8 Nights of Kara no Kyoukai, Part Two: Satsujin Kousatsu (Zen)

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Kara no Kyoukai is sort of like a stand alone complex. Each of its parts makes for a pretty interesting film in its own right, but all of them feed into one-another in such a way that you can’t really appreciate one completely without seeing the others. Yet still, each film is so different that it’s hard to lump them all together. Most of them have different directors, different pacing and focus, and subtly different styles. The anachronic sequence seems to invite the viewer to think of each piece on its own, yet particularly in the case of Satsujin Kousatsu (Zen) it’s hard to do so. On one hand, the film kind of gets away with it by being considered a “part one,” but with Satsujin Kousatsu part two being the last of the seven main films, it also means that this story gets left pretty open-ended. I guess what I’m getting at here is that, whereas I was able to enjoy Fukan Fuukei as a stand-alone film in its own right, Satsujin Kousatsu (Zen) doesn’t hold up as well on its own legs, and mostly feels like the setup for the other films. Which isn’t a problem or anything, I just felt like pointing it out.

This film is all about introducing us to Shiki’s multiple personalities, and to the relationship between Shiki and Mikiya. If there’s one take-away from all of this, it’s that both Shiki and Mikiya are incredibly strange people, and both of them kind of underestimate just how insane the other is at the beginning. Shiki’s insanity is the type that comes from being born into an incredibly strange set of circumstances, whereas Mikya’s comes more in the way of being an otherwise normal-seeming person whose worldview is just skewed enough that he can stumble down the road of falling in love with a crazy person. Mikiya’s friend tells him at one point that if he’s reached the level of not finding Shiki scary, then he’s already mad with love, and Mikiya takes this as much as a realization of his feelings as he does a realization of his insanity.

In a sense, though, both of their insanities are mild. They are far from normal, but perhaps not really dangerous. They share a brand of madness that keeps them in their own little world together. Shiki is obsessed with death, and while this film never confirms or denies whether Shiki has been murdering people, it comes off as more likely that she’s able to predict the killer’s movements and show up at the crime scenes because she is fascinated with murder as an idea. Sure, it’s a pretty fucked up hobby, but Mikiya’s doubt that Shiki could ever kill someone because she emotionally understands the pain of being killed too well ends up being a well-founded claim. Mikiya, meanwhile, turns into an obsessive stalker, bent on proving Shiki’s innocence to himself out of his selfish love for her. He’s got a sort of single-minded madness which, in the end, feeds into Shiki’s well. It’s as though they balance one-another out in terms of craziness.

Shiki’s main personality is considered female, and her split personality who represents her feelings of rejection, is considered male. This seems like it could be directly influenced by Boogiepop and Others, wherein Boogiepop was a male personality that surfaced inside of a high school girl–but that notwithstanding, it’s interesting to think about. Gender is a strange concept, as everyone has their own ideas of what it is and what each gender means. Some will argue that gender is a mental construct, while also arguing that gender can’t be tied to any set of requisite rules. At this level of abstraction though, the concept itself loses all meaning. If “boy” and “girl” don’t mean anything specific, then what sense is there in even considering yourself one or the other? Yet, I think that most people do have a sense of their own gender that they relate to, and a set of reasons for why they consider themselves such. My rationalization of my own maleness may not be the same as the next person’s, but it is a sensation that I recognize as myself being male, and I think that having this sense is even more interesting than seeking to define it.

Shiki’s male self represents her repressed emotions, and only surfaces to speak in rejection of others. Shiki’s female form can only affirm, and her male form can only rebel. However, Mikiya’s existence starts to throw a wrench into all of this. Female Shiki starts to rebel against him, and male Shiki starts to take a liking to him, even though on a basic level, female Shiki may be falling in love with him, while male Shiki badly wants to kill him. At one point, male Shiki says that when it comes down to it, both sides are the real Shiki. They don’t operate or think independently so much as represent conflicting ideas that the other doesn’t know how to deal with. In the end, the distinction between Shikis hardly matters, as Mikiya’s presence blends their opinions into one-another. And then she gets hit by a truck.

Throughout this film, I was interested in how easily I could relate to the basic sensations that Shiki and Mikiya describe. I don’t have multiple personalities, nor do I have a fascination with murder, nor do I think I could ever love someone in a way that caused me to stalk them every night–yet somehow, I could appreciate how these two found themselves acting that way, as many of their basic reasons for doing things were ones I could relate to.

