Reviews of yesteryear: Kara no Kyoukai 1

Last week I looked at an anime that was adapted from a Type-Moon work by Ufotable. That was Fatezero and it was glorious. Why do I bring this up? Because this week I’ll be looking at an adaptation of a Type-Moon work handled by Ufotable. This is Kara no Kyoukai 1: Fukan Fuukei which is far too long of a title so I’ll just refer to it as KnK for the rest of this review. One of the odd things about KnK is that it’s actually a series of eight films and an OVA looking at different parts of the light novel series and two of the films tell a single story. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to do an actual anime series or was there some reason they couldn’t? Since I like to make up my own explanations for this type of thing I’m just going to say that the Predacons and Maximals were arguing over whether it should be a series or a long OVA and the film series was a compromise. Let’s take a look at the franchise’s first film (I love alliteration.)

There’s an abandoned building where girls have been committing suicide. Our protagonist, Shiki, looks at the building and sees people floating above it. So, she responds by doing absolutely nothing… No examination out of curiosity? Okay, anyway Shiki goes to a place that may or may not be a business of some kind, it’s not exactly explained, to talk to her friends Touko and Mikiya. Mikiya collapses because he went to the suicide building and… likes dolls. And that’s the point of the film where I lost any hopes I had for it being good. It doesn’t help that they leave the dude comatose on the couch instead of taking him to, you know, a hospital. Where they treat people who are suffering from medical issues like being comatose. Just leave him on the couch to dehydrate, it’ll be fine. That’s when Shiki goes to the building to properly investigate. I won’t go any further into details.

Let’s look at the problems with the movie. The first is that we learn virtually nothing about any of our characters or how they gathered together. It’s not like there isn’t time to examine it in part, but they prefer to spend the time showing off the artwork or having Shiki eat for several minutes. Seems like she could’ve investigated the condemned building earlier and nothing of value would’ve been lost. The biggest issue with the story is that roughly thirty minutes of the fifty minute run-time accomplish nothing. And one of the big problems that emerges from not having any back-story is that when Shiki uses her abilities during the climax a lot of what she does comes out of nowhere and you have to wonder where her abilities came from and why she’s able to do what she’s doing. Seriously, these are not elements you introduce for the first time in the climax without explanation. This stuff actually is explained in later films that take place chronologically earlier, but if you’re watching the first film without seeing those you’re going to be lost. Which just isn’t a cricket way to start a film series. Another issue is that the only action sequence before the climax is unintentionally hilarious. What it’s supposed to be doing is building tension and setting up the threat but the sequence is so over the top that it comes off as funny instead. They also try to establish atmosphere with over-used horror cliches like having laughter play in a secluded and rundown place. I hate to break it to you, Guys, but that stopped being scary when they started using it in the Halloween episodes of children’s cartoons. Another issue that’s quite prevalent in the final third of the film are the overly preachy, faux philosophical speeches. They get so ridiculous and they’re so generally pointless that I’m tempted to call this a PSA film, except that the opening two-thirds are only tangentially related to the subject.

Then we have the characters. You can probably guess already, but they’re not interesting. They don’t get any development nor do they have much in the way of personality. Yes, I realise that it’s difficult to develop characters in a fifty minute film, but KnK never even gives us any reasons to care about these people. When Mikiya collapses you don’t want to see him get better, apparently neither do Shiki or Touko since they just leave him where he fell. You barely know anything about him. You know that he likes dolls and he buys people things they don’t like, which is just kind of dickish behaviour,  and that’s pretty much it. How would a good movie have handled something like this? Let’s look at Mononoke Hime for the answer. In Mononoke Hime Ashitaka is cursed almost immediately. Why do we want to see him get better? Because we already know that he’s a courageous and kind individual. Yeah, we know bugger all else at that point, but it’s enough to get us invested in his plight since he’s already a sympathetic character. And back to KnK. To discuss our other major characters, Shiki and Touko. Shiki is kind of a blank slate and Touko is a doll maker/scientist. The scientist thing isn’t actually mentioned but the plot doesn’t make sense if she’s just a doll maker. Neither one has a whole lot of personality. Which is another issue with this first film. It should be our introduction to the characters and instead you have three characters with virtually no personality interacting in order to get the plot moving while revealing almost nothing about their motivations or personalities. It’s boring. If the characters had interesting personalities then the film could be dialogue heavy and interesting, but the characters don’t so it’s just dialogue heavy.

The artwork is the best part of the movie. The character designs are a bit typical, but they still look good. The backgrounds, textures and various objects are all excellent. The only real problem I have with the art is that they do the “blood splattering everywhere in a way that blood doesn’t actually do” thing.

The voice acting… It isn’t exactly bad but it’s not good either. A big part of it is that the performances are really unemotional and detached. Which I’m certain is the result of the direction since I know that Sakamoto Maaya, Suzumura Kenichi, Tanaka Rie and pretty much everyone else in this can act. The music can be good when they’re trying to set an atmosphere, but they usually ruin it by adding faint laughter or by using overly dramatic music when the scene is just Shiki walking home.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. This has no yuri. Granted that could be because the character interactions are so emotionless and Shiki might be supposed to have a thing for Touko. I only bring that up because the film is given romance as a sub-genre and I can’t really tell whether it’s going for Shiki and Touko or Shiki and Mikiya. Either way the interactions don’t really support the idea of romance. I guess Touko and Shiki would make more sense since she doesn’t even care about Mikiya enough to take him to hospital when he’s comatose. Yes, I did have to bring that up a third time. It’s just too stupid not to.

The final rating for Kara no Kyoukai 1 is a 2/10. Granted, the visuals are very impressive but the story is a lot of nothing and the characters couldn’t have less personality without being inanimate, or in a Kingdom Hearts game. Seeing it doesn’t interest me in the rest of the series. It just makes me want a nap.  I’ve reviewed several films more, but that’s mainly because I was asked to. I never would have touched this franchise again otherwise. Which would have been a pity because the other films thus far have been pretty solid. The first one is just awful.. 

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