'Kill la Kill' full series review: sick karate fights

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When I die in some manner of an action movie-esque fight scene (I’m hoping for a sick karate fight) and the story of my life is a footnote in some film student’s thesis about sick karate fights, I would like them to note that I took not one, but two opportunities to write about the Japanese animated television show, “Kill la Kill,” for an otherwise professional institution. These are resources created for the expressed purpose of creating an excellent paper, and I’m using it to talk about how Zoolander meets Sailor Moon.

Anyway, I’m going to assume you’ve read my review of the show’s first half because there won’t be much in the way of recap here. Short version: clothes exist because of alien fibers, the main villain is basically Anime Lady Mugatu and people get basically naked before punching each other through walls.

There are many times in my “Kill la Kill” mid-season review where I expressed both anticipation for the show’s concluding episodes and concern over the possible exploitation of female characters. I’ll be continuing both threads here, so if you’re just looking for a quick recommendation, I’m sorry to disappoint. I love the show but there’s a good chance you’ll hate it.

In my mid-season review, I said that your interpretation of the skimpy outfits comes down to how much faith you put in this production, but my stance has somewhat changed. Personally, I think “Kill la Kill” is about body positivity (inasmuch as a show that only exists because “fashion” and “facisim” sound the same in Japanese can be really “about” anything) but that fan service still exists.

Intention and context are definitely important, but the cheesecake is still there. You can argue there’s some underlying thematic context and hey, maybe you’re right. But women in this show barely wear clothes. In fairness, “Kill la Kill” may be one of the few shows that (after Episode Three, as I said in my previous review) straddles the line between objectification and sexualization. Yes, the women have skimpy clothes, but they’re not usually objects for men to leer at within the reality of the show.

When protagonist Ryuko activates her sentient uniform’s latent powers, she goes from clothed to barely covered. But this transformation usually precedes a sick karate fight of some kind, so is “Kill la Kill” sexist or just a little too preoccupied with breasts? I don’t know, and I’m not the right person to answer that question. It is just something to think about.

In fairness, it’s a little difficult to consider big topics like objectification when the action and character beats are this spectacula. “Kill la Kill” spends each new installment one-upping itself, leaving viewers drooling with anticipation for the next episode.

What makes “Kill la Kill” so effective is very simple: context. The world of Honnouji Academy is not a large one, so once the players and tools have been properly introduced, the show spends the rest of its time messing around with the stuff it already has.

New elements are certainly introduced, preventing the show from stagnating, but the new wrinkles have ties to characters or things we’ve already seen. “Kill la Kill” is more about shuffling the deck than adding new cards. It pushes the existing aspects to their logical extremes, having wrung every last drop when the show’s finale rolls around.

“Kill la Kill” has its problems, most of which I – as a man – am unequipped to properly tackle. But as a story – as a dumb, ridiculous, insane series of escalating fights attached to a story – it “gets” episodic storytelling in a way most shows don’t. “Kill la Kill” was created with an end in mind. It doesn’t have to worry about renewal. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. It is a full, episodic story.

And that’s sicker than a sick karate fight.

Mike Cosimano is a first-year psychology major. He can be reached at cosimanowhite@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyMCosimano.