When Ryuko (voice of Ami Koshimizu)'s father is murdered, she travels to Honnouji Academy to discover the identity of his killer with one half of a scissor that was used to kill him, looking for the holder of the other half. In this instalment, Ryuko and Satsuki (Ryoka Yuzuki) try to settle their recent conflicts while battling against Ragyo (Romi Park), Nui (Yukari Tamura) and the Original Life Fibre, as Graduation Day approaches at the academy.
So we come to the final showdown between Ragyo Kiriyin and her lieutenant Nui Hime and the rest of the combined forces of Nudist Beach and Honnouji Academy. Of course in the final episode of the last volume, Ryuko Matoi and Satsuki Kiryuin were destroyed by Ragyo's attacks. Satsuki is now imprisoned in the academy dungeon (they've got one of those?) and Ryuko after finding out the revelation of her true parentage wants nothing to do with Senketsu, Nudist Beach, Mako or anyone else. All she wants is to kill Nui and to defeat Ragyo. Of course, she's going into a trap, we know it, her friends know it but she's got to go anyway. All the fights, the contests, working her way toward the end fight with Satsuki has led her into this hellish battle for not only the truth but, now that she knows what she really is, her soul as well. I'm not spoiling it for you that she gets soundly defeated.
In this volume, director Hiroyuki Imaishi and writer Kazuki Nakashima build on the revelations of the previous few episodes and design a framework that is one part gladiatorial showdown and one part internal psychological reflection. Satsuki and Ryuko are sisters, the parents of Ragyo and Dr. Matoi who was the husband of Ragyo. This truth throws Satsuki and destroys Ryuko. Not finished, Ragyo's plans are finally laid bare. The life fibers are a spaceborne entity that rise up the intelligence of a species until they are sufficient to harvest. Once this happens, the life fibers cover the planet, much like a virus, then explode spreading back out into space and starting the cycle all over again. Imaishi's inventiveness reconstructs a plot to take over the world into a plot to wipe out all life on earth. By the time the show starts, Ragyo and the REVOCS group have already taken over the planet, it's just a matter of waiting until the original life fiber entity is ready to blossom. We should be getting ready for the mother of all fights but instead we stay focused in Ryuko who is hurting from the revelation that she's not completely human and in her anger falls prey to weakness and is subverted into a weapon. This sort of thing usually happens in magical girl shows but not in so violent and submissive a manner. There, the hero might fall but they're back to their old self in an episode or so and nothing else bad happens. Not in Kill La Kill. Nui and Ragyo literally bond Ryuko into the resurrected Junketsu against her will. It's like Evangelion but with the kamui suit instead of Shinji's dad. After being on the ropes in the last volume, Ryuko's exit and fall from grace actually frees up Nudist Beach and the Elite Four to go all out and free both of the girls from their bonds, defeat Ragyo and destroy the Life Fibers. I felt that they were better once Satsuki is rescued and she puts them to work getting ready for the fight. They spend way too much time bickering with each other and while I'm a big fan of KLK's ability to walk off the beaten track and launch joke after joke, nutty line after nutty line, here it doesn't work if Mako's not in the scene. Aya Suzaki performance as Mako is superb with her super fast delivery and ability to turn a screech into a whisper instantly. So once Satsuki comes back, the two teams have a purpose and a goal. One thing that I did think was pass remarkable is that Satsuki does not display any preference toward saving her sister during the fight yet in the back of my mind, the amazing strategist that Satsuki is, I felt she was deliberately focusing on Ryuko first when she could have started into the grand plan sooner. Yes, I know that Ryuko being the more powerful of the two sisters would guarantee the best fighter is going up against Ragyo and Nui. But she couldn't know that she could save her sister from the brainwashing she was suffering from. Also, full props for turning your secret Nudist Beach underground HQ into the world's largest battleship that looks like a blade AND a phallic symbol.
