Posted on 13 March 2014 with categories: Kill La Kill

So, the past week I put my effort into catching up with Kill la Kill, hoping that it at least would show how to tell a story correctly. And yeah, as much as I’d like to stay positive here, it turned out to be yet another hit on the list of the disappointments of the past Fall Season. Not a total disappointment, mind you. Still I’m not gonna recommend this one.

However to offset all of the negative things I’m going to say next, I do have a few positive points: I like that this show doesn’t really have a clear main character anymore. Sure, Ryuko still is really powerful and sortof in the center and all, but it’s not like she got the most attention here. She spent so many episodes out of the loop, to the point where the guys from Nudist Beach and the Elite Four had to push the story forward. Episode 21’s ending also finally brought in some good emotions. Not great, but I did enjoy it. The main villain also has a great theme song, and the side characters are quirky in a way that works.

Is that enough though… let’s start with the thing that you’ll firstly notice about the second half of this series: the OP sucks. I often say OPs suck and all, but let me go into a bit more detail, because this is something I just keep hearing over and over again: THE MELODY IS EXACTLY THE SAME as every other OP out there. The way the opening starts, with the short jingle, then followed by the sound that plays over the main credits: that exact melody gets used in every single OP with only slight variations here and there. After that you have this fast-paced base while we look at the main characters: again you hear that everywhere. After the introductions, the music intensifies again while we see the main characters fighting: yet again something that has been beaten to death. I thought that Kill la Kill meant to set conventions? What’s it doing with so many dead horses here?

The good news is that the new OP IS the worst thing I found about the second half so far, however there were other things that… just did not sit quite right with me. Here is the thing: Satsuki was an interesting villain. She was built up, she stood there, having built up the school, and she had this fun rivalry with Ryuko. On top of that she had some fun underlings which made the first thirteen episodes varied, and fun to watch. In the second half, she is replaced with the main villain of this series, who in all honestly is a really boring villain. She’s just another all-powerful villain who wants to destroy the world, blah blah blah. However, the biggest problem is that she only has one underling. So for like, the past eight episodes we had to watch mostly fights against her and that underling. There’s only so many times that you can show them easily pwning the good guys until it gets boring, especially when all these fights are so one-sided. Every time they’re scratched they just pull these magical life threads out of their asses (or boobs in this case) and they’re completely fine as if nothing happened. Once or twice this is fine, but they just keep doing that.

I know I’ve gotten more cynical, but here’s one thing that also bothered me with especially the past few episodes that’s something that I’ve hated ever since I started this blog: brainwashing. Ryuko is reduced to a mere shell who doesn’t think for herself at all, she’s not responsible for her actions, she is just this big robot who is nearly invincible until she’s saved by rules that are conveniently very loose. And she gets brainwashed twice. And I get that she’s losing control of her emotions and sanity. That was built up. What wasn’t built up is her suddenly becoming the slave of the main villain.

Kill la Kill was fun because it kept us entertained for every episode with over the top action scenes that knew how to be fun and varied, using the backdrop of clothing as their setting and symbolism, but to me it seems like the second half just needed half the episodes, and the characters have been running around naked for a bit too long now, not really knowing what to do. I mean, I did not hate these episodes or something, but I noticed quite a few points at which I was just bored by what was going on… did I really make the right decision to prioritize this series over the new season of Hajime no Ippo?

Posted on 14 December 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

So finally, we’ve got the first big hint at what the second half of this series will be about. In this case, it’s in the form of a bunch of characters who just showed up from out of nowhere. Okay, that can work. It’s typical that everything about them screams fashion, and this indeed is a show in which clothing plays a very important symbolical role. The way in which that girl claied to just be Ryuko’s father’s killer is probably some sort of lie (otherwise I have no idea how they’re going to explain the killer’s silhouette that Ryuko saw), but i’s a good start for a solid second half that will indeed move things beyond the school and let things escalate.

