Kara no Kyoukai, also known as Garden of Sinners, a series of 7 films with a psychological / supernatural focus. The first is called Fukan Fuukei or Overlooking View, and is 48 minutes long. This series of movies almost feels like a series, and is the current focus of an online anime watch club I’m participating in. I will share write-ups written for the club, which aren’t written in the form of notes, but also aren’t me trying to come up with a specific point (thus far).
Final and important note – these write-ups are written after watching each movie, not the whole series of movies. Spoilers of movies beyond the one numbered in each entry will not be tolerated.
First thing first – this is directed as a movie. Look at all those “dead moments”, those quiet moments where “nothing happens”. Shiki waking up, people just standing or walking, without music, and most of all the pretty long sequence where Shiki had eaten her ice-cream. You can see it in shows, often by the BBC, and say in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Serial Experiments Lain, but it’s much more common in films, and usually not in Hollywood films either.
There’s a lot of talking going around, of people standing idle and talking, of meaningful expressions, but not over the top. Slow and steady. More than a few moments reminded me of the artistic direction of Madoka and Mawaru Penguindrum in their alien-ness, and symbolism (all the television sets, all the clocks), but the grunge and detritus definitely makes one think of GitS and Lain once more. The tumble-down society.
And yet, this is structured as a show. I find it weird having to give it a grade, what with the preview for “Next episode” which had been released exactly 4 weeks later, it definitely feels like the setup to a show, not a movie. More than that, it had too many “endings” had it been a show, which sort of reminds me of the unfortunate situation of the final film of Lord of the Rings, so many black screens after an “end” only for us to see yet another scene, for 40 minutes. People actually coughed and moved in their seats after the first 15 minutes, but I’ll still expand on it further.
Before that, I want to discuss this show’s interesting use of colours. In the traditional colour scheme (such as when one paints), green and red are considered complementary colours. Notice how red and green had been used to immediately give us a sense that the old building had been abandoned, derelict, corroded. You want to know something else that used a similar colour scheme, alongside corrosion and a water-related feel? The original Bioshock game. So, the sense it gives is quite good – BTW, when painting miniatures, you’d often use red instead of black to shade green areas on a miniature, the tone-shift works out better, and green to shade red, sometimes.
Now, let’s look at the infamous RGB cyan-teal complementary colours (and if you want another amusing rant on the same topic, look here. I think these links are mind-blowing, personally). We saw Shiki in these colours, blending into the world, as she went into the building, to face her opposition, when she had been defeated by her. Also, the yellow cape Shiki had worn had reinforced the nautical theme in my mind, looking like a fisherman’s clothing.
So, complementary colours had been used to show something is a part of the world, mundane, and often run-down. Where did we see contrasting colours then? Within Shiki, as she got into combat mode. Shiki’s eyes, Shiki’s vision that had shown where to strike, and Shiki’s getup, once she had worn the modern and bold red coat over her blue, calm, and fading to the background yukata. Contrasting colours are for when things don’t belong, for when Shikidoesn’t belong. You might have thought her a sweet strawberry, but she’s a thorn, and she cuts to the quick. Also, that boy sure has a lot to learn if he wishes to impress the girls, eh?
Well, let’s talk some about the story. First, it didn’t make that much sense, talk about in media res, eh? So we don’t know what Shiki really is, or what is “wrong” with people who are “attracted to dolls”, maybe they are empty within? Well, Shiki’s humanity seems questionable, and her emotional make-up, and past. Since I know a bit more about the show, I actually could spot at least one sentence in this episode that’s going to be received very differently if people re-watch this. But we don’t really know the characters yet, except that Shiki can be petulant, cold, and has emotions, but not all, and not always.
I talked earlier about the structure, and how it didn’t fit movies, but episodes, due to all the numerous “endings”, that need not apply if you don’t think the Kirei committing suicide was the point where the movie had to end, or with Kikuouta waking up, but if you think of the true core of the story as the discussion of suicide, then it concluding with it makes perfect sense.
What did I think of the aforementioned suicide discussion? I didn’t like it. If we think of it as the characters talking, with their flawed opinions, then it’s fine, but from early on in the episode where we met Touko, I’ve realized the authors are using the characters, and especially her, to tell us what they think, to info-dump on us, to give us information. In general, I don’t care for such storytelling, but it’s also obvious this character knows a lot more than us and the other characters, so it’s expected anything she says will be treated as such (now that is “author-insert”), though when it comes to opinions? That’s a bit much. Anyway, we have Kokutou telling us he’ll commit suicide in that case, but that it’s not out of kindness, utilitarianism or anything else, but entirely out of cowardice, and that even in the aforementioned example, were he willing to go against everyone, he’d let them die and not kill himself (I got to wonder if this is foreshadowing or commentary about Shiki’s nature).
Then Touko over-rules him, saying suicide is never the answer, but this makes sense as she is strong, and as she said, those who commit suicide are weak and running away. Yeah, I don’t really agree with this very pedagogue preaching, it feels very off-putting to me as a viewer to hear these ideals from people who seem clueless, and authors should be careful about such lines, though I guess after all the romanticizing of suicide going on throughout the episode (and how it reminds me of Shigofumi!) they needed to include something to make sure people don’t commit suicide and then to have it blamed on their show, eh?
The sequence about flying versus floating was a bit cute, and for a moment the dream sequence with “I wasn’t sure whether I was the dragonfly” almost made me groan due to the reference to the famous poem about the dreamer and the butterfly. But it can be tied to the above discussion, it’s all about knowing where you belong, about having drive, and understanding that you lack it can give you drive, to run away, or to change your position, and that chance requires the ultimate letting go, if you’re too weak to actually achieve what you desire. On a slight tangent, when Kirie committed suicide, her lines reminded me of the content of pre-death haiku, and the slightly a-tonal string music was fitting, in that context.
On final notes, aside from the background, the art-style to me is sort of eh, you can definitely see the older Type-Moon aesthetic, and Shiki’s endless neck, and them hairs… but the backgrounds were lovely, and as I mentioned, it’s certainly evident that work had gone into the colour schemes and scene compositions.
When it comes to the soundtrack, I can definitely say it is notable. The “la-la-la-la” repeating theme (also as the episode ended) was nice, and loud, but aside from being notable, and not bad, I don’t have much to say about it just yet, soundtracks are judged as they accompany us throughout a show, but that I noticed it and didn’t hate it is something in and of its own, but with how prominent they make it it’s hard to miss (Princess Mononoke also plays the soundtrack a bit “too loud”, which serves to highlight its grandeur).
It’s strange for me to give this a score, since were this a regular series I’d just pop in the next episode, as this merely set up the mystery, but I’d give it 6.6/10 – it was alright, solid, but nothing to truly draw me in just yet, though the sense of promise of more to come (along with friends’ recommendations) could. I still believe giving it a score is alright, as it had been released as a film, in the end.
Two final asides:
“Vision is not what your eyes see, but the image your brain builds. Our vision is protected by our common sense.” – Very Terry Pratchett, very Discworld – if we see Death, we conclude we can’t be seeing him, so our brain will construct a picture where we either don’t see him, or see him as someone else, whom we know, and is very much not Death. And yet, Shiki sees things, she has no common sense, or far too much of it.
“I think my end should be falling from a high place overlooking the world.” – Metaphorically, it had already been, both with Shiki, and with her original decision, but as she said, she wanted to come as close to that experience as she could.