Sidonia no Kishi – 05

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Sidonia belts out yet another BADASS episode, that’s very different from the four that preceded it. In fact, one of the only things that held it back from a 10 was the somewhat meaningless cutaway back to Sidonia in the middle for what was nothing but an infodump by Kobayashi and the wierd Bear woman (?)(Why is she a bear? Inquiring minds want to know…). But the badassery of this episode wasn’t due to any flashy battles or explosions.

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No, this was a bottle episode, the majority of which took place inside Takane’s frame after rescuing Shizuka. They’re beyond the point of no return and his fame is out of juice anyway, so they have to do a lot of sitting and waiting for one of two things: death or rescue. This is by no means original, but I have to say, I’m hard-pressed to recall better executions of this kind of lost-in-space scenario.

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Leaving aside the convenience of two love interests being in such close contact for so long. And Shizuka strips down to her birthday suit for a totally practical reason: to photosynthesize! Despite how cold and terrifying space looks out there and how tiny the frame looks compared to it, there’s a warmth from the two of them that permeates their scenes. You get the feeling everything will be fine, because at the very least, if they die, they’ll die together.

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Ten days pass before any hint of rescue, and food and water are exhausted, the latter an example of over-complicated technology coming to bite them ass at the worst possible time. When Takane starts to succumb to dehydration, that same fancypants tech is his savior, as Shizuka is able to filter her urine for him to drink, a touching scene with shades of Princess Mononoke. The act also gives Takane the idea to filter the frame’s lubricant for more water. Wonderful things, these filters!

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The victory is enough for the couple to try a closer embrace, forgetting their suits are on. Further hanky-panky is interrupted by One Hell Of A Dramatic Entrance by the entire defense wing, which disobeyed orders and formed a 256-frame relay ring to come back for the pilot who defeated the Gauna (along with his would-be girlfriend). Their arrival is a powerful moment of jubilation and relief, and a happy ending that neither felt like a cheat nor an inevitability.

10_brav

Sidonia no Kishi – 04

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Like Sidonia’s Kabizashi, I prefer to use “Holy Craps” sparingly; preferably no more than five per season, but in the case of this episode, I feel perfectly justified in exhausting one. Holy Crap, that was one awesome tour-de-force of an episode. My heart rate remains elevated some time after watching it. But worry not, Braverade is near a fresh-air-providing open window, and no harm will come to her.

Going into this episode, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to say the same of Sidonia. When your elite subjugation squad is annihilated and a Gauna manages to dodge the HMD, you know Sidonia is in for a rough ride, and so we get a “Gravity Alert”, in which those bulky safety harnesses prove so crucial to survival. Good thing Nagate put his on! I appreciated the hard sci-fi approach to everything Sidonia does.

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For instance, a small moon-sized colony ship can go into evasive maneuvers without seriously messing up the structures inside. Kobayashi’s job is truly thankless and unenviable: she must either choose to destroy a big chunk of the ship, killing hundreds of people, or lose the whole ship. No wonder she wears a mask. Her’s is one of many choices that make the episode’s title “Choice” so fitting.

It was a single choice—a bad, emotionally-fueled one—that got Sidonia into this hole in the first place: Akai and Momose tried to save one another, when victory hinged on their ability to let each other go. As I assumed, the next four-man group to be sent out would include Nagate, along with Shizuka, Kunato, and En. Izana is notably excluded.

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But this team isn’t supposed to fight the Gauna, it’s merely charged with retrieving one of the two Holy Craps Kabizashis still barely in their frames’ range; if they don’t hypermile, they could end up stranded in space. When Nagate spots the Kabizashi, Kunato is quick to run ahead and grab it, but that puts him in the firing zone of the Gauna, which fires its own Hyggs cannon, disabling all but Nagate’s frame.

From here on, the choices are Nagate’s, and he makes what could be called an emotional choice in going after the Gauna instead of towing his colleagues home. But he’s a clever chap, and his frame fits him like a glove, so he’s able to ice the Gauna, earning him instant ship-wide recognition and celebrity, along with more even ire from Kunato, no doubt.