It’s also good that they didn’t go the formulaic route and they just skipped the last fight against the student council, however these two episodes did have a bit of an unfortunate effect on the four of them, in the way that at this point it stopped taking them seriously. They’re in danger of becoming like Krillin from Dragonball Z: characters who are just there for comic relief and can’t keep up with the incredible rate at which the main character powers up. That’s the downside of not killing off your enemies: you’ve already put a lot of development into them, so itd be a shame to not use that later on.

Still, this was a really fun episode. I think it helps to have this battle split up in two episodes with other stuff around it, rather than just dedicate one episode to it. It helps keeping things fresh and also prevents formula.

Probably not going to do ratings again, because they became pointless at this point. They were useful when I blogged like, 12 series at the same time, but now they’re just redundant. They only had one purpose left, which is something I do want to stress: the amount of criticism I have for a series does not equate how much I disliked it. It’s a very common misconception I see, but some series just aim really high, resulting in lots of flaws, while the worst series are the ones so unremarkable that there’s hardly anything to say about them.

Posted on 7 December 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

With this I understand the purpose of the previous episode more. It really was meant as a build-up episode for what was to follow. We needed a “normal” fight, from which things could escalate afterwards. It was built up to be this really big deal, but in the end its biggest purpose was to show Senketsu that he could change shape. This episode has him experimenting with that, on a far bigger scale than what I expected.

It helped for the first fight of this episode to take so slow: that really brought back the pacing in this episode, and it also showed that Senketsu is already becoming close to over 9000. It also was a pretty hilarious fight and I think necessary for the overall balance: you have so many over the top fights here, you need one that is a bit silly. And it’s good that the creators didn’t use the token silly character for this, but instead a guy who just wasn’t fighting serious (note how he didn’t appear to be BIG to Ryuko at all).

Then the fight with classical music was glorious, and really entertaining. The fights themselves in this episode are more what I expect from the creators. Standard fight scenes in which there are only people hitting each other don’t work anymore. You need to spice things up, and this episode did exactly that. It probably also helped that the banter between the characters was better than ever in this episode. The student council really works well together with the rest of the cast.

But yeah, it’s episode 10. The point where things will spiral out of control has started. Something will happen, and the second half of this series will be completely different. Let’s see if they can pull this off.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 4 December 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

This will be the big test for this series: can it keep this tournament arc interesting? Previously the episodes were interesting with their variety: it presented itself differently every episode. With this, Ryuko seems to be fighting a different student council member every episode, all probably with their own power and personality. This is one part that made Gurren Lagann rather boring to me, so let’s see whether these guys can do better. What really helps is that this time, these characters don’t seem to be just killed off, because there are obvious hints that this won’t be the end of them. A thing it probably took over from Utena.

The symbolism behind this series was also really obvious in this episode: Kill La Kill really is a series about the teenaged struggles against what is expected of them. Gamagori trying to forcefully shove Ryuko in a literal mold speaks enough. What more: this series really likes to use heights: everything facing Ryuko is really big, and a lot of Ryuko’s struggles aside from kicking ass are focused on climbing. Satsuki meanwhile did everything that Ryuko is trying to do, but without the struggle and the effort. She’s the privileged and the immediately talented.

The fight itself was over the top and entertaining, but I’m also currently at the point where I’ve seen this already many times before. That wasn’t the interesting part of this episode, especially with the prospect of three more fights like this. In these cases the backstory really needs to make impact, but instead this unexpectedly turned into a building-up episode that sets up Gamagori’s character development for later. Surprisingly I found the previous episode more effective.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 23 November 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

So Kill la Kill? This episode really shows that it’s written by someone who DOES know what he’s doing. The balance is all there, and despite the simple plot, he knows how to use it. This episode for example needed to be a bit of an intermezzo inbetween the major fights in order to build up the atmosphere and tension. The big problem with these kinds of episodes though is that they’re boring and don’t really do anything. So the solution of this series? Just show a bit of character background. And with that you’ve got a perfectly fine building-up episode that was really fun to watch.

