When an odd string of suicides begins to occur at a local high rise building, most of the townsfolk treat it as an unfortunate series of events. One girl, however, senses something more sinister at work - especially when a close friend of hers falls mysteriously ill. After witnessing one of the deaths for herself, Shiki begins to realize that a strange connection exists between each of the girls, and predicts a total of eight will die. With seven dead and the accuracy of her prediction unclear, she sets out to put an end to the killings. Yet, as she nears the truth, she finds herself closer and closer to the brink of death; will Shiki become the town's savior, or the next victim?
StoryFor a supposed spin-off of Shingetsutan Tsukihime, I must admit I was expecting a decent-but-entertaining action flick that would drift off into the far reaches of my memory banks and quickly be forgotten. Thus, when it subsequently blew me out of the water with culling graphics, euphoric audio, and kick-ass story line, you can only imagine my elation.Keeping in mind that this film is a mere fifty minutes in length, the story turns out to be surprisingly intriguing. From the get-go Shiki has a mysterious aura about her that just doesn't seem right, as her attitude toward the series of "suicide" deaths gives her personality a rather chilling edge. Sure enough, the movie introduces the killings in a bang-one-two-three fashion, leading straight into the first action sequence without dwelling too long on idle story points. Those familiar with Tsukihime will, no doubt, start to notice a surprising number of similarities between the two works at this point with one notable exception: Kara no Kyoukai doesn't blunder, it keeps its momentum all the way through. It ends with an ominous, angst-driven tone, too, hinting that the events that transpire in this film are merely a prelude for what's to come; and, if the movie's sheer level of quality is any fine indicator, it's going to be one hell of a ride.AnimationIf I've ever come across an anime that could give Shinkai a run for his money in terms of visual quality, Kara no Kyoukai is it - the animation is absolutely amazing. It captures every single architectural detail within its urban landscape, from soft tinges of rust to grand arches to faintly gleaming steel. The attention to lighting effects is magnificently breathtaking, carried through especially well within both the movies' action sequences. These are, without a doubt, some of the best to date, as not only do they look spectacular but their level of animation proves some of the most fluid and crisp to date; the animators left not a single twitch, turn, or flicker untouched.Tack on absolutely gorgeous character detail as well, and it should come as no surprise that this title takes a perfect score. There is, quite literally, not a single lapse or flaw within the movies' visuals - perfection if I've ever seen it.SoundHell, if anything was even remotely comparable to the visuals it was the music; I knew from the moment the opening song played through that I was in for a feast of audible delight. Indeed, the soundtrack flaunted not only amazing music, but amazingly appropriate music - every single scene was captured with masterful precision; while the visuals pleased my eyes, the music enraptured my ears. With top-notch voice acting to boot, it leaves me with little else to say; I'm astoundingly speechless.CharactersAs with most movies of this class, the characters are given very little time to develop deep or captivating personalities. Even so, Shiki's distance and dissonance are part of her personality, and definitely contribute to her fell persona. From the moment she grabs her red leather jacket and slings it violently around her shoulders, you know she means business. Indeed, she's the center of both fight scenes, and she kicks royal ass - that's all that's important. Since this is but the first of seven movies, I wasn't really expecting too much from her, but she certainly didn't disappoint.The rest of the cast wasn't too terribly bad, either, but their lack of screen time makes it hard for me to pass any substantial judgement. Solely on the basis of their roles they did a good job, and hopefully they'll see some more development in the sequels.OverallIf for nothing more than to gape in awe, Kara no Kyoukai should make its way onto everyone's list - movies like this are every action fan's wet dream. Even at that, its level of production is so magnificently high that I expect it to appeal to just about any anime fan regardless of taste. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but if Kara no Kyoukai's trend continues down the path of greatness, this very well could be 2008's sleeping giant; not to be missed.
