Kill la Kill – 01

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At Honnouji Academy, the student council committee chairs don “goku uniforms” that bestow upon them supernatural powers. Their president Kiryuin Satsuki rules the school like a king. When Matoi Ryuuko transfers to Honnouji, she immediately confronts Satsuki – a grievous offense – and is beaten to a pulp by Boxing Club Captain Fukuroda Takaharu. Ryuuko escapes to the ruin of her house where her father was killed. She falls deep below the city, where a crazed uniform pops out of the garbage and forces her to wear him. When the council uses Ryuuko’s friend Mankanshoku Mako as a hostage, Ryuuko comes to her rescue, using the power of her new uniform to handily defeat Fukuroda.

An omnipresent thread in the work of director Imaishi Hiroyuki’s work has been comically over-the-top action at a hyper-sonic pace. Whether establishing a location, introducing a character, or landing a blow, everything is taken up to 11, and sometimes 12. If something has to be labeled, it’s done in huge blocky red letters. If anything has to be said, it’s usually yelled. This episode was the polar opposite of the relative stillness and calm of Coppelion, and not just because its city is inhabited (and what an awesome, insane-looking city it is). Where Coppelion strives for realism, Kill la Kill, is, in its most heated moments, pure abstract impressionism.

Suffice it to say, this was a hell of a lot of fun to watch unfurl. The personalities are kept quite simple: the imperious Satsuki, the defiant, plucky Ryuuko, the air-headed Mako. Most importantly, while the episode had some dark themes and serious moments, it knew when not to take itself too seriously, and is therefore infused with moments of bawdy comedy. It’s a potent stimulant of a show that knows exactly how absurd it is and runs with it, taking it as far as it can. Ryuuki is painfully aware of how incredibly revealing her new (apparently sentient) uniform is too, but that doesn’t stop her from doing what needs to be done.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The goku uniforms are ranked on a scale from zero stars (powerless) to three (world-bending strength). Interestingly Satsuki’s uniform has no visible stars. Doubtless it has a personality like Ryuuko’s.
  • Satsuki has a whole council of committee chairs in every shape and size. We’re sure we’ll watch Matoi go up against them one by one in future outings. Meanwhile, all she has friends-wise are the Mankanshoku siblings.
  • Satsuki’s oxymoronic slogan is similar to the famous one in Orwell’s 1984: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
  • We loved the sound a very rigid Mako made when Ryuuko set her down after untying her.
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Coppelion – 01

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90% of Tokyo has been reduced to the “world’s largest ghost town” by the fallout from a nuclear disaster. The Self Defense forces send three girls – Naruse Ibara, Fukasaku Aoi, and Nomura Taeko – into the city to respond to SOS calls. Immune to the radiation, the girls travel without protection suits or masks. They find a severely irradiated person in a riverbed, who is airlifted out by the girl’s superior, Vice Principal Mashima. The girls continue on in search of others, and end up encountering wolves.

“People don’t belong here anymore!” cries Aoi, who had been reticent about their mission from the beginning. And as we watched the three otherwise normal-looking high school girls walking casually through the deserted streets of a Tokyo returned to nature and off limits to those with ordinary DNA, we couldn’t argue with her. The ruined city is gorgeous and tranquil, but it’s also foreboding, and profoundly sad; as one of the greatest cities ever constructed reduced to a husk, and only a privileged (by their genetic makeup) few are able to enter. Many have compared the harnessing of the atom to the power of the gods, as there are few human achievements that can match it in terms of the risk of destruction. We take a risk by using it, and in the case of this series, a heavy price was exacted; Tokyo itself.

This first episode starts during girls’ first foray, but doesn’t try to do too much, letting us gain our bearings and gradually take in its world. Those who watched K will recognize the bold character design and immensely rich background detail. Character-wise we have the tough maverick (Ibara), the exuberant foodie (Aoi) and the animal lover/whisperer (Taeko). Tomatsu Haruka gives Ibara a strong leader’s voice, but we were a little disappointed and irritated by Hanazawa Kana chose for Aoi, it can be a bit shrill and she says a lot of useless stuff. We don’t know Taeko’s seiyu but she had a nice gentle, nurturing voice. Vice Principal Mishima is your typical straight-laced military man, who is the episode’s spokesman regarding how things ended up like this. Accompanying his exposition was his flyover of an eerily beautiful Odaiba, the epicenter of the “accident.”

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We’re digging the premise, the setting, and the production values, so we’re definitely continue with this. But K had an impressively gorgeous beginning too, but its story couldn’t quite keep up. Here’s hoping that’s not the case here.
  • When that dog first appeared we were apprehensive, as it sure looked a lot like a wolf to us. The girls may be immune to radiation, but not fangs…
  • One of Aoi’s few salient points: why don’t the girls have access to a car, or more precisely, a truck of some kind? Is this their minders’ way of keeping them in shape?
  • No doubt the series will explore how the girls see themselves: heroes with their own will, or tools/puppets by reason of their DNA?