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But of course, all is not yet well—the emergencies never relent, right until the end, with Nagate making another clearly emotional choice: to search for Shizuka’s ejection pod, flying past the point of no return in the process. Following an episode in which such chivalry ended in disaster and after witnessing how sacrificing a few to save the many worked out, Nagate isn’t following Kobayashi’s lead: he won’t leave a (wo)man behind.

9_brav

Sidonia no Kishi – 03

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This episode demonstrated how simulations and tournaments are no test of a pilot’s true mettle, any more than good looks and celebrity. The Elite Four won the team competition while Akai took the individual trophy handily, but when it came time to face a real Gauna in battle, their skills and teamwork were all for naught, because Akai chose to be a good boyfriend which was the only slip-up required in such a fast-paced, tense battle to throw the entire team into chaos. When they stopped fighting and started trying to save each other, they had lost.

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This is quite a gut-punch, both to me and to everyone watching back on Sidonia, hoping for a quick and easy victory. I imagined one or two of the team members to be taken out, tops, based on the death flags they were throwing beforehand, but all four of the best pilots Sidonia had to offer, all at once, without even finishing off the Gauna? To understate matters, that’s not good. Now, as a matter of necessity, a new four-person group must be formed from the best pilots still alive.

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In most cases, the fate of Akai’s Elite Four would be taken by Kobayashi and Sidonia’s bosses as a cautionary example of how chemistry comraderie, and a sense of family are a double-edged sword; it’s what made the Four such a great team, but against the Gauna, it turned out to be a fatal weakness. Thus, one would think they’d pick four pilots who didn’t know each other or even particularly like each other. But because they’re prominent characters, the most likely candidates are Nagate, Izana, Shizuka, and Kunato.

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I’m well aware that three of those four are involved in a love triangle, which means the very same thing could befall them when the Sidonia hits the fan. But then, maybe Kunato harbors enough hate and angst to balance that out. In this week’s “Kunato Gets Pwned” segment, Akai beats him in the individual competition. He’s so pissed off afterwards that when poor Izana accidentally bumps into him he smacks her to the ground, and she takes a candy apple stick to the leg, which…ouch.

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Let’s not also forget Izuna’s jealousy towards what she sees as Shizuka (the “conventional” woman) getting along too well with Nagate. Izana bumps into Kunato because she’s distracted by that jealousy. When Nagate and Shizuka of all people come to Izana’s aid, we see what could be the next dream team together for the first time. Meanwhile, strategic genius Midorikawa Yuhata, fueled by the death of her brother, could well be the one planning their future battles. But I fear I’m getting ahead of myself.

9_brav

Sidonia no Kishi – 02

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Tanikaze Nagate’s grandfather pushed him to become the best pilot he could be, but he could only teach him so much. In order to realize the dream of becoming a true guardian pilot, Nagate had to face real action. The first appearance of a Gauna in a century on his very first sortie obliges.

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The Gauna itself is a frightening, implacable hulk of a monster somewhat resembling the Giant Warrior from Nausicaä—not at all a bad thing to imitate—with a medusa-like tangle of tentacle-like protrusions, one off which grabs Yamano Eiko’s frame and swallows her whole, then morphs into a rough approximation of her. Very creepy, dark stuff, though notably lacking in gore, at least in this instance.

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Nagate is slammed down early in the battle and would seem to be another casualty, but he gets a somewhat preternatural second wind, picks himself off, and hangs with the Gauna long enough for the others to escape, until a “Heavy Mass Cannon” projectile—essentially a big weight—fired by Sidonia impacts with the Gauma, driving it back, but not killing it. While the mining mission was a bust, the fact they were able to push it back with only one trainee out of eight lost is accepted as a victory.

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It’s something else entirely for Nagate. He does well in battle, but not afterwards. The innocence he lost in the battle is on display in flashbacks to the moments before the battle, when the haughty Yamano refuses to shake hands with Nagate and Izana for good luck, which it turns out she could have used. After the battle Nagate definitely showing signs of PTSD, and is unable to keep his food down. He has the skills, but he has yet to build the fortitude, for the trials ahead.

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So far the show seems to be punishing arrogance and rewarding meekness: in addition to Yamano’s comeuppance, Kunato is shot down (figuratively) for the second episode in a row, being totally ignored and passed by by Akai, the leader of the Elite Four Guardian Pilots tasked with finishing off the Gauna, who is only interested in Nagate, and why wouldn’t he be? Nagate fought the Gauna head-on. That fact also attracts Midorikawa Yuhata, who has the makings of a Nagate groupie who would wedge between the quiet rivalry brewing between Shizuka and Izana.

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Kill la Kill – 24 (Fin)

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Last week we said we were sad that Kill la Kill was ending, but that didn’t mean we thought it shouldn’t end. Far from experiencing pangs of withdrawal in the aftermath, we feel perfectly satisfied and a little relieved; almost as if we’ve been through a mutual breakup. A weight is gone, but there are no regrets. The show came to its natural conclusion…which is to say it went completely nuts; one last hurrah before purging itself form our systems.

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Victory ultimately goes to Ryuko, Satsuki, and all mankind, but it isn’t easily achieved. Sanageyama’s initial raid on Honnouji results in a scene suffused with fairly overt reproductive symbolism: he’s leading a charge of thousands of his underlings—lets call it a school of sperm—but Ragyo’s transmitter is protected by what amounts to a giant condom, which is ultimately busted open by…err…Gamagoori’s face cannon thing.

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That would only be the…er…tip of the complication-berg, as Ragyo throws anything and everything at Ryuko & Co., including ordering Nui to cast her body into the revived original life fiber, creating an even more ultimate garment that Ragyo dons, allowing her to rocket into orbit to transmit the message for all the world’s Covers to start feeding. Ryuko in turn borrows the fibers from everyone elses’ uniforms to create her own ultimate rocket suit, thus leaving the entire cast buck naked.

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The orbital battle between Ryuko and Ragyo becomes just as much one of words than of blows exchanged (Ryuko is slashed to pieces multiple times, but quickly regenerates). In effect, Ryuko yells a lot about how she and Senketsu are neither clothing nor human, and yet both clothing and human, Ragyo calls out their lofty, highly abstract BS, but it doesn’t matter, because they use that BS to absorb her power and render her Covers around the globe inert.

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Rather than return to earth and reconcile, she tears out her own heart. With his role as a check against Ragyo’s plans completed, Senketsu burns up in the atmosphere, shielding Ryuko during re-entry. Ryuko is distraught, but once she comes down to earth, and her landing cushioned by the bosom of her sister (and virtually everyone else, all of them still naked), she immediately feels a lot better. As Senketsu eloquently puts it in his parting words, a sailor fuku such as himself is meant to be grown out of, not worn forever like a second skin.

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Now the threat has passed (at least until the next Life Fiber arrives on Earth), and she is free to wear what she wants, live life with her real and adoptive sisters (Satsuki and Mako, respectively). Kill la Kill took the guilty pleasure to dizzying new heights, ones we won’t likely return to for quite a while. But like the placid epilogue we see during the credits, coming back down to earth and to a state of relative normalcy isn’t so bad either.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)
Average Rating: 9.417 (episodes 13-24), 8.958 (total)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.51

Kill la Kill – 23

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It certainly looked like Kill la Kill pulled out all the stops for its penultimate episode, but there’s a very good chance it’s saving a crapload of stops for the finale. And while we hate sounding like a broken record, this outing continued to maintain the quality andmomentum of the previous three, so despite actively seeking notable demerits throughout our watch, we found no reason to lower our rating…so we won’t.

Lord knows there’s a lot to get through, but Kill la Kill dives into it all with gusto, snatching up some previously thrown balls while throwing up new ones and shooting (or bisecting) others. The good guys’ neat two-pronged plan goes pear-shaped fast as Ragyo, not a villain to be trifled with, figures out the plan and intercepts the Naked Sol with her gourd-shaped original life fiber. But the mission hasn’t changed for her daughters: take it, her, or both out.

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That proves difficult, as Ragyo is armed with life fiber blades and her wounds heal immediately. The girls slash at her mercilessly to no avail. There’s even another gut-wrenching moment like the moment we thought Ryuko killed Mako, when Ryuko’s triumphant theme abruptly stops and she’s cut the fuck in half. Thankfully (and unbeknownst to Ragyo), some of Satsuki’s long-game strategery rubbed off on Ryuko, as they use their mothers’ low opinion of them against her. Their strategy pays off, and the original life fiber is incapacitated.