Kara no Kyoukai: The Garden of Sinners - Overlooking View is a 50 minute supernatural, mystery movie, featuring a little action, which I would also designate a seinen. It’s the first in a series of movies based upon a trio of light novels by Kinoko Nasu and is part of Type-Moon’s works which include similar anime like Lunar Legend Tsukihime and the Fate series. I just started reading the novels last week and I’ve been putting off these movies as I want to read the original material beforehand. It is in fact set in the same world as those other anime, in particular it seems to be heavy related to Tsukihime and even Fate. This movie gives off a very similar vibe to Fate, a lot of blood, supernatural stuff and most of all it can be very confusing (I watched the first episode of Fate: Zero blind and was left clueless). Which explains my opinion that this is a seinen anime, it’s not an anime that would be enjoyed by all as some wouldn’t enjoy the refined form story-telling, it’s similar to Ghost in the Shell. This is the anime equivalent of good old whiskey (I miss it, but my bank balance doesn’t). This series may depict content that some may find to be disturbing and even downright uncomfortable. I got a feeling of De-Ja-Vu as I was ill when I started reading the first novel and came across something I’m personally uncomfortable with and had to put the book down (I’ve was in the same situation before with a movie a few years back). These movies are not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, even though there is no weird bullshit. Animation The animation quality was stunning for a 2008 anime and it makes sense. Of course this would high production value, it’s a 50 minute movie so they can really put a lot of effort into it and it shows. I watched it in 1080p, the only resolution which would do it justice. The background and setting are so very detailed and the character models look very good, even at medium distance. It’s very fluid and beautiful, the intro is a great example of this, past the first instance of the butterfly the butterfly looks so damn stunning. The style is very similar to other Type-Moon anime, even if the animation studio itself was different. Characters look so very reminiscent of characters I’ve seen, that I was inclined to believe certain characters were related. There is a lot of blood and strangeness and they even maintain the sensibility from previous anime when it comes to women and sexual stuff. I.e. there is nothing of the sort. There are many purposely made animation decisions, Shiki in particular looks very androgynous, which is fitting since that was exactly what was depicted in the novel. This was one of my key worries before watching the movie, whether they would be able to maintain the mystery surrounding Shiki, they manage to pull it off here. There’s very sensible and creative shots of Shiki, such as getting out of the bath or bed, these are done at a distance. One particular shot that some other anime might use for fan-service if featuring a strongly female character, was Shiki sitting down on the bed in nothing but a shirt and underwear. Nothing pervy about it and surprisingly nothing that gives away Shiki’s gender, it cannot be discerned whether the white in between Shiki’s legs is a guy’s Y-brief or a girl’s knickers. Enough about how surprisingly unpervy this is, there is also beautiful artistic use of camera angles. Shots of things like traffic lines and random sleeping cats, made me feel like we might get powerline shots, Evangelion style. There is purposeful delay or advancement of visual scenes used for inventive effect. Absolutely beautiful. One final note, product placement out the wazoo, this movie must be sponsored by Haagen-Dazs and Volvic mineral water, since those brands feature within this anime. Though to be honest, the Haagen-Dazs ice cream was also in the book. Sound Off the bat, the soundtrack of this anime is amazing and the overall sound keeps in line with the high production value of the rest of the movie. The movie actually has an opening, and both the opening and credits have beautiful songs. The soundtrack throughout the animation itself is similarly of high quality, appropriate use of choral and instrumental tracks maximise the potential delivery of the scenes. The sound design is on par, gentle use of sound effects is pretty much perfect to my ears. I definitely plan on getting the soundtrack at some point, probably after I’ve watched a few more of these movies. The movie is only available in Japanese …and French and German for some reason. The other Type-Moon universe anime have usually had English dubs, this is the first I’ve heard of this sort of anime not having English but having French and German dubs. I wholeheartedly recommend the original Japanese subbed in the language of your choice, I don’t feel that any French or German VAs could do this justice, no offence. In the Japan setting of this movie (and other anime), Japanese voice actors are usually best, with a few exceptions. Which just goes to show how good the Japanese voice