Kill la Kill – 17

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We’ll say this much: Kill la Kill does a “sports festival episode” like none other. We’ve spoken before about how sometimes a primarily building-up episode can surpass the payoff that follows, for the simple reason that the buildup episode is suffused with boundless promise even a great payoff would be hard-pressed to fulfill.

What we’re saying is, whatever the quality of the payoff that awaits us down the road, it won’t not diminish the excellence of the buildup that took place this week. Despite hardly solving anything, this just might be our favorite episode of Kill la Kill yet. We’re tempted to watch it again immediately, and again after that. Sometimes, buildup can be its own payoff.

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So what was this buildup we’re on about? Satsuki returns to Honnouji and announces a sports festival in her mother Ragyo’s honor. Ragyo oversees the global distribution of life fibers and prepares to head to Honnouji. All citizens of Honnou Town are invited to and issued dress uniforms for the catered affair, including Mako’s fam.

Meanwhile, Mikisugi and Kinagase observe the academy from hidden cameras and complete Ryuuko’s education, telling her the academy and surrounding town are one big laboratory for testing human resistance to life fibers. The student body and townsfolk are the white rats, and the dress uniforms provided by Ragyo are snakes that, when she presses a red button, start to feed on the people.

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The good guys swoop in to the stadium to save the day, stare down the bad guys and “To Be Continued” flashes on the screen in those big chunky red letters…Right? Well, not so fast: as Ragyo is talking (down) to Ryuuko, Satsuki plunges her katana into her own mother’s back, announcing she’s rebelling against the life fibers. Ohoho, now we’re talking.

Especially last week, the show’s been going out of its way to humanize Satsuki and facilitate empathy for her; she was, like Ryuuko, dropped into her current role by her parent, after all. By contrast, Ragyo and Nui, for that matter, only vaguely resemble humans both physically and emotionally.

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In any case, those two are clearly not on the side of humanity—which isn’t to say Satsuki’s suddenly turned into a “good guy”, but she’s certainly become an even more compelling and likable co-protagonist alongside Ryuuko. Frankly, there’s a lot we still don’t know: Ragyo’s fate; Nui’s response; the fate of all those people (save Mataro) being eaten by their clothes; how Satsuki will deal with Ryuuko & Co.; what she’ll actually do with the throne she seeks to take; what the life fibers have to say about all this.

In any case, Satsuki has obviously worked diligently to maintain the illusion of a dutiful daughter while plotting her mother’s downfall behind her back. In reality, for a while now Satsuki hasn’t seen Ragyo as her mother at all, but as a rival to be defeated; and Ragyo has been too blinded by her own splendor and hubris to notice.  Everything that built up to this fresh batch of questions was impeccably engineered for maximum entertainment value. It was at times serious, introspective, fascist, funny, and florid, and took us (like Ryuuko) completely by surprise. We couldn’t have asked for much more.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Kill la Kill – 16

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Leave it to Kill la Kill to earnestly, regretfully inform us from the start that this is the recap episode we’ve been dreading, only to blaze through said recap in less than two minutes, occupying only the cold open before a brand new (and quite spiffy) OP. It’s a great little psychout, and one more reminder Kill la Kill isn’t just kicking ass telling its own story, but also an ongoing commentary of anime in general.

To whit: this week we learn the deep dark secrets of life fibers and kamui, and Ryuuko is revealed as the “Chosen One” who will curtail the Kiryuuins’ seemingly infinite ambitions. But Ryuuko isn’t the only chosen one here; so is Satsuki, who surprisingly undergoes an education parallel to Ryuuko’s: here we were thinking she was in the know about everything (she certainly didn’t hesitate to make Ryuuko think that was the case), but she wasn’t.

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It’s fitting then, that it’s confirmed to both her and Ryuuko at the same time what they had already suspected: each girl is the savior and hope of their respective faction, which makes them diametrically opposed enemies.That deep dark truth? In short, Life Fibers are aliens. They helped humanity evolve to its present level of physical and mental sophistication, and then, like creator gods, they simply sat back and admired what they had wrought. Like farmers, they awaited the fattening of their herds, for Life Fibers use humans as food.

As such, humans didn’t choose clothing, clothing chose them – a concept as absurd as it is awesome. Kiryuuin Ragyo re-initiated contact and has been essentially doing their bidding, distributing dormant fibers to the population on a global scale. Now possessed of this knowledge and their expected roles in the great battle to come, Ryuuko and Satsuki react in appropriately opposite ways.

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When the hatch to the helicopter closed, Satsuki collapsed from exhaustion and her kamui had to be sedated. Her activities have taken a far greater toll than Ryuuko or anyone beneath her know, but she refuses to give in to fatigue or pain. And yet even after her mother essentially fondles her in the bath (what is it with rich people?), and even though there are times when Satsuki seems taken aback by the things she’s learning, she doesn’t (outwardly) hesitate in answering her call to duty.

Meanwhlie, Ryuuko says “fuck that.” Because she doesn’t want to fight? Because she can’t handle that level of responsibility? No: because she doesn’t want her friend Senketsu to be forced into fighting his own kind just because Matoi Isshin made him good at it. At the end of the day, the only one who chose her to be the “Chosen One” was her dad, just as the only one who chose Satsuki was her mom. But we’re certain Senketsu will choose to fight with Ryuuko.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Ryuuko’s dad used to work for Ragyo. This is just speculation, but were they once lovers too, making Ryuuko and Satsuki sisters? It would certainly be fitting.
  • Ryuuko’s dad also founded Nudist Beach, which has an actual nudist beach underground. Neat!
  • Mako isn’t going to stay behind while Ryuuko fights…though she’s not quite resolved to go nude.
  • The new ED is very Mako-centric (not a bad thing), and is what we imagine is what the inside of her head looks like. Kinda like how Kenneth in 30 Rock sees everyone as Muppets.

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)

Kill la Kill – 05

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“Anti-Uniform Guerilla” Kinagase Tsumugu of the Nudist Beach organization arrives at Konnouji to eliminate Ryuuko’s Kamui. His first attempt is interrupted by his old friend Mikisugi who asks him not to target her. Kinagase refuses, certain that if left alone Senketsu could grow even more dangerous than Kiryuin. Satsuki sends Non-Athletic Committee Chair Jakuzure Nonon to deal with him.

Kinagase quickly dispatches the small-fry clubs she deploys, and corners Ryuuko again, and Senketsu flies off her to save her, and he’s pinned down, but Mako puts the kamui back to Ryuuko arms before leaving. When Kinagase threatens to harm Ryuuko, he can hear Senketsu speak and learns the kamui cares about her. Jakuzure arrives and he makes a quick getaway with Ryuuko, leaving her in Mikisugi’s office, telling him he’ll give Ryuuko a chance.

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Last week’s self-contained “no-late-day” story gives way to some meatier story wherein a third party enters the fray between Ryuuko and Satsuki. In the real world, most nudists are regarded as harmless weirdos, but Kinagase is more of a revolutionary, wielding a sewing machine-like gun and utterly devoted to eradicating the scourge of life fibers, which he sees as parasites. We can’t really fault his motives, considering the damage we’ve seen the uniforms do even when their wearers are in mostly full control of them.

But as much as the guy scowls and threatens to strip girls, he’s not so bad a guy: when he sees that Ryuuko and Senketsu aren’t just a parasite and host but actual friends, he has a change of heart, even saving Ryuuko from Jakuzure. Jakuzure’s role on the periphery of Kinagase’s pursuit of Ryuuko is a calculation by her and Satsuki; sending cannon fodder at him in order to collect combat data. Even if it’s a rout, it’s a highly enjoyable one, as Jakuzure conducts an orchestra as the battle unfolds.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We’re amused at how raucous and nutty Mako’s family behaves, and yet they’re concerned about Ryuuko being weird just because she talks to her uni.
  • Jakuzure is voiced by none other than Shintani Mayumi, whom we hadn’t heard since her role as Haruko in FLCL.
  • Mako proves she’s a brave and loyal friend by standing up to Kinagase and delivering another long-winded, passionate monologue.