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Review: “Kill la Kill Volume 3 Blu-ray (UK Edition)” – Puts Its Glad Rags On

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Kill La Kill Blu-ray Cover (UK Edition)The second volume of Kill la Kill ended with various big reveals. Satsuki was not the villain she appeared to be, her mother was plotting to offer humanity to alien life that was the genesis of clothing on Earth, and (perhaps most shocking of all) Ryuko was related to both of them: the long lost biological younger sister of Satsuki who was experimented on by their mother in the hopes of best fusing humans with the alien Life Fibres.

Ryuko takes this as well as one might expect, which is to say not at all, as the cliffhanger from the previous set showed. Disgusted with herself, she abandons her loyalties thus far and elects to target Ragyo in a brutal rampage. The problem is that by this point we’ve seen Ryuko lose heart a few times, so this comes off as material too well-worn to carry the obviously intended dramatic punch. What it does allow, however, is a nice case of role reversal when Ryuko’s rampage sees her play into the enemies hands and Satsuki must step up as the only one with any chance of stopping her.

As I was having to discuss a ton of episodes and introduce the story last time, I couldn’t really discuss the villains but they are a treat. Anime is famous for having unique, scary and bombastic villains, but few match up to the likes of Ragyo and her hellspawn surrogate daughter Nui Harime. Ragyo is the kind of terrifying enigma of a villain who, despite having plenty of screen time, never betrays the inner workings of her mind to other characters or the audience. Wholeheartedly fixated on serving the Life Fibres and offering them the rest of humanity, she’s a chilling mix of having a clear intent but shadowy motivations for exactly why she pursues this end. Normally that could be seen as the sign of a poor antagonist, but in a time when anime increasingly seems to feel that a sob story on a deathbed can excuse the very worst behavior, it’s nice to see a return to a villain who is swift and unapologetic. She also pulls it off with an incredible sense of style, a factor where art direction, animation, voice acting (the always incredible Romi Park), and musical score really come together. Kill la Kill has an incredible soundtrack in general, with Ragyo’s theme being a prime example of how haunting and hard-hitting it can be.

Nui is also a lot of fun. Much like Ragyo, on the surface she’s something long term anime fans will have seen before: the cute girly girl who is in fact an elite, psychopathic killer. Nui is raised beyond this troubling cliché for what an active troll she is, frequently defying and weaponising the visual conventions of the show she’s in. She leans on the massive on-screen descriptive text, can touch someone she’s sharing a split screen with, etc. There’s no doubt that she’s a villain, and both cast and audience are given good reason to want to see her taken down. However, she’s so entertaining you don’t mind waiting for that moment and the odd moments of one-upmanship Ryuko and the others get along the way are all the more satisfying. It’s a bit like the classic Batman and Joker dynamic: we laugh at the Joker’s black humour and trickery because ultimately we know he’s got a date with the hammers of justice.  It’s the same with Nui, and without giving anything away she receives a particularly cathartic piece of payback before all is said and done.

Kill la KillThe endgame is the chief focus of the disc, with the final five episodes primarily covering it. It’s not my absolute favourite anime finale, but it’s easy to see Trigger put their heart into it as we get a chain of epic moments which are then successively outdone. This goes to such lengths that both opening and endings songs are used to punctuate the seeming final victory, only for another one of the four having to be used for the next. This could wear out its welcome but actually lends more impact to the moment and feels right at home in a series so joyously playing with the formula of TV anime.

Included in the episode order is the bonus 25th episode OVA. This serves as an epilogue to the plot while providing one final adventure for those who survived. I’m mixed on this; although it does add some nice further closure to the ending and addresses some issues about Satsuki’s actions vs her motivations, I’m not 100% convinced it’s needed to end the story. It certainly ties back to the starting point with its focus on graduation, and the villain of the piece was intentionally left as such from the TV run, but it’s more of a cheerful coda than a necessity. In some ways, it actually works better if sampled with a gap from the show’s finale, since points of it are clearly nostalgic nods and gags for fans.

The other stand out extra is “Naked Memories,” a short comedic series recap narrated by Ryuko’s teacher/Nudist Beach commander Aikuro Mikisugi…or as some might know him, actor Shinichiro Miki. This is an amusing little piece, primarily for the Max Headroom editing every time nudity is mentioned, and it brought back memories of a similarly entertaining in-character recap Shinichiro did for Gundam 00. Similar to other releases, there are also textless openings and endings and a collection of next episode previews.  The release also comes with yet another glossy art book and, in something of a coup, a UK exclusive collector box to hold all three volumes, styled after the trademark red and black colour scheme of Ryuko and Senketsu.

Kill la KillBlu-ray continues to do this show great justice. The incredible use of lighting and colour continues and looks all the more magnificent in HD. I fully appreciate that some simply can’t budget for a Blu-ray player or have other reasons for sticking with DVD but this show is a great advocate for upgrading to the blue donuts as your physical media.

Both English and Japanese cast are again present but my personal preference is to the latter. Ami Koshimizu’s continued spot on delivery of Ryuko’s deadpan snarkiness wins out for me and with this being the epic finale it’s very hard for anyone to outdo the Japanese in hot blooded yelling.

So, Kill la Kill. While it is a lot of fun, I think it has the same problem as Hiroyuki Imaishi’s past works (such as Panty and Stocking and Gurren Lagann) in wanting to take stuff to the next level, but not completely going all out. It definitely builds off the strengths of those past shows and is a great television debut for Trigger as a studio, but I found that sometimes the elements of direct reference and parody left me wanting more for the original flavour that other parts of the show had. The idea of clothing being a malevolent alien force is certainly original, and characters like Ryuko and Satsuki are greatly welcome in an industry which often feels afraid of promoting legitimately strong women.

When all is said and done I think the positives win out. There’s a lot of engaging style here in the characters, the humour, the music, and of course the visuals. It might not be perfectly tailored, but like that trusty item of clothing in your wardrobe, you know it’s durable and comfortable to wear.

Kill la Kill Volume 3 is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon UK.