that a no-Star transfer student can do against the wearers of the Goku uniforms. But Ryuko’s father left her a powerful legacy, a school uniform woven from 100% Life Fibre, Senketsu. But Satsuki’s got a legacy too...
The next 10 episodes are presented across 2 dual layer Blu-rays from All the Anime. Kill la Kill is being released in the US by Aniplex US over 5 volumes. All the Anime must know where some Aniplex skeletons are buried, as they managed to twist their arms into allowing the UK release over 3 volumes.
10. I Want to Know More About You
11. I’m Not Your Cute Woman!
12. Spit Your Sadness Away
13. Crazy For You
14. Ride Like the Wind
15. Don’t Stop Me Now
16. The Girl Can’t Help It
17. Tell Me Why
18. Into the Night
19. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head
Kill la Kill gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution. Kill la Kill looks nigh on perfect, and for all but a few sticklers, it may as well be. The image is clear and sharp, colours come through without flaw, and there is absolutely no sign of compression, no aliasing and certainly rare in HD anime, no banding whatsoever. And that’s in an animation that isn’t exactly pushing the budget, or stretching the limits of the format resolution. In many ways Kill la Kill is a cheap and cheerful show; with simple character designs and animation, and not a lot of complexity in the world design either. Mako Makanshoku is a masterpiece of simplicity, while the uniformity of the background characters isn’t limited to their apparel.
But the way the animation is implemented, even in the more static scenes, with lens flare and imaginative framing, keeps the show feeling dynamic, while the budget really comes out in the action sequences, fast paced and energetic, and able to draw the viewer in. There’s also a lot of visual imagination in the comedy, lots of sight gags, little Easter eggs of humour in the background of some scenes, and don’t be surprised if you skip back and freeze frame more than once to catch something you missed the first time.
The images in this review have been kindly supplied by All the Anime.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, encoded at 1.5 Mb per second, with translated subtitles and a signs only track. Those few videophile sticklers I mentioned would probably balk at the fact that the audio and subtitle options are locked, meaning you can’t watch the episodes without subtitles. That’s probably the concession that was made to Aniplex to allow fewer volume releases. Also, it seems that All the Anime are on the way to solving the multiple on screen subtitle caption problem that usually plagues anime discs authored in the UK, as I certainly saw two captions on screen at any one time, when two conversations were going on simultaneously.
All the Anime have taken customer feedback on board when it comes to the sign translations. Personally I was quite happy with volume 1’s signs being burned into the image, especially on a disc with the audio and subtitle options locked, and I quite liked the slight animation they added. But I was in a minority, and a lot of people complained about the text translations. So for this release, all of the subtitles, and all of the text translations are player generated. There’s no burnt in English text at all.
As for the audio, I went with the original Japanese track, and it was good enough, with the dialogue clear, the action coming across well, and the show’s music allowed to drive the story. It’s all balanced adequately, but the volume level is a touch on the low side, easily remedied. I gave the English dub a try for half an episode, and the show actually gets the dub it deserves, with all of the main characters cast well, including to my surprise, Mako. She’s a unique character with a unique voice, and the danger was that the English version would just be an imitation; instead the English Mako is a distinct character that captures her enthusiastic ditziness while having her own identity too.
Both discs get animated menus, and on disc 1 you’ll find the textless credits in the bonus features. Disc 2 offer textless credits again.
In volume 1, I couldn’t find the Web Previews in the extras. It turns out that they were simply appended to the end of each episode in the appropriate place. To resolve that confusion, which I wasn’t alone in, they’ve repeated the Web Previews separately in the bonus menu, and at the end of each episode. However, I suspect that they’re not actually the Web Previews, just the normal previews from the TV broadcast. The episode 16 preview tells you that there’s not enough time to tell you everything, and to watch the Web Preview instead, while the episode 20 preview says that it’s the last of the normal previews, and henceforth the only previews will be Web Previews. It’s a small niggle, and frankly I want to watch the episodes, not the previews.
Unfortunately I didn’t get my greedy hands on the chipboard packaging or the 200-plus page artbook this time. Curses!
