Kara no Kyoukai is a bit like the suit I use for job interviews. It’s not especially well worn, nor does it sit either end of the comfort scale, but by wearing it there are certain expectations. It seems that for ufotable, now the de-facto steward of all Type Moon’s animated properties, the same can be said. It has been almost four years since the last Kara no Kyoukai (Boundary of Emptiness) film was released, three if you count the punctuation mark that the OVA in the limited edition box-set represented. Since then of course the studio has put out the well-received Fate/Zero and is on track to release a new chapter in the Fate/stay night mythos.
like an appendix to a book, stuffed with obvious fan pleasing points of note
That contextualises where the studio sits with the release of Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukin (Future Gospel), but doesn’t really adequately convey just how assured and confident this new movie’s execution is. There is a knowledge and appreciation of the characters that populate Kinoko Nasu’s work but also of the roles played by the location and themes underpinning them. It is still arrestingly beautiful and quietly unsettling that perhaps only an intrinsic understanding and time could produce.
First released: October 2011 Version reviewed: BluRay
I will never be ready to talk about Type-Moon’s works with any kind of certainty. I only have to glance at a page on the relevant Wikia to realise that what I know is but a sliver of what is, somehow, established lore. I’ve even forgone calling it the “Nasuverse”; even that term seems questionable when you consider Fate/Zero was originally a light novel written by Gen Urobuchi (he of Madoka and Psycho Pass heritage) and turned into an anime series in 2011.
breaking the spirit and bodies of those he faces before gifting them an ignominious death
It is with some certainty that I can say Fate/Zero is a prequel to Fate/stay night (surely dividing “Fate” by zero would be undefined…) and is, in every regard, immeasurably better than it. Well, better than 2006 Studio Deen produced series at least, the recently announced "new chapter" is still an unknown quantity. Sumptuously produced by UFOTable (see also: Kara no Kyoukai) and with a plot that bares its mettle from the outset, the story of the fourth Holy Grail war is dark, vicious, and mind-bogglingly spectacular.
A few years ago I almost lost the hearing in my left ear. The gory details are best omitted, but I was left with (what the doctors claimed) was 20-30% hearing and only two thirds of the bones I should. For all intents and purposes I was deaf in that ear, a lopsided and mono world where car alarms didn't exist (a boon at 3am) but wearing headphones was painful.
Two years and two operations on I have most of my hearing back. All of this is just context for me to say: my hearing is precious to me and I am precious about it. It is a cliché to say that you don't know what you've got until you've lost it, but when it's personal it really brings it home.
Perhaps a reflection of a troubled production or the lack of faith placed in the source material, but the opening episodes of Arakwa Under the Bridge are supremely underwhelming. Individual components of the prototypical SHAFT show are all present - the reliance on abstract close ups and over-coloured backgrounds, the ponderous and circular script, the abjectly peculiar concept - however here they've all been weathered by time and overuse and sit bluntly against one another. Without a strong story to carry it, the show is forced to rely upon a script which is bereft of the sharp writing past series have been known for. Only memories of past glories and faith in the studio's ability will determine how much one can both stomach the lacklustre start and how long one can wait for the series to hit its stride.
the charming misadventures of the outlandish river folk
After an unfortunate incident with some hoodlums and a faulty bridge support, Kou Ichinomiya finds himself sinking to the bottom of a river. He is saved by Nino, a local blonde waif; unfortunately the mantra of his life is to never be in a position to owe anyone anything, this is how he came to live under the bridge with Nino and a cavalcade of eccentric characters. This includes the mayor of the riverbank - a man dressed in a full body kappa suit - a belligerent man with a face in the shape and colour of a star and a man who can only walk on white lines, making the trip down from Hokkaido using a linesman's marking machine. This is to say nothing of Nino herself who claims to be from Venus and demonstrates only a fleeting grasp of common sense. Kou's decision to live under the bridge could, for better or worse, entirely undermine his privileged upbringing.
Kara no Kyoukai is, without hyperbole, one of the most ambitious and intelligent series, movie or otherwise, to come out in the past ten years. As the progenitor of the Type-Moon dynasty it is afforded the means to avoid the overbearing franchise overload that can scare away fresh viewers. It presents a world precariously balanced between a chaotic realm of magic and spirits, and the more mundane world of humanity. Instead of falling prey to the common fantasy trap of treating the setting as the story, a stunning selection of characters is carved out who are not attempting to simply survive but trying to thrive in the ordinary world of emotions and ego. Bolstering this cast are some elegantly malevolent antagonists: from the physically tortured to the mentally deranged, rarely has there been as solid a set of evildoers in one series.
they are painted in shades of grey: whether twisted by magicks or a natural predisposition
Following the story of Mikiya Kokuto as he leaves high school, he is immersed in the unseen world through his affection for the stoic Shiki Ryougi who suffers a near fatal accident which causes a dormant power within her to awaken. Araya Souren, a mage of immense skill, meanwhile wishes to reach the Spiral of Origin, Akasha, the source of all knowledge and a kind of holy grail for those seeking knowledge; to do this however and to avoid the universe's natural defences against this sort of intrusion, he constructs an elaborate plan to use Shiki's now awakened power: the mystic eyes of death perception. Summoning aggressors to temper and hone Shiki, his quest has severe ramifications and the aftermath spills out long after he is assumed defeated.