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)

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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 – 18

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Mother of God, what the heck is going on here? Kill la Kill is looking down on our Plebeian rating system! We’ve watched and written a lot of anime in the last few years, but it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a show string together so many awesome episodes in a row, including the two best episodes of the Winter (so far at least), back-to-back. Last week it threw a hundred balls up in the air; this week we learn all those balls were actually bombs, and they all get blown the fuck up.

Where to begin? Satsuki’s wholly terrifying upbringing, in which Ragyo used her as a life fiber test subject, tossing her baby sister away when she didn’t fit the genetic bill? Might as well, because that was the last straw for Satsuki’s dad Souichirou, who started Satsuki’s lifelong vendetta against her mom. It did look like her dad kinda stood by and let this crap happen to his children, but ultimately Ragyo killed him for opposing her. Junketsu was her inheritance: the garment with which she’d exact her revenge.

And so there you have it: Satsuki isn’t just after power, or the salvation of mankind; all that’s just a means of getting back at moms. The whole time she was looking down on Ryuuko, she was harboring the exact same base thirst for revenge. We’d always seen Satsuki and Ryuuko as two sides of the same coin, and we’d entertained the possibility they were really related, but the nature of the reveal knocked us back in our seats: Ryuuko was that discarded baby sister who ended up surviving. Her body is imbued with life fibers, just like Ragyo’s.

The tables in this episode must be sturdy, because they’re turned more times than an Ikea furniture testing facility. It’s a whiplash-inducing back and forth between Satsuki vs. Ragyo; the Elite Four vs. Nui; Satsuki’s Army vs. Satsuki, Ryuuko, and Nudist Beach; Nui vs. Ryuuko; Zombie Ryuuko vs. Satsuki; Satsuki’s katana vs. Ragyo’s neck. Everyone experiences victory and defeat, but nothing is permanent and there’s always another twist lurking. We’re left with both co-heroines out of commission, Ragyo in Junketsu, a sky full of angry COVERS, and the entire supporting cast left to pick up the pieces. This is finale-caliber shit going down, with nearly a quarter of the show left to go. Hold on; we’ve got a live one!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Stray Observations:

  • Yup, all of Satsuki’s conflicts against Ryuuko were a means of testing whether she’d be a worthy ally. Everything she does seems to condescend to Ryuuko…but as she’s the elder sister, it makes perfect sense!
  • Mako reunites with her family, who weren’t bothered enough by being imprisoned by their clothes to even pause their gorging on free food. We love that family.
  • Good to see the Elite Four back in action. They do seem stronger.
  • Gamagoori orders Mako to help evacuate the crowds. We like their relationship.
  • We liked how Satsuki and Ragyo got into a bit of a light shine-off.
  • This episode and/or the last didn’t deserve 10s? Leave it out. We couldn’t rank ’em lower if we tried. We’re merely puppets of the producers at this point.

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 – 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 – 06

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Ryuuko is challenged to a duel by Athletic Committee Chair Sanageyama Uzu, whose “Tengantsu” ability enables him to see every movement she makes. Ryuuko turns the tables by slicing bits off Senkatsu, which cover Sanageyama’s eyes, enabling him to be defeated easily. The next day he challenges her again, but has had his eyes sewn shut, using his goku uniform as his eyes and other senses. With this new “Shingantsu” he overwhelms Ryuuko, but his goku overheats before he can finish her, and she escapes.

Mikisugi tells Ryuuko he’ll tell her more about her father and his organization, Nudist Beach when he trusts her more; by that, we assume he means when she’s been through a few more battles with Senketsu. While his original intent was to destroy the kamui, Kinagase ended up helping Ryuuko bond even further with it. As a result, she’s a lot more confident and even cocky in how she carries herself in Senketsu. She’s come a long way…but as Sanageyama shows her in his second duel, she has a long way to go.

This episode also made an effort to show us more about Ryuuko’s opponent, even flashing back to when Satsuki first recruits him. Watching Ryuuko fight Sanageyama and then fight him again without knowing anything about who he is or what motivates him may well have still been enjoyable, but his exchanges with Satsuki before, during, and after fighting her adds texture to his character (and Satsuki’s), making them at least as important in this episode as Ryuuko herself, which is fine with us. Ryuuko’s further development will come; Sanageyama and the rest of the Elite Four will make sure of that.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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.