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While all this is happening, the supporting cast is doing their part. Back in her Goku uniform (and it feels so good!) Mako quickly frees humans from their Covers by the barrel-full as she gets recharged with her mom’s croquettes. When a boss-type Cover appears, the Elite Four take over sporting their ridiculous new regalia, an interesting merging of the Nudist Beach and Goku styles.

While the sisters, who are really getting along now and don’t snipe at each other at all this week, are doing the heavy lifting, it’s made clear from the get-go that they’d be in trouble without the help, support, and love of their friends. From Satsuki’s Elite Four showing up to shield her from Ragyo, to Mako, along with all of the club captains Ryuko had defeated, providing the human power needed to launch the Naked Sol (transformed into a giant naked dagger) into the heart of the Original Life Fiber, providing her the boost needed to pierce it.

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The episode also makes clear that while the good guys made lemonade out of the ruins of their original plan, they’ve only won a battle, with the war still on the horizon. While they were winning their battle, Nui (who has gone quite insane) was completing Shinra-Koketsu, an uber-kamui for Ragyo (with Hououmaru as her sacrificial human power source). The episode unsettlingly interrupts its own cutesy end credits to announce this.

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While one could dismiss Ragyo and Nui as lame one-dimensional evildoers, to do so would overlook the fact that Nui has lived a cursed life, while Ragyo is essentially a slave to the Life Fibers, carrying out their will, which is more natural biological process than evil plot. We can’t wait to see how Ryuko, Satsuki, and everyone else takes back their school—and their world—from that process. But we’re also sad that this journey is coming to an end.


Rating: 10

RABUJOI World Heritage List

 

Kill la Kill – 22

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While watching an episode of anime, we typically don’t give much thought to what rating we should assign until it’s almost over. There are exceptions to this, obviously: sometimes something can happen in the last moment that can kick a 6 up to an 8, or vice versa. But most of the time, we don’t settle on a number until the credits are done rolling.

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So after a bloodied Ryuko puts Senketsu back on; duels with Harime while explaining the differences between them; slices her arms off, forcing a hasty retreat; the Elite Four-plus-one extract both human and life fiber assets to strengthen their arsenal; Satsuki agrees to be punched by Ryuko, but the Elite Four take the punches for her; and Satsuki admits her mistakes and apologizes(dazzilingly); the two make up and decide to join forces at sunset; and Mrs. Mankanshoku and Soroi whip up croquettes and tea for everyone…

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…We thought we had ourselves a pretty awesome episode in the bag: a solid 9 to be sure. More to the point, we though the episode was going to end with that feast. I mean, all that we mentioned up there…that’s a lot of stuff; surely an episode’s worth, right? And that’s the super-abridged version of what we’d watched up to that point. So, it was superior episode. Only one problem: it wasn’t even close to over. We were only fifteen minutes in.

 

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We’ve never been that off with an ending. That’s the power of Kill la Kill in its home stretch: it’s covering so much ground so quickly and so deftly, it seems to bend time itself. Each episode surges things forward, but each stands alone as a cinematic achievement. After everyone tucked in to supper, everything there after felt like bonus anime, even though it wasn’t. As soon as the dishes are washed and put away, it’s Operation Starto.

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Satsuki finally lets us all in on Ragyo’s ultimate plan: to clothe the entire world in life fiber fabric. It’s how the aliens reproduce: find a world, stimulate its population to evolve into an energy source, than cover it, use the energy to explode, and spread the “seeds” all over the cosmos; rinse, repeat. For all its ridiculous trappings, the plan is surprisingly elegant; the life fibers aren’t evil; they’re just higher on the food chain. But mankind still has plenty of teeth.

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Satsuki puts Mikisugi in command of the Elite Four to take out the transmitter at Honnouji that Ragyo needs to activate Covers worldwide, while the sisters—Ryuko in Senketsu (who feels more warm and comfy than ever now that it has Mako and Satsuki’s blood in it), Satsuki in Neo-Junketsu (no longer evil and imbued with Ryuko’s blood and Senketsu’s fibers), intend to intercept their mom and the Original Life Fiber. With even Mako breaking out her two-star uni to fight, it’s all hands on deck, and when the credits finally rolled, we wished we were still just fifteen minutes in. Instead, we only have about forty-eight left.


