Move over, Prince of Tennis – there’s a new challenger in town.
With its non-stop, frenetic, and breakneck pace, KILL la KILL will end up leaving no genre left untouched, unscathed, and un-parodied when all is said and done. The sheer epic-ness of the premiere somewhat overshadowed a thoroughly entertaining send-up of boxing action scenes like Hajime no Ippo, but this week the clear victim was none other than tennis action scenes like ones found in The Prince of Tennis series.
The tennis match (if you can even call it tennis) between Hakodate Omiko (Takahashi Chiaki) and Ryuuko was just as absurd and over-the-top as the first episode’s boxing bout. It is worth noting that through two main fights so far, there has been nary any mention of strategy or tactics. The battle shounen genre usually has a great deal of focus on these aspects, since every fight incorporates at least some discussion of fighting strategy and/or tactics. Opponents’ strengths and weaknesses are discussed, counter-measures are developed, and a new and secret move or weapon is held back until needed at the very last second. KILL la KILL eschews most of this formula completely. In these fights, the strategy all boils down to one thing: attacking with your fanciest and craziest attacks and do it as powerfully as you can. And if that somehow doesn’t work, use your sword. With such a simple formula to KILL la KILL’s battles, an argument could definitely be made that the series is a classic case of all style and no substance – but when its style is a fantastically addictive assault on the senses, is there really anything wrong with that label?
That said, there is a some semblance of substance in the story that is developing – if you can get past the zany humor permeating the rapid fire dialogue. We already knew Honnouji Academy is one hell of a militaristic institution with its uniforms and strict hierarchy and rules, but we now know a little more about the extent of its military culture.
It wasn’t too surprising to hear Sanageyama Uzu talk about the interleague tennis match in terms like “subjugate” and “armed suppression”, it does raise the question of whether these terms are in reality accurately describing what happens. Maybe all these academies do use their uniforms to battle one, under the guise of athletic competitions. With an entire city built around the base of the school, it’s not too farfetched to think of Honnouji as akin to a city-state of sorts and the academy itself as the castle/fortress.
The stratification of Honnouji students by ranks is not unusual at all, especially in light of how militaristic the Academy is, but the fact that this stratification extends even to their families’ housing is very unusual. If for some reason Mako were to be promoted in rank, does that mean her perverted back-alley doctor of a father would be promoted as well, becoming a doctor in an actual clinic or hospital? (By the way, it is hilarious to see anything back-alley so loudly advertised.) And what does this social hierarchy say about the condition of Japan in general in the universe of KILL la KILL? Satsuki mentions that “the masses have been domesticated by the establishment”, but is her comment merely an ironic one because she is part of the establishment, or is there another power at work here in the world of KILL la KILL that will eventually be revealed? Then again, another possibility is that all this “substance” to the story will actually turn out to be nothing at all and the show is just a series of epic battles filled to the brim with style, culminating with Ryuuko finding her father’s killer and that’s it.
Does all this style really need that much substance anyway? KILL la KILL already demands 110% of your attention during every single second with its lightning-fast dialogue, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it action, and fanservice for both boys and girls around every corner, which has made it easily one of the most entertaining shows of the season. Maybe this time, it is what’s on the outside that matters.
- Episode title:「気絶するほど悩ましい」 (Kizetsu suru hodo Nayamashii)
“So Sexy She Might Pass Out” (or you can go with “Swooningly Sexy”)
- Hilarious that Sengetsu has gaps in his memory, but can describe Matoi Isshin’s appearance with uncanny detail.
- Why stop at a nice round number like 100 million tennis balls? Let’s take it to 11(0) million!
- Watching Mikisugi Aikurou’s pointless stripping makes me wonder if that’s how girls feel when there’s pointless female fanservice. Nice of the show to turn the tables!