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Kill la Kill : A World Laid Bare (and ready for change)

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Doctrines have been questioned, true faces revealed, and all bets are off..

You know the more this viewer wishes to resist the caffiene-injected, nonsensical, and often audacious nature of Kill la Kill, the more it has this pulling effect that is utterly irresistible. Looking back even a few episodes, so much of what has come before has finally paid off as Honnouji’s greater purpose has revealed itself, and the secret of the Life Fibers has come to light. And while the story of Ryuko Matoi has taken on galactic proportion, all of the show’s buildup of the ramparts and players has led to a battle royale over which direction civilization will take in a world dominated by clothing. And by clothing, one could mean an old world based on not greed, or simple corrpution, but by the base motivator- shame. The gravity holding the show together just enough is one of a world up for grabs. A world long dominated by market forces now in disarray as the major players learn the truth, and must eke out a way beyond the conflicts of the past. As exploitation and war no longer seem as viable as they once were, where does humanity’s relationship to shame’s remedy lie?

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Just watching the show, one sees a classic “street toughs versus rich kids” play taken to impossible extremes, and that is merely a starting point. And with the focus shifting heavily away from the simpler revenge road plotline, the ground has given way to reveal larger, more potent targets. Most notably the roles that the powerful and proletariat have played over our species’ history, and the potential grand shift that is within our collective grasp. Amidst all the punching, the screaming, and the confusion, change is near, but its never been more dangerous. For all the regional stereotyping, and often garish posturing, KLK has taken full advantage of its advanced length and is offering up an unrepentantly wacky exploration of humankind’s will to be dominant and to be dominated.

Even as the show threatens to completely derail itself, there is always this sense of greater purpose that keeps the show from succumbing to style. For example, Ryuko’s initial reaction to the truth about herself, her father, and the role Senketsu has to play in the grander scheme is both unclear, and hastily resolved. As grand as things have been throughout, there is often a feeling that Nakashima and Imaishi have been trying to reign each other in before tipping the show’s hand out too far. One can even see places where cost-saving has become important in order to make sure the animation in certain scenes can be fulfilled. But as a balancing act between style and thought, KLK often barely hangs on by mere virtue of staying true to purpose. While it can never for a moment be seen as a bastion of subtlety, there is enough happening in between the battles that offers up this notion that not only Japan is in this grand flux, but so is the world. Where philosophies for all on both sides of the pole may need to reconsider the shape of the world they once believed was certain.

And in keeping with that uncertainty, the show remains a tonal rollercoaster. Unwilling to play simple and fair, the cast and crew have made it imperative that KLK seeks its own voice. One that is equal parts serious, and unerringly silly. It is anime getting sick on itself and gleefully puking all over the dancefloor in a colorful splatter of joy and concern. Not quite Dead Kennedys, and not quite Black Flag, this show is an unruly mosh pit with purpose. In the world of KLK, the center cannot AND will not hold, so dance to your heart’s content and rejoice that this is no simple beat-em up anime. As classic as some of the turns in this story are, we have never seen anything quite like this. Sure, fisticuffs cannot solve the world’s greater problems, but it sure is a cool vessel for what is an important conversation. It is both a celebration and a yearning.

All that really matters now, is the kind of world we want.

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3 thoughts on “Kill la Kill : A World Laid Bare (and ready for change)”

  1. I feel like this show really grew over time. It honestly looked and felt a lot like how I felt about Panty and Stocking–great visual panache and outrageousness with nothing of substance to back it up. But over time, it’s like they snuck in all kinds of backstory and hints until the full plot really began to unfold in the second half. It’s now a really compelling watch and it’s restored my confidence in the talents of Mssrs Imaishi and Nakashima. I think the gleeful abandon that they apply to their work is what sells it.

    Would you say, like I’m thinking, that in a way this is the spirit of Gainax living on? Much moreso than any of actual Gainax’s recent work without Imaishi, or even Anno’s Studio Khara Eva remakes?

    1. Mike –

      Oh, absolutely! What seemed to be a mere sense of knowing about the older GAINAX tradition has made way to a humorous tribute and a break away of sorts. If it ends in deep space, at the origin planet of the MacGuffin, I will laugh wildly.

      It all seems to be aware of what has come before (see- the recap episode parody), as well as the nods to classic plot turns, there seems to be a giddy feeling that implies the final six episodes are to be something truly unique. If all goes well, it could even surpass Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan in terms of sheer animation hyperbole.

      I am hopeful that it will be at least aesthetically singular.

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