Kara no Kyoukai 1: Kicking Things Off with a Bang (Part 1)

Or a crunch, as the movie mainly revolves around girls jumping off a building.

No not that show. We don’t have a psychopath trying to get girls to jump off a building here….or do we? Is it Izaya at work again? HOW FAR DOES HIS REACH EXTEND?! *notices picture* Ha ha, his reach. That’s a good one.

Anyways, this is the start of my first project (and currently a nice way to procrastinate studying for finals). For each one of the Kara no Kyoukai (KnK) movies, I’ll try and list a short synopsis about what happens (both a normal and a tl;dr version), list some of the characters and what we learn about them, and then move onto the analysis. Much of the discussion will assume some familiarity with the movies (go watch them – they’re good!). Oh, and since I’ll be referencing other TYPE-MOON works I’ll put in the obligatory spoiler alert (I do that enough anyways though). Also feel free to skip down if you don’t want to read some preliminary ramblings. I’m also pretty sure future posts will be much shorter, since there won’t be nearly as much preamble. Since this one turned out so long, I split it into two, the first part being general discussion and characterization so far and the second focused specifically on the movie’s themes.

Anyways – let’s get started!

We’re introduced to a spate of mysterious schoolgirl suicides taking place in an unnamed city. All the girls commit suicide by jumping off the Fujou building (an old skyscraper slated to be demolished), none of them leave notes or displayed any previous suicidal tendencies, and there seems to be no connection other than age. A woman named Aozaki Touko seems to have some idea about the phenomenon. Her assistanat, Kokutou Mikiya, has also been in a coma ever since he approached the building. Enter Ryougi Shiki, yukata and red jacket (what a sick combo) wearing protagonist, who seems to work for Touko. Shiki heads to the Fujou Building herself to save Mikiya from whatever supernatural forces imprison him. After a multiple fights with a ghost/spirit, where we discover she has a definitely supernatural prosthetic arm (and ufotable can give us amazing water porn), she defeats the spiritual entity of Fujou Kirie (of Fujou building fame). Afterwards, Touko visits Kirie in the hospital to get her side of the story. Kirie, a blind, terminally ill, bedridden hospital patient, gained a separate body through some means (it’ll be revealed later on in the series) and used it to explore the world. However, no one noticed her, so she became depressed and…decided that she should cause schoolgirls visiting the Fujou building’s rooftop to commit suicide. It seems Mikiya also frequently visited the hospital where she was at for some (currently unexplained) reason, carrying flowers every time no less, and she ended up falling in love with him (trust me, the string of insane women falling for Mikiya is just beginning roflmao). His unconsciousness is also implied to have something to do with her gaining a new spiritual form. After Touko’s conversation, Kirie commits suicide in the same manner as her victims. Some short discussion ensues, and Shiki reunites with Mikiya while being all tsundere. There’s also a brief introduction of Kokutou Azaka, Mikiya’s sister. You never shake off this odd surreal feeling that surrounds the entire movie. Cue preview for #2, which is a flashback to Shiki and Mikiya’s high school days.

tl;dr: Suicides -> girls splashing around in water -> water porn -> ??? -> tsundere.

This picture doesn't nearly do it justice.

This picture doesn’t nearly do it justice.

Preamble and Broad Discussion
The main characters of the show are obvious right from the outset: Shiki, Mikiya, and Touko. Also, like most TYPE-MOON (TM) works, all the characters wax extremely philosophical at some point or another (it becomes more and more prevalent later in the series), and most messages and themes of each movie are usually directly narrated or physically discussed, or, barring that, heavily implied. This is in direct contrast to other works like FLCL, where they are merely implied and heavily symbolic, and there’s none of this “trying to interpret the story to get the message” deal most of the time (although there are some exceptions). So it’s not a “show, don’t tell” type of show, but much more a “tell and also show” type of show, with a lot of philosophical discussion that is then subsequently or concurrently demonstrated. It works out, in my opinion, because the message of the show (and there is a message – KnK makes that abundantly clear) frequently is so philosophical/abstract in nature that it would be extremely difficult to make the connections just from the narrative. Compare this to Psycho-Pass, for example, where the connections are a bit more obvious and the telling isn’t as necessary – see E-minor’s posts on Moe Sucks on the show and the subsequent comments to see sort of what I’m getting at. The main point is that while you can go into KnK expecting a bunch of great animation, fight scenes, and music (Ufotable knows their shit) you’ll just as often get philosophical ramblings. Also, as a heads up, much of the show deals with East Asian philosophy (Taoism especially) as much as Western philosophy in general, and later on in the show it can become a bit confusing without knowing a bit of background. I’m not an expert myself, and so frequently I’ll try to refer to broad concepts in feel rather than by name. Hopefully I’ll get them right, and if anything I say is wrong (whether marginally or completely) please let me know.

