Listen to this and reflect on the scene in which it plays in the film.
More than many other comparable media, I’ve always felt that anime tended to excel in producing original, varied, and high quality BGMs. And even with that laid out, Kara no Kyoukai really elevates itself onto a magnificent plane with the reverberating, soul-searching music it flaunts. This show does many things right – and in fact does many things brilliantly – but if an MVP has to be named, then it must be this – the incredible music.
You will want to at least have finished this episode before moving past the jump.
For discussion’s sake it’s convenient to consider this episode as having two parts, and we need to get the first part out the way before we can properly delve into the juicier second part. That first part is viewer sleuthing. This episode was presented in a murder mystery sort of format, with gruesome things happening and dropping clues that the viewer is able to trail as he/she progresses through the show. In some shows the clues don’t actually lead to a full picture until the show’s punchline occurs, and in some others the clues are sufficient for the viewer to form a fairly confident conclusion on their own. I think this episode belongs to the latter, and the conclusion at hand is quite simple – notwithstanding the episode’s deliberate attempt to paint her as the killer, Shiki didn’t do it.
The early truck accident scene is interesting in the following way: here is an event where the victim simply got run over by a truck, and Shiki’s behavior shows that she can enter that creepy trance-like state even when she had nothing to do with the killing. Thus, when Mikiya stumbled upon Shiki in that same trance next to a headless corpse near her house, that doesn’t actually amount to any kind of evidence.
Minor detail, but that doesn’t look like Shiki’s hand. Clothing is off, and it looks masculine too. And later, when she stood over the 5th victim here:
Again minor detail, but she was spotless clean, and the victim died in an extremely bloody way. Both could be animating misses, but Kara no Kyoukai is a show that revels in detail. These are at least somewhat suspicious.
The first revelation that caused Mikiya to panic was that the latest victim should have given the killer a nasty scratch near the elbow, and he had just seen Shiki with a bandage around her elbow area. Astute observers, however, would note that she really got that wound in her sword duel. Notice the cut on her sleeve:
Later on, while the detective chatted with Mikiya in his room, he revealed that Mikiya’s school emblem was found at the crime scene. This would seem to add to the possibility that Shiki, who was Mikiya’s classmate, was the killer. However Shiki has never worn uniform – and will never, by her own admission. She wore her kimono across the seasons, and as far as I could tell that didn’t bear the school’s emblem.
And a final hint. As Mikiya mused somewhere in the episode, the killer must have gotten used to killing after killing so many so brutally. This hardly seemed to be the case when Shiki finally appeared to attempt to kill Mikiya in the ending moments. Her movement was bewildered and drunken, and her hits were slashes rather than stabs. Mikiya was completely taken by surprise and was extremely clumsy in attempting to escape, a seasoned killer would have had him several times over. One could argue that Shiki had obvious feelings for Mikiya and that might’ve been getting in the way, and yet the combined weight of all the above points I think makes the straightforward notion that Shiki is the killer a very shaky one. You don’t go plowing through such a meandering trail and drop so many tantalizing clues if something wasn’t amiss with the obvious conclusion.
So with that out of the way, we can start talking about the good stuff. This episode is the deeper character exposition and exploration that had been denied us in flashy episode one. Beyond the elaborate and bloody murders going on in the foreground, this episode is about Mikiya’s and Shiki’s meeting, and the complex emotional dynamics that ensue.
As the night grows deeper, so does the darkness
I walk the empty town because, I think, I want to be alone
Or could it instead be because I want to think I’m alone?
The opening scene is a beautiful summary of the story of their meeting. Shiki had always been alone – and beyond being alone she wants to be alone and at the same time wants to think she’s alone. It’s a subtle but I think important detail. And yet, walking that snowy trail, passing by chance the lonely figure of a beautiful stranger, Mikiya chose to stop, to cross the shimmering boundary of her solitude, and say hello. Like a tiny droplet onto the smooth surface of Shiki’s worldview, warped and distorted it beyond recognition.
