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Kara no Kyoukai Final Chapter AKA epilogue

WARNING: it’s much closer to a commenary and en editorial than a review. But you know me and the hell with it.

Empty, empty, it’s all empty.

Pointless, pointless, it’s all pointless.

And yet, throw it all away and it becomes so simple.

One of my complaints about the Garden of Sinners series of movies is that some details were left out. But you know, that can never be helped. I respect that. However, I honestly wished they animated the final important conversation between “Shiki” and Kuroto. It is a conversation that not so much reveals everything hidden underneath the words, the scenes, or the plots; it also doesn’t really solve everything or explains everything so clearly that everyone can understand. That’s fine; that’s what Kara no Kyoukai is suppose to be. You can understand it using your mood, your feelings and most of all, your instincts. You’d resonate with it if you were not ippanjin. That much I’m sure of. At the end of the day. Nasu, Otaku, and people like me are not ippanjin. However, and this is a personal reading into the novel and the last conversation, we all wished many times that we were.

The road of the Otaku is Shurado, which roughly means an excruciatingly painful road; it’s something akin to a path to hell.

Then again, perhaps I’m mentally broken in some ways and that’s why I feel this way about the novel. Maybe I’m the only person who feels that way.

Anyway, once again, the movie takes some liberty with the final conversation. The “Final Chapter” explains things and make them clear to us. It’s nice that it doesn’t dumb down everything, which I nearly accused the series of, but it certainly bares more than I’d liked. One thing I really love about Kara no Kyoukai, having read the novel 5 times (and still scratches my head sometimes when I read it), is the restraint its characters show. Sometimes, it feels like a lesser academic version of an emotional and philosophical exercise, compared with Ghost in the Shell. But overall, it is intense at times while interweaving the beauty of the “acceptence of it all” into everything. I’m biased because I really relate to some of the aura it eminates, which surrounds me in the form of floating gentle snowflakes. It’s an eternal silence that makes me recall times back in the late 90’s to early 00’s when I were alone at home on New Years Eve, when it snowed. I was there but I wasn’t; I was surrounded with silence and I was inside of it all and yet outside of everything at the exact same time.

Distance, solitude, with perhaps a dash of desolation. No, a lot of it. Beneath it all, there is an intense longing of not wanting to reject/deny/refuse, but after much pondering, the distance is kept. Perhaps Nasu walks even further away than I and possesses a much more mature emotion not to mention reacts in a mature way than I.

Let’s walk a little closer to the 30-minute exposition itself. It follows the silent tone of the quieter parts of the movie series closely. The animation is once again, top-notch. Things jump out at me that made me realize how much work was put in it. At least, the particles (pardon my novice 3D Max speak) for the snow that Shiki scrapes off as well as the float of her clothing in certain scenes must took a hell lot of work to get it right. Also, the vividness of the patterns on her kimono is fresh and lively, in a gentle contrast of the closed snowy world the Final Chapter is set in. And in strong contrast with Kuroto’s black coat and outfit.

The music adds that final touch that draws you in. None of it is meant for the action-lovers so they will probably stay away. All of it is meant to take us into the core of the philosophy of the movie; the real soul inside the empty shell. And the music does a perfect job helping with that.

Alas, I do have one complant.

The “Final Chapter” comes to a conclusion that states that (yes, it feels that clear) living a plain, normal, eventless life is a really fortunate thing. In addition, the accepting of how people are really just empty beings inside after all is treated as the right thing to do. If I trace the logic of what I read about Nasu, it almost feels like that he cannot do a thing about his rejection/refusal of others. Not a simple dislike, as his editor noted in the official Taiwanese translate version (Yes, they got the rights and for that edition, Nasu’s editor shared his thoughts about Nasu and his work), but a decision to reject. Now, I pretty much feels the same way most of the time. But something inside screams “objection” so vehemently that I cannot simply nod and say “yes, I utterly agree”. Not when the movie states it almost as if shouting quietly in broad daylight. The problem about having an exposition made into movie is that there can be too much exposure on top of explaining it all. There is also a danger to cave in to the need to having to have an easy (relatively speaking, of course) conclusion that’s reachable to more people. I think the movies falls victim to that. By the way, feel free to object my opinion.

