When Kill la Kill’s Naturals Election arc aired during 2014, it seemed to last for a good while. In reality, it only panned out over a mere four episodes, and it was mostly due to the inherent problems in the arc’s pacing. Now, we take a look at episode 11, and see how it holds up compared to the irregular pacing posed by the earlier episodes. In fact, it does not disappoint! The episode actually starts—and ends—with that perfect shonen showdown that handles itself seriously. Let’s go into it in a bit more detail.
One of the best examples of the tournament arc taking itself seriously shows up during the climax of Ryuko’s battle against Jakuzure. The animation and angles are fast and buttery-smooth, and it really sells the effect of dashing and dodging enemy advances. It even holds up in the plot advancement, so it’s not just random explosions and fights that aren’t even flashy nor moving (look at you Gamagoori and Inumuta)! Ryuko makes use of her newly learned aerial techniques to plow through the tournament and ultimately reach her real goal: Satsuki. When she takes down Jakuzure, it’s satisfying to know that she earned that victory by thinking-outside-of-the-box!
Of course, the final phase of the fight does bring to mind those inherent pacing issues we discussed earlier. You know something’s wrong when even the spectator characters are wondering what’s taking so long. And don’t get me wrong, the battle is cool and was amazingly well-put together! Still, we can’t just hand-wave the amount of time put into making the fight last so long.
Now, this sort of borders on theory territory, but the length of the fight might actually be intentional. Seeing as Jakuzure had a flashback plus the addition of another character could result a bit more of a time-sink than the regular status-quo episodes (if you could even call the group a status-quo).
It’s interesting because Kill la Kill actually dedicates a good portion of time to introduce to us, the audience, about its characters. And that’s a good thing! A little background and backstory goes a long way towards giving viewers enough information to gauge the motivations behind the characters. Example: Satsuki. We were given a good bit of information about her before she even arrived on-screen a few episodes later.
Now, we know that Nui actually poses a major threat because Satsuki loses it upon noticing her. She goes through with her threat due to Sanegeyama (which represents the hurdle Ryuko had to face) with a simple pull. The episode paints how Nui is in another, completely different league, compared to Ryuko. Nui is completely alien in mannerisms and techniques, and that can be a terrifying force to be reckoned with.
That set-up made for an absolutely insane revelation.
Nui wields the other half of the scissor blade that brought Ryuko’s father to his end.
That cliff-hanger gives us a brief intermission to discuss the sound-design and soundtrack playing in the background of the episode. The motifs, the recurrent sound themes associated with certain characters, it really is something to behold. Props to Studio Trigger’s composers, music and sound really do set the mood and overall tone of what you’re watching.
Nui. She’s the character that Ryuko’s been looking for since forever. It’s a bit weird because it’s really out-of-the-blue. She literally dropped into the fight during the 11th episode as the bigger-fish-opponent from seemingly nowhere at all! The seeming randomness of her arrival can pull people away from the story and start looking at other explanations, such as her being a plot device to more the story faster.
I know we’re being a bit nitpicky about the aspects of Nui’s arrival during episode 12, but trust me, everything about the fight was executed beautifully. It features some important plot twists that actually were subtly foreshadowed in the earlier episodes. The star attraction is obviously Ryuko’s berserk transformation, which gives us a look on what happens when you don’t heed the warnings about evolving too much or too quickly. It’s a very interesting (albeit unsettling) design, and it’s a great example of the strong artistry across these two episodes, with the animation keeping up with the story’s high points. Seeing Satsuki transform for the first time in many episodes lends itself to some strong cuts for her fight with the rampaging Ryuko. It’s definitely another high for Kill la Kill on the visual front. It also doesn’t undersell it’s emotional gut-punch as well, bringing Mako in as the one to save the day (after some well-done misdirection around whether Satsuki or Mikisugi would be the one to do it) by following up on seeds of characterization planted during that Fight Club episode! The Naturals Election arc sometimes struggled under the weight of being the first multi-episode Kill la Kill story, but by the end it’s pulled one heck of a sleight-of-hand of picking itself up and going above-and-beyong!
Sure, there’s some pacing issues here and there in the earlier episodes, but episodes 11 and 12 make up for it. The execution, the plot twists, the animation, just—everything. And it’s still just halfway to the end of the show.