acting is for this anime. Shiki’s voice was perfect, it didn’t sound strongly feminine or masculine and the type of language used was appropriate too. There’s a later scene where a mystery person speaks and they also manage to nail that voice perfectly, since the person cannot be guessed by voice alone. Those voice actors are very skilled. Mikiya also has a good voice, I can tell they chose voice actor’s who’d be able to voice the characters throughout the following movies in addition to this movie, thus a bit of flexibility on voice was required. So who are these skilled voice actors? Shiiki Ryougi is voiced by Maaya Sakamoto (I could tell that a woman voiced this character, the perfect voice to choose), who has also voiced Kiyomi Takada in Death Note, Mari Makinami in the Evangelion remake, Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell Arise, Alisa in the (currently airing) God Eater anime, Mishio Amano in Kanon (2006), Crona in Soul Eater, Eto in Tokyo Ghoul and Tomoyo in Tsubasa Chronicle. Touko Aozaki is voiced by Takako Honda, who voiced April in Darker than Black, Satsuki Matsumae in Hanasaku Iroha, Gimma and Leite in Gurren Lagann and King Ashura in Tsubasa Chronicle. Mikiya Kokutou is voiced by Kenichi Suzumura, he voiced Hiroyuki Hatagai in Bokurano, Tora Igarashi in Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Atsushi Murasakibara in Kuroko no Basuke (dayum son!), Shiki Tohno in Lunar Legend Tsukihime (!!!), Kirikou Rung in Soul Eater, Hiroki Segawa in Witchblade and Ryouta Iijima in Yumekui (Dream Eater) Merry. Kirie Fujou is voiced by Rie Tanaka, she voiced Maria in Hayate no Gotoku, Eriko Futami in Kimikiss Pure Rouge, Sayara Yamanobe in Mnemosyne, Chizuru Aizawa in Squid Girl and Mariabelle in Yozakura Quartet. Finally, Azaka Kokutou is voiced by Ayumi Fujimura, having voiced Ayano Kannagi in Kaze no Stigma, Takashi Natsume (child) in Natsume Yuuchinjou, (a character in Nodame Cantabile who has the same name as a Japanese person I knew IRL), Saori Himemiya in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Eiko Aizawa in Squid Girl and Midori Nishimura in Xam’d a Tale of Memories. A lot of anime which I’ve watched recently there and a lot of good voicing under their belts. Characters The main character here is Shiki Ryougi, an adult of unknown gender who lives on their own in a very bare apartment. They have short black hair and always wear a kimono, they also sometimes wear a bright red jacket on top of it. Shiki is a strange individual, they don’t seem to eat much and drink a lot of water. Most strange of all, they are missing an arm, Shiki’s left arm is a prosthetic made by Touko and they have the ability to see lines in people. Shiki uses their knife (always carried on their person) to cut through even ghosts via these lines. This sounds a suspicious amount like a character of the same name in another Type-Moon anime. When I read this in the book, which was the first thing that came to mind. Shiki has a very close relationship with Mikiya and seems to also be well acquainted with Touko, the doll-maker and self-proclaimed detective. Unfortunately this anime movie leaves out a bit about Shiki’s past. Shiki woke up from a coma a few years ago and while they can remember things from before it, that life doesn’t feel right. It’s roughly put this way in the book, ‘as if Shiki was inhabiting someone else’s body and seeing their memories and living their life.’ Mikiya Kokutou is supposed to be the other main character here, but the movie just nudges his appearances enough such that he is only a secondary character. This man wears glasses and works for Touko the doll-maker (/detective). He is close friends with Shiki and keeps an eye on them, he is the one to buy Shiki their water and ice-cream, which he is trying to get Shiki to eat. He really carers for Shiki and lives in his own place further away from work than Shiki’s place is. Unlike the other characters, Mikiya seems to have nothing to do with the supernatural and is a normal human being. He is very kind and caring, even towards strangers, which might not be a good thing. He is drawn towards strange things like dolls and strange people like Shiki. By coincidence, his voice actor also voiced the Shiki in Tsukihime. Who is regarded as the other main character in this movie Touko Aozaki is a red-haired woman who smokes and sometimes wears glasses. She seems to have an understanding of the supernatural occurrences, or at least she can notice them, just like Shiki. Thus the two are able to discuss these things while Mikiya remains clueless. She has hired Mikiya effectively as an office assistant, mostly she just gets him to do errands for her. She is also a doll-maker and makes/maintains Shiki’s prosthetic left arm. That’s about it for characters, there is the mysterious ghost woman, Kirie Fujou the terminally ill woman and Mikiya’s younger sister Azaka appears after the