Loved the “singing in the rain” scene. Quite possibly the first sure indication that Shiki liked Mikiya and quietly enjoyed his attention. She would never have asked for it and would probably never admit to desiring it, but standing there on the rainy afternoon with Mikiya’s insistent company and basking in Mikiya’s hummed tune clearly made her warm and happy. Unfortunately, that isn’t the sort of feeling you could share with a third person. Romantic feelings are intensely personal and inevitably selfish. Yet, as later revealed, the third person existed, perpetually, within Shiki. This I believe is the true conflict of the episode – Shiki and SHIKI, always alone together, encounters Mikiya, who insistently steps in. I think most of the murder-related conversations between Shiki and Mikiya really referred to the turmoil this inspired, rather than to the actual chain of murders that was occurring in parallel.
If he found out there’s another Shiki inside me
What would he think?
However Shiki lately has been acting weird.
She has an abnormality in her, namely me, but she wants to deny me.
It’s perhaps a little of a stretch to call Mikiya, Shiki and SHIKI a love triangle, but the dynamics are not unlike one. Shiki finds something in Mikiya that she subconsciously wishes to pursue – that much is clear from the fact that SHIKI likes and constantly comes to meet and chat with Mikiya. And yet she is inextricably bound to SHIKI. She cannot embrace Mikiya without dragging SHIKI along. She tries to resolve the conflict by rejecting Mikiya and attempting to return to the solitude she is used to, but Mikiya always came back.
Because I didn’t see it.
You just happened to be there, that’s all I saw.
So I decided to believe in you.
Sounded like blind foolishness first I heard it, but if we considered it in the light of Shiki’s likely innocence, especially on the grounds of my counter-argument above, it’s actually a logical thing to think. Mikiya is estabilished throughout the series as a very shrewd thinker with a very good instinct, and here he had found a way to rationalize his belief in Shiki. That he was right in so doing was probably a small nod towards the selfless, protective love he bore Shiki. Love may seem a little peculiar and even foolish, the show seems to be saying, but it is an amazing thing nonetheless.
I don’t have any basis,
but I’ll probably keep believing in you.
I like you, so I want to keep believing in you.
And so he did. Through rain and snow he continued his vigil. Watching, protecting, waiting. Shiki watched this and grew more and more frustrated, this in stark contrast with her initial reaction to Mikiya’s attention. As Mikiya’s belief in her continued to hold against the odds, her need to distance herself from him must have become steadily more urgent. A possible interpretation of the final scene is this: the need to be rid of him became so urgent it became manifest as a need to kill him. Not a far-fetched idea considering SHIKI had liberally used killing as a metaphor of rejecting hidden thoughts and fighting back rebellious impulses.
This incidentally also further discredits the notion that Shiki is the serial killer. Shiki wanted to kill Mikiya because Mikiya had become too dear to her, and because she couldn’t stop him from continuing to draw closer to her no matter what she did. That I think is what all the scattered conversations and events lead up to. What are all those other random victims to her that she would want to kill them? There is absolutely no motif.
What a terrifying, demented way to climax a love story. And yet it is clear that there is a lot of emotion suffused in these scenes. Interpreting it according to the whole thread of thought in this post, Shiki must clearly be broken by her need to kill Mikiya. To protect herself, she must be rid of him, and yet she must have loved him. In anguish, she demands that he say something, and without hurt or anger or accusation, he simply said he did not want to die. Perhaps her final, faint smile was her taking this as indication that even now, with her knife pressed against his throat, he still did not reject her. Perhaps in that final moment, his loving persistence, that had so long frustrated and ired her, brought her a small shred of happiness once again.
She didn’t kill anyone, I’m sure of that much.
Because Shiki knows the pain of murder.
You, who were both the victim and the assailant
knew more than anyone how sad it is.
A little piece of food for thought from the epilogue. In a sense the quote frames the act of murder as a result of incomplete information. If we all understood the full implications, on the assailant and the victim, perhaps we, too, will understand the tragedy of the act.
Don’t forget to sit through the ED. I skipped all of it on my first watch through and regret it profusely. The ED to this episode is a beautiful song and an extremely fitting send-off for the episode. Listen to it, and note the lyrics if you can.
Perhaps I should do an anisong post for it.