So Far, Kill la Kill Is Better Than Gurren Lagann

Emphasis on “so far”. There’s still time for it to crash and I’ve been meaning to watch my Gurren Lagann DVDs to see if I’d have a better opinion of it, but even if I did the latter, I’d most likely still like Kill la Kill way better by this point.


When I was on Deadlight’s latest podcast, I was happy to see that the majority of us agreed that as of this point, Kill la Kill surpassed Gurren Lagann in terms of entertainment. This isn’t too much of a surprise since psgels, Landon, and I (not sure about Juno’s reasons) have expressed the fact that we didn’t care for how stereotypically “super robot” Lagann was in the past, whilst Bokusatchii is more the mecha guy and Deadlight isn’t that big into over-the-top series. However, there are other reasons besides the fact that are little to no robots in the show that makes KLK click with us so far. You’re going to have to ask the others for their reasons though.

I’ve expressed the fact that Kill la Kill was my favorite first episode of the Fall season before, although I’m sure that if I saw Kyousogiga’s first episode as of now, I would love it way more than I initially did. There are a couple of reasons for this that are not robot related.

The Cast

One problem I have with Lagann’s characters is that they were stereotypes that the show tried to make you care for by giving them humanity. They succeeded somewhat, but not fully because I could see the “trying” going on in the background. In Kill la Kill, they’re completely over-the-top stereotypes with just enough humanity in them so that you’d find them interesting, but not to the point that they really want you to sympathize with them (apart from that rags-to-riches episode of course). Anyone who knows my taste in characters would know that I much prefer the latter to the point that even Mako’s father is more appealing to me than Kamina ever was. And yeah, Mako is by far one of the best characters to ever get introduced into anime. Completely over-the-top in all the right ways and I love her for it.

But of course, let’s compare the two leads in both shows, shall we? Simon is basically a classic underdog that starts wimpy and grows into a hero whilst Ryuuko is an arrogant strong person who grows nicer and even stronger. Now obviously the two differ for the same reasons the general cast in Lagann differ from the general cast in Kill la Kill, but I guess what makes Ryuuko click with me more is that she doesn’t quite start at the bottom and work her way to the top. It’s not like Bantorra in that she starts fully developed and basically just does what the story dictates because she definitely has grown a bit since the first episode, but she’s not exactly going from bottom-to-top the same way Simon did. And as much as I agree that I don’t want to see a story about a character who doesn’t have room to grow, there’s a difference between that and what’s basically an origin story aka a method of character growth that’s more overused than any of the tropes done in a JC Staff show. It’s overused because it works sure, but there are other ways to go about it.

Simon is basically a high school graduate enterting college whilst Ryuuko is basically a college graduate entering the real world, despite them both starting off the story far younger than that. Ryuuko may have more direction, but the actual future is still vague enough to be interesting. We need more origin stories on that level because the highschool genre is getting oversaturated.

What They’re Tributing

Gurren Lagann tributes the old super robot genre.

Kill la Kill tributes Utena and Go Nagai stuff.

Yeah, I know this is sort of a robot related reason, so I’m not going to spell out what I prefer here. Next category!

The Story/Pacing

Whilst Episode 8 was a major game-changer for Gurren Lagann, the episodes prior that were pretty stale. Not hopelessly dull or anything, but they were very predictable and aside from the animation style and sense of humor, there is nothing all that special about them whatsoever. Plus, that fourth episode or so directed by that guest director was pretty bad. KLK’s weakest episode at this point is definitely the “rags to riches” one because it wasn’t very natural compared to everything else that was going on. However, it was still loads of fun, if just for Banchou Mako.

Whilst psgels himself enjoys KLK more for more objective reasoning like the combination of elements, I’m enjoying it more for the same reason why Urusei Yatsura is my favorite anime comedy: there is a focus, but the entire substance is a big ball of chaos. Pretty much everything is allowed to happen in this anime without coming out of nowhere and it’s that sort of controlled pandemonium that clicks with me the most. Since there are so many things that are allowed to happen in the show, it pretty much guarantees something new to happen in each episode and thus keeps the whole thing fresh, even when the substance so far has pretty much just been monster-of-the-week tied together by a typical revenge story. Also, I really crack up at the “having your cake and eating it too” fanservice. Contrary to most people, I LOVE that sort of fanservice, especially when it’s as equal opportunity and over-the-top as it is here. It’s all style with just the right amount of substance to contain that style and if I was blogging this episodically, I could easily come up with something new to say each week. Beautiful.

