What They Say:
Honnouji Academy – where the school is ruled by students clad in special outfits called Goku Uniforms. Deriding the student body as “pigs in human clothing,” Student Council President Satsuki Kiryuin, along with her loyal underlings, the Elite Four, has the academy under their absolute control.
One day, a vagrant schoolgirl named Ryuko Matoi appears and tries to get Satsuki, who recognizes her Scissor Blade, to talk. Was their encounter a mere coincidence or fate? The clash between the two will soon consume the whole academy!
The audio presentation for this release is definitely solid as we get the original Japanese language track and the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the uncompressed PCM format in stereo. The series is one that definitely plays big with the action as it’s almost a constant series of events and the forward soundstage makes out very well with this mix. Dialogue is all over the map as it should be and the big action sounds hit hard with great placement and some solid impact and oomph throughout. We sampled both tracks but largely stuck to the Japanese mix and the end result is a show that definitely has one of the better stereo mixes out there and isn’t afraid to just have fun with it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013 and 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The Blu-ray release has four episodes for this set that gets its own disc while the same four are on their own DVD as well in the set. The high definition release is something that a lot of fans really do want in the end as we get the whole thing practically set at the 39-41mbps bit rate and that means bold, striking colors with a lot of pop that can handle the high motion and detail in a great way. The show has a lot going on here and the detail is strong, the colors look great and the whole disc is pretty much gorgeous to look at. While I’m sure someone could find fault with something somewhere with it, the whole thing is simply a fantastic looking experience on our setup.
The packaging for this release is definitely nicely done, though I would have preferred a heavier chipboard box to go with it rather than this lighter one. The main panel of the box gives us Satsuki looking all serious as the lights blink around her. We get a simple beige background and a dull red logo that does work for what it’s trying to do here as all the pop and color is with Satsuki herself. The back panel does the same thing but gives us Ryuko as our main character and changes the stars from blue to red to fit in with her design better. Within the box we get to clear Blu-ray cases that gives us a look at Satsuki for the soundtrack disc and Ryuko for the DVD/BD case. It’s done as a good bit of black and white artwork with the beige background instead. There’s little to the back cover but the reverse side breaks down what’s on the discs. For the soundtrack, that means exploring the tracks while also listing all the relevant credits. For the DVD/BD case, it’s a breakdown of the episodes by number and title.
Also included in this release is a great little foldout poster for the two lead characters here fighting while the reverse side is a decent group shot of some of Satsuki’s supporters. We also get a fantastic postcard set of high quality that shows off the characters and settings from the show in a great way that leaves you wanting to frame and hang them up on the wall.
The menu design for this release is kept pretty simple but it works well and you can see how it’ll grow and change over the course of the run. The layout uses the right side where it has the character artwork of Ryuko along the right with lots of color and pop to it that stands out while the left side goes for the beige-scale that has another image of Ryuko there underneath the logo. The navigation strip along the bottom is done at a slight angle and it works easily enough while doubling well as the pop-up menu during playback as it feels like it belongs in there. The layout may not be the most special thing out there, but it fits the show well and has enough of a hook to draw you in.
The extras for this release is pretty simple but we get some decent things as the clean versions of the opening and closings relevant to this set of episodes are included as well as the web previews for the episodes on this set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Studio Trigger has certainly been building themselves a reputation recently and when they leapt into the realm of their first original TV series, you knew you had to watch and see what they were going to do. Bringing in the people that were behind Gurren Lagann just doubled the expectations, for better and worse, and what we end up getting is something that could be pretty magical. With a twenty-four episode run, Aniplex USA is bringing it out here in six box sets of four episodes each so it’ll take a bit there and to see if it really does reach what it wants to do. I didn’t see the simulcast so the show is completely fresh for me and that’s definitely a big plus since it has such an engaging feeling to it right from the start, even if it is pretty much familiar material at this stage.