Kill la Kill is dumb, shallow, hi octane, Technicolor action fun. Fortunately it’s exactly the kind of dumb, shallow, hi octane, Technicolor action fun that I like the most. It takes all the levelling up through superior will power shonen tropes and subverts them, ridicules them, tears them up, while still holding on to the core of what makes a shonen show work. It remains interesting because it manages to compress its story into a simple 24 episode run, there’s no dead air whatsoever, and it keeps that story as outlandish and bizarre as possible, and it populates its cast with even more outlandish and bizarre characters. You could call it car crash TV, in that you can’t turn your eyes away for a single frame, but this car ain’t crashing. It knows exactly where its destination is, and you’re going along for the ride whether you want to or not.
And then the show suddenly threatens to challenge the old grey matter when it presents an intriguing and fantastic alternate theory of the role that clothing played in human evolution. Suddenly we’re in the realm of science fiction, with an alien ‘thread’ wanting to take over the world and prey on the highest indigenous life form. Gurren Lagann had its spirals and anti-spirals; Kill la Kill has its life fibres. Just when you think that you might have spend a few minutes in contemplation about this show’s unexpected depths, we get to meet the world’s worst mother, ever, and we also get Mako’s mother paying a little too much attention to Mikisugi in his full Nudist Beach regalia, Mako’s brother painting a suit on his naked body and selling his clothes, and Kill la Kill is back to entertaining, dumb and shallow again.
It’s the breakneck pace of the show that keeps it so compulsive to watch. As we start this collection of episodes, we’re still in the Naturals Election portion of the show, the traditional tournament sequence of shonen action anime, with Ryuko facing Satsuki Kiryuin’s Elite Four. It looks to be going Ryuko’s way (with the added entertainment of Gamagoori falling for Mako Makanshoku), when the Grand Couturier Nui Harime gatecrashes, and we get an early reveal of who was responsible for the death of Ryuko’s father (it’s normally the kind of plot line that lasts all the way to the end of a series), and Ryuko faces an unexpected defeat, with Senketsu shredded into a hundred pieces and more.
There then follows the Tri-City Schools Raid Trip, with Satsuki leading the students of Honnouji Academy in all new Goku uniforms, reinforced by scraps of Senketsu, across the Kansai region to battle the local Academies in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe for supremacy. Mako’s along for the ride as part of her punishment, but sees it as an opportunity to go souvenir hunting, while Ryuko, in the midst of a depression following her loss, is persuaded by Senketsu’s scarf (all that remains) to fight back and reclaim her sailor uniform. This process, as she rapidly defeats the Honnouji students, even as they power their way through Kansai, proves that she’s levelling up her skills too, so that when she finally gets Senketsu back in one piece, she’s more powerful than ever before.
Which is when Satsuki’s true plan is revealed, and it becomes clear that she isn’t the enemy, her mother (with the neon rainbow hairstyle) Ragyo Kiryuin is. The revelations come thick and fast at this point, blink and you’ll miss what would in any other show be grounds for an epic cliff-hanger. But the bottom line is that Ragyo Kiryuin has allied with an alien to take over the world, and her ruthless behaviour in doing so has made an enemy of her own daughter. Believe me, Ragyo Kiryuin is the worst mother ever presented in anime, and you’ll most likely be spitting tacks at the TV whenever she appears, in between disbelief at what she does to her own daughter.
It all seems to be going so well, when Kill la Kill throws up another reversal, and a month long time skip, where we find a world that is all apocalyptic, the people being devoured by the parasitic Life Fibres, woven into COVERS by Ragyo Kiryuin’s REVOCS group, and with the Nudist Beach resistance movement, and the few surviving members of Satsuki’s rebellion driven underground, Ryuko is a coma (after the worst mother in the world tried to rip her heart out of her chest), with a whole other jaw-dropping revelation. As we approach the end of this collection, the resistance movement comes up with a new plan, and Ryuko wakes from her coma in a bad mood. But this bad mood extends to Senketsu, and it’s more than just a lover’s tiff. It might be so bad that even Mako Makanshoku can’t ridiculous mime a peace treaty between them.
Kill la Kill is fantastically, spectacularly, epically dumb fun. I love this show for just how daft and zany it is. Gurren Lagann tried to be flashy and zany, while holding onto emotional depth and a smart story, and the juxtaposition made my brain ache. Kill la Kill knows which side its bread is buttered, and by dropping the pretensions of depth and of thoughtfulness, it’s free to have as much fun as it can. It might just be the most fun that you’ll have with an anime show this year.