This was my reaction upon seeing the 5th movie, which dealt with a ton of these concepts. Thankfully, one of my friends is huge into East Asian philosophies, and  discussion with him has  definitely helped me understnad

Fujou Kirie in the hospital. This was essentially my reaction upon seeing the 5th movie, which dealt with a ton of these concepts. Thankfully, one of my friends is huge into East Asian philosophy and also had seen the movies, and so was able to help me organize the concepts that I’d tried to extract into a nice coherent framework.

As in several TM works, there’s at least one character who is clearly just much more knowledgeable, experienced, or just plain borderline omnipotent who does the majority of this narrating – examples include Rider (Alexander) and Archer (Gilgamesh) from Fate/Zero, Gilgamesh and Kirei from Fate/Stay; and Archer (Future Shirou) in Unlimited Blade Works, just to name the ones from the Fate series. It’s also prevalent in the Fate/Stay VN (I can’t vouch for the rest quite yet).

Fate/Zero S1 even had an entire episode dedicated to just discussion of ideologies, where we get to see Gilgamesh be a prick, Saber be a masochist, and Rider be freaking awesome. It is also directed by the same guy who’s doing Psycho-Pass (see above), so this might just be a coincidence. I think the trend is real though.

Touko continues this trend by playing the main role in the Kara no Kyoukai series, so pretty much everything that comes out of her mouth deserves special attention (although by the end everyone does it).

And when I say everything, I mean everything. Even her cigarette packs have a yin yang symbol on them. Which is more reason to believe I'm not bs'ing you guys when I say the show is big on Daoism...I think....

And when I say everything, I mean everything. Even her cigarette packs have a yin yang symbol on them, so even the smoke from her mouth might be important! Which is more reason to believe I’m not BS’ing you guys when I say the show is big on Taoism.

There's also this. What a great smile :D

Well, maybe not everything. Deep statements from Aozaki Touko, everyone.

Character Development
Character development does end up being quite sparse in the first movie, since it’s just meant to introduce us to the cast and their relationships with each other. Mikiya, for instance, is in a coma this entire movie (I’m a bit jealous jealous, since the last couple days have been a bit sleep-deprived), so we don’t learn much about him except through Shiki’s flashbacks while she eats delicious looking strawberry Häagen-Dazs ice cream. One key scene in those flashbacks involves, Mikiya comparing strawberries to Shiki’s personality. He goes into a nice explanation of how the fact that a strawberry is actually a rose with thorns parallels her personality, which is actually pretty apt, as Shiki is beautiful but extremely dangerous and “prickly”, and also a clever analogy that highlights his insightful nature. He is also displayed as being somewhat “aloof” or detached, or at least very casual around Shiki. As for Shiki, there is a telling scene where Touko talks to Shiki about her “emptiness” while surrounded by dolls (she even has a fake arm). The other main things we learn are that Shiki’s badass, is in love with Mikiya (heavily implied), and doesn’t mind fighting (she’s actually quite vicious and seems to take pleasure in it). Also that Shiki has the best fashion sense around – leather jacket over Touko remains mysterious but seems very much on top of things. Also a chronic smoker. Kirie, who’s the antagonist of this chapter, is mainly shown as a sad character who grew bitter and vengeful over time based on her isolation.

To summarize:
Mikiya: Insightful, aloof/detached.
Shiki: badass, in love with Mikiya, quite vicious, “empty”(?).
Touko: Very much the “narrator”. 
Kirie: Understandably bitter about circumstances surrounding her condition.

Ice cream always looks so much tastier when a girl is eating it. Especially when she's in a nightshirt, depressed, eating alone while bathed in the moonlight. And only has one arm. That too. What's hotter than that?

Ice cream always looks so much tastier when a girl is eating it. Especially when she’s in a nightshirt, depressed and alone, bathed in the moonlight. And only has one arm. What’s hotter than that? All silliness aside, the scene is actually pretty touching.

That’s it for the preamble. See Part 2 for the in-depth discussion.

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