The series takes place, at least initially, at Honnouji Academy, a massive and fantastic educational facility at Tokyo Bay where everything is laid out by their own version of social class. People can move up in rank – and down as well – by the stars that they have. If you have no stars, you’re nothing. There are just a handful of three stars and they’re pretty much the brutal enforcers of the place, operating under the guidance and direction of Satsuki Kiryuin. Though the place has an oppressive nature to it – we see someone swiping one of the power up suits and trying to establish himself with it outside of his own social position, only to be brutally taken down – there’s also this sense that those that can excel can go on to big things and really leap from there. But they don’t take much in the way of empathy as they move up in the world because it’s all about ambition, ambition and more ambition.
What comes to shake things up in this structured and gray world that exists at the academy is the arrival of Ryuko Motoi. She’s been hitting up a number of sister high schools across the country in the last few months, initiating one on one fights that didn’t get reported up the chain, but now she’s arrived here and is looking for answers. All she knows is that someone here had killed her father, an inventor, and she intends to get justice for this. As it turns out, her father and the Kiryuins’ had been working on similar types of suits, which at Honnouji are called Goku outfits, and that it looks like the Kiryuins’ had him killed since he was the only competition they had in developing them. All Ryuko has to try and track down her father’s killer hough is half of a massive scissor that was used to cut him down. This gives her a point to push back against the Goku suits since it is stronger than they expect, but it’s not what will help her survive in this school to find out the real answers behind everything.
What helps her find a foothold in all of this though is a bit of luck that has her being, well, attacked by a school girls uniform hidden underground. The black and red uniform, called Senketsu, is actually alive and bonds with her. What gives it its power is the blood of the Motoi and when she wears it, it digs into her skin and feeds on her. Unfortunately for her, Senketsu’s sense of style is pretty minimal and that means a whole lot of skin exposure which gives us a whole lot of fanservice. And it’s played up a lot as she fights as we get all the camera angles that you’d expect, the bounce and more. But it also gives it a kind of life that’s really fun since the energy is strong with what it does, especially as she fights against Satsuki over the course of this first few episodes since she does her own bonding thing with her outfit that works in a similar way – and is just as skimpy.
With just the four episodes here, the show doesn’t get far into the story but sets a lot of decent foundational material. It does come across as the whole young woman avenging her father for the wrongs done to him and doing it with big style. That definitely works well enough and Trigger provides a fantastically beautiful presentation here for it with the design and motion of it all. There’s no skimping here and you can see that every ounce of blood, sweat, tears and money is on the screen. It’s a frenetic show with what it does and that keeps it moving very fast across the four episodes. We get to know the basic characters well, some of the secret motivations starting to come into play with the supporting characters and the fun of the girl who sort of adopts Ryuko in Mako, being her first friend here and providing her some guidance and insights into how the school works and what’s going on.
It’s certainly hard to judge a series based off of a few episodes, and we’re all admittedly spoiled to getting whole seasons at a time as opposed to when four episode releases were the norm. With the four we get here, the story is one that is familiar but is done with such style that it’s just stunning to watch and easy to get lost in. But there’s also the thing that sticks in my mind that there’s a lot of nods or repurposing of style and design used in Gurren Lagann. It’s even easy enough to see this as being a companion piece to that show just because of the designs and the overall stylistic approach. I’m sure it’ll set its own tone more as it goes on, but there’s a lot of easy parallels in visual design between the shows that it can be a bit much when you keep coming across it.
Kill la Kill is a series that has a lot going for it and you can see it plainly here in these first four episodes. A familiar story, fantastic designs, great and fluid looking animation and an encoding that makes it stand out all the more. There’s a lot to like with what we get here, even if the core story itself doesn’t separate itself from the pack yet, because it’s done with such style that you can’t help but to be taken in by it. It has to find its own voice to be sure, and you can see that starting to edge into it slowly but surely at the end of this set, but right now it’s all about establishing the foundation of what it wants to be. A lot of shows in the last few years have forgotten the art of providing a great hook early on and moving forward from there. Kill la Kill starts with a big and keeps moving – and fast. That makes you want to keep up with it and explore it as it goes on. I’m definitely intrigued but what’s being put into motion here and curious to see what twists and turns are ahead. And I’m loving the stunning looking presentation we get for it as well.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, Englisjh PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Clean Openings, Web Previews
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: July 15th, 2014
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.