Rating: 10

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Kill la Kill – 21

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This show’s propensity to ratchet the intensity to dizzying elevations and then keep it up there for weeks is unparalleled this season; nothing else comes remotely close. This whole episode was a case in point: it never takes its foot off the gas for a minute, and yet there’s somehow ample fuel to spare. In the case of the stakes involved and the dwindling options of the good guys, it may just have been the most stressful yet exhilarating episode yet, and we could tear our eyes away any more then Junketsu could be easily torn from Ryuko’s body.

Frankly, after watching Ryuko’s wild ride, we started to wonder if it would have been preferable if Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader was strictly a matter of the suit making him evil. That’s certainly what goes on here: Ryuko’s rage and self-loathing give Junketsu the opening it needs to wear her completely (that and Ragyo and Nui made sure it was altered to her unique and exacting biology). What’s more, Junketsu continues to mess with Ryuko’s mind as it wears her, lifting the weights of her lifelong emotional burdens and just making her feel better than she ever has.

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However, as Satsuki neatly puts it, it’s only the bliss of slavery, and Ryuko is one more human (or at least half-human) brought under the heel of the Life Fibers, who are mobilizing for world conquest now that Revocs has achieved 100% market share. Wearing Senketsu despite being unable to communicate directly, Satsuki puts up a hell of a fight, especially when you consider she’s been hanging by her fingernails without food or water for untold days. The battle is everything we had hoped for; moreso, since Satsuki isn’t simply dueling with Ryuko out of her own pride and honor.

That’s because she never intended to defeat Ryuko with Senketsu alone. Ever the well-prepared big sister playing a game of chess, she reveals herself as nothing but bait to lure Ryuko into the right spot at the right time so the Elite Four can maneuver her into a position of vulnerability. The gambit fails, but it’s one hell of a good try. Satsuki creates one last opening, through which Senketsu and Mako slip into Ryuko’s consciousness—don’t sweat the metaphysical details.

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Once in there, Ryuko’s about to get married to Junketsu once and for all, but Mako bursts in, Hollywood style. With her there in color and the dreamworld in monochrome, confined to a small frame within the frame tangled with life fibers, it feels far more like a prison than a paradise. When Mako tells Ryuko to go ahead and kill her, and with a casual flick of her scissor, Ryuko appears to do just that, for a moment our hearts sank. Puppet slave or no, there’d be no coming back for Ryuko if that happened.

As it happens, the act merely ejects Mako and Senketsu out of there. It’s only when Nui gets that same scissor through her sternum that we learn they were successful in cutting the strings after all. And yet again, a conflict that could have carried many an excellent show to the end is essentially resolved when the old Ryuko emerges from the tatters of Junketsu. This show is moving way to fast for the Evil Ryuko to be the final plot. There’s still a world to save from the Life Fibers, after all. Maybe at last the new-found sisters will work together side-by-side.


Rating: 10

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Stray Observations:

  • Needless to say, this episode is your usual Kill la Kill Klinik of imaginative angles, expressions, body-positions, explosions, and giant floating letters.
  • Mako’s performance art-like “explanations” (always beginning with “Hallelujah!”) have been a comic standby for one time, but they’re employed well here and have yet to get old.
  • They’ve had inferior resources for a while now, but you’ve gotta rally behind the tenacity and teamwork of the Elite Four (plus Shirou).
  • The explanation for why Senketsu is “skimpier” than Junketsu is the same reason Nudist beach don’t wear clothes: less surface contact with the skin means the human wearer is less likely to fear enslavement. MAKES SENSE TO US.
  • Call us crazy, but we’re starting to feel some sympathy for Harime Nui’s plight. While she’s a similar hybrid being to Ryuko, she’s unable to synch with any clothing. In the same vein, for her whole life she’s been a servant of Ragyo, unable to synch with anyone else, or with a normal life, for that matter. If the show intends to redeem rather than destroy her, it’s a transformation we’d be interested in seeing. Ragyo is probably a lost cause, however.
  • If you han’t noticed by now…Yes, we are no longer rating this showIt is rating us.

