Kill la Kill – 12

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Nui Harime and Ryuko fight, and Nui’s flippant attitude enrages her more and more until Senketsu explodes out of control, merging with Ryuko into a grotesque monster. Mikisugi and Kinagase’s efforts to neutralize her fail. Satsuki dons Junketsu and steps in to put Ryuko out of her misery, but before she kills her Mako races to Ryuko’s side and slaps her back into coherence. Satsuki bans Nui from Honnouji. Days later Satsuki tells Ryuko thanks to her battles, she’s helped her perfect her Goku uniforms, which she’ll deploy immediately to conquer the western academy administrators.

Amidst all the outrageous, expressionistic, sometimes psychedelic as-all-get-out Trigger action, this episode was a ripe opportunity to explore the relationships the arch-rivals Ryuko and Satsuki possess. First of all, Nui Harime is basically a thoroughly irritating thorn in everyone’s side, but to Satsuki, she’s also something of an employee. If Nui were to blatantly disobey an order or otherwise oppose Satsuki, there’d be hell to pay, hell Nui isn’t immediately interested in seeing.

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Jakuzure, meanwhile, is one of Satsuki’s officers, unqeustionably obedient and at the mercy of her whims. Like the other Elite Three and the rest of the student body, Satsuki is essentially their goddess. Then you have Mako: Ryuko owes her very life to the very nearly suicidal intervention of her best friend Mako, who didn’t merely save her out of the kindness or love, but also to repay a debt: when Mako was drunk on power and lost, Ryuko brought her back.

What that means is that Mako is no underling, servant, or acolyte of Ryuko’s—they are equals. Amigas. Buds. They keep each other honest…and alive. Even Satsuki sees this, and acknowledges Mako by name as Ryuko’s savior. There’s a glint of appreciation in her face, as we kinda doubt Satsuki wanted victory the way it was going. And though it’s highly unlikely she’s wired this way, given her affluent upbringing, it’s possible that for a nanosecond Satsuki was jealous that Ryuko had a real, true friend: something she didn’t.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

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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)