What kind of an anniversary would it be, without writing about my favourite series?!
After all, no character has fascinated me like one, Ryougi Shiki.
You are an ever unfolding mystery… What are you, Ryougi Shiki? If you add Nakata Jouji’s voice for emphasis here (who voiced Araya Souren’s role), I would be happy to give you a glimpse of the person in questions and the impact she leaves behind, even if she’s made of strife and opposing polarities. That’s right, I’m finally done with a recommendation post on my most favourite title ever.
From where should I even begin? Because I’m biased and too much of a fan of Kara no Kyoukai, which in itself, if explored properly, can actually blow your mind. No, I’m not kidding and there is a reason that I actively recommend these movies to EVERYONE who would listen. It was quite a fateful day that I happened across the trailer of the seventh movie and I have not looked back since. I’ve re-watched the movies thrice already and discovered many things that I missed during the first watch. It is that good. I started this post thinking to review the Epilogue because well, I did sign up for it but soon found out that there was no stopping to my writing. The more I wrote, the more thoughts came into my head so I finally decided to turn this into an Editorial instead, touching upon the background and some foreground rather than picking different chunks out of the storyline.
I might seriously review all the movies and epilogue but that is for a later date and I’m not telling you the ETA! Whatever the case maybe, I know for a fact that the Epilogue is as good as it gets for a fan because of that yummilicious Bluray box-set that has been released already and is being shipped by Amazon JP and Right Stuf. I haven’t ordered it yet but will own it one day in the near future for sure. Till then I can still enjoy the 720-1080p versions that I have on my HD. After watching the Epilogue, I was planning on writing a summary review and get it over with but I was so moved that I did my third marathon of KnK. SO GOOD that my mind and heart both were quite full. It never gets old, I swear!
So, you would ask, what is all the fuss about? Why do the Type-Moon/Nasu fans go gaga and fangirl like over-excited lolis whenever they hear something new being produced? Hear me scream: Fate/Zero anime produced by ufotable, while music by Yuki Kajiura…. *dies in bliss*. There’s a reason for people like us, who squee over the intricacies of plot details, character monologues, little hints hidden everywhere and Type-Moon’s mild (biased opinion) character recycling; as in actuality Emiya Shirou (fate/stay) was inspired by Enjou Tomoe (KnK), Emiya Kiritsugu (fate/stay) came from Akimi Daisuke (KnK), while Nanaya Shiki (Tsukihime VN) is the male counterpart of Ryougi Shiki. The Nasu-verse is big enough to house many alternate stories and a melee of characters that never get old. If you thought Fate/stay night anime was shit, I would agree with you because the real deal is SO MUCH BETTER. Go play the Visual Novel and you will know what I am talking about.
Oh right, some spoiler preamble. I tried my best in keeping things spoiler free, though some hints might slip by, but nothing too overly spoilery so rest assured. If truth be told, Kara no Kyoukai can be called a true adaptation of Nasu’s novels because overall everything that mattered was shown and it’s proven that when you stick to the original material, you get something golden. And that is what Kara no Kyoukai is; one of the most riveting anime/movie that you would ever see.
Nasuism of Kara no Kyoukai
The light novels are Nasu Kinoko’s earlier works (released in 1998 and reprinted in 2004), when Type-Moon was not even formed but collaboration of illustrations were underway with Takeuchi Takashi. This partnership led to the eventual formation of Type-Moon game company that specializes in complex Visual Novels. This was not the only formation caused by Kara no Kyoukai but Kalafina band also has its roots in the same, which was formed by Yuki Kajiura to mainly perform the theme songs of the KnK movies.
Interestingly, the world of Kara no Kyoukai is shared by other works of Nasu, as in Tsukihime and Fate/stay night. There are a lot of supernatural powers involved and at the root, you can say are the families who are part of the Demon Hunters Organization (Taima soshiki), made up of four families, possessing supernatural powers and in some instances are even cross breeds of humans and demons. In short, the four families are:
- Nanaya (from Tsukihime): Supposedly, the most powerful of all families and are the best assassins, possessing the Pure Eyes.
- Ryougi (from Kara no Kyoukai): Their special ability is forming multiple personalities within themselves to master multiple skills; also in the same effect, their given names are written in two different ways in kanji. Shiki is an anomaly you can say, because she awakened the eyes of Death Perception after her close brush with death.
- Fujou (from Kara no Kyoukai): An ancient bloodline of magi, specializing in acting as mediums. This ability grants them a superior view of the world but long term usage causes blindness.
- Asagami (from Kara no Kyoukai): Their ability is a very powerful version of Telekinesis.