Kill la Kill – 20

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Episode the Twentieth: Wherein Ryuko, crying bitter tears inside, abjures Senketsu, Mako, and the others to go alone to Honnouji to destroy Harime Nui and Ragyo; in which Satsuki finally engineers her daring, naked escape; in which Nudist Beach unveils its aircraft carrier courtesy of the Takarada Conglomerate; and in Nui reveals she’s a life fiber being as much as Ryuko, and thus understands her plight; and in which Ragyo forces Junketsu upon Ryuko. Thus Ryuko shifts from being the pawn of her father to that of her mother; and is brainwashed into doing her bidding. Thus do Ryuko and Satsuki officially switch roles, with Ryuko as the frighteningly-powerful and arrogant villain, and Satsuki and her Elite Four as the scrappy underdogs with their backs to the wall.

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What started out as a simple selfish tantrum of self-loathing and anger, leading to her running off on her own, turned into something far more potentially devastating, as Her Hot-headedness is perverted through Junketsu into an instrument that could potentially destroy what’s left of a free mankind. And better still, it’s a transition that makes perfect sense. That’s right: no unsightly leaps in logic or ridiculous contrivances are necessary to justify Ryuko’s inversion: she’s always been susceptible to manipulation, and much of her exploits thus far have taken place while she was unwittingly serving as a guinea pig or pawn to others. Every time she’s learned the truth about her involuntary roles in the schemes of others—many of whom have turned out to be her relatives—she’s grown more bitter and lost. Here she was, thinking she was living her own life, while all along others were truly driving her course.

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She’s not even sure who or what she is anymore, and it disgusts her, so she lashes out at everyone close to her and sets of on a nihilistic errand. Harime, who has the same life-fibrous heart as hers, even asks point-blank what Ryuko hopes to get out of killing her and Ragyo. Ryuko doesn’t have an answer, because she hasn’t thought that far ahead, and falls into yet another trap. The blissful montage she sees when Junketsu wears her is a life that never was, but it’s enough to overpower Ryuko’s already brittle grip on her identity, and thus reality itself. Koshimizu Ami changes up Ryuko’s voice accordingly, to something simultaneously more feminine and unhinged—in other words, a lot more like Ragyo’s!

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Fortunately for Ryuko, there are those less quick to rage and reckless action who are determined to get her back. Among them are Mako, the Mankanshokus, the Elite Four, Mikisugi and Nudist Beach…even Satsuki. She may have had her own problems to deal with this week—breaking out of prison with a sharpened false toenail in unfathomably badass fashion—but as contentious as her interactions have been, we don’t think Satsuki wants to lose Ryuko to darkness and evil. In this, she and Senketsu are of like mind, which is why in a sensational latest twist, Senketsu lets her wear him, thus giving her at least a chance against her sister. The two have been in quite a few scraps, but this one is gonna be something else.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Kill la Kill – 19

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A mark of a great anime, or any show for that matter, is a deep bench—a well of compelling characters they can draw on if they’re inclined to give the main stars a rest. Golden Time (in theory) and Chuunibyou (in practice) are examples of this, and it was never in doubt that Kill la Kill was as well. It may not have been until episode 19 when both Ryuko and Satsuki are set aside for the supporting cast to show they can carry an episode without them, but it was worth the wait.

A month has passed since Ragyo reclaimed the upper hand by unleashing her army of Covers on Honnouji, and everything’s gone her way since. The Elite Four plus Iori and Soroi joined Nudist Beach—and abide by its dress(less) code!—but are fighting a war of attrition against Covers, which have conquered every academy in Japan, assimilating its students and brainwashed the populace. When we drop in, Uzu is fighting the good fight in his Goku uniform, when it suddenly fails. Then we learn his goku was the last one.

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It’s always thrilling to see a genuine shattering of the status quo and reshuffling of alliances, and this episode is no different; it’s cool to see the Elite Four in Nudist Beach lack of garb, fighting along side their former enemies. It’s also good to see the Mankanshokus are surviving, under the constant threat of Cover assimilation, keeping a slumbering Ryuko (who Senketsu dragged home) safe. Also nice to see Gamagoori’s crush on Mako blossoming as he promises her fam he’ll get her back…which he eventually does (with help from Guts).