For instance, at the beginning, Shiki muses that she walks the empty city at night perhaps not specifically to BE alone, but to FEEL alone. Shiki is wrapped up inside of herself, and seems to reject the idea that she might have to rely on anyone else. She wants to believe that she could sever all ties with everyone and walk the streets in the night alone–herself and the dead–without having to think about others.

Throughout the fall and winter of last year, I went on forty-minute walks every night for several months. At first it was mostly for health reasons, so that I’d have an excuse to get some movement in my day to day life, but over time it also became an excuse to get away from the world. It might seem strange to say that leaving the solitude of my room is getting away, but since I was usually leaving a loud internet of people to walk the dead silence of 3AM streets, I’d say it’s a fair enough phrasing.

I have a sort of compulsion towards being alone–I like to be wrapped up in myself and to be doing my own thing, and I find it overwhelming to have to deal with people too often. I try my best not to trap myself in situations where I’ll be around people for too long–I don’t do skype calls or group settings, and when my friends are at my house, they usually hang out in my brothers’ rooms, whereas I only come down to hang out every few hours or so and then retreat back to my room.

And yet, what really strikes me here is Shiki’s phrasing. It’s not that she wants to be alone–it’s that she wants to FEEL like she’s alone. She wants to operate under the illusion that she could retreat from the rest of humanity and be perfectly fine, but the truth is that she actually wants to be with Mikiya. When Mikiya compares her to a rabbit, his friend says, don’t tell me she’s the type who would die from loneliness, and it made me wonder how long Shiki would actually last on her own. As an artist, if I really didn’t care about anyone, I could just live my life normally and make my art exclusively for myself if I wanted to–but the reality is that I seek the approval of others to justify my own work. Maybe Shiki needs someone like Mikiya to care about her in order to keep herself going. If we think back to Fukan Fuukei, we’ve already seen her lonely enough to fight for Mikiya to come back to her.

Shiki has a lot on her shoulders. She’s the heir to a massive household, though she seems to reject this destiny, and it’s hinted at in this film that she has some kind of unique attribute which only her family can inherit. We don’t learn about her mystic eyes of death perception, though, and I think it’s interesting how this film actually never mentions anything supernatural at all. Whereas Fukan Fuukei was sort of like a ghost story, Satsujin Kousatsu is more of a crime drama. We only learn about Shiki’s psychological abnormalities, but not at all about her supernatural ones. As I’ve said before, these films really are unique from one-another in strange, subtle ways.

Mikiya interests me because his views are so basic, yet also hopelessly make him crazy. You could say that if Mikiya had fallen in love with anyone other than Shiki then his mentality would be pretty normal, but this only raises the question of whether he would fall in love with anyone else to begin with. Mikiya refuses to believe that Shiki committed the murders on no basis at all other than that he doesn’t want to believe that he is in love with a murderer. When Shiki confronts him with how much of an idiot he is for coming to see her after she threatened him, he describes himself as “optimistic.” Through this word, I get where Mikiya is coming from. I understand the single-minded devotion to the idea that what you want to work out is going to work out. After all, I’m someone who keeps bashing my head against the brick wall of the arts because I can’t live with myself thinking that it won’t work out in the end.

Maybe I’m speaking from a place of bias in claiming that Shiki and Mikiya aren’t actually that insane. Maybe they’re actually really, really insane, and I’m just insane enough myself that it doesn’t seem particularly insane to me. I don’t really know what kind of things other people do or think about, so I can’t say how off-base my own thoughts might be compared to what’s normal. I can only say that I kind of get both Shiki and Mikiya. I get why Shiki’s mind is split in half, why she might be fascinated with death, and why she’d reject everyone else. I get why Mikiya would be so into Shiki that it would turn him into a crazy stalker.

And ultimately, that’s why I liked this film. As a stand-alone narrative, it’s not very interesting. At most, it’s a setup or introductory piece. It establishes who the characters are and how they got involved with one-another, but it ends right before they start to affect any real change in one-another. It only gets interesting when you start comparing it to other films. Even just thinking about how different Shiki is in Fukan Fuukei in comparison to this film is pretty interesting, but escapes thinking about the film as a stand-alone. Satsujin Kousatsu provides me just enough grounds to appreciate the mindset of its two characters and how they got entangled with one-another, but aside from that, it mostly leaves me anticipating the rest of the series. Tomorrow, we’ll be moving on to talk about Tsuukaku Zanryuu.

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