Originally, I was going to write this as a little preview for my Kill La Kill review (which I’ll link to at the bottom of this; it’s one of my personal favorites). But then I forgot because I’m a dumb-dumb. So I’m gonna do it now that I’ve remembered it. I’m only, what, three months late?
Getting back on topic: what did you first think when this character showed up on-screen? Specifically, this shot. Aside from “Wait, who’s that?”, I mean.
Upon first glance, I had no idea what this character’s deal was. Which was a first, considering that most Kill La Kill characters are pretty easy to figure out. Take one look at Ryuko and you get all you need to know: she’s a rough-and-tough kind of girl who can kick some ass. One look at Satsuki is all you need to figure out that she’s the one in charge; an unstoppable, untouchable pillar. But this chick? I had no idea!
Initially, I wrote her off. Maybe she’d be some new gag character; someone to hang out with Mako and Ryuko after this arc ended. She seemed cute and friendly enough. Plus, all of her animations were basic to an amateur level, which the show often used as a source of comedy. Surely, she was gonna be cute, hilarious, or both!
And just like that, I fell right into the writer’s trap.
Nui Harime is the single most terrifying character in all of Kill La Kill. She looks thin and frail, but she may very well be the most powerful member of the cast. Her attitude seems sweet and caring, but it’s a thin veil disguising her sadistic, practically monstrous true nature! You might think she’s an airhead, but she’s a true maniacal genius! Literally every expectation you get from looking at her is subverted in her true character!
And it all starts with the most disarming image possible: a smile.
Up to this exact point in the series, Satsuki was always cool, collected, and seemingly unstoppable. There were a few hints that there was a greater threat beyond her, but they were extremely subtle compared to the overwhelming amount of foreshadowing put behind the clash between Ryuko and Satsuki. As a viewer, you assumed that she was the final boss. That she’d only lose her cool when Ryuko finally overcame her.
But then this bitch shows up. In an instant, literally the second she shows up, Satsuki loses her cool. She yells for them to get away and not, under any circumstances, to try fighting her. This immediately tells the audience one important fact: whoever this cute little girl is, she is more dangerous than any character we’ve met so far. After all: the final boss herself is intimidated.
It doesn’t take long to figure out why. In the blink of an eye, she defeats Sanageyama, a character who actually managed to defeat our protagonist once before, with exceptional ease. This creates a clear power dynamic for the audience. We know that Ryuko can defeat the Elite Four, but only after an intense struggle. This chick? She didn’t even need to try!
Then, we get the cherry on top. In a single moment, she goes from a chilling and intimidating force to an actual nightmare. I am of course talking about this shot.
We all knew what that scissor meant. We’d known what it would mean from episode one. But up to that point, we all thought it would belong to Satsuki, or maybe someone in her ranks. Nope. Harime comes out of god damn nowhere, establishes herself as an unstoppable force beyond anything we’d ever seen, then screams “Surprise bitches! I’m the antagonist now! Watch me beat the main character to a pulp without even trying! Oh, look! My arm fell off! No big deal, I’ll just pull it back on! What, did you not expect body-horror?”
And she does it all with a simple, childish delight.
It’s that very childishness that makes her so god damn frightening! It’s dreadfully deceiving when you consider her true nature. It compliments her overwhelming power, giving the sense that everything is just a game to her, which furthers the sensation that she’s completely unstoppable. And most importantly: it makes her completely unpredictable.
You never know what this bitch is going to do! At no point in the series do you ever figure her out! Hell, she’s so unpredictable that she can disguise herself as a totally different character, trick every single member of the cast, and lure the main character into a trap! To make it clear exactly how good she is at deception: I’ve seen this show three times, and I always forget that the rebellious newspaper dude from that one episode is Harime in disguise!
After she’s introduced, the story’s tone completely changes! Up to that point, it felt like a typical shounen, albeit a ridiculous one; it’s exciting and it makes you feel good. But when Harime shows up? She creates an air of horror! Like when Nemisis shows up in Resident Evil 3! In every major scene, you can’t help but wonder if/when she’ll show up and tear everything apart!
Now, all of that is what makes her such a great villain when she’s introduced. But part of what makes a fantastic bad guy isn’t just their victory: it’s their defeat. We love to hate these guys not because it makes them charismatic, but because we can’t wait to watch the hero beat the living shit out of them!
And when Harime finally falls? Holy fuck, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any villain defeat as satisfying as this!
The instant, and I mean the exact instant, that Ryuko finally puts her in her place (by slicing off her fucking arms, because this is, in fact, a good show), Harime finally cracks. She initially keeps up her calm, unbeatable, pleasant demeanor, claiming that her arms will just reattach like they always did. But when they disappear? She realizes that she’s vulnerable; that Ryuko can, and likely will, kill her.
And she. Fucking. Loses. Her. Shit.
Not so cute anymore, is she?
Now, it is worth noting that she isn’t all that deep in terms of complexity. Her backstory is basically non-existant, she has zero redeeming qualities (and I do mean zero), and she doesn’t seem to have any true goal of her own. But you need to remember: Harime isn’t meant to be sympathetic. She’s a villain, through and through.
And she is easily the best villain in Kill La Kill! She’s downright terrifying, stars the single best character introduction in the entire show, and sports one of the most satisfying villain defeats I’ve ever seen! Never before had an anime villain actually given me chills before! And there are very few that I cheered louder for when I saw them fall! As a villain, she’s incredibly well-written!
Do you still doubt me? Then let me ask you this: when she was finally gone, did you feel the same kind of intimidation and terror from Ragyo Kiryuin? If you said yes, congratulations! You’re a liar! How do I know that?
Because I legit had to look Ragyo’s name up when I wrote that paragraph. And again: I’ve seen this show three times.
TL;DR: Nui Harime one of my favorite villains of all time. I’d say I wish we got more characters like her. But honestly, I’m glad we don’t. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be nearly as terrifying as she is.
Also, her theme is a fucking banger and encapsulates her character perfectly. That doesn’t have any real import, but I thought it was worth noting. Now, here’s that link to the Kill La Kill review that I promised.