A lot of twists and turns intertwine these families, which take up roots as different stories that Nasu has explored upon, his favourite illustrator being Takashi Takeuchi with whom he formed Type-Moon. Kara no Kyoukai light novel was one of his earliest works and just the beginning. Angel Notes gave birth to the name Type-Moon, while he also wrote Mahōtsukai no Yoru (currently in development for a 2011 VN release – Trailer here with Supercell music… HNNGGG), Kōri no Hana, Decoration Disorder Disconnection: Junk the Eater and Decoration Disorder Disconnection: HandS. Tsukihime was his first visual novel, followed by Kagetsu Tohya, Melty Blood, Fate/stay night and Fate/hollow ataraxia. Nasu wrote a special scenario for 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de that lead to Canaan anime adaptation. You can easily see that Nasu has been active and running, and being a fan I can only wish for him to continue weaving his tales.
Kara no Kyoukai at a Glance…
Being true to its genre of Psychological Supernatural Mystery, the first movie is not chronologically first but do not think of it as the endless eight because that’s a separate ballpark altogether. If I categorize the movies, one would be a good way of introduction into the world because even when you don’t know anything about it or the characters within, you are still enthralled by it because of their sense of determination and ease at which they all fit in. You voluntarily want to know more about what makes Ryougi Shiki so powerful and her connection with the rest of characters introduced. Good thing is that there are not many random characters added, except for those who play an important part later in timeline. Fujou Kirie and Ryougi Shiki’s supernatural ability prepares the watcher for more to come; not to mention Touko is a magus after all and Mikiya her pupil.
The second installment is a good back story, telling the viewers how Shiki and Kokutou actually met; of course, if you have seen the Epilogue you already know it was not Shiki who smiled at Mikiya on that snowy morning. It’s not your ordinary story of boy meets girl because Shiki is no ordinary girl. Many mysteries unfold around her with a lot of killing in the background. More is revealed about our main protagonist being the heir to Ryougi household and having a dual personality. Whatever discovered however is like scratching the surface because of the many layers of plot and character development. It also has a very cliffhangery ending so I can’t imagine the people who saw this and had to wait till the fourth for more information.
The third has the most graphic beginning; even with a forewarning, I was a bit taken aback because it was not your on-your-face fan-service but an actual malicious act. How Asagami Fujino deals with it is the main story. She also possesses supernatural power (she belongs to one of the top tier families of Taima shoshiki) that she uses quite redundantly. I have to say here, Noto Mamiko ftw for this character, who certainly leaves her mark. Mikiya’s sister is introduced for the first time in this installment, who shows more than distaste with her brother associating with Shiki. Things end with an elaborate fight scene, making Shiki lose a hand but no worries, Touko will be making her a new one. Also, she gives the first genuine smile to Mikiya after awakening with the death perception from coma, meaning acceptance of many hard facts and a power up to their relationship.
Fourth installment traces back to where things were left off in the second movie. How Shiki awakens her powers of Death Perception after being in coma for two years. A lot of circumstances are discussed but it’s true that she doesn’t receive them well but the hindrance actually helps her in a pinch, making her finally accept it. Not to mention, losing a very important part of herself throws her personality more towards androgyny. If you check out the light novels, Shiki is depicted very androgynously due to her dual character progression. Things do end well for her (for the time being) and she realizes how Mikiya was the only person waiting for her on the other side.
The fifth has the most twisted story; the flow almost inverted; you can easily call it a mindfuck. There are times that you would feel like you don’t even know what you are watching and where things match but once you get the hang of it; it all comes together in the end like a big puzzle. Nakata Jouji is awesome as Araya Souren, who leaves a lasting impression even when he’s supposedly the bad guy. Interestingly, even the most evil of villains get sympathy in the Nasu-verse because of their background and reasoning (their origins), which drives them. Enjou Tomoe leaves an impression as well, being the catalyst of this story, proving life can be pretty fucked up, if given the chance. We get to know more about Touko and a hint of her lineage being stolen by her sister Aoko, even when she’s not the half mage as her. We get to see how powerful by the end, and all of it definitely leaves a bittersweet taste.
In case of storyline, sixth is the most light-hearted and as close to moeness that Nasu-verse would ever go. Properly introducing Azaka and her powers of ignition, she’s an apprentice of Touko and is a love rival of Shiki. Yes, I said that right. There’s an actual cat fight in there somewhere. We also meet God’s Words and how he’s not your average Joe. Though, the main storyline remains to be around the faery involvement in Reien boarding school, where Azaka studies and Shiki is sent by Touko to investigate the disturbance. The villain is not as awesome as Araya Souren so in the end, this becomes a showcase for more background on Kokutou siblings. Though you gotta watch Shiki wear a boarding school uniform inspired by nun’s habit; a refreshing change from the continuous kimono adorning.
Seventh will remain to be my favorite of the lot because we get a lot of development. Not to mention Lio Shirazumi was one twisted prick. This is what you call an interweaving storyline that is very well placed and timely. So good! The wait for all the six movies actually pays off in this and then some. Shiki and Mikiya are shown as average humans, who are of course not average but somehow or the other cope with the situation that is thrown at them as best as they can. Mikiya gets many brownie points for being the kind person he is and a capable detective forming no opinions until very sure. Don’t even get me started over Shiki because I don’t want to spoil you. Just go and watch it yourself. Shoo!
