I spent a large part of my childhood in the north eastern part of Scotland which, to those who aren't familiar with the area would describe as “the middle of nowhere”. Those who are would likely nod and then call it something much worse. Summers were short and hot, the hills abundant and green and the winters biting and long. Water pipes froze, roads closed, and snow drifts towered over children sledging carelessly into them.
they wander from the warm light of the station into the vast, frozen night
It has a romantic appeal, being snowed in snug and warm beneath a blanket next to a crackling fire, until you actually want to do something productive like eat or travel anywhere. That child-like nostalgia persists however, so whenever a video game or anime does winter, I’m always searching for that ephemeral feeling that only a quiet, snowy vista can elicit.
Just having a good scene set during winter though doesn’t automatically make it a good winter scene - Guts versus Griffith (part two) takes place on a crisp, white morning and it’s understandably evocative, but doesn’t tickle memories of the past. Similarly neither does just setting a scene, or even your entire series, during winter - so Non Non Biyori, WWW.Working!! (the northern one), Noragami and Primsa Illya 3rei all feel frosty but don’t make the grade. And just faking winter snow is cheating, yes I’m looking at you Nagi no Asukara, salt flakes doesn’t count.
So to lead be example, here are six perfect winter scenes in anime.
The last movie in the Kara no Kyoukai franchise is in no hurry - two full hours to complete one of the best series of recent memory and it does so with grace, thoughtfulness and poignancy that surpasses even itself. Pulling together threads which have run throughout all of the films, it sublimely finishes the narrative which saw Shiki's alter ego perish, an event which has haunted her emotionally and physically since awakening from her coma. As well as slowly revealing the minutes before the incident which put her in the hospital, the last gasp of the mage Araya Souren is revealed and with it, the truth behind the murders that started four years prior.
The special brand of darkness which is continuously plumbed has layer upon layer of detail
Set after Oblivion Recorder, a new spate of ferocious murders has caught the eye of both Shiki and Daisuke, Mikiya's cousin who investigated the murders before. Shiki wanders the back alleys of the business district, searching for the murderer and avoiding attacks by local thugs while Mikiya becomes more and more worried about her, beginning his own investigation that takes him down a path populated by drug pushers and prostitutes. The perpetrator, Lio Shirazumi, finds Shiki first but loses an arm in the resulting scuffle; retreating, he discovers Mikiya in his apartment which has become a madman's shrine to Shiki. She is captured and tortured by Lio, still struggling with murderous urges, her salvation relies on Mikiya who may befall Lio's uncontrollable cravings.
The danger with a seven movie project such as Kara no Kyoukai is that certain entries will be little more than stop-gaps meant to prime for forthcoming releases. This could be no more worrying than with a title suffixed "Part One", thoughts of incomplete plots and abrupt conclusions abound. The series has somewhat mitigated this by chronologically shuffling the releases; whereas the first movie was keen to eschew understanding for suspense and action, the second favours a sedate but no less gripping narrative that starts at the very beginning of Shiki and Mikiya's relationship.
the characters all occupy a space in the penumbra of supernatural fantasy and routine reality
Meeting by chance on a snowy evening, Mikiya - bespectacled and easy going teenager - strikes up an uneasy friendship with Shiki - a kimono-wearing misanthrope - which gradually leads to an infatuation with her. Grisly murders meanwhile are happening around town with bodies gruesomely disfigured or dissected and as the number increases, evidence points to Shiki who frequently roams the solemn town in the night time hours. Mikiya's cousin Daisuke is investigating the murders which indirectly leads to Mikiya becoming mixed up in them. Events escalate and a confrontation between Shiki and Mikiya takes a deadly turn that has long term consequences.