As a preface, I’d like to state that I have never been so confused by a series that I needed to watch it’s first episode twice. This show is the first one to cause that from me. And I’m still not sure what I was actually watching. It was like an assault onto my senses, making me question my very sanity, like a child first exposed to a Terry Gilliam film. It is the type of anime that I thought wasn’t made anymore: pure liquid insanity.
At Honnoji Academy, the student population (and teaching staff) is dictated by the student body president, the totalitarian Satsuki Kiryuin (the daughter of the school’s head chairwoman), with her strict rules being enforced by the GIANT head of the discipline committee and the rest of the student council. Their punishment for challenging them: DEATH (I’m not kidding, the first scene is a student getting executed for trying to steal a uniform). They enforce these rules with tiered uniforms which give you superpowers relative in strength to the tier of the uniform. And with just the BACKGROUND DETAILS that I could manage to take away from this confusing mess, I have just spent a paragraph telling you pure backstory.
Our heroine, Ryuko Matoi, has just transferred into the academy because she’s looking for a lead regarding the person who killed her father. She specifically suspects Satsuki as the murderer (and her reaction to Ryuko gives more proof of that), but she is literally powerless in the academy (she lacks a uniform that would make her able to fight anyone, plus any student is liable to be subject to execution (even by being fried like fried shrimp, again, literally)). That changes, however, when she falls down a trap door and “finds” a sentient sailor uniform that allows her to fight the adversaries pitted against her.
And for as much as I was describing what I saw, I’m still not sure I comprehended what I saw. I have not been this shocked and surprised by a series since that 1 episode of Robot Chicken that I saw. The difference, however, is that I’m still convinced that this is the work of a mad genius (after seeing it, I looked up the director and writer and discovered that that was the case, since it’s the writer/director duo that brought us Gurren Laggan). The animation actually makes this series worth it’s hype. The animation style is very cartoony and stylized, with a heavy favoring towards that very fractured, hyperactive animation that usually looks cheap, except it’s done here on purpose and well. It is a brilliant showcase for animation. And I am interested to see more. Just, please, give us some grounding, some internal logic, anything!!