Considering that the studio is for all intents and purposes defunct, the first two days of the Fall season have a remarkably Gainax feel to them. The influences their work had on Kyusogiga are obvious (and there are a few staff crossovers as well), and now we have Kill la Kill – by far the highest-profile project yet from Imaishi Hiroyuki’s Studio Trigger. This was possibly the most anticipated series of the season along with Kyoukai no Kanata (which defeated it by a single vote in the LiA preview poll), and with both shows at the front-end of the season schedule Fall 2013 is hitting the ground running in a way we don’t usually see.
My anticipation level for Kill la Kill was off the charts, but for whatever reason I’ve had an unsettling feeling that this show was going to be a disaster – there was just something in the previews and description that made me feel as if Imaishi was trying too hard here (as he did in Panty & Stocking, which some loved but which for me was mostly a misstep). I’m happy to report that the premiere was nowhere near a disaster – in fact is was rousingly entertaining, though I do have some concerns about whether this kind of series can hold up over two cours.
The bloodlines of KlK are pretty impeccable – Imaishi directing, fellow Gainax legend Sushio repeating his TTGL roles as Animation Director and Character Designer, and my old pal Koyama Shigeto (BONES and Gainax veteran of Eureka Seven fame) providing Art Direction. Most crucially, unlike with P & S Imaishi is teamed with TTGL writer Nakashima Kazuki, who also wrote the superb Oh! Edo Rocket. It’s Nakashima-sensei’s involvement that gives me hope that Kill la Kill is going to be more Gurren-Lagann than Panty & Stocking, with a story that will give it staying power once the wacky visuals and even wackier humor are no longer enough to carry the series on their own.
It’s too early to say if that will happen – in the premiere the story and characters are very much secondary to the pure bombast – but I did enjoy it much more than the premiere of P & S w/GB. KlK almost rivals Kyousogiga for pure energy, though the premise is much more accessible – we have a crazy school called Honnouji Academy where the Student Council rules in an abject reign of terror, helped by magical star-rated “Goku” uniforms, that give them superpowers. The strongman of the outfit is Gamagouri Ira (Inada Tetsu), but the real power is in the hands of President Kiryuin Satsuki (Yuzuki Ryouka), whose father in the head of the school’s board of directors. There are a number of other introductions with some famed seiyuu behind them, but the standout is Sports Club President Sanageyama Uzu (Hiyama Nobuyuyki, one of my favorites, who played Viral in TTGL).
Into this madness steps transfer student heroine Matoi Ryuuko (the excellent Koshimizu Ami), wielding half a giant red scissors. She calls out the Prez immediately, and is promptly taught a lesson by Sangeyama and his Goku gloves. Turns out she’s looking for the person who killed her father, leaving half the giant scissors behind – and she gets a little help from teacher Mikisugi Aikurou (Miki Shinichirou) who seems intent on overthrowing the Student Council. He points her towards a talking sailor uniform (Seki Toshihiko) which quite hilariously forces itself onto her body, granting her superpowers of her own which allow her to pummel the Boxing Club Captain to a pulp. Along the way we also meet genki airhead Mankashoku Mako (Suzaki Aya), who appoints herself Ryuuko’s “bestie”, and her little brother Mataro (Fujimura Ayumu), who fancies himself a street punk and fills the ecchi-obsessed bozu role.
One gets the sense very quickly that this is the sort of world where logic and conventional plot rules are going to be irrelevant, and characters arcs aren’t really going to be the point. It’s very, very silly, gleefully stupid and utterly frenetic – the feeling is of a bunch of overgrown boys (and a few girls) cut loose in the studio with no supervision, and having way too much fun. The premiere is also peppered with clever visuals, like introducing Ryuuko as she’s biting into a lemon (it makes the point), and the way she kicks a fallen microphone into her hand to call out the Student Council for a rematch. It’s also a master class in how to take a limited budget and make a show look really good: Imaishi and Sushio use a combination of very brief sakuga animation sequences, very discreet CGI and lots of cheap still frames passed off as stylish choices and come up with something far more distinctive than most episodes that likely cost more. This is a two-cour show, and I imagine Imaishi is well aware of what he has to work with financially – it’s his studio and he knows the limitations, so I expect the visuals to continue to be solid.
The question for me is, will there be enough interest in the story and characters to keep Kill la Kill fresh for two cours? The raw energy and sense of fun in the premiere is undeniable, but it’s hard to keep coming up with new craziness for 24-26 episodes (P & S couldn’t do it for 13). But Imaishi likely handled series composition himself there (under the pen name “Geek Fleet”) and it’s Nakashima that may be the key to keeping Kill la Kill powering to the finish line. He’s a terrific writer, inside anime and out, and the best reason to hope that Kill la Kill is going to be more than raw energy and irreverence and amount to something truly substantial, a series that allows Trigger to stake their claim as a new power in the anime industry. As a fan of Gainax, there’s little that would make me happier than to see it succeed.
ED: “Gomen ne, Iiko ja Irarenai. (ごめんね、いいコじゃいられない。)” by Miku Sawai