Satsuki is hanging naked from her arms in a big birdcage, defenseless to whatever sexual assault Ragyo happens to be in the mood for (She’s also saving her for an extra-special new ultra-kamui Nui is preparing). But when Ragyo leaves, Satsuki vows to escape. Far from emotionally defeated, she knows she can still win simply because she’s alive. That nicly mirrors what Barazo says about being alive being its own victory: things can work out.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • This whole episode reminded us of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “A Time to Stand”, which takes place after the titular station has been taken over by the enemy and the good guys do what they can to keep themselves and the fight alive.
  • Sukuyo just can’t seem to take her eyes off of Mikisugi’s…light.
  • Love the scene where the guys have a nice cuppa while discussing strategy.
  • Jakuzure can’t help but admire Mataro’s ability to survive.
  • Ryuko eventually does wake up and save a lot of people, giving new life to the resistance, but she’s disgusted by her inhumanity, and abjures Senketsu, who’s a constant reminder of the monster she is. Oh dear…

Kill la Kill – 15

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When Kill la Kill goes all out, it’s truly something to behold. Osaka’s forces continue to put up a fight thanks to Takarada Kaneo’s deep pockets, but then Satsuki arrives and teaches him that it’s fear, not money, that rules the hearts of mankind, scaring all his forces away. Cornered and alone, Kaneo counters with a giant crab mecha, but the new 3-Star Goku uniforms arrive just in time, and Uzu defeats him easily, sticking his katana where the sun don’t shine.

Satsuki & Co. are acting so cool, and Takarada is so loathsome, that up to this point they look like the protagonists. But at the end of the day Kaneo is the wronged party, defending his territory from aggressors, and he’s the one (momentarily) saved by the timely arrival of a very reinvigorated Matoi Ryuuko. Satsuki knows  Ryuuko can’t transform without the glove in her possession, and wastes no time wiping her face in it. That proved to be a miscalculation, as it only convinces Ryuuko to take the next step in her symbiotic relationship with her kamui and allow Senketsu to use her skin to synchronize.

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Satsuki had been treating Ryuuko like a pesky housefly, but underestimated the lengths Ryuuko would go to, and also failed to divine Ryuuko’s new motivation, which is no longer wholly revenge. The more grand plans for conquest and subjugation Satsuki carries out, the more forcefully Ryuuko will butt in; no longer a housefly but a formidable, unpredictable hornet. Ryuuko’s not afraid to gamble with her own life to attain victory, but unlike Satsuki she’s unwilling to let others sacrifice their lives in the service of her selfish goals. Now Ryuuko’s goals align with those of Nudist Beach, much of which seemed to have been wiped out by Jakuzure while Ryuuko fought Satsuki.

And theirs is a hell of a fight, winding through (and ultimately obliterating) a souped-up Osaka tower in some of the best and most manically-animated combat of the series. It’s also an immensely satisfying battle, as Ryuuko is able to fight toe-to-toe and even deliver a crippling punch to Satsuki, albeit by playing “dirty” (the ol’ sword-blood in the face trick). More than anything, Ryuuko and Satsuki displayed quite a bit of mutual respect; Ryuuko’s no longer after Satsuki’s head, but wants to convince her to stop her villainy; while Satsuki gets a refresher in Ryuuko’s staying power and seemingly bottomless font of spirit. One could totally see the two as friends, were circumstances different.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We really dug the “Ryuuko Entrance Fanfare” of these last two eps, which always started with her motorbike’s engine revving.
  • We reiterate: Takarada never looked anything other than lame and slimy, but the Elite Four in their new threads look simultaneously mighty and correct.
  • Ira doesn’t want to hurt Mako…another cool quasi-friendship in the making.
  • We like how Ryuuko tells Mako to go somewhere safe, which Mako determines is by Ryuuko’s side.
  • We finally see Nudist Beach forces, who were Satsuki’s ultimate target (of course). They don’t wear any more than they need to, so they’re certainly the polar opposite of uniform-obsessed Honnouji.
  • The more encounters Satsuki has with Ryuuko, the more emotion she seems to express.

