Anime Review: Kill La Kill
Kill la Kill is an anime about a delinquent high school girl who finds a sentient sailor outfit that, after drinking her blood, transforms her into something resembling a scantily clad gundam, which increases her strength tremendously. She is on a revenge mission to find the person who killed her father, and as a result becomes wrapped up in the militant high school known as Honnouji Academy and with its president, Satsuki Kyurin.
When I first heard about Kill la Kill, I wrote it off as another fan service anime I wouldn’t be interested in. For the less informed, fan service anime are primarily about pleasing a viewer by putting characters in revealing outfits and/or oddly sexual situations almost arbitrarily, and the plot tends to be secondary. I’ve never enjoyed this genre, and often find its depiction of females (and males for that matter) pretty degrading.
However, when I heard that Kill la Kill came from TRIGGER, the same brilliant minds that created Gurren Lagann, my interest was piqued. Gurren Lagann is a very self-aware anime, and while certainly not a parody, it was aware of the traditions of its genre. It intentionally poked fun at anime’s long standing tradition of over-the-top transformation sequences, giant robots, and named attacks that characters say out loud before unleashing them (like SUPER MEGA POWER CANON or something). It also poked fun at the hyper-sexualized way breasts are widely depicted in anime through Yoko, the witty, giant-rifle wielding resistance fighter. Given both of these points, I couldn’t help but think that they could handle the fan service genre better than most, and I was not mistaken. In fact, Kill la Kill is now one of my favourite TV shows and has forced me to completely re-evaluate my stance on fan service, and what the genre means.
As I mentioned, our protagonist, Ryuuko Matoi, finds this sentient sailor outfit that demands to be worn by her when a drop of her blood falls onto it. This outfit, known as a Godrobe (or Kamui) is sustained by the blood of its host, and in return, increases the strength of its host significantly. But there is a hitch. The Godrobe becomes an incredibly revealing outfit once it drinks the wearers blood. The wearer must be confident, they must feel no shame in themselves to reach the full potential of their Godrobe. If they feel embarrassment, the Godrobe needs more blood to sustain itself and the two cannot fully connect. This limits the amount of time one can wear it by increasing physical strain on the host and decreasing the maximum power that can be achieved.
So basically: You need to show your body without shame to reach your full potential.
This is basically body positivity in a nutshell everyone! This concept could have seemed arbitrary, but Kill la Kill presents it in such a comical fashion that it’s, well, funny, and the result is actually an incredibly badass character who’s female body isn’t considered a hindrance, but a source of power.
Costumes are a significant symbol of power in Kill la Kill. I simply cannot ignore the suit that literally places two male characters into a submissive, restrained position with their bare asses facing outward for the world to see, while two of the female character’s suits grow spikes and become more exaggerated as their understanding of the Kamui increases (as you can see in the gif above). In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to think about these factors, but in a world where femininity is about submitting and masculinity is about power, the breaking down of gendered tradition through costumes and positioning alone is refreshing from a genre enshrouded in conventional gender roles. I feel it does this anime a disservice to refer to it as “fan service,” because that sounds so limiting, and quite frankly, negative. This is an epic story about the struggle and heart of humans in the face of adversity. But it’s also sort of about butts. And boobs. And nipple beams.
Throw in some some plot twists and excellent action sequences, and everything mixes together in a stew of intelligent greatness to create something that is so-very TRIGGER. One can simply ignore the sordid history of fan service and opt to stay away from the genre altogether, or one can approach it consciously and present it in ways I previously did not think possible. I adore Kill la Kill on an intellectual level, but also on an ass-kicking-save-the-world-revenge-tale-good-time kind of way as well. It really features the best of both worlds.