Kara no Kyoukai, also known as Garden of Sinners, a series of 7 films with a psychological / supernatural focus. The fourth film is called “Garan no Dou” or “The Hollow”, and is 45 minutes long, and seems to occur after the second film, and between the third film.
An 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, let me begin with an amusing anecdote from a philosophy class I’ve taken, which was about “winning arguments”. One side claims that “Nothing(ness) can’t be the subject of a sentence,” so the other side writes down that sentence on a piece of paper and shows him that it is indeed the subject of a sentence, and wins the argument.
This is a film about nothing, so to speak. On one hand, as you can see by its name, it really is about the nothingness within Shiki, and how she must find something with which to fill her self, to give her a drive to keep going forward. I’ll return to that in a short while, but first I want to discuss the other sense in which this film is about nothing – in terms of plot development, of new material covered, nothing actually happens, nothing new is taught to us.
At this stage, we know how Kokuto and Shiki met, and we know (sort of) of their current relationship, and how they work with Touko. This film doesn’t really tell us anything new, there isn’t really anything we can say “Hm, I didn’t know this before, but I know it now!” The situation is actually more serious than that, even had the films been watched thus far in chronological order (1-4 only, mind), with this being the second film, I still feel we wouldn’t have actually learnt much of Shiki from this film.
Now, before you think I’m complaining, I’m not, and I don’t think this is surprising. This series of films is very much full of moments where we dwell in the moment, where we exist, and “nothing happens”. I’ve noted it in my previous write-ups, and this whole film is sort of like that. This is merely the show continuing as it’s always been. Such an episode wouldn’t have been at all out of place in a TV series, about people picking up the pieces, and in general the series of films and the way it’s handled resemble a western TV show more than discrete films.
But it’s not just that, look at the word I used to describe this episode’s lack of new content – it doesn’t tell us anything we hadn’t known before, but it’s showing us. We still see Kokuto’s dedication once more, we see how Touko and Shiki had met, we see Shiki’s emptiness and the doll that had reminded Kokuto of her, as well as how she finds her resolve anew.
When we look at the content of the film itself, as much as there is, especially as so little is actually given to us, you can see that a recurring theme within this episode is one of birth and death. Shiki floats in a womb-like place, she has to say goodbye to her other self, and thus one could say the motif is about separation and re-integration of one’s soul from one’s body. Continuing the game of seeing how many souls per body we have, in this film we have 2 souls (Shiki and SHIKI) without bodies, and a body without a soul, without a heart (Shiki’s body).
There are no vacancies in nature. When there’s an empty spot, something will come to fill it. So it is on the metaphysical plane; Shiki’s yawning hole in her heart had attracted spirits, for she had surrendered her desire to live, so they thought they’d take over her body, her soul, or just cuddle up within the warm body. But Shiki and her eyes aren’t merely an embodiment, an avatar of death, for death must accompany life. In her final hours, Shiki was filled with the simplest of desires, the desire to live on. Why? That’s exactly the point, she doesn’t have anything more to yearn for, but the quest for life itself continues. For the spirits, and for Shiki. The spirits are without life but with drive for life, and have no body. Shiki is likewise, but thankfully her body was still there for her, so she could reclaim it.
Once she had the body, she had to declare a goal, a reason for living, beyond life itself. She had seemingly chosen the opportunity to kill people, for which I see two potential reasons – The first, she is taking up SHIKI’s role, his mantle, and will kill as he once did. The other, which is tied to my interpretation of the two Shikis – SHIKI’s emotion was “murder”, but as he had told us, children merely reflect the emotions they feel, and thus SHIKI’s sense of others directing the desire to murder him had come from Shiki. Did Shiki worry about Kokutou standing guard outside her house because she feared SHIKI will kill him, or simply because he stood between her and the desire to kill others?
Shiki’s goal is to live. Shiki feels alive, when she crosses the boundary, when she is on the boundary, when she is a goddess of death. As Touko had said, her heart being always empty means she can always live in the present, can always fill it with new experiences, but if she doesn’t look at Kokuto and other such experiences, she can always resort to filling it with death, with victims, ever new victims.
And that is the question, how and why will Shiki fill her emptiness, before the nothingness consumes her?
I give this film a 6.7/10. It sort of acted as a pause, as a breather. I could’ve skipped it without feeling much was missed, but it wasn’t really bad, and achieved its goals. But though it can be given a 7.5/10, I can’t really do it with a good conscience, due to how superfluous it had felt.