At the end of the day, it’s probably my intellectuals pride (we’re known to exhibit the smartasshole syndrome at times) that feels strongly irritated, albeit unnecessarily. So let me go back to my normal self a little bit. Yes, I like the movies and yes, I’ve waiting for more bluray DVDs to become available either in Taiwan or the US. That means I really like this series of movies. I also think with what they modified, the movies are not as hard to get into as the novel can be. In fact, even ippanjin can appreciate the beauty and the fluid animation, not to mention the wonderful voice acting of the cast. The bottomline is the movie series is worth checking out and the DVDs/bluerays collection is worthy of a spot on your shelf of art movies, even next to your Miyazaki ones and probably best next to your Ghost in the Shell movies, but not the first one. Kara no Kyoukai movies will eventually come out in the US, I think starting February of this year (there is already a licensed Taiwanese version). Full disclosure: I bought movies one and two in Taiwan and got a poster. But I’m not in college anymore and don’t like posters, so I gave it to a brother from church; his daughter belongs to a college anime club in the poorer Taiwanese South.

Strongly recommended to folks who are patient enough to wait for the magnificent reward.

Entertainment Isn’t Always Pretty (Hetalia & Shiki!)

Guys,…I really tried.

Okay, so I decided to step a little outside of my usual milieu to see what was out there in the streaming ether, and chose two recent shows to see how things were going in regards to some highly spoken up shows licensed by Funimation. And this time, they seem to be more aimed at the ladies with one comedy hit that has engendered several spinoffs, sequels, and even a movie, as well as a supposedly edgy new addition to the noitaminA lineup. Figuring I had little to lose, I dove into them in earnest. How little was I to know that this would lead to one of the more challenging pieces I’ve yet to write on the Diet pages. Because as shows, the diet seems more than a little imbalanced. While many may not agree, a part of me now feels a need to stop by the dentist.(and not for reasons one may expect)

Enjoy…

Upon my first notice of American fandom’s response to the web-comic sensation, turned anime hit, Hetalia Axis Powers with masses of cosplay groups  devoted fans, already I was under the impression that this was a series that spoke to a very specific contingent of fandom. Sadly so, I was right. The animated version of Hidekaz Himaruya‘s megapopular WWII-era allegorical comedy speaks less like a pointed satire of world affairs, and more of an aimless fluff piece for the fujoshi-esque. Helmed by Bob Shirohata of Gravitation fame, I suppose this should’ve been a no-brainer, but even if Himaruya’s knowledge of the events leading to the second World War are sound, there plain just isn’t enough here to substantiate a TV series.

In a grandiosely broad universe of anthropomorphic representations of the world’s nations, we bear witness to the days in which peaks of civilization borne from the leaps of Roman innovation, leading to the fateful meeting between ever burly/ramrod straight, Germany..& hopelessly aloof childman, Italy. No sooner does this happen, that petty fights have been overflowing on both sides of the globe, including the quiet, industrious little giant, Japan, and later America, have been reaching a boiling point. Now if only Italy could grow past innocent flirting with whoever crosses his path, with dreams of cuteness & pasta. It is in this chance encounter that the madness of Hetalia makes itself something of a minor phenomenon in it’s native country. With tall, blonde rulemonger strongman, Germany constantly in the role of would be great leader reduced often to babysitter, and Japan as the unwilling, stoic accomplice, are among the larger running gags that fuels much of the series.

Now while a part of me had a feeling that this was indeed a fan contingent that I had little in common with, I found it important to see exactly what it was that made the comedy work so well with Western viewers. And to be honest, after several episodes, I still am at a loss to understand it. There’s no pretending here of what this show is aimed for, and perhaps it comes required to come in with a certain attitude. From my view it’s like this; if you enjoy a growing bevy of attractive young men of varying archetypical dispositions & grossly generalized stereotypes in under five minute bursts of one-joke humor, then this show may be just what you’re looking for. And upon closer inspection, this series is another attempt to cash in on the success of a 4-koma style project. Problem is, that taken in the five minute format, the humor is so slight, and the animation so predictably in line with so many other bishi comedies over the last decade, that in the end, the series offers even less value in animated form than it perhaps does in panel form. Point being, for the near hours worth of programming I sacrificed to this show, I could count the number of times I actually laughed….on one hand. Not a good sign for what is obviously meant to be comedy.

It’s a shame, since a lot of potential feels wasted by this, the beginning of what many already know has become a multi-season affair. And again, this could very well be that my own take on World History runs counter to much of what many books often fog up rather than clarify. And bringing such events into such a format begs for something more akin to an actual sprawling narrative, something a 4-koma has little room for. And as a result, the shortened format works against much of the comedic possibilities, as well as my own patience. Oh, sure, we’ve had a fair share of these shows before, but many came in with a full understanding of the format. And unfortunately for Hetalia, it is a case of biting of more than the provided maw can chew.

