By: Shelved Gamer
Kara no Kyoukai in summary, is the story of Ryougi Shiki who investigates various supernatural crimes while struggling with her own killing urges. With the help of Mikiya Kokuto and her magus boss Touko Aozaki, they spend most of the films in independent stories that tackle their problems.
Kara no Kyoukai was originally a three volume light novel series by Type-Moon. Kara no Kyoukai was their first ever work and probably stood as a prototype for their later visual novel Tsukihime. Many of the concepts that appear in Kara no Kyoukai end up in Tsukihime in one shape or form. Now that is not to say that Kara no Kyoukai (from now to be abbreviated as KnK) is an incomplete or even mechanically flawed work. It’s a standalone complete piece that works perfectly even if you completely disregard the existence of Tsukihime.
Anyway, we’re not here to talk about the light novels, we’re here to talk about the animated films. KnK was animated by Japanese animation studio Ufotable and released as seven films and one 35 minute OVA epilogue. The first film, Overlooking View will be the only true stumbling block in your enjoyment of KnK. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic film but there is little to no character development until the second film, A Study in Murder (Part 1). As such, you may be tempted to quit only a little way into it. Overlooking View is a film that is retroactively brilliant. Once you know the characters it adds more layers to the already visually stunning film. So I would ask you to keep watching KnK but if by the third film, Remaining Sense of Pain, you do not think it’s for you it’s probably not going to grow on you.
KnK looks and sounds fantastic. Takashi Takeuchi’s art style has always been really great. The music was composed by Yuki Kajiura. She’s worked on some of my favourite anime soundtracks to date, including the recent Fate/Zero soundtrack. I would say that KnK was even better than that. The music fit perfectly with the scene and I would even say it gives Kenji Kawai a run for his money.
The story was written by Type-Moon’s Kinoko Nasu. I’ve always loved Type-Moon stories and KnK ranks up with the best of them. The main thing that will probably turn people away is that it’s very dialogue heavy. If you’re a fan of action, you won’t find too much here to begin with. The few primary characters get an absurdly large amount of development. You feel that you could comprehend all of the small details of the characters actions by the end. Even Ryougi Shiki, with her multiple personalities has little quirks you will probably pick up on. Some things however are somewhat broken to us due to the language barrier. In Japanese, both of her personalities are the same name but written with different Kanji. Also depending on the personality present she will speak using different mannerisms, which only those who speak Japanese or at least have some limited understanding of Japanese might pick up on (something I did not at the time.)
I feel that with having watched Fate/Zero recently and now Kara no Kyoukai, I’ve been spoilt by fantastic Type-Moon works. If Kara no Kyoukai is too much for you, I would recommend maybe getting into the Fate/Stay Night anime, (though butchered compared to the Visual Novel) if only so you can go and watch Fate/Zero afterwards. I honestly think that Kara no Kyoukai is one of the best anime films I’ve seen in recent memory, if it’s not even the best I’ve ever seen. I can only imagine how good Ghost in the Shell or Akira could have been if they had the budget to release them as several, more complete films.
I don’t see the point in giving a score for anime as it’s really going to depend on your tolerance for tropes and pacing. All I will say is that Kara no Kyoukai does what it does perfectly. There is very little room for improvement and aside from one small spoiler related aspect at the end, I had no real gripe to speak of. Only watch this show however if you’re willing to sit through tons of dialogue and waiting a little while for the character development to kick in.