In November 1998, a double homicide occurs at the newly constructed Ogawa apartment complex. Shiki meets a boy named Tomoe Enjou, a runaway who claims to be the murderer, and lets him use her apartment as his hideout. From that day onward, their strange cohabitation begins. Coincidentally, Mikiya Kokutou is investigating a tip regarding the murder at that unique apartment complex...
Kara no Kyoukai – Mujun Rasen (AKA Paradox Spiral) is the 2 hour 5th movie in the supernatural, seinen, mystery series with aspects of psychological and romance based upon the series of Type-Moon universe novels written by Kinoko Nasu. This movie is set after all of the previous movies and starts to really connect all the plot together. It also reveals the narrative to be supremely complex, almost mind-meltingly. The character behind the scenes is revealed and there’s just so much plot here compared to the previous movies (especially movie 4). This was 2 segments worth in the book. Instead of the usual single segment, thus I’m glad it’s 2 hours instead of the usual 1 hour. There’s just so much going on here. This is one movie that perhaps defines the madness (the good kind) of the Kara no Kyoukai series. Of course, read my reviews of the previous movies if you haven’t already, there’s a lot there that remains similar or the same, or I just feel the same way and thus you’ll find those sections refer you to previous reviews anyway. I’d copy and paste if folks can’t be bothered to click on a hyperlink, since I’d be saying the same things but just wording them differently. This is also the last movie chronologically in the original Kara no Kyoukai series, there are 2 more and then some standalone stories. Animation As I’ve said in the past lot of reviews the animation is top-notch, pretty much perfect. I’ll point you to my review of the first movie where I explain why this is the case. While the previous movie was a mild dip on the front of violence, blood and gore, this movie brings it all back and turns it up to 11. There’s some very gruesome scenes here. There’s some mistakes in some of the scenes though, there is absence of blood when there is supposed to be, even the knife and entrails are clean of the red stuff (only in a few of the scenes does it make sense). A fight scene at the start takes a dip in quality for no apparent reason. They still go for the artistic and unique arrangements and scene transitions, but this time they take it a bit too far and in combination with the complex fast paced story, it ends up becoming very confusing. Sound Sound and music is stellar as usual, again read the review of movie 1 if you want to find out why. As usual, the movie is available in Japanese and has dubs in French and German, but strangely no English. However, there are a few new characters in this chapter of the Kara no Kyoukai story, so here are their voice actors. Tomoe Enjou is voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara, who voices Kain Fuery in FMA, Fujioka in Minami-ke (hilarious anime), Mercutio de Marchege in Romeo X Juliet, Simon in Gurren Lagann and Shiroza in Xam’d: Lost Memories and some minor character in Kuroko no Basuke 2. Cornelius Alba is voiced by Koji Yusa, also the voice of Isley in Claymore, Vincent Law in Ergo Proxy and Aoi Ogata in Special A. Soren Alaya is voiced by Jouji Nakata, he was also the voice of Naoi’s father in Angel Beats, Diethard Ried in Code Geass, Bando in Elfen Lied, Kirei Kotomine in the Fate Series (set in the same universe as this movie), Van Grants in Tales of the Abyss and Chaser John Doe in Yumekui (Dream Eater) Merry. Characters I think movie 3 has the best summary of the 3 main characters who are pretty much in every on of these movies, so for the low-down on those folks, check here for my review of movie 3. A few things about the existing characters, Mikiya Kokutou isn’t around for a good while as he’s off at some sort of fast-track driving lesson camp, which if he survives, he qualifies for a driver’s license. When it comes to Shiki, this guy puts his own well-being second. Mikiya is also very through and extensive in his detective work, which Touko even praises. Touko is herself for the most part, though she does some crazy stuff in the action sequences (I also found out that she’s the younger sister of the mysterious red-haired mage we barely see in Tsukihime) and only lightly explains a few things about how magic works and the magus academy she attended in the UK. Shiki remains murderous and lazy, somewhat laid-back too. She never empties out the rubbish from her sink and seems to eat a lot of Strawberry Hagen-Dasz ice cream. She also lets her laundry pile up after showers, which includes her lingerie. I’m surprised Shiki even wears a bra, since she usually wraps her chest with a bandage to minimise her bust and for better mobility and combat ability. This is traditionally