Epilogue is the like a bonus that is a simple conversation between Mikiya and a powerful side to Shiki. There have been many speculations about the personalities of Shiki and if there was only one or more? Some people even have gone to the extent of comparing her to Akasha, who can control the fabric of reality. Think about a person having power over death because she can simply kill you by either thinking about it or knowing exactly where to cut to get at your weakness. Can she be called normal? Of course not. But Mikiya is normal and so we think but he’s such a humble man that he’s happy with what he has and only wants to strive for Shiki’s happiness rather than worldly possessions. How can you not like this guy, huh?
Following is the right order:
- Second KnK: Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 1) – (Apr, 1995 – Mar, 1996 – Jun 1998)
- Fourth KnK: Garan no Dou – (Mar, 1996 – Jun 1998)
- Third KnK: Tsuukaku Zanryuu – (Jul, 1998)
- First KnK: Fukan Fuukei – (Aug – Sep, 1998)
- Fifth KnK: Mujun Rasen – (Nov, 1998)
- Sixth KnK: Boukyaku Rokuon – (Jan, 1999)
- Seventh KnK: Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 2) – (Feb, 1999)
For now. I can clearly say that the above summarizing is a total injustice to the series because damn, it was effing hard to even write it without any spoilers but yes, it’s fucking brilliant and I should know and you won’t go wrong in taking my word for it. Of course, it’s not filled with moe girls, flowers and random hilarity. This is srs bsns and you should be in that mindset while watching.
You would ask, why Garden of Sinners/Borderline of Emptiness of all things? What’s the sin? What’s the emptiness? It’s one’s personal heavy burdens. If you scratch at the surface, every movie’s new protagonist drives the story around our main protagonists, who are the same on many levels. They have gotten through a lot and possess different forms of origin that defines them. Araya Souren plays a very important part, even when he was not a regular featured character like Touko. It all boils down to Shiki and Mikiya; the her with the problems of the world and the he who is as normal as the passing Joe, whose kindness and resourcefulness makes him Mr. Perfect. In the entire length of the series, he was angry only once (mad doesn’t count, because it’s short-lived and pointed at his loved-ones), on a rapist at that; just goes to show how his mind works.
But I want to kill you…. Can you even fathom a character, who simply desires to kill and nothing else? It’s a fact that Shiki’s dual personality was a catalyst to everything but in losing a part of herself, the feminine Shiki took many characteristics of the male SHIKI and thus became more of an androgynous symbol. There are times when Mikiya would remind her to talk more like a girl and not to use ‘ore’ but she is defiant and compensates the loss of SHIKI however possible.
Ryougi Shiki is an enigma onto herself and seriously don’t get me started on her (I’ve already become quite long-winded). Kokutou Mikiya is there to stroke your megane fetish but he’s one of the most honest and kindest persons you would ever across to in the animu world; though, he warrants a certain presence as well (entering Tokou’s warded Garan no Dou is no easy task). Aozaki Touko is an ideal helper and a powerful magus, who knows everything about the occult and is the person who tells Shiki the truth about her powers. In the end, not a lot is explained about her family except for them being direct descendants of Aozaki Clan and sister to Aoko (from Tsukihime VN). The fourth constant character is Azaka, Mikiya’s sister who is madly in love with him. I can bet she would go rape him if it was up to her but she grudgingly likes Shiki and knows for a fact that Mikiya would never tilt that way. Araya Souren, somehow or the other overshadows the whole story, while the other protagonists are one chapter/movie fiddle, but still leave a lasting impact with story progression and adding more plot complexity.
Overall, Animation helps of course and this project would remain to be one of the most elaborate and widely revered of Type-Moon, because ufotable did help in making Nasu’s light novels come to life. I would love it if Fate/zero would surpass this but that’s for future. There are literally scenes where you actually want to touch the falling snow and stare wonderingly at the blood dripping down pathways. It’s that fascinating and vibrant. It’s an intriguing story in the end, full of mystery, leaving you wanting for more. If you are a big mystery fan like me, you would love this. I can easily say, you are missing out big time, if you haven’t watched this yet.
Pro Tip: For newbies, I have two options:
- Daring choice (recommended): Watch the first 5 movies as per their serial number; after which rather than jumping directly to the 6th re-watch in chronological order: 2, 4, 3, 1 and 5. Then follow it up with the 6th and 7th.
- Easy way out (not recommended): Watch the movies in chronological order of 2, 4, 3, 1, 5, 6 and 7. This is not recommended because it’s just not fun at all!
- Update: Get the fully translated light novel here. Don’t even get my started on Del ray not using the licensing properly. >.>
- You can listen to the elaborate discussion by Flags for an in-depth know-how on the same.
- Check Type-Moon wiki for extended information on worlds and characters, if interested.
- Listen to the amazing soundtracks by Yuki Kajiura, all OSTs are a must have. Not to mention, this is where Kalafina started after all. All the EDs are amazing, I have special fondness to Oblivious.
Alright, I am seriously done. Who would have thought, this post would get so long?! I’m seriously sparing you all by ending here. Till next time, Ja ne~