Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Kill la Kill
Episodes 13-24 Streaming
After losing control in her battle against the Elite Four, Ryuko is reluctant to don Senketsu again. Interference from evil REVOCS pixie Nui gets Ryuko back in uniform, but Senketsu ends up in pieces, scattered amongst Satsuki's shock troops—who are on their way to raid three cities in Kansai. Ryuko follows, and after a city-destroying battle with Satsuki, she learns the truth about her father, the clothing empire REVOCS, and Mikisugi's rebel organization Nudist Beach. There is far more at stake, it turns out, than Ryuko's revenge. The survival of humanity itself is the prize, and Ryuko must win it at all costs—regardless of who she must ally with and what awful truths she must learn along the way.
Pedal to the metal, balls to the wall, full steam ahead... whatever metaphor you choose, it is insufficient. No reviewerly cliché can describe the exhilarating joy of Kill la Kill's headlong second half. Unlike its first, it isn't a progression of outrageous one-off fights; it's a seamless twelve-episode escalation, a single battle (maybe two) that ramps up and up and up until it literally blasts into orbit. It doesn't discard the first half's narrative crutches—the repetition, the episodic structure—so much as it breaks them into pieces and torches them with a gallon of gasoline. This isn't a thrill ride. It's a five-hour shot of adrenaline, straight to the heart.
And oh, what glorious madness is packed into those hours. During the show's cheeky "clip episode" Kill la Kill praises itself for its habitually fast pace, and that's no empty brag. You could chide the show in the early running for lacking the narrative bravado of its creative predecessor Gurren Lagann, but no more. Kill doesn't just maintain speed, it accelerates—through big surprises, around sharp left turns, through heartbreak and ludicrous revelations, right to its last bittersweet development, getting faster and bigger and more ambitious with every passing moment.
Once Ryuko is jolted from her post-tournament doldrums and Kill leaves the confines of Honnouji Academy, there's never again a moment to catch your breath. Within an episode Osaka has been burnt to the ground. Satsuki and Ryuko clash and collide over its remnants, buildings pulverizing as a thriving metropolis is reduced twisted metal and roiling flames. When Ryuko and what's left of Nudist Beach claw their way out of Osaka to face Satsuki and her mother Ragyo, a violent turnaround rewrites Ryuko's allies/enemies map. And before she can even process that, a new bombshell rearranges everything she thinks she knows—about herself, about Satsuki, and about Senketsu.
In the ensuing episodes the human race is subjugated, the show becomes a funhouse-mirror version of a WWII resistance film, hero and villain swap places, and ultimately everything explodes into a beautifully insane multi-part battle that rages over the better part of five episodes and a goodly portion of the Earth (not to mention a small chunk of outer space). Never does the show dawdle; never does stasis set in; rarely does anyone's position vis-a-vis each other stay the same. The only constant is change. The show's favorite state is total chaos. And god is it wonderful to watch.
Of course it's also preposterous, stupendously excessive, and hilariously weird. But that's what makes it such ungodly fun. Whatever it takes to shake things up, Kill will do it. Brainwashing the main character? Sure! Familial plot-twist that spits in the face of logic? No problem! Human-gobbling business suits from outer space? Hell, why not? Reason and moderation are alien concepts to Hiroyuki Imaishi, Kazuki Nakashima, and their Trigger cohort. And they take such obvious joy in their excess, pour such infectious enthusiasm into their action inventions and their hurtling, zig-zagging plot, that it's impossible not to be swept along, hanging on for dear life and grinning like an idiot all the way.
Especially when a pointy battleship punches Ryuko through the beating heart of an evil ball of twine, or Satsuki escapes prison armed (and clothed) with nothing but a sharpened toenail. Or when Ryuko fights a terrifying, shape-shifting Ragyo in a psychedelic battle above a cloth-enshrouded Earth. Or when the aforementioned battleship tries to dislodge Ryuko…by shooting itself with its own cannons. Before anything else, Kill is an action series, and as a showcase for Trigger's action capabilities it's… well, flabbergasting. Everything that was true of Trigger and Imaishi's work on Kill's first half is true here in the second, only cranked up to eleven and with a dark emotional component that was mostly lacking in the show's earlier stages. There are really no precedents for the show's look outside of Imaishi's own work, but if you can imagine a Tex Avery cartoon, a Tsui Hark movie, and a Go Nagai robot epic getting together to go out and get f-ed up on speed, well, you have some idea of what you're in for.
(Fan service, by the way, is even more marked in this half. That is largely thanks to Ragyo, who can't seem to keep her hands off and, er, outside of her daughter.)
I've come around on Hiroyuki Sawano's score. Its rockin' charms grow on you the farther over the top the show goes, its small army of wonderfully cheesy insert songs deployed smartly at the most thrilling junctures of the show's most excessive fights. The stateside success of the OST CD is not a fluke.
Kill la Kill is nuts. Hopefully that's abundantly clear. But that shouldn't be mistaken for sloppiness. Amidst all of its eye-popping carnage and off-the-wall zaniness it builds to surprisingly sound dramatic developments (mostly stemming from Ryuko and Satsuki's heartbreaking collective past) and maintains a steel backbone of strong, highly enjoyable characterization. Battered Ryuko's development into something very much like a demigod is one vertebra; Mako's evolution from running joke to emotional anchor is another; and Satsuki's startling transformation from stony cipher to scrappily involving underdog is still another. Sure, Nui is like fingernails on the chalkboard of your brain, but even she ends up a richer and more interesting person than she began. And then there's Senketsu, who is a blood-sucking sailor uniform with amnesia and yet somehow emerges as the show's single most loveable character. So, yes, Kill is bonkers. But it's good bonkers. No, wait. Make that great bonkers.
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A-
+ Unstoppable, uncontrollable, and completely unhinged; about as fun as a show can be.
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