And then on the other side of the pretty people river, comes Studio Daume’s TV version of Fuyumi Ono‘s vampire mystery, SHIKI that while on paper seems intriguing, but in belated (the original novel is well over a decade old) anime form, suffers from a myriad of stumbling blocks, again namely in execution.

The largely unseen village of Sotoba, a town more famous for the creation of burial stones & farmland than anything else becomes a surreal, isolated setting for some old school gothic horror when a bizarre family moves up the hill. Starting off the mysteries include the strange chain deaths of locals in neighboring towns, leading to the tale of young dreamer Megumi, who’s distaste of her quiet cow town leads her toward the exotic new folks moving into the european-style castle up the hill. Never one to listen to her elders, or ignore her wishes for a life more dreamlike & fulfilling, Megumi’s life soon spirals into the ever deepening conundrums regarding these newcomers who roam nocturnally, and remain eternally youthful. Caught in the maelstrom of questions regarding the strange crimes include newly transplanted recluse, Yuki Katsuno, as well as local doctor, Ozaki & inquisitive priest Muroi, as they are slowly enveloped by a creeping dread that these deaths aren’t the work of some airborne infection.


No mystery here, and yet the atmosphere comes at you from frame one. The disconnect between these polar opposite feelings is at the heart of the problems that burden this vision of Ono’s popular book. For as at times beautiful as the imagery can be (from lush valleys of green, surrounded by seemingly endless arrays of mountains, to some truly chilling animated bursts), there are far too many elements of the absurd that punctuate matters with a lack of subtlety more fitting of a campy live-action art film. Somehow, when one mixes would-be EGL cuties lacking the wit to avoid the creepy castle up the hill, one becomes cloudy as to whether we are to buy into the horror, or just laugh at its absurdity. The central characters, for all of their posturing seem to lack any common sense, which does little to help matters as the body count begins mounting. And it is here, where perhaps this again reaches into realms of taste in regards to horror execution. When dealing with a mystery involving a body count, it is vital to ground us with those looking to solve the mystery. But when the show attempts to dazzle, and ignore the characters beyond mere type, the package becomes a blurry bore.

If the rest of the series’ world had embraced itself as fundamentally not ours, and perhaps had some fun with the proceedings, then maybe excitement could have have been mined from this project, but as it stands, the disconnect is huge as we are expected to take the village’s illogically slow comprehension of events as reasonable. It isn’t, and as such, the series seems to want the cake of kitsch, as well as the bloody cherry cheesecake for dinner. It’s this greedy angle that in many ways hurts the show beyond a cult audience.


While it must be looking to satisfy fringe fans of gothic horror, SHIKI does little to ingratiate itself beyond mere aesthetics (the hairdos & the stunt casting of pop conundrum, Gackt should be enough of a clue), which is a mild tragedy since it seems to have all the literary cards necessary to create a work that functions beyond mere novelty. I’d totally be down for some truly serious anime horror these days, so I guess it’s time to keep shopping the old school.

Moments after finishing the last few sentences, I come to realize that the anime is largely based on the 2007 manga adaptation by Ryu Fujisaki of Hoshin Engi fame. (well..that explains that…)

Both Hetalia: Axis Powers & Shiki can be seen on Hulu courtesy of Funimation!

Goddamned weak sauce season summer 2010

Why oh why am I writing like this again? Because my life sucks right now! XD Why is it when I know some smartass kid out there is going to use some internet term and patronize me and tell me that get the fuck over it? Because writing rant is fun and this century has managed to suck hairy balls EVERY SINGLE MOTHERFUCKING YEAR. Not anime-wise, thank ye gods, but life-wise and worldwise…

Ya, ya, back to summer 2010 season it is. All right, with a claymore in one hand and a can of Kirin in another, here we go.

Continue reading Goddamned weak sauce season summer 2010

Review: Kara no Kyoukai 7 – 空の境界7 - The beauty in normalcy

Screen shot 2009-12-10 at 10.47.41 PM

I sat silently for a while after watching the last installment of Kara no Kyoukai (空の境界: The Garden of Sinners). Sometimes, I gazed at the screen in utter disbelief, other times, I felt shocked and dismayed. But my appreciation grew and I began to wonder about a variety of story elements.

Continue reading Review: Kara no Kyoukai 7 – 空の境界7 - The beauty in normalcy

Review: Kara no Kyoukai 6 – why am I disappointed?

I saw the novel first, and then the movie.

The movie does something that a lot of OVAs and movies do – condensing and simplifying.

WARNING, STRONG SPOILERS AHEAD!

Continue reading Review: Kara no Kyoukai 6 – why am I disappointed?