credits. By another strange coincidence, Azaka looks a lot like a character from Tsukihime (and to me Mikiya does too). Story So… there are mysterious murders, some sort of supernatural stuff involved and for some reason, Mikiya has fallen asleep for a very long time. As I mentioned before, this story is difficult to understand and it doesn’t help that many aspects are a mystery. The murders seem to be related, while Touko and Shiki are on the job of trying to solve it with their perception of the supernatural while Shiki takes his long nap. Being a mystery, it is very unpredictable. The viewers are given very little as far as clues, there could have been more foreshadowing and subtle clues. Or perhaps those that are there are too subtle. It goes by quickly, though if I’m honest it’s roughly the same length of time as reading the equivalent part in the book. It’s a lot like the Haruhi novels (I haven’t watched the anime), each book has a few stories and it seems each individual story is a movie. I will note that this movie left out a few things from the book. Mikiya didn’t feature as much as he should have and the movie has nothing on Shiki’s past. If you never plan on reading the books, I’ll just say that Shiki was once in a coma and ever since has felt very weird about their existence, as if something is off, besides the lack of a left arm. This anime does have interesting themes. Suicide and life in particular, the characters discuss quite a bit about suicide. This may be distasteful or offensive to some, but the movie is sensible about the way it handles the topic. Among the things mentioned, people who willingly take their life usually leave suicide notes and usually commit suicide in a way to be noticed. Otherwise they seem like more of a disappearance. Jumping off a building and being airborne is also discussed. The desire to fly and how it can be similar or different to falling, though they did miss out the reference to Icarus in Greek Mythology which was in the book. It’s fairly interesting actually. Even if it does get a bit philosophical and almost psychedelic at times, but I personally love it when an anime does that. This isn’t much of a spoiler but there is a post-credit scene and even a preview of the next movie, which was released immediately after this one. It’s almost like these movies are like a very long anime series with double length episodes. Thinking about it, I seem to remember that the first episode of Fate Zero was similarly long. Perhaps they nailed it as a series for that? Conclusion This movie is definitely not aimed at all audiences. I’d recommend this to fans of those difficult but deep anime like Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell and such. It also has a bit of mystery solving, so folks who like that kind of stuff might like this. This first movie may seem tame in comparison to the rest of the series, if one though this was tough and prickly, they wouldn’t want to keep watching as things can get more intense in the later movies. It can most definitely be appreciated and I personally enjoyed it thoroughly. While previous anime I may have been bored at times and diverted my attention away from screen, this anime had all my attention, even if I have already read the novel equivalent. For those who give it a try and see it for what it really is, they will realise how beautiful this anime really is. Don’t let the link to Tsukihime bother you (some folks really didn’t like that Type-Moon anime), someone who hated that, loved this. And I like both (everyone has their own opinion). So give this a try if you want something unique and difficult or if you like those crazy sorts of anime, you’ll be able to understand and appreciate this. Family-friendliness Rating: 4/5 Unsettling themes (lower is better) Overall Rating: 8.5/10 (higher is better)
*Massive spoilers ahead*Overlooking View fails to adequately answer basic questions asked of a story, and that is its ultimate failing. It begins in medias res where the three main characters have established relationships and defined roles in their world, the movie attempts to build intrigue and mystery by keeping these many elements close to the chest, to further entice you to care about this strange world they live in. The thing is, it nearly completely falls apart as a work because it does so little and then expects you to care what happens within the story.Who are these characters? What do they want? Why do they want it?You only gain a sliver of an inkling that hints at Shiki's true character that hides beneath her stoic exterior, but even this has problems. The first scene has Mikiya give his opinion of Shiki's contradictory nature (characterization versus character) and it's rather simplistic - she's beautiful like a rose, but also dangerous (thrones), which is why he could think of nothing to buy her but strawberry ice cream (something she herself dislikes and something