I am probably going to get a lot of negative comments about this, but I strongly feel that it needs to be said: the final episode of Kill la Kill was disappointing for me.
Back in my January post, I wrote that “I don’t care how the series ends now…”. Oh how I wish I could take back those words, because it seems that I may have jinxed the finale. The ending is very unsatisfying. There was one giant, climatic battle, but it leaves you feeling half-full after the battle ends, and all of a sudden, the credits start rolling without giving the viewer any time to cool down.
Ryuko ascends into a Super Saiyan (in almost every sense of that term), but this is handled very poorly without proper build-up. She just suddenly asks everyone to lend her their power, to lend her their Goku Uniforms. She just bulldozes into Ragyo’s attacks, relying on her regeneration to keep her alive (gee Ragyo, why don’t you aim for her HEAD to kill her in one decapitating blow?). And then the deus ex machina moment of Ryuko becoming stronger every time she regenerates, and her ability to absorb both Ragyo’s Absolute Submission field AND Shinra-Koketsu together.
What the hell?? That’s it? We the viewers, are expected to accept that at face-value? There is no credible reason given to explain why Ryuko is winning. This is a sharp U-turn from the previous duels in the show, where Ryuko would always have to dig deep to find a gutsy way to win, or find some witty tactic or mental epiphany to give her that psychological edge. The resolution of the showdown with Ragyo feels very cheap and lazy.
The beauty of Dragon Ball Z is that when Goku turned Super Saiyan or used the Spirit Bomb, there was ample build-up to those moments. Krillin was killed by Frieza, forcing Goku to discard his compassionate side and to embrace his anger in order to ascend to the next level. The summoning of the Spirit Bomb on Namek was one of my favourite moments in the show, because it was tranquil, almost surreal how Goku had to slowly but steadily draw power from other lifeforms.
Now imagine taking all of that out, all of that emotional build-up from DBZ, and showing Goku transforming instantly into a Super Saiyan. Or summoning the Spirit Bomb instantly. That’s exactly how Ryuko’s battle against Ragyo feels like. We are unable to feel that Ryuko has deserved her victory, we cannot emphatise with her during the fight.
I suspect that Trigger simply ran out of time and money to produce the final few episodes, and were forced to cobble out something watchable. Everything felt rushed, and you can clearly see that the quality of the animation for the last two episodes has dropped tremendously — there are a lot of still frames and lazy animation techniques. Take this moment from episode 23, when Ryuko attempts to deal her deathblow to Ragyo. It happens from 11:32 to 11:38:
Ryuko’s animated body does not move. Her lips aren’t even moving when she is screaming “Sen-i Soshitsu!” The camera is merely panning up and down, and zooming back and forth on the same stationary animation frame. Her blade strikes that follow are just as bad:
Why couldn’t this attack be animated normally? Why resort to the lazy method of depicting her sword strikes as flashes of moving light? I have watched over two decades worth of action shows, from Samurai Jack to Equilibrium, from Kill Bill to Hard Boiled to Once Upon a Time in China. Believe me when I say that I know good action scenes when I see one. This is not good action.
Remember the first duel between Ryuko and Satsuki in episode 3? Look at the effort put in to really animate that fight, the beautiful camera panning as the view shifts back and forth across the battlefield and around the two combatants. Or their second duel in episode 15, where the scene is split-screened like a comic book to show the expressions of both Ryuko and Satsuki at the same time. This is good action. Good action is when the viewer is able to fully immerse themselves in the fight, and still understand who is winning/losing the fight, and why.
There are several more examples of poor animation in the last two episodes, but this was the best one that I found. Please understand that I am not trying to bash KLK: I still enjoyed the series as a whole, and I still believe that it is one of the best animated shows to have come out in recent years. I am not angry, just… disappointed because I know that Trigger can do better than this, and I want them to do better for their next project.
Hopefully the success and popularity of Kill la Kill will give them enough money to produce more quality works that are consistent. I’m still hoping that there will be some sort of “director’s cut” version of the final episodes for the full Blu-ray box release. It did happen for the remastered DVD release of Neon Genesis Evangelion, where several deleted scenes were added, so why not?
Don’t lose your way, Trigger. This is the way to make anime more strong again.