Kill la Kill – 11

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After Ryuuko seemingly defeats Jakuzure in an aerial clash, she bounces back with an encore in her “Da Capo” Symphony Regalia, paralyzing Senketsu with Beethoven’s Fifth. Ryuuko negates the attack with the sound of her own heart, and turns the sound on Jakuzure, who falls in defeat. Uzu faces her next, but their battle is interrupted by Nui Harime, Grand Couturier of Revoc, an organization led by Satsuki’s mother Kiryuin Ragyo. Nui brandishes the other half of Ryuuko’s scissors and tells her she was the one who killed her father.

“Things are getting more complicated by the minute,” Mikisugi laments when Harime Nui (voiced by the lovely Tamura Yukari) makes her appearance. We personally couldn’t be happier with the significant raising of stakes. Satsuki is fresh out of three-stars, and the self-amplifying dynamic of the show demanded that eventually Ryuuko’s conflict was going to soar far beyond the walls of Honnouji Academy. Here we were thinking Satsuki was unquestionably Ryuuko’s dad’s murderer, but in comes Nui, turning our (and Ryuuko’s) assumption on its head.

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Not only is Satsuki not the culprit, but she’s not even Ryuuko’s greatest threat anymore. The show really underlines Ragyo’s magnificence by making her literally shine with a blinding light. As pumped as we are for the ramifications of all these new introductions, which will reverberate across the second half of the series, we commend the episode for resisting the urge to dispatch Jakuzure too quickly. Satsuki’s right-hand woman deserved a longer, more intense fight against Ryuuko than those who preceded her, and got it. (Also cool: the theme to Ryuuko’s heart sounds like Aoi Eir!)

We also appreciated the running gags of the losers sitting with Mako, Gamagoori gradually warming up to her, and her family’s struggles to catch all the action. Let’s not forget that by summoning Fukuroda and commissioning a bullet made of life fibers, Mikisugi sure looked like he was fixing to “subdue” Ryuuko lest she get out of control, perhaps. But both his plans and Ryuuko’s battle with Uzu were cut short (quite hilariously in the latter case) by this whimsically-attired young lady who can dispatch a three-star with one finger, and cheerfully admit to killing Ryuuko’s dad with a smirk on her face. The Anti-Ryuuko.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kill la Kill – 10

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Inumuta Houka, who was recruited by Satsuki five years ago when he hacked into her company’s stocks, faces off against Ryuuko. She has Senketsu enlarge his eye to the size of the battle area, neutralizing his optical camo. Not wanting to lose his data, Inumuta elects to forfeit, so Jakuzure Nonon, who has known Satsuki since Kindergarten, is next. She initially overpowers Ryuuko with sound and even takes to the skyin her uniform, but Ryuuko joins her there as Senketsu evolves and achieves flight too. Concerned the kamui is evolving too fast, Mikisugi calls Kinagase, who heads to Honnouji.

We admire a show that knows exactly what it’s doing…and simply gets on with it. To that end, this week isn’t just Inumuta’s battle—as he forfeits barely halfway in—but Jakuzure’s too. As she promises, she puts on quite a different show than the two guys who preceded her. As Satsuki-sama’s oldest disciple (and the closest thing to a friend), it seems she has the best toys and the most leeway to bend the rules of combat, i.e. leaving the battle area by air or laying waste to the entire arena with a recorder-missile barrage. The proceedings are kept quite jaunty and proper with the orchestral accompaniment, and Kill la Kill pulls out all the stops meshing shonen and mecha battle tropes with a whimsical musical aesthetic.

Ryuuko looks utterly outclassed as the very ground beneath her feet crumbles, but then the episode reminds us, she and Senketsu are on a roll, and they’re not going to let cloaking devices, sound-waves or the power of flight bring them down (we also dug the use of Mako as her calming device). If Jakuzure can fly, so will Senketsu; that’s the power of a 100% life fiber kamui. The reveal of her “Gale” regalia is an awesome moment, but it’s also a cause of growing concern for Mikisugi. We also got the feeling Ryuuko is letting herself get too swept up in her power and trying to do too much to fast, which could lead to everything blowing up in her face at the worst possible time.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)