ANIME & MANGA - Article
14:27 - 1st April 2015, by David West

Uniform Blues : Kill La Kill

School. It’s where the raw, lumpy clay of young minds is moulded and smooshed into the shapes they will keep for the rest of their lives. It’s where learning, growth and development are nurtured and fostered with care and attention by dedicated teachers. It’s where you fight for your life with a giant scissor blade that you found buried in your father’s belly. For Ryuko Matoi, school, like war, is hell. Allow us to explain.

Class Warfare

At the top of a hill overlooking Tokyo Bay, much like Olympus gazing scornfully down on the mortals below, stands the educational behemoth that is Honnouji Academy. So much more than a mere school, Honnouji Academy’s influence extends far beyond the towering walls that surround it. The Academy controls the lives of the citizens that live in its shadow, rewarding the families of top pupils with lives of luxury, while condemning the relatives of the less academically gifted students to a life scrabbling in the dirt just to get by in the slums at the bottom of the hill. It’s a meritocracy gone berserk. To raise the stakes even higher, elite pupils receive special Goku uniforms that enhance their physical abilities. These uniforms are constructed using the wonder fabric known as Life Fibers, a mysterious substance that imparts the wearer of the uniform with fantastic super powers. There are three levels of Goku uniform – one-star uniforms made with 10% of Life Fibers, two-star outfits containing 20% Life Fibers, and finally, the coveted and knee-tremblingly mighty three-star uniforms sewn with 30% of Life Fibers. With a three-star uniform, a student has inhuman power and strength, but only four are currently in circulation.

The Frightful Four

Just four students have earned the prestigious right to shoulder the responsibility of the three-star Goku uniforms. The Elite Four, as they are known, play a vital role in the running of the school, from information gathering to overseeing extracurricular activities and keeping the drones of the student population in line. Ira Gamagoori is the head of the Discipline Committee and he wears his Goku uniform – called the Shackle Regalia – with pride. This muscular hulk with his blond hair embodies the idea of the Übermensch and he never hesitates to visit punishment on pupils who break the rules or threaten to bring Honnouji into disrepute. Imagine a Hall Monitor crossed with Judge Dredd and a pit-bull and you’re halfway there. If there is no one else to flagellate, Gamagoori will punish himself. He’s a little twisted that way.

Where Gamagoori brings the brawn, Houka Inumuta provides the brains, with his Probe Regalia uniform. As head of the Information And Strategy Committee, Inumuta is a dedicated dataphile, collecting facts and figures on every minutiae of the Honnouji student body. It’s not simple information gathering for its own sake. Inumuta puts all his data to use looking for ways to expand Honnouji’s influence and to undermine their enemies. He’s your archetypal evil genius, with the emphasis on evil.

Honnouji has a thriving sports programme with a plethora of clubs covering everything from tennis to boxing and kendo. Uzu Sanageyama is a dab hand with a shinai and he’s the member of the Elite Four who oversees all the athletics and sports related clubs. He’s also one of the deadliest fighters in the school, even when armed with nothing more lethal than a bamboo sword, thanks to the knockout combination of his Blade Regalia three-star Goku uniform and his ability to see every move his opponent makes. Can Ryuko’s scissor blade cut Sanageyama down to size?

The last member of this quartet of doom is the perennially smiling and cheerful Nonon Jakuzure, who is queen bee of the non-athletic clubs. If music is the soundtrack to our lives, in Jakuzure’s hands, it can just as easily become the swansong of her enemies, as she blasts them into oblivion with sound waves. Even as her target is demolished by decibels, Jakuzure keeps showing her pearly whites, smiling as she leads her band about the business of sonic slaughter. But when Ryuko stands defiant in the face of Jakuzure’s siren song, Honnouji’s queen of noise will turn her anger up to 11.

But as nigh-omnipotent as they are, the Elite Four are not the zenith of power in Honnouji. Standing alone at the pinnacle of the pecking order is one young woman on a mission.

Madame President

Satsuki Kiryuin, referred to by everyone as Lady Satsuki, is the President of the Student Council. Her authority is absolute, her demeanour ice cold, her confidence unshakeable. Armed with a katana that she wields with a skill to put Miyamoto Musashi to shame, Satsuki not only controls Honnouji, but has been working to extend her influence all across Japan. To what end, she hasn’t said. While her Elite Four all wear three-star Goku uniforms, Satsuki herself has access to a special class of uniform called a Kamui that is made entirely of Life Fibers. Most people who try to wear anything with more than 30% Life Fibers are consumed by the outfit and devolve into rampaging beasts, but Satsuki has such granite-like self belief that she is willing to risk her life by donning the Kamui uniform known as Junketsu. The name means purity, but are Satsuki’s motives pure of heart or is she driven by an insatiable hunger for absolute power? Purity seems a tall order in someone who refers to the residents around the school as pigs in human form. But what does she know about the identity of the killer who slew Ryuko’s father? That question brings us neatly to the lady of the hour and the star of the show.

Little Orphan Angry

Ryuko Matoi is the new transfer student at Honnouji. She has been travelling the land searching for the person who killed her father, Isshin, a scientist and inventor. She found him impaled with the blade from a giant pair of scissors, and ever since, she has been searching for whoever has the matching blade to the one she now wields in battle. Her quest for the murderer has led Ryuko to Honnouji Academy, where she believes Satsuki may have the answers she is seeking. However, while Matoi is tough, scrappy and determined, she meets her match when she attempts to take on the forces of Honnouji and is soundly trounced. Battered but unbowed, she discovers a sentient Kamui uniform called Senketsu that bonds with Ryuko by drinking her blood. Ryuko isn’t too wild about the way Senketsu barely covers her unmentionables in combat form, not to mention his vampiric thirst for her bodily fluids, but clad in her new super sailor suit, Ryuko may finally have enough strength to force the truth from Satsuki. Just as long as she doesn’t faint from blood loss and / or die from sheer embarrassment when everyone can see her butt in the skimpy outfit.

While Ryuko wages her one-girl crusade, she is not without allies. After arriving in Honnouji as a travelling vagrant, she is fortunate to meet Mako Mankanshoku. She might be the class ditz, with an uncanny talent for falling asleep the moment any teacher tries to fill her head with anything resembling knowledge, but Mako has a sweet, caring personality and quickly takes a shine to the new girl in town. Even at the risk of being turned into deep fried tempura, Mako becomes Ryuko’s first and only friend in the Academy, and takes Ryuko into her home, where she becomes part of the family alongside light-fingered little brother Mataro, patient mom Sukuyo, and back alley doctor dad Barazo. And a dog called Guts. They may be living in the slums – Mako is a no-star student and little Mataro is a natural-born truant – but they’re rich in love. And stuff that Mataro has stolen. That little rascal.

Resistance Is Nubile

As Satsuki extends her power and influence through her army of Goku uniformed minions, there are those brave few souls who stand opposed to her ascendance. The underground organisation known only as Nudist Beach plots in secret against the might of the Goku uniforms and the tyranny of clothing in general. Nudist Beach has agents undercover in the Academy, as well as lone operators like Tsumugu Kinagase who employs a sewing machine gun in battle. His customised weapon fires out sewing needles capable of disrupting and damaging Goku and Kamui uniforms, making him a real threat to Ryuko. Plus the sewing needles can double up as acupuncture needles, leaving their target feeling refreshed and free from any lingering ailments after a good jabbing. Proof that every cloud, even the sharp, pointy ones, can have silver linings.

So iron your best uniform and get ready to enrol at the school where brawling is a core requirement. It’s time to join Ryuko in her scantily clad quest for justice. Kill La Kill Collection 1 is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Anime Ltd.

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