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Toon Takeaway: Kill la Kill

Title: Kill la Kill

Studio: Trigger

Rating: A-

Where to watch it: Hulu, Crunchyroll


Spoiler-free Summary:

“Wait what?” That’s going to be your mantra when you’re watching Kill la Kill. A rowdy transfer student named Ryuko Matoi goes to Honnouji Academy, a high school in Tokyo Bay, seeking to avenge her father’s death. Armed with a sentient sailor suit and half a pair of scissors, Ryuko attempts to fight her way to the truth in a fascist meritocracy.

The Good:

The pacing of this show is absolute perfection. Starting as broad as the plot line down to the fight choreography, Kill la Kill had me hooked to Hulu every week. In the beginning I didn’t really know what to expect, but kept watching for pure entertainment. At episode 9 I started flipping tables.

The characters are tons of tropey fun. The antagonists, are so much fun to hate with their casual disdain for any and everyone and each interaction between the members of the Elite Four will leave you wanting more.

Mako Mankanshoku is truly a joy to behold with her adorable antics and Ryuko is delightfully more of a shonen hero than a shoujo heroine. It’s refreshing to see a girl fight for herself and her own ambitions instead of her friends and family.

Goku uniforms, what can you say? It’s great to see the different ways high school clubs are represented by their uniforms. It says a lot to both the club presidents’ characters and the nature of the high school club itself.

The Bad:

SO MUCH FANSERVICE. Way too much. Here I’m defining fanservice as sexually suggestive images that serve no purpose in moving the story along. I know some people define this as references to other media, but if we were to get into that for Kill la Kill, we’d be here all day. Here’s a link, if you’re curious. Nudity actually becomes a huge plot point later on, but despite that, I still find many scenes pointlessly sexual. A point in its favor though, there’s an even amount of male and female fanservice.

Also, I feel I shouldn’t have to say this but I will: DO NOT WATCH THE DUBBED VERSION. It is just terrible.

The Art:

The art is expressive and angular. The fight choreography is masterful and color is used beautifully to show the disparity in the totalitarian city. The forced visual (and overly stated) analogy between Kiryuin and Nazi rule is problematic in that it implies Nazi Germany was one a meritocracy. But look at this fantastic animation.

The Actual Review (spoilers below)

As this is my first review, I figured we should get started with one of the more controversial shows as of late. Kill la Kill, is it good or bad? Is it smart or just plain dumb? What does any of it even mean? The truth is, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most clever and cutting satires in a while. I’m not huge on fanservice, but in this case I’m willing to make an exception.

This show has so many boob shots, sexy outfits, and sexual innuendos that it is impossible to watch anywhere but home. Every shot is shown using male gaze, some scenes getting downright voyeuristic. As a hardcore feminist, I should hate this show. And many feminists do actually. I read a Tumblr post titled Why Kill la Kill is Bad for Women (and Everyone in General). The review absolutely destroys the show for being exploitative and rape apologetic. And it is. Trigger warning: episode 16 has a graphic, incestuous rape scene set in a family bath. As a rape survivor, it was particularly difficult for me to sit through it. So why even bother?

The Kill la Kill universe is one where humans wear and fight clothing. Clothing took homosapiens against their will and forced them to evolve. Everything in this show revolves around the rape of humanity by clothing, starting with our protagonist. Senketsu, Ryuko’s best friend and arguably strongest love interest, begins the relationship by literally forcing himself upon her. This is later reciprocated as she forces Senketsu to fight despite his tears and protests, forcing his body to comply with her wishes.

I’ve always personally believed that body shaming was self-destructive in nature. I honestly don’t understand why people are so freaked out about nudity. We all have genitals. Most of the world has had sex. We were all born naked, it’s nature. It is implied that the rape of humanity by the life fibers causes society to be ashamed by its inferior, naked nature. Because of suppression by another species, our nature, our bodies becomes something to be ashamed of.

Ryuko starts out being ashamed by the skimpy look of Senketsu. But it is revealed that shame is what stops her from achieving maximum power, from reaching her true nature. Characters around Ryuko ogle and slut-shame her, but as the story continues and humanity gives its all against the life fibers, the idea of bodies as a sexualized thing becomes completely ridiculous. Towards the end of the series, the viewer isn’t scandalized nor titillated by the bodies being shown because we all sort of come to a realization that bodies are just nature.

This is what I love about this anime. In the quest for survival, humanity is stripped down to its natural state. By proving the strength of humanity without life fibers, without any clothing at all, they were able to defeat a superior species. The strength of humanity lies within its ability to persevere, not only in the ability to use tools to its advantage. It also alludes to the idea that if we can finally become comfortable with who we are, we can achieve great things.

Finally, I don’t believe the show is rape apologetic at all. The actions of all aggressors, Ryuko, Senketsu, the Kiruyins and the life fibers, are never glossed over or forgotten. The effect they have on one another is always remembered, from Ryuko lashing out at the people closest to her, to Satsuki’s domination of the people around her. Hell, even after the whole world is saved from the life fibers, people continue to wear clothing. Rape is a very difficult thing to get over, and it leaves its mark on victims in various ways. To gloss over and ignore what happened is the worst insult to rape victims, and I think this show does a decent job in showing those lasting effects.

OMG moments and stray thoughts:

  • Omg Mankanshoku family, why did you do that to Ryuko? These feels.

  • Pigs in human’s clothing? Does Lady Satsuki believe the concept of humanity is so alien that we could never really achieve it. This phrase suggests that humanity/civilization is inseparable from clothing and has nothing to do with our species. Also, it alludes to the livestock nature between man and the life fibers, but we never really get that until the plot is fully revealed. It’s an interesting thought.

  • Gamagoori, you are worse than me at driving. Seriously what are you even doing?

  • Ira, your Goku uniform is so messed up. I love it. He really is a pervert with an old man face.

  • Kiruyin chakra points.

  • Kuroido’s Hitler ‘stache.

  • Ryuko digging into her own brain. Wow I can’t even.

Quotes I like:

  • You're trying to distract me with its sexiness! — Takaharu Fukuroda


  • She may have lost the match, but she won with friendship! Winning with friendship means winning at life! — Mankanshoku Mako

  • “I swear you Kiryuins love to talk down to people” “I do. I am the one who knows everything in this world.”

  • We're really weak against stronger people! — Lightning Speed Mataro

  • Don't worry about it. The dead ones don't sue you. — Mankanshoku Barazo

  • It'll take more than the likes of you to make me cry! And even if I did shed a tear, I'd wipe it away myself! I would ask no one else to! — Ira Gamagoori

  • Every sentence about resolve.

  • People can suppress their desires through sheer willpower! — Ryuuko Matoi

  • When a girl changes her underwear, she forgets her past, too! — Nui Harime

  • Prepare to pummeled cheerfully, jauntily, and completely one-sidedly!— Nonon Jakuzure

That’s my ship!:

I am a shipper, so every review will come packaged with my favorite ship. Gamagoori and Mako is my ship for life.

Links to other opinions:


Written by: Asia Rachelle Thomas