Along the way, we saw that the parts of anime that we roll our eyes at (the heroine has to be naked in a transformation scene/there's a character who exists as an information dump for the audience) are the parts that KLK sings the loudest about. It's a magical girl show where the hunky side character spends his time hitting on her. The transformation scenes would make Go Nagai blush (not really). It shows that the fans who oogle at magical girl characters are doing it all wrong. Here, you want to oogle, TRY THIS ON FOR SIZE!!!! The shonen fighting show parts are turned all the way up with people loudly proclaiming that their opponant was foolish to try that last attack. Why, because HERE'S AN EVEN BIGGER ATTACK!!! It also celebrates the weird and the crazy people in the world multiple times. The Mankanshoku family are the only people who took Ryuko in and they are the crazy heartbeat of the show, fueling Ryuko to do more and fight harder and in the final episodes, they transfer that energy that the family gives off to the rest of Nudist Beach and the Elite Four. It doesn't matter that the Four and Satsuki were trying to destory them earlier in the show to get to Ryuko. For Mako's family, if you're fighting for them, they're fighting for you. The best parts of the episodes are the dialogue scenes between Ragyo/Nui/Ryuko/Satsuki/Senketsu as they battle to prove their point. Every time, either side slips for a second, it costs them. For our heroes, this is a bad thing as we see Satsuki struggling to face her little sister in combat and simply cannot work with Senketsu the same way that Ryuko did. And when Ryuko forgets teamwork with Senketsu and others, it costs her badly. But on the other hand, every time one of the girls slaps their mother's plans, it is so sweet. Nui's voice actors did such a good job selling the idea that she's a complete sociopath that when she is thwarted or when her limbs are violently removed, I cheered (I know, I need help). We cheer as the last two episodes lineup and we know that once Ryuko comes to her senses that some serious arse is going to be kicked. This reviewer fist pumped the air on his lonesome when "DON'T LOSE YOUR WAYYYYY!!!" sang out from the screen and the girls suited up for one last time. Even with the insane historics of Ragyo's plan (complete with mad cackling) in full swing, we never doubt that the fight's going to go the Matoi sisters way because the show has a healthy respect for a job rewarded. Also, it goes without saying that the show continues to shine in the animation department all the way to the end, with amazing art and character designs on show as we enter into the truly epic and mind boggling size and complexity of both Nudist Beach and their tech and Ragyo and her master plan to rule the universe from beyond the grave (sorry, I had to say it). From the swooping visuals of the two girls and their attacks, the way that every epic explosion looks epic to the constant motion of characters as they move about their stage, KLK is a great opening statement from Studio TRIGGER.
The voice acting on both sides of the show are great with the Japanese side winning out if only because there's so much more depth in their performances. That's not to say that Erica Mendez as Ryuko or Carrie Keranen as Satsuki were not good. They give it their all and never make me doubt they're not in it with conviction. But on the Japanese side, Ami Koshimizu as Ryoko just blows away the rest of the cast for sheer longevity in how far she goes in this round of episodes. From the forlorn to manic, she sells a character in a state of transformation as the anger and misdirected rage of the first two thirds of the show gives way to a warrior hellbent on finally meeting the mother she must kill on her own terms. But not to be outdone, Ryōka Yuzuki as Satsuki goes from the captive to the master strategist again with the authoritarian performance again from earlier but without the haughtiness of being in charge. She's in command but she's no longer the boss. The two leads start the volume at odds but I like how they gel with each other to the point that they know they are more alike than different and that in their own way, they each have their own band of misfits that would die for them and so would die. For sheer "madwoman on the mountain screaming at the sky" skill, Romi Park as Ragyo is the dog's proverbial. She just eats every scene she's in alive with that silky voice, lazily informing all concerned that they're doomed. When the crazy button is flipped, yeah, Yukari Tamura as Nui is plenty nuts but Park's Ragyo knows that she's crazy and doesn't care either way. All will die and so forth.
Hiroyuki Imaishi had so much to prove with KLK when he left Studio GAINAX and co-founded TRIGGER. We all laughed when their first show out of the gate to get mainstream exposure was the redoubtable Inferno Cop and thought this was a group of people who knew when and how to subvert the conventions of the medium. But for their main opening salvo on anime fans, they choose to create KLK. Both an affirmation of and a complete deconstruction of the magical girl, shonen fighting and high school drama genres in anime, the show in its final volume allows fans to look back over the whole bloody affair to see that the pieces of the final battle to stop the Life Fibers who are in league with Ragyo from destroying the world were sewn before the show ever started. When Ryuko challenged Satsuki from the bottom of Honnouji Academy, they were two avatars of a cast that was destined to clash and merge together. Even if there's ever a second season, the show gets to the end and has said everything it needs to. KLK is that rare show in anime that knows it HAS to wrap up all its storylines. After having this much information thrown at us, we expect that it should end conclusively. The fights with the rebel schools, the destruction of the academy by REVOCS and the eventually allying of Nudist Beach and the Elite Four. All of this would have to be accounted for and Imaishi and Nakashima should be applauded for working so many lines together in the final, loud and proud volume of Kill La Kill.