Gardening Sucks, Even When it’s Sinful
Someone help me here, because I feel like a lost puppy that just stepped in a puddle of blood. I’ve heard all sorts of raves about Kara no Kyoukai. I liked the idea of doing a seven-part movie series to tell an extended story. Screenshots and stuff that I’ve seen looked good. Sounded like a decent little anime.
Then I watched the first movie. It was utter crap.
I’ll grant Kara no Kyoukai this: it’s pretty. I like the grimy look that’s conveyed in a lot of the backgrounds and details. And that shot of the puppy trailing blood as if it was mud was a great little flourish of style. Other than these style points, though, my experience watching the first movie was nothing short of painful. I had to stop the movie halfway through and force myself to come back to it the next day. If I was watching this in a movie theater, I’d likely walk out and sneak into another movie. It was an excruciating experience.
The movie was dialogue-heavy. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. The problem is that the dialogue is of the “we think we’re being profound but we’re really talking out of our asses” variety. Much is said about suicide and weakness and stuff, but it’s all a bunch of prattling that repeats the same point over and over again. I guess this would be OK if there was some sort of debate or discourse going on, and these points were repeated because two characters shared different opinions on the subject, but that’s not the case. We get a character droning on and on about how suicide is like running away, then they throw a bunch of idiotic allusions to floating vs. flying into the mix.
It was these allusions that pissed me off the most since they don’t make one bit of sense. Maybe it’s the fault of the translation and something was lost when conveying the concept in English, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that saying “are you flying or are you just floating” and expecting us to find it profound is a fucking stupid concept. The scriptwriters may think they’ve come across some great metaphor or whatever, but all they’ve done is script some awful dialogue that made me embarrassed to watch it. There’s plenty of ways to discuss the concept of suicide. All the writers succeeded at conveying is their inability to write clever dialogue.
They came close to having this work when the dude tells the story about the butterfly and the dragonfly, and how the butterfly chose to fly and died because it couldn’t fly as fast as the dragonfly. Then again, the other character compared “floating” to giving up and dying and “flying” to succeeding in life, so the dude’s story outright contradicts this comparison. Maybe that was the intent, because the dude admits he’s a weak person, but I’m chalking it up to moronic inconsistency.
If the faux-intellectual dialogue was the movie’s only problem, I could ignore it and try to enjoy the bits that are good. I was hoping the action scenes would be well-executed. Unfortunately they’re largely anticlimactic.
There’s a cool scene where the main girl has her arm manipulated by the ghost girl that’s making people commit suicide. She’s forced to cut her own arm off in order to save her life, since the arm is trying to choke her and throw her off the side of the building. I was thinking that this was pretty damn cool. Seeing someone slice off their own appendage mid-fight to save their life, then continue fighting after the fact, is damn awesome.
Nope. Not only does the fight end right there, but the arm wasn’t even a real arm? Apparently the main girl has some sort of cybernetic marionette arm, and it was this arm that she sliced off. So she wasn’t really sacrificing anything to save her ass, she was just cutting off an expendable and replaceable part to save the whole. The fact that she didn’t lose anything in the process of severing her arm ruins any sort of cool factor that comes from that act. It isn’t cool if you cut off your arm if you can just sew it back on later and have it be better than ever. She didn’t make a sacrifice, she just snagged a power-up icon by losing part of her health bar.
To reinforce how painful this movie was: I had to stop writing this review after the last paragraph and force myself to come back and finish.
Anyway, I got my hopes up when the final action scene began. When the main girl threw off her coat and drew her knife, I was hoping the movie would salvage itself with an impressive finale. Nope, Kyoukai managed to screw up here by having the main villain be the most passive-aggressive villain of all time. The ghosts, or whatever they are, of the girls that committed suicide and the girl who made them commit suicide just float around and allow the main girl to kill them with her knife. Guess Lovecraft was right, ” even death can die.” A few of them try to float away, but none of them actually fight back. There’s no sign of the powers that were used to make the main girl’s cyberarm turn against her. The main ghost makes an attempt to pull a Jedi mind trick on the main girl, but A) this doesn’t happen until all of the other ghosts have died and B) it doesn’t work because the main girl spouts something vague about having no feelings. Whatever. The scene is well-animated, even if it resorts to fabricated shaky-cam crap, but all of that animation talent is wasted on a scene that has no dramatic or visceral impact.
This has to be the most anticlimactic ending to a movie since those awful Lord of the Rings movies. Guess that makes sense, since Kyoukai and LotR are both novel series translated into “epic” movie serials.
In the end, the first movie in the Kyoukai series is a muddled, contradictory (in all the wrong ways), meaningless piece of tripe. I should have predicted this, since it’s by the Type Moon guys. Never liked any of their other stuff, so I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.
To anyone that’s seen the rest of these movies: Does the series improve in any way? Is there anyone else out there that loathed the first movie but found that the rest of the movies were improvements? Is this a case of the first movie acting as little more than a teaser and we get to the “meat” in the next movie? I can accept those answers. It likely won’t change my opinion of the first movie, but at least I’ll know that the series improves with time.
Or is this one of those things where the only way you can enjoy it is if you’ve read whatever manga/novel/whatever it’s based upon? I really hate that kind of crap. A movie/anime/whatever should stand on its own strengths. I’m cool with supplementary stuff, side stories, and all that jazz, but if I have to read the orignal novel to have any sort of inkling of the plot or characterization or to even derive any sort of basic enjoyment out of an anime, that anime has failed utterly. Umineko may be based on some visual novel, but I was still able to follow it’s ridiculous dream logic and enjoy it. Baccano and Haruhi are based on light novels, and both excise details, but they rank as my favorite anime series from this decade because they’re able to take the concepts from the novels and build and improve upon them. If it turns out that familiarity with the original stories is necessary to enjoy Kyoukai, it’s crap.
But yeah, this is a shame. I love the imagery conjured by its subtitle: Garden of Sinners. I hope the series actually plays off of that subtitle.