she didn't eat when he brought for her previously). Shiki refuses to eat it, acting somewhat as a rejection.Shiki demonstrates she's greatly affected by Mikiya's predicament in contrast to her stoic attitude until then - what causes the change in her behavior? Realizing the suicide cases may be related to his case, but there's no direct link established for the sudden change - it's a jarring reaction as she runs to catch yet another girl committing suicide. Shiki was also once an empty container, a statement made by Touko. We learn Mikiya was intrigued by dolls, possibly because he saw Shiki's emptiness in Touko's dolls. This reveals a bit more about Shiki's true character and contextualizes some of her actions, primarily her concern for Mikiya - he fills and links her to the outside world, just like he adds an additional presence within her empty apartment, but this isn't expressed outside that one minute scene. Ironically, her apparent connection with Mikiya is essentially empty within the story. When she walks through the rain, decides to eat and accept the strawberry ice cream with one arm (Mikiya's image of her), what is meant to be a poignant scene, conveyed by the slow, melancholic track, falls flat - there's a lack of emotional connection because the story shows and tells very little. We are told that Mikiya is always dreaming and honest, but never shown this, and he characterizes himself as a weak person during the end. Calling him a character in this movie might be stretching it.Touko simply provides explanatory dialogue with little to no prompting to highlight the controlling idea of the story - this is a poor way to demonstrate the meaning behind a work. She doesn't showcase any actual character throughout the movie, it would be better to call her the author's mouth piece. She expresses the ideas of the author, but the design of the story does not prove them. It feels remarkably hollow without the ideas being acted out in front of us - there's no substantial proof established by the story. Am I meant to be convinced by simple rhetoric, especially when Touko hasn't even demonstrated a profound understanding of humanity outside cliches and common knowledge? "Humans cannot live outside their box", a cliche, and a sentence summarizing how the brain is the one that interprets and understands images rather than your eyes doesn't sell me.She showcases a fundamental lack of understanding when the suicide cases are first brought up. "They had no problems in their personal lives, and their families have no idea why they committed suicide." She concludes thus it's obviously a case of them suddenly feeling uneasy about themselves and selfishly taking their own lives. This is a rather simple view of the motivations behind suicide. Many families, and even lovers, do not know of the immediate troubles that may have weighed on the person's soul before they killed themselves. Concluding that it must've been a spur of the moment impulse is naive, and doesn't highlight Touko's intelligence - it makes it appear she doesn't know what's she talking about. She digs her grave even further by saying it's only a matter of course that they leave no note behind for others. This ignores that only 15 to 30 percent of people who commit the act leave a note behind, and the lack of the act itself doesn't actually reveal any special connection with one another. She's ultimately proven right, but her actual reasoning was brimming with holes. This is the problem with Overlooking View, it essentially attempts to preach to you without much of a leg to stand on and tries impress greater intelligence or importance than it actually conveys. Even the climax is explanatory dialogue calling back to Touko's overlooking view concept and a summarization of Kirie's characterization in a 3 minute scene. Kirie's case, however, is a rather extreme one and doesn't remotely reinforce Touko's view as a generality. Touko dialogues about things that aren't firmly present within the story ("one must not pick the path based on one's sins, they carry their sins on whatever path they choose."). To touch on the subject of suicide again, after Kirie kills herself:Azaka: "I don't understand what goes through the minds of people who kill themselves."Touko: "There's no reason to kill yourself. She probably couldn't fly today."Those are the final words of the film. "Suicide is a weakness and is running away" is a sentiment repeated more than once in the film by Touko, Kirie, and Mikiya. It mainly reinforces this with, again, an extreme case from Mikiya, which is prompted by Shiki's question "do you think suicide is right?" He says he would commit suicide not because of the threat he posed in his "what if" scenario (if he suddenly contracted a horrible retrovirus that would kill everyone in Tokyo), but because of his lack of courage in facing the opposition from everyone in Tokyo. He says he would commit the