Final Impressions: Kill la Kill


And they all lived happily ever after

The final episode of Kill la Kill has come and gone, with the story of the lone transfer student seeking revenge for her father's death having come to its conclusion. 

Things exploded, Gainax references were made, people were cut into tiny pieces, and dramatic speeches were given.

The curtain has finally fell on TRIGGER's first TV anime production since its founding, which means it's time to look back on the whole shebang. Did it deliver? Did director Hiroyuki Imaishi make something worth talking about?

Am I extremely sad that I no longer have Kill la Kill to look forward to every Friday? 

None of these answers and more, after the break!

Rather than summarizing the events of episode 24, I'd much rather jump straight into the thick of things. 

I think ultimately, Imaishi and his team have crafted a satisfying conclusion to a series that was always operating at high speed levels. A lot happens in this final episode, and the direction is strong enough that it's never difficult to keep track of things. We move from beat to beat, but the pacing is smooth. On the one hand, this means there's very little time to breathe. On the other hand, it makes for a super entertaining 24 minutes of television.

Starting with the villains, I know Nui has been a very divisive figure for many. She's as evil as she is annoying, and her troll-ish nature is frustrating. However I think this final stretch of episodes has succeeded in making her a significantly creepier character, one who is so wholly and utterly devoted to Ragyo that she's willing to cut her head off and end her own existence at the drop of a hat. It's ironic to me that one of the characters that most deserved an ass kicking ended up getting exactly what she wanted. Nui merges with Ragyo, becoming a part of the person she loves deepest. Arguably there could be no better a happy ending for this character.

Ragyo's end is also relatively fascinating to me. Arguably, she's not even defeated in battle in the traditional sense. Ryuko and Senketsu simply rob her of her primary weapon, destroying her ambitions in the process. Rather than live to fight another day or receive the beating she probably deserves, Ragyo calmly ends things herself to little fanfare. There's no pain, there's no freak out. There's only the chilling words of a mad woman who nearly annihilated her whole family, never mind the world itself. Romi Park really hit a home run with her performance, making Ragyo one of the most memorable villains in recent years. It's been a long time since a baddie has been so captivating yet chilling. 

One of the reasons I came away from Kill la Kill episode 24 so satisfied is that despite all the power ups, climactic duels, and ass kicking, the heroes didn't win via some dramatic punch to the face. Ryuko and Senketsu's hot blooded speech about people being people and clothes being clothes nicely tied together the themes of the series, allowing things to come full circle. Ragyo rejects this ridiculous concept, but the two of them declare that in the end, there's nothing to understand here. Kill la Kill was anything but subtle, yet I think that worked to the show's favor. Plenty of crazy things happened, but all of it was within the show's internal logic. As our heroes said, it's all about not making any kind of sense.

There were tons of cool moments in this final episode, but specifically I loved Gamagoori's "death" and the subsequent sequences. There's a few shots of Mako rescuing Aikuro after the fact, and the look on her face is of absolute devastation. Likewise, Gamagoori's revival leading up to the destruction of the tower was a fun moment for the character. He's a personal favorite of mine, and seeing him come so far was a nice payoff. I also have to give a shout out to the entire ending sequence, which was all kinds of adorable. Satsuki catching Ryuko was a sweet moment that shows how far things have come, matched nicely with the ED theme playing over it.

On the animation side there are still some fairly typical shortcuts here and there, but on the whole, TRIGGER pulls out all the stops with some lavish cuts and layouts. Animation direction was handled by Sushio for this final episode, and it shows. Lots of big character movement, thick lines, and even some good ole' black and white sequences. Out of all the episodes of Kill la Kill, this one feels most like a team Imaishi production. 

No, TRIGGER's first original series might not have been the animation powerhouse that many had hoped for, but I think much of that slack was picked up by the expert layouts, fun cuts, and sense of speed that the drawings often created. According to the documentary included with volume 3, most of Kill la Kill was hand-drawn and animated on paper, with the backgrounds being hand- painted by in-house artists. I think that kind of effort shows through in the production, lending it a cinematic feel even when things aren't moving super smoothly.

I've spoken of my less-than fond-attitude toward Hiroyuki Sawano's compositions in the past, but I think I may have been caught with my foot in my mouth this time. I'm still not crazy for some of the tracks on the Kill la Kill OST, but for the most part I think this ended up being a very strong score. A great deal of that likely has to do with the timing in which tracks were used, but nonetheless, there was some good work here. Ragyo's theme in particular, Blumenkranz, gets a lot of play time on my iTunes playlist. Still, a part of me can't help but wonder what would have happened if Taku Iwasaki had been brought onto the production team.

I understand the desire to try and compare Kill la Kill to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. So much of the staff is the same across both shows that it's easy to fall into that mindset. For me, this series was a refreshing take on the typical shounen fight formula, this time with a primarily female cast capable of taking care of themselves. My concerns about fanservice ultimately ended up being washed away by the approach to nudity within the show itself. Much of it reminded me of '70s/'80s era animation, with plenty of Go Nagai references that I'm sure were entirely intentional. 

Looking at Kill la Kill, I find myself unreasonably excited for the next original series that TRIGGER produces. As far as maiden voyages go, this has been one helluva ride. While not without its problems (animation shortcuts, occasionally slow stretched of episodes), Hiroyuki Imaishi and his team have created a high speed, heartfelt, comedic series that kept me entertained for its entire run. Whether people will look back on it fondly is up to posterity to determine, but as it stands, Kill la Kill was a refreshing reminder of how entertaining anime can be at its most madcap and ludicrous.


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Elliot Gay
Elliot GayContributor   gamer profile

Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more + disclosures



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