Kill La Kill: Giving The Demon Its Due (Initial Thoughts)


Having traveled far, with a small hill of defeated enemies behind her, sailor fuku sporting toughie, Ryuki Matoi may very well have found those responsible for the death of her father in the brutal regime known as Honnoji Academy. With the net abuzz post pilot episode, it looks very well like the spirit of Ryoko Ikeda is alive and kicking with a perverse blood transfusion via Studio Trigger’s Kill La Kill. The latest series directed and written by the same team responsible for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan, Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima. A project that retains much of the predecessor’s warped yen for riff, with production to spare. And what the pilot episode seems to give off, is in many ways a return to Gainax’s classic formula where tried and true staples of the past is given an often hyperbolic, occasionally hypersexed sheen.



As for whether this debut works or not, perhaps it’s best to admit that outside of style, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal beyond the expected wild imagery and occasionally awkward sexualization of action tropes. While it is everything one would expect from Imaishi and crew, there is not a great deal more here beyond the establishment of the lone fighter versus the totalitarian school and their gallery of student council weirdos. Yes. There is certainly a masculine Utena at work here as posturing is fiery, and bold text is whooshing across the screen. The presentation is brutal and vibrant, but there is something clearly already missing from the proceedings. While one can be considered grateful that the scatological fetishism of Dead Leaves remain long gone, there remains an ever present “why”, in regards to making jokes at the expense of a character being assaulted. There is no good reason, outside of some strange aim to be humorous- which is tricky to get behind.



With a “boyish” attitude, and readiness to take on a seemingly invincible army of single-minded stormtroopers in strength enhancing uniforms, the show’s apparent bent comes at the latter half of the episode when Ryuko stumbles upon, and is accosted by a talking, animated (!!) seifuku known as Senketsu. And what ensues, is best described as an attempt at a humorous rape scene, which ends with our heroine becoming near-invincible. (again, interpret as you will) And while one can also see the episode’s remaining minutes as something of a sideeye to such a creative choice, as Ryuko seems to maintain her aim as unyielding avenger, it is pretty hard to shake off. Also in the choice’s defense, is a reminder that a lot of Gurren Lagaan’s more playful subtext involved the occasional homoeroticism that tipped the balance in a fun sort of manner. And it isn’t hard to see how this is element is going to play out with the first episode’s head baddie in masculine-dressed student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin. Not sure how to feel about that one.



So for what it’s all worth, Kill La Kill debuts with a great deal of the expected immature machismo & penchant for bending the classics. Will I be able to weather it’s storm of usual suspects throughlines, as well as its clear “clothing is weakness” trajectory? Only a few more courtesy viewings may tell.


Oh, and did I happen to mention that Ryuko wields an extra large half of a pair of red scissors?


Yeah, that too..


Author: wintermuted

Part-time wandering artifact, part-time student, Wintermuted's travels from the wastelands of California's Coachella Valley have crystallized his love of all-things soulful & strange. A child of the VHS era, and often working for the anime man, his voyages continue onward in the name of bridging generations of Japanese popular art together. Can also be found via , as well as !

5 thoughts on “Kill La Kill: Giving The Demon Its Due (Initial Thoughts)

  1. I think you have your references wrong (no offence honestly). This has nothing to do with the awesome Riyoko Ikeda or even Utena, beyond the student council coincidence. This is Go Nagai through and through: sexualized badass female heroes- check, corrupt school torturing students – check, lots of shounen action- check, craziness- check. Plus a bit of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure; you know, these big bold letters.

  2. Oh, are definitely right about the mashups you mention. Those are certainly there.

    BUT, from the musings of a girl infiltrating a masculine-bent school’s council by way of doing away with a uniform that imparts “strength”. .that is completely Ikeda(Oscar)/Utena territory. (Not to mention that Mako, is a hyperbolic, parody rendition of the Wakaba/exposition character from Utena), and that an artifact is kept by the hero, and presented as a ticket to facing the school(last time, it was a ring, now it’s a scissor blade) It’s an inversion of said elements where the statement is made pretty clear – ” one does not need clothes to be strong” The problem is, goes further and back around to iffy gender politicking.

    It’s a faux empowerment statement, at least for now. (But you are right about the Nagai influence.- then again, Imaishi always does that.)

  3. I really loved the first episode. If this is Utena, then yuri! That would be soo awesome! I can smell Kill BIll atmosphere here, that Kaji Meiko 70s films like Scorpion Girl or Shura-Yuki-Hime. Yeah, very classic touch of Do-konjou-gaeru type of sakuga. And I think you love this style of old school. A little bit of Fist of North Star here, that fuuki-iin president is Seitei-Sauzaa!

  4. Indeed I felt I watched a second Wakaba. Your arguments are solid. Gomen… Still those two works had totally different purposes and probably it’ll stay like this. This is Gainax we are talking about

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