done without any bras (I believe). In the end, she relies on others to take the laundry to the laundromat after it’s built up, usually Mikiya does this. Remember the first movie where Shiki’s gender is a secret, well they actually discuss her gender. Azaka Kokutou is the younger sister of Mikiya Kokutou. If I’m correct in my timing of this part of the story, she is 18 years old (?). She attends the pretentious Reien girl’s boarding school. She was supposed to be in this movie for a little while, where it is revealed that she is Touko’s apprentice and is learning the art (i.e. Magic) under Touko’s tutelage. Unfortunately, one of the major issues with this movie is that it leaves out a good chunk of the plot, so Azaka’s scene is very short and we aren’t directly told that she is Touko’s apprentice (when it was mentioned in the book). Tomoe Enjou is a delinquent teenager who dropped out of school, said to look a bit girly (really?). He lived with his parents and used to be a skilled athlete, he was very good at running. He also had a girlfriend for a while, who was a drain on money and in the end he ended the relationship as it was too much loss for no gain (apparently the sex wasn’t good?!?) and Tomoe just ignored girls from then on. Unfortunately, his parents were very poor and weren’t able to earn enough due to one drink-driving incident his father had, so he gave up his dreams and worked full-time to keep his family afloat. Some of this character’s history remains unexplained in the movie, you can thank me for having read the novel first. He had to keep changing jobs due to the BS hate his father got for the drink-driving, which people still judged his family for eventually things got a bit too far. He claims to have murdered his parents in cold blood and run off, he is always suffering from nightmares that his mother kills his father and then comes into his room while he’s sleeping to violently stab him to death. On the run, he ends up staying with one of our main characters and even develops feelings for them. He’s a capable fighter, but only as one would expect from a delinquent teenage boy, he’s no superhuman. The murder and the wreck of his life really messes with his mind, but that’s nothing compared to the full story… Cornelius Alba is sadistic magus (apparently) from the UK. He attended and studied at the big academy of magic there, where Touko was one of his peers. His history with Touko goes far back and he harbours deep hate for her and her beliefs. He’s headstrong and desires to be better than Touko, who is generally a more powerful mage and got further in her magical research, as they were both focusing on the same topic of dolls. And lastly, who is likely the most important character plot-wise for all of these movies, is the mysterious magus called Soren Alaya (Alaya is how it was spelt in the original novel, Araya is likely an interpretation of the pronunciation in the movie) who also attended the academy of magic and also has some history with Touko. This man is very powerful and cunning, he has a long plan in motion and seeks the Holy Grail that all mages strive for (no not the one from the Fate series!), to reach the origin. From what I interpreted from the novel, the original is like some sort of one way enlightenment, gaining knowledge of everything. He seems to know Shiki, though she doesn’t seem to know him. Story While the previous movie was light on plot, this one is so very full of it, that there is too much progression to be able to talk about everything without spoilers. At one point of the novel Touko explains how magic works including the spiral of origin, a seemingly unreachable goal which all mages strive towards and few have succeeded. Those that do never return (sounds a lot like death to me). Touko herself has lost interest in it, but other most other mages maintain an interest in it. She also explains the magic of this world. Apparently the magic exists because of a balance between belief of its existence and non-belief. Magic is slowly dying in modern times due to most people not believing in its existence or even needing it due to technology. So why don’t mages go around convincing people of magic’s existence? Because it’s the belief that such feats are impossible that makes them possible. Already this is starting to sound confusing and I’ve read so much about it in the original novels. I have probably made some errors in the explanation. Anyhow, Tomoe Enjou murdered his parents and ran off where he comes across Shiki. Meanwhile Touko is investigating a mysterious building where something impossible has happened. A murder took place and on a consequent visit by the police, the victims were found to be alive and well with no evidence of the murders ever taking place. It just so happens that Touko herself was involved in the construction of said building, she designed the floor layout