Kill la Kill Volume One
Format: DVD (reviewed), Blu-ray
Release Date: October 15, 2014
Price: DVD $29.95 (AUD) – Available Here / Blu-ray $34.95 (AUD) – Available Here
We are currently living in a time that is referred to as an ‘anime bubble’. Dozens of anime series are produced each year; some may be original works while the majority are adapted from a variety of sources, typically Japanese light-novels, manga, visual novels or other Japanese games. From the long list of anime works produced each year, many fall into the category of ‘mediocre’, many are regarded as average, some are good but have wasted potential, and then there are those that are exceptionally good – the ones that gain a huge following not only in Japan but in the western world too. So where do the first four episodes of Kill la Kill sit amongst its fellow 2013 anime productions?
Honnouji Academy is a school ruled by the Student Council and its president, Satsuki Kiryuin. Her faithful servants, the Elite Four, wear Goku Uniforms, as do those that Satsuki deems worthy. The majority of the Goku Uniforms are one-star or two-star, and each Goku Uniform has special powers which can increase the normal capacity of anyone who wears one.
Ryuko Matoi transfers into Honnouji Academy one day and almost immediately has a run-in with Satsuki, who appears to know more about Ryuko’s scissor blade than she is willing to let on. Initially no match for Satsuki, she is forced into wearing a Kamui – a sentient sailor uniform that gives Ryuko power by draining her blood. This new-found power provides Ryuko with immense power that helps her defeat her enemies (and obliterate their clothing in the process) and protect her new friend Mako Mankanshoku from punishment by the Tennis Club and from being deep-fried alive while being held hostage. Upon learning the secrets of her Kamui, named ‘Senketsu’ or ‘Fresh Blood’, she faces Satsuki once again in order to find out who killed her father and left behind the scissor blade.
Although this may seem like a simple story of revenge, Kill la Kill is everything but simple. The people Ryuko are surrounded by are not only not-normal, but seemingly crazy. Mako is a hyper-energetic person who can withstand an onslaught of tennis balls hitting her at super-fast speeds, accidentally diving into several bins which appeared to be metallic, and can generally defy the laws of physics and reality in general along with the rest of her family. Ryuko’s homeroom teacher is also strange, but with him it is because he has he likes acting in a ‘sexy’ way by stripping his clothes off in front of Ryuko, all in the privacy of his own home. If there is one thing that is clear so far, it is that there is clearly no law enforcement agency outside of the Student Council.
Trigger has done an excellent job with the animation of this series. The character designs are unique and easy to tell apart, with Ryuko in particular being portrayed with a realistic series of emotions. While the way a character contorts their face when angry in most anime productions is contrived and nearly always the same, Ryuko is drawn to look genuinely angry. When she is pissed off at something, her anger feels real. When she is happy about something, it is obvious that she is genuinely happy, and those rare moments of happiness prove that she is a well-rounded character, not just a one-dimensional being with a one-tracked mind for revenge.
As this is a very high-octane action series, the animation is fundamental to the success of it. Fortunately, this is a series that does not suffer from a lack of animation. The action is extremely fast-paced and fluid, for example a group of students fall into a vat of boiling oil and then climb out and scramble away all in the span of just a few short seconds, only to be immediately forgotten as a fight scene is about to take place. Viewers who enjoy fast-paced series and high-quality action will find plenty to enjoy about this seemingly insane series.
One thing which may bother some viewers is the fan-service present throughout each episode. While there are some scenes where boys are shown naked in a non-sexually humiliating way, and while there are no depictions of genitals or female nipples so far (this is a rare series that remembers that males have nipples too), many characters are sexualised on multiple occasions, resulting in many scenes featuring men nose-bleeding so much they should be dead and in scenes where Mako determines that Ryuko must be an exhibitionist. The transformation sequence, for example, features whichever girl is putting on a Kamui completely naked while their breasts are defying gravity, just like how everything else in the series defies gravity and any commonsense whatsoever. When the Kamui is active, it only barely covers up the wearer’s breasts, genital region and behind. To make it worse, girls tend to end up in positions where men can get a clear look at the girls’ very-nearly naked bodies. Anyone who finds fan-service to be a big turn-off and problematic is recommended to look elsewhere for something to watch.
On the technical side of things, the original on-screen Japanese text is completely retained, with no English credits being included in Madman’s release, typical but perhaps disappointing for those wanting to find out who voiced a certain character. The subtitles are mostly perfect but at least one typing error is present and quite noticeable.
The music throughout these four episodes is fantastic and leaves nothing to be desired. The opening theme song is a rock song and the ending theme song is a rather catchy pop-song, with the lyrics being the typical type that come from the main character’s thoughts interspersed with random messages that may or not actually be relevant to anything. The background music by composer Hiroyuki Sawano is great and well-suited to both the action scenes and the scenes of pure randomness and insanity.
The English dubbed version, like just about everything else in this series so far, is exceptional. The voices are very well suited to their roles, with emotions being portrayed in a realistic manner and the dub script staying true to the original for the most part, barring only a few additions of western phrases in order for the dub to make more sense to western viewers.
The on-disc extras for this release include the ‘web-version’ previews for each episode (that is what they are listed as, but they are not the web-version previews) and the textless opening and ending animation. While there may be no extras that are particularly worth watching, the opening animation is as fast paced as the rest of the show and the ending theme is quite nice and calm as it shows what it would be like if Ryuko was a normal school student.
The first four episodes of Kill la Kill undoubtedly sit in the category of ‘exceptionally good’ original anime productions. The action, the plot, the characters, the music and the animation all come together to make a fantastic action series which is incomparable to any of the more normal anime series created in 2013. If this is what can happen when some people sit down and decide to make an original anime series, then we are in good hands. The first four episodes have set the bar very high, but with any luck, the next five episodes will remain at the same level or even surpass it and continue to provide excellent entertainment that many anime fans can enjoy.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.