(omg a new post!)
Alright here we go. First, a little on the series itself since it seemed to have garnered comparatively little attention – quite inexplicably. For Kara no Kyoukai is a masterpiece. It is a fantastic juxtaposition of all manner of dark subthemes trailing under an overarching grimly hopeful theme of Life. It is a 7-part animated film series that is also a 7-course audio-visual feast, with a phenomenal BGM score and stunningly detailed art that traverses the entire spectrum from the dark, twisted and bloody to the vividly, breathtakingly beautiful. It has some of the densest, richest story-weaving and character-crafting I’ve ever seen, and I’m still seeing new ideas surfacing to tantalizingly linger as I’m still rewatching. And if it doesn’t look like I’m gushing yet I am! All this to tell you first and foremost that you need to go and watch this stuff. And then you need to rewatch it. And then you can do a kind deed and come see me rant on it, if you want :)
Now on episode one…
Now with all the above said, I wasn’t too impressed with episode one when I first saw it. I was *sold* yes, but much of the subtler character interactions are invisible at first watch-through, where we don’t even know the characters yet. Instead of starting at the ground-work, Kara no Kyoukai 01 went the way of a bombastic exposition, dealing out a mystery-ish plot involving bloody suicides and mild horror/supernatural elements, then culminating in a very epic fight scene. This is an action-packed enough episode to be thoroughly enjoyable even without thinking.
But of course, where is the fun in that :P As focused as this episode is on the more sensational points, it still serves as a nice orientation to the kinds of things we’re going to encounter for the rest of the series. The prominent dark themes and the keening moments, punctuated by periods of quiet, enigmatic conversation, and softened by episodes of gnawing introspection and cathartic redemption. A very potent mix, especially when combined with great visuals. The visuals are really quite incredible, with some really effective color palette usage, from the recurring eerie green and red motif to the “eye of death perception”‘s multi-colored glow. A feast for the senses, as previously noted.
Let’s talk about our principle characters. That’s what first episodes need to do, say something about the principle characters. Shiki and Mikiya. From a rewatch perspective it really is a rather elegant introduction. They barely interact at all, since Mikiya spent most of the film comatose, but the few key scenes where they do, at the beginning and the end, as well as Shiki’s behavior through the episode, tells the gist.
Mikiya is the gnat in Shiki’s worldview and the wedge in her door, something she couldn’t quite deal with yet couldn’t quite be rid of, and something that she knows, deep down, she doesn’t want to be rid of. In some sense he is the lifeline that keeps her from slipping, and forcefully connects her to this part of the world.
And she cannot help but cherish him for that.
The elegance is in the subtlety. The sort of relationship they share is quietly hinted at in the course of the story without being explicitly described. Peoples and ideas invariably maintain a degree of fuzziness that defy our attempts to define them after all. The storytelling itself seemingly embodies this idea, and this meta-level “telling by doing” is one of the things that really make this series a joy to watch, and rewatch.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Much of the character dynamics and interesting storytelling mechanics only take off deeper into the series.
Same goes for the plot. It may have been billed as a movie and released in theatres, but enigmatic holes are left that are only filled up later. The series by the way was broadcasted achronologically a’la Haruhi, so some of that initial bewilderment is likely intended. Regardless, this first evening scene at the abandoned apartment was really well done. The art, cinematography and BGM choices were impeccable. So much detail!
“Dolls and artificial arms can be made more realistically if you put more time and effort into it
But they are nothing more than a container if they lack a soul to move them.
The same can be said for the human body.
A body without a soul holds no meaning.
It’s just a container.
Just like you were in the past.
An interesting subtheme that echoes throughout the series is the constant comparison between a human being and a doll, and the recurring hinted idea that the body and soul are disjunct. Thus they are potentially interchangeable, a body that lacks a soul to move it can be seized by another that is stronger, like Shiki’s artificial hand was seized. The implications of this model reverberate resoundingly across the series, but I’ll keep further analysis of this for the later episodes.
Shiki walks home under the rain, and eats the Haagan Daz Mikiya bought that she had previously refused to eat. Caught in the realization of how much Mikiya meant to her and deeply afflicted by his absence, Shiki eats her ice scream with only one hand, being forced to apply teeth and thighs in awkward positions to make up for the absence of her left forearm. Such a fantastic scene, right down to the hollow, lonely silence. Quiet, unspoken, delicious subtlety. Exceptionally tasty in a show with so much flash and bling.
The rooftop battle, the culmination of the flash and bling. Perfect in so many ways, but none quite in the way the accompanying musical score was perfect. I loved it. It was beautiful, heart-stopping, breathtaking, and deadly. I’ve watched this scene more than five times now and I still get goosebumps as I’m winding through it to write this.
“There are two ways to escape. Escape without a purpose, or escape with a purpose.
The former is called floating, and the latter, flight.
You’re the one who decides which one your overlooking view was”
I liked Tanaka Rie’s performance as the antagonist Kirie – she sounded so convincingly eerie and snarly as the floating ghost, but spoke with such soft and feather-like grace as the blind girl in the hospital. The episode made it clear – Kirie floated, and Mikiya flew. Kara no Kyoukai treads frequently upon the demented boundaries of human sanity, the haunted border between life and death, and speaks of purpose. Suicide is clearly a strong theme explored in this episode, and I thought it handled it well, narrating a tasteful and balanced perspective on the subject, perhaps slightly skewed towards life, even though Kirie chose death.
Some more choice quotes:
“We do not choose our paths depending on the sins we carry.
but instead must carry our sins on the path we choose.
“There is no reason to suicide.
.. She probably just couldn’t fly today.