And the homages! The wonderful homages. This episode really managed to pay a wonderful tribute to school series like Utena, while at the same time doing them with a huge tongue in their cheek. Everything is taken completely over the top as usual, but the characters are also aware of this. The high school student being 20 years was a really nice addition: tons of high school characters in anime look way too old for their ages. This one actually has a reason for it. Another nice detail was the car, which at the end of the episode was completely wrecked. A big reference to Utena’s car symbolism that was everywhere, yet in Utena, cars fell apart at times. We never see them all dented up like here. This is a great example of taking ideas and cues from other series: sure, parts here have been done before, but this series uses them in its completely own way. This distinguishes the masterpieces from the ripoffs. It’s of course too early to tell whether Kill la Kill will become a masterpiece and it’s got a long way to go for that, but you get what I mean.

Ryuko’s past also didn’t add much extra, however it was also very much appreciated because we did get a glimpse of how she grew up, and why she ended up as the character she did. She clearly explained why she’s doing what she’s doing. This series really brings back the flaws that a lot of older series had, and fixes them. It’s combining the power of old series together with the power of new series. It’s full of these neat little details that make me quite excited to follow this.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 16 November 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

Okay, so I guess everyone is waiting for what that infamous episode 8 is going to do. Anyone who has seen Gurren Lagann knows what I’m talking about. However, I think that the twist isn’t the most important, and only a means to an end. I’m one of the people who wasn’t a big fan of that “twist” (not that the twist wasn’t good, but it didn’t improve things in the long run to me).

But yeah, this episode: I have no idea why but it worked. Again on paper it sucks: poor people taste the life of high standards and learn to appreciate being poor with drama, and at the end of the episode they revert again like nothing happened. If there ever was a whiplash episode, it’d be this one.

And yet, I liked this. Perhaps it was a combination between the premise being so ridiculous that it worked (which fits perfectly with the rest of this series of taking just about everything over the top), along with the actual context of this episode: the entire school is going to change and be rebuilt. I’m actually pretty excited for what they’re planning to turn it into. And at the same time they ended up giving a very good solution for the fears that everyone had been having of this series devolving into a formulaic monster of the week.

Knowing Hiroyuki Imaishi, there are two things that he’s probably going to turn up to eleven: the school and the clothing. On one hand this school will either drill into heaven, or will become the visual embodyment of hell times the power of infinity, and in terms of clothing everyone will end up either running around naked or with some of the most ridiculous costumes imaginable. I’m currently putting my money on 1 and 2 respectively.

Oh yeah, and am I the only one who thinks that the setting here is a big wink to Revolutionary Girl Utena?
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 12 November 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

Apologies for the few posts lately, with rather weird content. I’m currently in a big introspective period. I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am, and why I watch anime. And I’ve also discovered one of the many evil websites on the web: Reddit. Right now I finally managed to be able to block this time eating thing that at the same time made me learn a lot about myself, so I should be sortof back now, though I’m still trying to figure out the best schedule that will also allow me to cover movies again.

In any case, why do I watch anime? Because of series like Kyousogiga, Samurai Flamenco and Kill la Kill. This episode was really good, despite being really boring on paper. I mean, how often have we seen an episode with this premise: “the protagonist and some mid-boss fight with each other but right before resolving anything something conveniently breaks down allowing both parties to escape unscathed”. This is of course boring, but this episode showed how far the right execution can get you.

This also showed that this show is currently developing characters for the long run. Even when ‘defeated’, this guy without eyes will continue to play a big role, probably. Ryuko meanwhile really got lucky with this, but this episode just showed how outclassed she gets when the enemies start getting cornered.

And the music! Holy crap, it got even better than what it was before. I mean, that’s what I at least assume: it wasn’t this good in the past, was it? And heck, it worked wonders: it brought out even more emotions than usual.

And with that I mean how everything comes together: characters, animation, music, symbolism, style, development, acting, personality. The creators were having a lot of fun making this, and that’s what shows. That’s what currently energizing me to watch more anime. Six episodes in and despite the simple storyline here, it remained varied and fun without any signs of slowing down.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 2 November 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

The recent discussion on fanservice has gotten me thinking a bit, especially after I found this infographic about Kill la Kill. It’s true that the fanservice in Yozakura Quartet is just bad and distracts from what makes the show good or interesting, and the fanservice in Kill la Kill is much better because it objectifies everyone, and it has a reason behind it, and the argument you often hear is “it’s awesome so who cares?” – but still I see no reason to bring some more nuance in the discussion.