of one part of the building. Investigations follow and then the story really gets started. I’m just glad they stuck with the double length that corresponds to the original novel, though it seems even that wasn’t enough… There are various serious themes in this movie, including murder, patricide, physical abuse, bullying, hate, torture and so many more fucked-up things. One thing I took issue with and that I couldn’t understand, even from the book was the sheer extent to how one drink-driving incident ruined the future of the whole Enjou family, Mr Enjou was unable to ever get a job and Tomoe was fired from his jobs as soon as they found out he was that guy’s son, with the excuse that Mr Enjou is a murderer. I understand he was stupid for drunk driving, but that is taking things too far. There’s some interesting moments of realisation in the story too. There's also the idea of entropy, of magic going against nature and nature having it's own way of maintaining the balance. One thing referring to entropy is Sihki's eyes, which see entropy and explains why she can destroy non-living things using her powers. Death is just one facet of entropy. This story gets real complex very fast and a lot of things that don’t make sense occur due to things left out of the movie, a completely nonsensical re-ordering of the events (unlike the book where everything happened in chronological order). As if the original story itself was confusing enough in the first place. For example, there are some tricks of which half are explained and the most important of which remain in mystery, though one trick that wasn’t quite explained in the book is explained here. An example of the lack of order messing things up is the line “You said you live in apartment 405, but Mikiya said your name last.” This refers to a scene later where Mikiya has done some detective work for Touko and is going through it. Among the missing scenes is the one where Azaka shows that she can do magic and reveals that she is Touko’s apprentice and Tomoe talking about his ex-girlfriend. Not giving us the answers to some things is intentional, it’s not due to a silly mistake like a plot-hole, but if they don’t explain it, it might as well be a plot-hole. It can get very confusing very easily and I’ve provided an example with my botched example of how magic works in this world (detailed in the novel). Of course the story remains as faithful to the novels as always, but due to time constraints they leave out a lot of the story. Which is why I was very worried if this film would be single length or double length, since they’d leave out a whole lot more if this had to be squeezed into 50 minutes. While it looks like the 2 hours was just about enough, it feels like they left out a lot more of the content than they actually did, mainly due to order of the scenes being mixed up and some unnecessarily repeated scenes. The biggest issue here is that they took a jam-packed already complex story and made it all the more confusing by jumbling the events around. Certain scenes play out multiple times. I understand they were going for a unique inventive approach to the story-telling, but when it just makes things hard to follow, it falls flat on its face. Conclusion So, the chronological end of the Kara no Kyoukai series, how does the movie go out? Not with a bang but in a big squiggly mess. This is one of the two bigger chapters in Kara no Kyoukai and while they do end up making it double length and keeping most things in, certain design choices make it seem like things were missing when they were just shown much later. While watching this movie, I was pausing and going back to writing this review to change things and then about 30 minutes in I realised how pointless this was. As I’ve said before, an already difficult to grasp story is made unnecessarily more bewildering by the terrible choice of rearranging the order of scenes and even repeating some scenes. This could have been the one in this series that didn’t miss out any of the extra details from the book, but they wasted some of those precious minutes repeating scenes. Now I for one love mind-fuck complex anime, but here they went beyond the line and mucked it up. Along with a few animation issues early on, this is probably the most disappointing of these movies. Even if you ignore the novels, it had the potential to be the best movie in the series, heck that’s what I was expecting before I watched it. By now you will have watched the 4 previous movies in the Kara no Kyoukai series and you will know for yourself whether you like this series or not. I’d usually recommend this to folks who like mystery, and a good complex story with series themes, folks who liked Ghost in the Shell and Elfen Lied. But the scene order in this one really ruins that. Such a shame, since this was so very promising. Fun fact, I was nodding off towards the end, where the spiral of origin is discussed once more. Usually this would warrant a re-watch of that part when I’m less sleepy, but because I’ve already experienced the full story, I’m good. I'm being to generous with the score, but that's because I enjoyed the original material and want to commend them for taking a big risk and trying to do something different, even if it backfired. Family-friendliness Rating: 5/5 Still some pretty messed up stuff (lower is better) Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
