Kara no Kyoukai review Part 8.
There's an old aphorism about saving the best till last, and Kara no Kyoukai ~The Garden of Sinners~ has done just that.
The seventh and final movie in the franchise doesn't simply follow the events of the second movie, but utilises threads from several previous stories to weave an interesting, and sometimes disturbing, tale of obsession. The second part of Satsujin Kousatsu (Murder Speculation), takes place in February 1999, one month after Oblivion Recording, and more than three years after the events in the second movie.
This time around it seems the serial killer from part one is back, and as the bodies are found one by one, Mikiya Kokuto searches for answers as he continues to believe Ryougi Shiki was not responsible for previous set of murders, and that she is innocent of the crimes being commited now. Meanwhile, Shiki prowls the dark alleys night after night ...
One thing that really sets this movie apart from the rest of the series is that the plot is much tighter and more flowing than in most of the previous outings. There is also a conscious effort to tie up some of the loose ends left over the course of the series, and while there are still several unanswered questions, the second part of Satsujin Kousatsu does manage to offer some catharsis about Shiki and Kokuto's relationship.
That said, the writing isn't perfect. There are still some plot points that remain unresolved, and while they may not have a major impact on the narrative per se, they do leave one feeling that the overall storyline from the whole series is a little incomplete. In addition to this the dialogue suffers from an abundance of intelligence as every character can philosophise their actions in some manner. The upshot of this is that the movie can sometimes seem condescending or patronizing, and even though this questionable arrogance may be unintentional, the simple fact is that viewers may find themselves wanting to punch the screen from time to time.
While the writing may not be up to standard, the same can't be said of the visuals. Ufotable have, once again, pulled out all the stop for this finale, and it shows. The characters move with an animal grace that is rare to see, and the overall animation is stunning in its quality and choreography. The opening credit sequence is particularly noteworthy as it shows great imagination, as well as some stunning techniques that will hopefully appear in more anime. As for the movie proper, there are some fantastic lighting effects throughout which add a more ominous atmosphere to much of the story, especially when used alongside the often dark, dank backgrounds and settings. That said, there are occasions where the lighting is a little off (for example, characters are easily distinguishable in areas where there is no readily available light source), however this is a minor gripe as the majority of the movie is the most atmospheric and well animated episode in the franchise.
Sound is another area where the movie excels, although there are admittedly a few minor niggles here and there. The cast are at their best in this episode, and their experience with the characters, especially Kokuto (Suzumura Kenichi), and Shiki (Sakamoto Maaya), really does shine through. The performances of the seiyuu literally ooze quality, and while there is a penchant for philosophical monologuing at times, these are delivered with aplomb.
In terms of effects Satsujin Kousatsu Part 2 might arguably be the best in the series. Each sound is clear and distinguishable, even when the habitual cacophony occurs during heavy action sequences, and once again the franchise proves that it can deliver very high production values.
The real triumph though, is the music.
In the simplest terms this movie a definite contender for "best anime choreography of the decade" as it features some of the most breathtaking melding of animation and music to be found in the medium, and the choice of tracks is nothing short of inspired. The opening sequence is a choral, hymn-like track which perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the movie, while the end theme, a bittersweet ballad, works very well with the movie's finale. Where Satsujin Kousatsu Part 2 really shines though, is in the application of its thematic music. The tracks on offer have a generally dark feel to them (this isn't really a "nice" story after all), but added to that are visuals that have not only been timed extremely well, but feature some excellent animation, stunning set designs, and superb camera angles.
One of the issues that has plagued the Kara no Kyoukai franchise from the outset is that the characters are often underdeveloped, and while certain events over the course of the series provide opportunities for growth, these chances are all too often overlooked. That said, there is some development to be had, it's just unfortunate that the lion's share of it only occurs in a few movies, and this is one of them. It's the introduction of Shirazumi Lio that changes the dynamics of not only the story, but also the relationship between Kokuto and Shiki. He is the one thing that forces the pair to grow as characters, and his presence in the movie casts a pall over every story in the franchise.
Confused? I'll elaborate then.
Kara no Kyoukai has made the effort to portray Souren Araya as the main "bad guy", but while his goals may be the drivers for many of the events over the course of the series, he never affected Kokuto and Shiki in the way that Lio does. It's his formation of a very disturbed "menage-a-trois" that causes Kokuto to "get off his backside" for once, and pushes Shiki to the edge of reason. Lio is also noteworthy for the surprising amount of characterisation that has gone into his creation. He is a complete persona from start to finish, and while there is virtually no development on his part, he honestly doesn't need it.
To be perfectly frank, I found this to be the best installment in the series, and while it is somewhat more graphic than other episodes, this only serves to improve one's understanding of the characters and events (as opposed to simply being graphic in order to be "cool"). A case in point is one particular interaction between Lio and Shiki, which while being rather sexually charged, is more reminiscent of a child pulling the wings off a fly. It's this emphasis on improving the viewer's understanding of the characters that really sets the movie apart, especially as this is what has been lacking for most of the series.
If you're a fan of franchise, or of TYPE-MOON, then Satsujin Kousatsu Part 2 is a movie that you should definitely watch. As a standalone it holds its own against many other releases, but when the series is taken as a whole the movie is raised to a new level. That said, in order to fully appreciate the difference it's best to watch the rest of the series first, as while each episode functions as an autonomous tale, this particular film has been designed to convey an ending.
Kara no Kyoukai may not be to everyone's tastes, but whether you like it or not the one undeniable fact is that the franchise makes a great advertisement for the potential inherent in the anime industry, and given some recent releases like Break Blade, it seem like someone was paying attention.