A teenage girl, who possesses the "Mystic Eyes of Death Perception", a supernatural ability that allows the user to see the "death" of everything in existence and kill the object by destroying its "origin". She recently recovered from a two-year coma caused by a traffic accident. Prior to the traffic accident, she originally had two personalities, a male personality named Shiki (織), and the original female personality Shiki (式). Children born into the Ryougi family are generally male and are raised with two personalities, so the male personality is customarily called the "yang" personality, while the female is called the "yin" personality. It is easy to tell which Shiki is speaking at a given time because they both have a distinct style of speaking, most notably that the female Shiki refers to herself with the pronoun watashi (私), while male Shiki refers to himself as ore (俺). After waking from her coma, Shiki discovers that she can no longer feel the male Shiki's presence and assumes that he died because of the accident. She also feels a detachment from her memories before the accident, and while she knows she is Shiki, she does not feel that she is. In the hopes of regaining herself and the "dead" Shiki, she puts on a cold facade that somewhat resembles the male Shiki's and tries to act as the female Shiki did. Touko understands the sense of detachment Shiki feels, but considers the current Shiki a third, new personality.
The series is regarded as being set in the same world as another TYPE-MOON series, Tsukihime, with Aoko Aozaki's sister Touko Aozaki being featured in this series and the protagonist of the series, Shiki Ryougi, possessing the same abilities as Tsukihime's protagonist, Shiki Tohno.
Have you ever been so elated about a decision that you made which brought you an indescribable elation and great fruition to you?
Well, I, for once felt that joy when I opted to read the novel of Kara no Kyoukai (KnK) rather than watching the movie series first. Right after I read the novel, I watched the films (obviously, the animation just blew me away) and then the thought came to me that if I had watched the films first, then I could not have understood almost the entire story behind each and every incident that occurred in that world.
Story & Storytelling (9/10):
Totally, there are 7 different incidents that take place in 7 different timelines. These incidents form the crux of their respective stories and the entire plot revolves around these incidents in some way or the other even if you get the feeling that you are being dragged away from the main part of the story. Before you can even realize, you will be thrown into the story and you'll never see it coming. That's how great the storytelling was when it comes to KnK. The 5th chapter here deserves a special mention for its brilliant story narration and plot even though there will be many terms related to magic persisting in that world that we may not be familiar about.
Note that, the entire series takes place in an anachronical manner; meaning, the timelines are all jumbled up but it is safe to say that reading as it is will help in better understanding of the entire plot rather than opting for a chronological order while reading for the 'first' time. The storytelling is really nice and you will get hooked to the story in no time. The monologues from different characters are one to look out for, there were some thought provoking quotes from the various characters, the interactions between the characters were natural and even when you feel that the story is traversing in a roundabout way rather than plunging straight into the climax, you will end up realizing that it was all a necessity and worth the read. The way in which the story was told more than made up for the lack of art since this is a novel and not a manga.
To sum it all up in one word, the characterization was just brilliant. All the characters lived up to their roles and fulfilled them thoroughly. The protagonist on the male side is Kokuto Mikiya while the one who helms the role as the female protagonist is the ever-graceful Ryougi Shiki. There cannot be a character in the virtual world that oozes more beauty, grace and serenity than Shiki Ryougi. She basically runs the show in many chapters and just so you know, she is strong. Real strong. Equal importance is given to the people who are behind the incidents, their circumstances being explained thoroughly so as to leave no stone unturned. Like I said before, the monologues and the interactions are to be watched for.
The story revolves around Shiki, Mikiya and Aozaki Touko; the Chief of the place named Garan no Dou where Mikiya works and where Shiki is a regular customer. Touko is mainly present to clarify the doubts put forth by both Mikiya and Shiki (same doubts that arise in our mind while we watch/read KnK) where there is heavy involvement of magus, origin, sorcery and otherworldly beings. But, even she is forced into action in the 5th chapter or the 5th movie. Mikiya, who is peace-loving and a man filled with a sense of justice, is there to protect Shiki even at the cost of his life and is even ready to bear the sins that Shiki has committed. Even though the story is set in a non-chronological order, there are visible traits of character development; especially when it comes to Shiki Ryougi. I am forced to not reveal more about the characters as it might end up spoiling the fun and excitement for you but, that said, an extra amount of attention to the dialogues spoken by those who cause the incidents could be paid so as to have a mental experience of what they are undergoing or have undergone. The movie series makes use of this in the best way possible since it becomes a little difficult to grasp the feelings of the characters while reading a novel. This was how it was for me, at the least.
I would be lying blatantly if I say I didn't enjoy this novel and it would also be an understatement to say that both the KnK novel and the movie series were only 'good'. At times, since it is next to impossible to make the brain function with full concentration, some dialogues were difficult to grasp while even if the concentration was high, you cannot just help but wonder what is happening. A huge amount of never before heard words come in play in the 5th chapter and it just won't be enough if you were to skim/glance through all the dialogues if you are in the plan of reading the novel only once (although, sooner or later you'll pick it up again just for the sake of it).
Kara no Kyoukai was more or less unknown to the masses until 2004 wherein Kodansha officially published it. From then on, it went on to become a runaway hit and subsequently got the anime adaptation that it duly deserved to have. All the credits go to Kinoko Nasu and his hard work which is evident in the novel. This was the first work that I read in the much famed Nasuverse and his collection of novels, games etc and it truly was a memorable one.
For those who might be interested in reading/watching KnK in the correct, chronological order, 2 -> 4 -> 3 -> 1 -> 5 -> 6 -> 7 is the correct order based on the timelines.
An extra novel which is a sequel to the KnK series is Kara no Kyoukai - Mirai Fukuin. This too was a nice read and one to watch out for. My personal recommendation would be that, in order to have a good understanding of the story, the novel could be read first and then the films could be watched next. It can be done the other way around also so as to check if the films missed out on anything from the novels. Also, definitely do not miss out on watching the films because, everything about the films oozes with top quality. Be it the animation, the background score or the voice acting, everything has been crafted in such a way that it becomes difficult to detest this franchise.
One of the man trademark Aozaki Touko quotes:
It's a mistake to choose your path based upon the sins that you carry. We don't choose our path based on the sins that we carry, but we must bear our sins on the path we choose.
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