act out of weakness, not out of altruism, despite the fact his own existence would kill everyone within the city. He goes on to say he thinks death, in the context of suicide, is running away. Characters are, of course, giving their opinions. He recognizes there are times people want to run away and that he can't refute or deny that because he's "a weak person too." He's making a general statement there, highlighting the reoccurring idea. There isn't any contrasting view point on it and the story doesn't particularly aid this idea, it's simply expressed.It makes several allusions to "flying/floating", but it's ultimately obtuse and just leaves the audience pondering why they're talking like that. First, Kirie makes explicit reference to it in relation to Mikiya. He's always dreaming and he's always honest, that's why he can "fly anywhere" if he puts his mind to it. She wants him to take her with him, and then she asks Shiki if she can "fly" too. Shiki screams she doesn't understand, but it has little context within the story and only begs the question - "what doesn't she understand?" We know nothing of Mikiya's character outside this person's words. If I'm getting this correctly, Flying is synonymous with succeeding in life or strong will ("escaping with purpose" as said by Touko), floating with giving up in a way or having no real motivation ("escaping without purpose" as said by Touko).Then Mikiya details a dream about a dragonfly that was energetically flying, and a butterfly that tried to follow it but couldn't and fell to the ground. He thinks it would've been able to stay up longer if it floated around, but it realized it couldn't put up with just floating and that's why it flew in the first place. This illustrates Mikiya and Kirei's relationship, further links "falling" to death, and "floating" to lack of purpose. But, really, what is gained by understanding this? The things KnK does well all relate back to its visual style and how its music as well as sound serves to express the intended mood of its scenes.The green to highlight the decrepit Fujyou Building, and the deep red color of the blood serves to contrast against it. The deep red of Shiki's jacket and yellow of her raincoat as the cool color of blue serves as a complementary color in the background that just makes her pop out in contrast to everything else as she offers relentless stabbings. Kara no Kyoukai makes consistent use of complementary colors to draw your eye. It offers dazzling special effects (the array of color that appears as Shiki kills an apparition) and fluidity of movement. Quick sound of the whooshing of a knife's blade as Shiki slowly ascends the stairs where the would be murderer is potentially located, quick camera cuts to evoke a sense of high speed energy, steadily building and then uptempo triumphant music as Shiki takes out the opposition, form cut scene transitions, KnK brims with style no other urban fantasy anime has ever achieved to my knowledge. The sense of alienation achieved by the number of wide and high angle shots, the heavily shadowed buildings in contrast to the bright orange tinted sky achieved by the low key lightning, and the dark shades of colors at night. The pools of light and mixture of shadows along with the laughing in the background and close ups of Shiki that enhance the nature of Kirie's ambush of Shiki serves to enhance the initial surprise, and the low angle shots that make Kirie seem very powerful and Shiki weak add to the scene. The violent action scenes are well animated and framed sequences, but they lack what all good action scenes require - tension and suspense (stakes). There's only so much subtext the visual elements add, the characters must also give the scenes weight. Shiki goes through the apparitions with little to no effort, they simply float about and get cut, fading to shreds and disappearing. She might as well been cutting through newly washed laundry. The other one prior, Shiki's suddenly attacked and her arm is moving on its own - what can she do to get out of this situation? She sacrifices her out of control arm, but the arm is artificial. It makes the sacrifice artificial, there was no heavy dilemma and no risk. She can and does get it replaced with a better arm and zero consequences. Her driving motivation, to save Mikiya, doesn't create the necessary suspense and she cares nothing about the other victims. In the end, Overlooking View lacks substance despite its effort to convey seemingly important ideas to its audience. It lacks true character, meaningful conflict, and too many scenes do little but provide miniscule exposition in hope you'll be interested enough to keep on watching the series. In spite of the boring and purposely convoluted nature of the story, I might add. Unfortunately, its high production values do not save it from being an mediocre piece of work.
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