Aside from my complaints on pretension, there’s a lot of fun going on at Digibro’s blog about Kill la Kill episode 3.
And in some ways, with OreTsuba now on US home video (Funimation, I respect you for at least this) maybe it’s good to revisit what this really means.
The past few years has been a turning point in terms of late-night otaku anime fanservice. On one hand, I think the overall quality has gotten better. It’s like with shows like Ladies x Butler and Kanokon, we’ve kind of scratched all the itch left to be scratch for any demographic whose itching is worth scratching, monetarily and in terms of popularity. 2009 to 2011 was high time to start to pivot, for various reasons, but also this reason.
Did anyone watch Yozakura Quartet Hana no Uta 2? My goodness. And Kill la Kill episode 3 has that…windboobzone thing?
I would take a step back and say that the fanservice in Kill la Kill is authentic and unpretentious in a way that fanservice is just fanservice. But it is kind of annoying in the normal moral high ground sort of way, as if it is saying something that is more worth saying than, say, Arpeggio. [I mean, if this was part of the discourse, I would respect Kill la Kill more. Like how I respect Panty & Stockings slightly more at this point, over Kill la Kill.]
Arpeggio is a good example in this regard because it’s in a lot of ways the polar opposite of Kill la Kill. The 3DCG use looks great when they are stills but terrible when moving in Arpeggio, and in KLK it’s great when things are always moving, and not as much when things stops spazzing. The story in Arpeggio is serious, but the fanservice is baked into the conceit of the story. The story in KLK is a commonly run trope full of hooks for reference bait, but it takes itself very casually. Arpeggio is the fulfillment of this concept, except trading jokes for fanservice (of a different kind). Kill la Kill is a drama vehicle about fanservice (so far).
So in a way, it’s appropriate to talk comparisons between a good anime and a questionable-at-best anime (just ask an Arpeggio manga reader).
And let’s talk about sexy for a second. Take this post for instance. I am not sure how many Bentens will appear in Kill la Kill. Or even the simple, next-door-girl type, Aika Fuwa. But this is one pivot. Short of going all the way home, thematically and in terms of consistency (best example off top of my head would be Yosuga no Sora), fanservice’s native advantage is that it is database-modular, you can pick it up and drop it in, or you could co-opt it wholesale. So YZQ and KLK are on the two opposite sides of this spectrum (although neither is at the ends, I think), while Infinite Stratos is very clearly going for just sexy characters, as an example of the middle ground.
Which is to say, it’s not really about pretenses, because that’s just a method. Pretension is necessary in a story like Kill la Kill, if we want to talk about shame, rape, the Nth reference to Utena-esque uniforms, or whatever. (Every time someone makes a reference to Utena in a blog post about KLK, God kills a kitten.) It’s why Madoka is pretentious or Evangelion is pretentious. Not a big deal, really, but, the story in Kill la Kill has to rely on pretend conceits and presupposed frameworks that can be challenged, like the whole Satsuki thing–the dress, the clansmanship, the class differences, the way her underlings work, the power structure, how she manipulate things to her own ends, and finally, her character construct. In as much as LordGenome (really?) and Kamina’s SOP is kind of a conceit, it’s easy to see the same sort of narrative style in Kill la Kill in which we have to ride the amusement park ride and see the theme fly by before our eyes, along with all the eye candy and Hell Yes moments.
How can an anime that casually drops the rise of Hitler to power not be pretentious? That’s like the Corollary to Godwin’s Law if such a thing was to exist. You know what’s not a pretentious fanservice anime? High School DxD. Infinite Stratos. Probably Yuusibu. Maybe even Freezing. In some ways, also those usual high school hijinks shows like Kyoukai no Kanata and Nagiasu. Why? Because it’s just normal fanservice, served up the way they know best and most appropriate to the work. It’s not some kind of pretend imagery that empowers women or whatever. I mean, nothing wrong with that, but that is pretension by definition. It’s a pivot.
PS. Chris B. reviews Funi’s Blu-ray and finally gets it, but is nonetheless marred by his first impression.
PPS. This post is brought to you by the word “pandering” which is the onii-chan of the word “pretentious” because like, give me a break. I would rather talk about moe (which I haven’t in a couple years?) than any of this.