Gurren Lagann is basically the Millenium Actress to Kill la Kill’s Perfect Blue. It’s substance over style, and everyone knows by this point that I prefer a “messy but fun” story that’s not fucking Gundam to a “well-executed but not all that appealing” story. It was this realization that made me realize I had to stop being so “objective” in my writing and I have no idea why it took me so long to realize my preferences. But basically, Lagann didn’t really have too much to it besides “RAW RAW FIGHT THE POWAH!” to support the “get out and see the world whilst fighting the monsters that put your underground” story. That would be fine if “RAW RAW FIGHT THE POWAH!” was as broad and varied as Jim Cummings’ voices rather than as specific and narrow as Liam Neeson’s acting, but it’s not. As charismatic as Neeson is, he always plays that one character in everything I’ve seen him in and it gets tiresome after a while. As such, whilst there is progression in those eight episodes, aside from the final Kamina one (which was pretty damn sad, don’t get me wrong), there’s not really anything truly specific I can say about them and it gets kind of tiresome after a while.

The Themes

Finally, let’s look at the themes. Gurren Lagann is all about growing up in order to achieve your dreams, along with the bittersweetness that comes with the journey.

Kill la Kill is about how the more you get attached to your clothes, the more powerful you become. And how it’s better to embrace rather than leech.

Yeah I’m still working on this one.

4 responses to “So Far, Kill la Kill Is Better Than Gurren Lagann

  1. I disagree in most of the points you’ve stated here, however I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I think KLK is awesome but up to this point (already ep. 17 when I’m writing this) has NOT surpassed TTGL in any way. Compared to TTGL KLK is boring, in TTGL you had awesome over the top action, the characters had more spirit and a REAL goal. Ryuko doesn’t even have a clear goal, she says she doesn’t want to avenge her father and it makes sense since she hardly knew him so she couldn’t have much of an attachment to him, however she acts like she wants to avenge him which doesn’t makes sense. Simon on the other hand always had a clear goal, his goal did suffer some changes over time but remain constant, first he wanted to avenge his parents which died in an earthquake caused by the Ganmen in the surface, but then that goal evolved because later he wanted to defeat the Ganmen and Lordgenome to defend humanity and not only to avenge his parents, and this remained his goal through out the series. Also TTGL had more character development, you can see more of the characters interactions and feelings, unlike KLK where Ryuko and Mako became best friends almost instantly, and most of her enemies and allies are introduced inmediatly. This takes me to my other point: “The pacing”. KLK goes TOO FAST, TTGK was fast already but it still took its time to develop the characters but KLK story goes at lightspeed pace! And finally “the themes” TTGL was about overcoming any obstacle and reach for your dreams even if that means doing the “impossible”, KLK is almost the same, like a rip’off but less meaningful.

    • TTGL is alright, but it’s way too late to the party. By the time I saw it, I had seen other robot/shonen shows that did the same thing TTGL did and the latter didn’t do anything different from either of them. Ever seen Shin Mazinger Z? That’s what I was expecting TTGL to be. No formulaic “reach for your dream” stuff. Just pure bombastic, operatic, fun.

      Kill la Kill operates in the same vein as Mazinger, hence my love for it. It’s not as good, but it’s exploitative and proud of it. Just how I like my entertainment.

      • Of courseTTGL does the same as other Mecha anime, that’s the point, it’s like an homage to the Mecha genre, it has all its cliches (specially a lot from Getter Robo and Gunbuster, even some Evangelion). I havent’ seen Shin Mazinger Z only the first Mazinger Z so i can’t understand your comparison with KLK. Mazinger Z had a good character development since its story progressed at a really slow pace but it also had lots of battles which made it fun to watch. maybe I need to see Shin Mazinger Z to understand what you mean…

        Btw thanks for the quick reply!

      • Pretty sure I said I knew TTGL was a tribute to the super robot genre somewhere on the blog. However, there’s no rule that says you have to be restricted to the genre’s entire format in the process. Something I wish Robert Rodriguez would keep in mind whenever he makes a movie.