From the very start, you can see how Kara no Kyoukai Movie 5: Mujun Rasen is going to be better than one through four in the series. The opening has intelligent backgrounds, original cinematography, hints of extreme violence and the supernatural, and most of all, a sense of intrigue. What's more, the movie continues to build upon that. But the big thing is that this is the first one of the series to actually have movie length, quality, pacing, and production. The artwork, while still has some minor flaws (people in crowds are too still), has an artistic purpose to it. The soundtrack is well thought out and doesn't force itself to be too orchestral. The artistic themes are wonderful and intelligent. The use of metaphors is magnificent rather than tired (people walking superimposed over a mechanical clock, the spiral structure, metamorphosis of water to steam, et cetera). In general, there is a coherent structure that bring everything together in a fantastic way. I have some (very large) qualms with the earlier installations of the series. Luckily, they are not a big deal here. The backgrounds used usually don't involve plenty of dynamic things, so the stillness of trees and other small details isn't much of an issue. The skips in time are intelligently done, and add plenty. Following the timeline is not too challenging, but adds plenty of depth. My one major qualm is the ending fight sequence. I am not a fan of the overly artistic pretentiousness with having just a musical theme and overly stylized cinematography - it just loses the coherency and drama it should have. Fortunately, it is short enough to not make too much of an impact on the rest of it. Writing (Story and Characters): The plot is a good mix of supernatural and mystery, and the characters are actually quite interesting. The plot is quite solid, some twists are obvious, others are not. In general, it is a nice mix between character driven and mystery driven writing. It manages to both feel comfortable yet keeps you on edge. Ultimately, this is up there with the best writing-wise. Don't expect anything truly groundbreaking, but what you can expect is a compelling story told through the perspectives of characters who are fleshed out just enough. There are moments of brilliance (apathetic cute girl is actually a super-efficient killing machine, has her own arc), and what is really excellent is the balancing act between the protagonists' perspectives. A one-sided love, a magical battle, a search for the right kill, and just trying to make everyone better - while on the other hand we have a competent antagonist who is good at what he does and actively does it. What can I say, it just works. Kara no Kyoukai Movie 5: Mujun Rasen has by far the best writing in the series compared to everything that came earlier. There is no competition here. You don't have to view any of the prior movies to enjoy it, because it is powerful enough to stand on its own, and is pleasantly self contained (while still developing the characters). The characters are interesting (well, four out of six are, and the other two are just standard/solid), the plot is well thought out, and most of all, the execution is spot on. You might call the time skipping and shifts in perspective gimmicky. And they are. But you know what? It's just done so well that it doesn't matter at all. It does exactly what it is intended to do: added character depth in a condensed amount of time. While there are problems with the story (it is not free of cliches, it does things that are ultimately not mind-blowing, et cetera), and not all of the characters are interesting (the insane villain is so standard and quite incompetent, the "standard good guy" is rather dull), the writing overcomes those flaws and excels. Art (Animation and Sound): The animation is gorgeous. There is clever use of backgrounds that doesn't allow the standard faults of animation (static trees, city lights that never change, a majority of unmoving people in crowds, et cetera) to become too big a deal. The beautiful use of thematic juxtapositions (steam/smoke -> metamorphosis and transience, mechanical clock -> artificial movement and lack of freedom, and so on) and metaphors on the visual side is a magnificent fit for the story. The voice acting (as opposed to the earlier movies) really comes together with the actions of the