Anime: Kill la Kill Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Boobs

Kisner tells us why fan service is not always a bad thing.

"Sorry. This is not the
poster for Kick Ass 3."
After much prodding from my fellow anime aficionados, I finally give Trigger’s spastic Kill la Kill series a watch. Once I finished the first episode, I was completely hooked. Kill la Kill is one of the best anime series I have EVER seen, and it is a much needed kick in the ass for the genre in general. At its heart, it is a “magical girl” anime, not unlike Sailor Moon; however, it completely turns that paradigm on its head and cranks everything up to maximum awesome levels. 

It’s everything that has ever been right about anime and it gives you what you want in gratuitous amounts. Kill la Kill is positively hedonistic in its presentation, giving you an ice cream sundae with every topping you could ever desire and throwing ten cherries on top. Have you ever heard the phrase “gilding the lily?” Trigger gilds the ever-loving hell out of this lily and makes zero apologies for it.

Kill la Kill takes place in an academy run by a powerful no-nonsense woman named Satsuki Kiryuin. She rules with an iron-fist, but is suddenly challenged by Ryuko Matoi, a new girl attending the school with a mysterious past and a personal mission. Both school master and student acquire sentient magical school girl outfits that allow them to transform into super-powered versions of themselves, and thus begins a series of spectacular battles. I've never met a transformation sequence I didn’t like, but the ones in Kill la Kill are absolutely breathtaking. They are animated very well, and even though they happen frequently, they never get tiresome.

"Respect my authority...
or at least my outfit!"
The most controversial aspect of this series is its commitment to fan service. Once the girls transform, their new outfits are absolutely scandalous. They are left wearing fetish/bondage clothes when they're ready for battle, and nothing is left to the imagination. The transformation sequence itself zooms in lovingly on every one of their body parts, and it is intentionally done to be titillating and sexual. Is it exploitation of the female body? Perhaps. On the flip side of the coin, there is an equal amount of male skin on display as well. In fact, every single person on the show gets naked at some point or another! The nudity is played mostly for laughs as opposed to being lecherous.

Many hard line feminists make arguments like this to me: “Michelle, as a female, you should be appalled at the blatant exploitation of the female body. How can you like this trash?! Fight the patriarchy that is inherent in all anime!” I’ll tell you why I'm not bothered by it: It shows the female leads kicking ass and taking names. They are never at a disadvantage because they are half naked. They are free to expose every part of themselves without feeling the shame imposed upon them from society. Being naked is celebrated in this anime, as a way to show people being empowered by who they really are, not just by what they portray on the surface.

"Doctor, please look at these.
I have some strange infection."
The animation is lavish and expertly done.  All the character designs and backgrounds are stylized and inventive. Every single battle scene is dynamic and amazing with some of the best fight choreography I have ever seen.  There is not a single wasted episode in Kill la Kill and the pacing is perfect. It just continuously ramps up to dizzying heights of insanity and when you think it can’t go any further…it does. Even the soundtrack is incredible (and it’s done by the same composer as Attack on Titan).

So what if there are boobs?  Nudity does not always mean a lack of quality. Yes, there is some anime that uses sexy girls to make up for shortcomings elsewhere, (Queen’s Blade, I’m looking in your direction), but Kill la Kill is legitimately well-made, and it just happens to feature sexy naked men and women. If anyone bypasses this show just because of some under boob, then they are missing out on a great series, and also missing the point entirely. I implore people to give this show a chance and be open-minded about its choice to embrace nudity instead of demonize it.

-Michelle Kisner