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…
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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)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Kill la Kill – 07

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When students start starting obscure new clubs to go after Ryuuko, she forms a Fight Club, naming Mako president when she sees the level of paperwork involved. As Ryuuko piles up victories, the club rises in stature according to Satsuki’s merit-based system, and Mako’s family moves from the slums to the middle-class neighborhood and eventually, to their own manor and the lap of super-luxury. The Mankanshokus start to drift apart.

When Mako sees how their newfound wealth is corrupting the family, she resigns from the club. Satsuki awards Mako a two-star goku uniform and orders her to fight Ryuuko. Mako obliges, beating Ryuuko to a pulp, but at the last moment pulls back the killing blow, aiming for the ground instead. She and her family beg Ryuuko for forgiveness, and they return to the slums. Satsuki admits to her elites that she allowed Ryuuko’s club so she could identify which weak teams to purge in the next elections.

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Every time the Mankanshoku’s appear on the screen, it’s like shotgunning a can of the late, lamented SURGE cola; they’re a jolt of energy and a ton of fun to watch as they go about their lives, a veritable tornado of love-tinged activity that Ryuuko’s very much glad she’s in the middle of, after a lonely childhood. It’s even better when we watch them inspect their new middle-class digs with mirthful amazement; thanks to Ryuuko, their quality of life has improved. And mind you, they’re not gaming Satsuki’s system; they’re playing by the rules…and winning.

But then Ryuuko wins more; Mako gets shrewder and more ambitious; the family moves to an opulent mansion and everyone has separate evening plans, and the family cohesion Ryuko treasured melts away in a cauldron of avarice. Now Ryuuko eats alone again. And there is never enough champagne or Godiva chocolate. Mako is, to borrow a Gainax title, Aiming for the Top!, so when Ryuuko gets in the way, she’s threatening Mako’s status and her family’s, and becomes the enemy. It’s an audacious turn of events—Ryuuko forced to fight her best friend, who happily dons a bad-ass two-star goku and goes to town.

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But the situation is made perfectly plausible by all that preceded it. Whether you’re born into wealth or have it heaped upon you like Mako’s family, it can very easily make you its slave. That’s what Satsuki was hoping for: another family ensnared in her system built upon greed and obedience through fear of losing it all. She didn’t get that, but the system still stands, and even worse, thanks to Ryuuko and Mako, Satsuki knows exactly what to do to make the forces protecting that system even stronger. So while Ryuuko and the Mankanshokus are cool again, Ryuuko’s future trials are only going to get tougher.

Like Mako’s family (briefly), this episode had it all. It grabbed and held our interest. It made Ryuuko the architect of her own near-downfall through a seemingly harmless choice. It rocketed us along with the family during their meteoric rise, not skimping on the details of the ritzier life they gain. It slowed them way down when they grew rich and stuffy. Perhaps most impressive was Mako’s transformation from kooky comic relief sidekick to serious foe who doesn’t hesitate to turn on Ryuuko despite all they’d been through. It was a veritable windfall of magnificence, and our favorite Kill la Kill to date.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

RABUJOI World Heritage List