I mean, reason or not: Kill la Kill cashes in on the popular female empowerment trope. A woman kicks ass while dressed in skimpy clothing. Alone, this would be fine, but with how often this is done, it’s hinted that it’s almost a requirement that if you want to kick ass, you need to show some too. The good shows indeed build all sorts of symbolism around it, but does that make it right? Personally, I still prefer watching strong female characters who can just be empowered because of who they are, and don’t follow the cosmetic trends. Does having fanservice alone ruin a character? Nah. It’s just one part of a show. But the problem is that everyone reacts to it in a different way: for some people it weighs more heavily than others. And in my personal experience, the best shows are the ones that don’t care about the shounen or shoujo label, but are just catered to create a good story for everyone.

But I do think that Kill la Kill is among Hiroyuki Imaishi’s best attempts at this kind of nuance. I mean, Gurren Lagann was basically a sausage fest (the most badass woman: Yoko, who both fits the badass female character to a T and pretty much got a short end of the character development stick), and Panty and Stocking WAS a series that was partially based on making fun of female stereotypes. This show finally feels balanced, and it’s really enjoyable because of it. This episode was no exception by the way.

The same goes for the other way around, of course. I mean I’m also tired of the series that objectify men. Hajime no Ippo currently is a good example of taking that a bit far, with all of the current penis jokes and all. But also the series that go out of their way to make their characters bishies hereby alienate most of the male population just because they have nothing to watch it for. The truly good shoujo series have guys who are good looking, but who can appeal to everyone.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Great)

Posted on 25 October 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

Okay, so this was the ultimately pointless side story that receives none of the best animators and is just there for the creators to have some fun and goof off, resulting in a completely crazy episode that makes no sense whatsoever but was heaps of fun to watch. Yeah.

But yeah, the creators sure know how to keep this series varied with such a weird episode, even for this series’ standards. You could definitely see that near the end, the creators ran out of budget, but I suspect that the budget for this episode wasn’t that big to begin with. Hiroyuki Imaishi actually wrote the storyboard of this episode himself, which I think was to try and distract from this as much as possible.

First of all he definitely succeeded, because I had a lot of fun to watch this episode. And second of all, I really like this practice of using your best talents in order to make up for the flaws in your production team. Studio Trigger is new, so they still lack the staff to make a full fledged 2-cour series perfectly, but with this mentality they actually manage to keep things interesting, rather than using this episode as a way to stall time by just wasting their worst resources on this episode due to its lack of significance.

Oh and yeah, this episode brought on the guns. I suddenly got loads of flashbacks from Dead Leaves for some reason.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 19 October 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

So in a move to keep the pacing fast, this episode already broke the monster of the week formula, only to get back to it again next week. That’s good. Monster of the week can be awesome when done right, and having a fight with the main bad guy this early keeps things fresh. Aside from that, there are two other keys that are necessary for this format to work:
– ‘Interesting’ individual episodes (interesting can be anything, as long as it’s good)
– Building up to something, and using this at the end.

So far kill la Kill is on the right path. The fast-paced battles so far are enough to keep my attention from start to finish, and it’s too early to tell whether or not this is going to succeed in the long run, there still is potential for it either way, but it’s definitely not a bad attempt thanks to this episode spicing things up.

The acting also is pretty damn good: the villains all have presence and really are threatening, the main is engaging, and even that annoying side-kick for once is so weird that she’s somewhat endearing. You can really see that the creators here are big fans of old school anime, and they aim to put their own twists to them. Gurren Lagann was a homage to the mecha genre, Panty and Stocking were all about american cartoons a la Invader Zim and the Power Puff Girls, and now this show is about the school genre, taking the genre completely over the top using the exact tropes that were already abused so often and taking it over 9000.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

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