Welcome to 2015’s Film Festival Week. We’re kicking things off with yet another look at UFOtable’s Kara no Kyoukai film franchise, based on the light novels by Nasu Kinoko. I’ve talked about the first five already, but let’s reiterate a bit. Previously, in the Kara no Kyoukai movies Mikiya collapses on a couch because he likes dolls and gets left to rot in the first and there is much stupidity. The second goes back in time to Mikiya and Shiki’s first meeting and the subtle mystery surrounding it and it’s surprisingly good given the first one. In the third, a group of rapists are being justifiably murdered by one of their victims and our “heroes” decide to step in and put a stop to it. It had some faults but was pretty decent. In the fourth film we focus on Shiki’s psychology and an existential crisis and it was epic. The fifth film gave us a mystery involving an apartment complex and magic and it was a great film. I’m a bit surprised that I’ve gotten to like the franchise so much given what a poor first impression it had, but there you go. Let’s jump in to look at Kara no Kyoukai 6: Boukyaku Rokuon.
Our tale opens at a boarding school where Mikiya’s sister, Azaka, is thinking about the taboo way she feels about her brother. Ewww. Fortunately, the story doesn’t focus on that aspect all that much. We get an exposition dump about how Azaka has been studying magic under Touko and has been sent to the school to find out the truth behind a strange incident where magic faeries seem to be stealing people’s memories and may have been behind the death of a student. Shiki is sent to help her since her mystic eyes give her the power to see things that Azaka can’t. What kinds of dangers will they face and how will they overcome them? Matters are made worse with the animosity Azaka has towards Shiki, whom she considers her rival in love because her brother loves Shiki in a way that he doesn’t love her.
Let’s start with the film’s story issues. The biggest one is probably obvious, Azaka’s incestuous feelings towards her brother. I’ll give Kara no Kyoukai some credit over a lot of other things I’ve seen with incestuous overtones, it does treat the situation like it’s creepy and screwed up and I’ll give it some credit for not focusing too much on it. However, there is a pretty substantial amount of time spent on flashbacks that serve the sole purpose of helping establish why Azaka has a creepy brother complex and it’s just annoying. Exacerbating matters is the fact that the incest sub-plot ultimately does nothing. It doesn’t need to be an element at all for the film to work. The only function it has is to give a reason for the animosity between Azaka and Shiki, but that animosity itself does basically nothing. There’s a brief stretch where they’re arguing but it never really affects their ability to function as a team. All of which just begs the question, why in Sir Ian’s name does this need to be here at all? They could have removed it completely and used the extra time to develop their scenario better. Maybe they could’ve used the time to show some of Azaka’s training under Touko and avoided the annoying exposition dump.
On the positive side, the investigation itself is quite interesting. Initially, it looks like the solution is going to be kind of obvious, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. No, that doesn’t mean that something turns into a giant robot. They just keep introducing more complexity as it gets further in until they finally reveal the whole truth of the situation. Flashbacks aside, the narrative also flows really well.
The main character focus in this one is on Azaka and Shiki. Shiki remains a good character and you get a good sense of her personality in this. The problem is Azaka. Her personality is pretty much defined by her brother complex and her being generally commandeering. Maybe the final film develops her more, but as she is now she’s just an insipid, unpleasant character and having her as such a big part of the movie does hurt it. At least we get a super cute border collie. UFOTable probably thought that it would make up for having to deal with Azaka, at least somewhat because cute puppies are the best way to make up for gross things. Of course, they could have just not had gross things and just had a cute dog as a bonus. That would have worked. The antagonists are kind of interesting and fleshed out in this. They could have been given more depth, but given the length of the film they’re pretty decent.
The artwork and animation are spectacular. The backgrounds look really nice. The battle sequences are intense and somewhat surreal. Like several other movies in this franchise, there are some intense and disturbing images. And, like the rest of the franchise, the characters are well drawn but their designs are pretty standard.
The performances are really well done. Sakamoto Maaya gives a strong performance as Shiki. Fujimura Ayumi., in spite of voicing a completely uncompelling character, does give a good performance as well. Really, there are no weaknesses in the cast. The music in this one is strong as well. Kajiura Yuki did a really good job.
One of the antagonists has a motivation that does read as a bit homoerotic, but there’s not enough of it to say for certain whether they were going for that or something else. Aside from that, there is no ho-yay.
Kara no Kyoukai 6 takes a strong story idea with some compelling elements and weakens it with an unnecessary incest subplot and over-used flashbacks. The film itself is still pretty decent given how much it does well, but it’s not one of the strongest films in the series by any means. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. Tomorrow we’ll continue film festival week with a look at Hetalia: Paint it White.