characters. The use of audio positioning is clever and a rare thing to behold in anime and a cinematic delight. There is clever use of both Japanese and Western ideas in the art, specifically in the artistic execution of the animation. The soundtrack does tend a bit too much towards the orchestral, and you can hear that it is a very Eastern style of composition though it tries to go for universality - but overall is a good fit for this film. And yes, I will say that Kara no Kyoukai Movie 5: Mujun Rasen is a proper movie in the artistic department, something that I have not yet said about any of the other parts of this series. One of the things that make art truly exceptional is the ability to awe the audience. Well, finally, for the first time in the series, we get that. While in many ways not unique, and some of the "tricks" have been used before, there is a lot of artistic merit as opposed to just stamping out a product. The soundtrack cleverly matches up with the animation in parts where it would seem too out of the box otherwise. The only part that actually fails in that regard is the big fight scene near the end. It tries so hard to scream "climax" that it shoots its load prematurely and then goes on for a few more futile moments where it is basically a mess. Some people might like that, but I prefer my peak at the end of the fun, after gradual intensification into a pleasurable conclusion. But really, the foreplay to it is well over an hour long and really does make up for it. And the epilogue that comes after that actually has someone smoking a cigarette, which I found apt. That one problem is the thing that dropped about 0.3 points from both animation and sound; because otherwise this is what an anime movie that has exceptional artwork that enhances the plot and characters in all the right ways. Overall: Screw movies 1-4. This is the real deal. If there is any reason to get into Kara no Kyoukai as a series, this is it. This is about as solid as non-Miyazaki anime films get. If only that one scene was done better, I would go on to say that it is the absolute best non-Miyazaki anime film. Too bad that scene was supposed to be the point of the movie. Still, I cannot help but recommend this. You should watch it. You really, really, REALLY should.
A "perfect" score is a very difficult thing to give, especially in this day and age where standards, expectations, and preferences are changing more rapidly than ever before. However I can give Mujun Rasen, the fifth installment of the Kara no Kyoukai film series, a perfect score without regret or doubt. The film opens in a manner quite different from the style of the earlier movies. Where several of them start with mundane, almost tedious seeming activities and then later build up tension through shocking and/or disturbing turns of events, Mujun Rasen's beginning is heavy on both counts. Fortunately, the steam built up in the opening scenes builds up throughout the film. Although at several point the plot dips to either explain the events that are taking place or for simple character development, much of the nearly two hour production is mystery-solving and adrenaline-packed battles. The movie is even divided (arguably) into 3 acts; All of which are brilliantly connected and have interesting transitions between. Upon reaching the film's finalé, viewers (or at least I) will be on the edge of their seat. Not only does the ending bring great closure, but also a much desired sense of understanding. Which brings us to the next point. If anything negative can be said about Kara no Kyoukai 5, it is that it is very complex. This is not entirely negative though. Although many viewers will be disoriented by the concepts discussed or even left clueless by the twists, turns, and sucker punches the film takes, it is an inherit trait that makes the film that much more enjoyable. The motives of the antagonists, the explanation of the events given towards the end, and even the conclusion itself are somewhat difficult to piece together, yet this demanding aspect is what makes it a great movie: it manages to make sweat in fear and anticipation, cry, and get the gears in your head turning at a breakneck pace. As for animation and sound, they don't even deserve mention. This is not because they were poor, but largely because they were so well done I have no way to criticize or analyze them. Ufotable really outdid itself here, and I can say that the Kara no Kyoukai films prior to this one didn't draw near it in production quality. On a final note: There is no good reason to NOT see Kara no Kyoukai. It is a fantastic franchise and this film in particular is absolutely brilliant. So if you are reading this review after seeing this film at the top of the list for highest ranked anime here, know this: It is ranked as it is with good reason.
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