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[In-depth Review] Kara no Kyoukai

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“Everything in creation has a flaw. Humans don’t even need not to be mentioned. Air, intent and even time… my eyes here can see the Death of things.”

Synopsis: After awakening from a 2 year coma, Ryouki Shiki discovers that a part of her, formerly her other personality SHIKI, has been replaced with hollowness. In addition to that, she has gained the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, an ability that allows one to see flaws of everything. Using her talents, she works for the mage Aozaki Tohko together with her friend, Kokuto Mikiya, in order to learn to control her ability, and to slowly fill the hollowness within her. (courtesy of A-Source.com)

[Story: 9.0] On the whole, whether Kara no Kyoukai’s storyline can be considered deep or sophisticated is debatable. However, it being a story with various intriguing concepts is undeniable. First and foremost, this is a very dialogue heavy show – minimal action, plenty of talking. In addition, the show also starts rather slowly; it takes quite a while for the scenes to set up. Thus it is not surprising that some may find it insipid. Hence, unlike other Fantasy/Magic series, Kara no Kyoukai is not about Magic in the manner of casting spells and fighting, it is more concerned with the inner workings. Nasu seems to love giving details about how Magic work, though this is more prominent when playing the visual novels of Tsukihime and Fate Stay/Night than reading the novel or watching the movies for Kara no Kyoukai.

One key aspect that made it engaging is the narrative style. I have a soft spot for shows done in anachronistic order and since this only consists of seven movies, it’s not that confusing to piece the events and timeline together. Also presenting the story in a non-chronological manner helps enhancing the mood of mystery throughout the show. The ending is cliché but this is probably one of those cases where it is the most appropriate way to end it. Indeed, I might add that it is the perfect way to end.

From this work, we can certainly see some of the various prototypes that will later become part of the now already famous works of TYPE-Moon. My one qualm with TYPE-Moon’s works however, is that they all contain a certain level of rather dark, explicit elements. Sure, it is one thing that the works are intended for older audience to begin with, but it is another thing to have Magic, and generally Magus (Magicians) being portrayed as unpleasant in nature– I’m not really a fan of shows with elements of gore.

[Characters: 8.0] Ryouggi Shiki herself is an unexpectedly beguiling character. Her development from a sociopath with nihilistic tendencies to a, well, someone with more emotion is excellently explored, particularly in the 5th and 7th movie. The characters in TYPE-Moon verse tend to have overpowered abilities, of which characters like Shiki possessed plenty potential for abuse. Yet, there are little of those, for her abilities are used mostly as plot points rather than deus ex machina for the plot to progress. If anything, Shiki’s ability is probably what made Kara no Kyoukai senjoyable. Because, once again, as mentioned unlike most magic series, Kara no Kyoukai is more interested in the metaphorical interpretation than the literal fanciful explosion.

Nevertheless, in terms of its characters, this show is relatively weak. Other than Shiki, the characters are rather lacking in personality or rather, development of their personalities. While it is true that Mikiya is supposed to play the part of the normal guy (and morality pet for Shiki), he really is too bland.

[Art: 10.0] Naturally, the art is superb. While I don’t recommend people to watch this series of movies if they’re looking for action-based shows, the fight sequences themselves are short but incredibly well executed. For a story heavy on symbolism, visual quality has thus become more of a prerequisite. Hence, the filming technique is expectedly one of the strong points of this show, with elements such as environmental symbolism helping to create the image that is simultaneously beautiful, whimsical and haunting, while the choreography and the way the camera angles are directed gives some of the scenes a more dynamic feel.

[Music: 10.0] Needless to say, with Yuki Kajiura behind the scores, the music featured are nothing short of fantastic. The music flows well with the show, reflecting the various melancholic setting perfectly. And Shiki’s battle Theme is addictive. Kalafina, being a band formed by Yuki Kajiura herself along with some members of Fiction Junction, carried on several of its signature styles.

[Summary] Naturally, Kara no Kyoukai is not recommended simply for anyone. Aside from the fact it is a rather dark show with a fair amount of gore and other mature themes (some of which contained rather graphic details), this is a show that is more concerned with delivering a story than showcasing action. With that said, this is worth the watch.
Personal Overall Rating: 9.0

2 thoughts on “[In-depth Review] Kara no Kyoukai

  1. First the one-chapter novel excerpt in Faust, now this review. (Quite a well-written review, I might add.)

    Fine, the woman in the kimono wins. I’ll check this series out.

    In any case, it’s high time I got to know her better. I’ve had her Good Smile likeness for ages, yet until I read the novel excerpt yesterday I knew little more than her name.

    It’s a pity this title hasn’t seen a subbed Blu-Ray or DVD release. From your description, I gather the art deserves the full high-definition treatment.

  2. Yeah, it’ll definitely be awesome on HD. I wanted to get one of the figurines (Shiki in Kimono)… but it was sold out.

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