I said before of Tsuukaku Zanryuu that it was a film of outrage. Satsujin Kousatsu (Go) is similar, but in this case it’s a film about loss and acceptance. Whereas Tsuukaku Zanryuu served to show us the morality of Mikiya and Shiki, it never really put that morality to the test because they ended up winning in the end. Shiki didn’t have to kill anyone, and they both ended the film feeling good about themselves.
If I had to pick out a central theme of Kara no Kyoukai, I’d say it’s about the unyielding forces of life and death. It’s about how convictions and morals can be compared against desires and natural forces. At one point, Touko explains that a murdering psychopath is like a natural disaster–it’s just something that people get caught up in which they can’t control. It’s the product of a deterministic universe wherein every person’s nature can be boiled down to a compulsory origin.
The concept of every person having an origin which can be defined by a single word is obviously hard to apply to the real world, and is more of a magical thing made up by the show–but it is pretty fun to think about. Especially the idea of being consumed by that impulse as soon as you become aware of it. At the risk of coming off as exceedingly hokey, I really do think I experienced something like this when I started taking the word “analysis” to heart. Up until a certain point, I had a lot of things that I saw myself doing in the future, be it writing fiction or directing films or creating music, but somewhere along the line when I started defining myself as a media analyst, it quickly overtook everything else as a single-minded obsession. Whereas a lot of internet reviewers view their work as something that they do on the side while they pine towards a greater achievement such as making films or video games or becoming a comedian, I really have no desires other than to become the best analyst that I possibly can. All of the other creative endeavors that I used to try have largely fallen by the wayside as analysis has totally consumed me.
I don’t want to turn this video into an argument for or against the idea of a deterministic universe, but I will say that I firmly believe that any person is the product of how that person is shaped. It’s almost totally impossible to predict which elements will result in which aspects of someone’s personality, because we’re talking about nearly infinite variables, but the bottom line is that who you are is the result of all of the circumstances which have brought you to where you currently stand. The decisions you make are guided by what kind of person your experiences have made you into; so in a way, it’s true that you don’t have a choice. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be held accountable for your actions. There simply would be no way to function as a society if we let everyone run free on their base impulses. We just have to know that every time we collectively create a monster, it falls not just on that monster to blame, but on society as a whole. We create the monsters, and it’s up to us to shoulder that weight–and the only way to do that while retaining our ability to move on, is just to suck it up and accept that shit happens.
Mikiya is so opposed to death and to murder, that he would ask Shiki not to kill at all costs, and would throw his life away to save another. He tells Shiki that he could never forgive her if she killed Shirazumi Lio, even though he inadvertently damns both of them by saying so. Shiki had hoped to kill Lio and then return to Mikiya to prove that she could still live happily, and in the end, that’s exactly what she ends up doing. Shiki claims to have lost a lot of things in the end, but it seems like she’s mostly lost her regrets and pretenses. She comes to terms with what she really wants out of life, which is happiness and to be with Mikiya, and by the end, resolves to have those things no matter what she may have done.
Likewise, Mikiya ultimately has to face the reality that he can’t always win. Sometimes you just have to be a hypocrite and suck it up. His love for Shiki and desire to be happy outweighs his moral outrage. No matter how hard he believed that Shirazumi could be saved, or that Shiki couldn’t kill, the reality is that both things were untrue, and in the face of that failure, the only thing left to do is admit defeat, etch it into your heart, and live happily.
The hardest step for me in becoming a moral person was that I felt that I knew too much. When I realized just how fucked up the world truly is, to the point that pretty much everyone has something bearing down on them which most can barely fight against, I thought, there’s just no saving anyone. What’s the point in trying? But I realized that running away wouldn’t make me less aware of the bad things I might do. Thinking that I can’t stop the world’s waste problem doesn’t make it feel okay to waste, or thinking that I can’t help everyone doesn’t make it feel okay to do nothing. As I said in Tsuukaku Zanryuu, morality isn’t about saving the world and doing everything right–it’s about doing as much as you can and living on even in the face of inevitable loss. It’s about fighting the losing battle against death as best you can.
I won’t comment too much on the whole argument about whether or not someone can kill and retain their humanity, or how many murders a person is allowed to have. All of those things felt like empty semantics to me which more reflect the personal ideologies of the story itself, which aren’t that applicable to the real world unless you happen to feel the same way. The idea of what is or isn’t forgivable or what can be lived with in the eyes of something like a greater spiritual or social being isn’t very interesting to me. I’m more concerned about how our actions can be handled within ourselves.
Moving into more technical areas, I really did love this film. Lio was a great villain, as the kind of natural force of evil that could drag Shiki and Mikiya down to a place of reconsidering their own ideals. His fights with Shiki are easily the best in the series, and the film is altogether the best directed and most aesthetically pleasing since Fukan Fuukei. While Mujun Rasen was without a doubt the most fun to watch, this film had a lot more emotion behind it, and felt like it carried the actual soul of the series more than any other.
Throughout the entire Kara no Kyoukai series, I always loved the shots of Shiki’s room and Touko’s office, as I stated back in Fukan Fuukei. By showing these locations so often and in so much detail, they gained a sense of hominess and importance–so when Shiki talks about how she wants to return to that room where she has so many fond memories and live there as her home, it struck a powerful chord of longing in me. Likewise, when Touko decided to move, I felt a pang of sadness. Full disclosure: when I originally started this video series, I wanted to copy that sense of space and belonging by showing my room in a similar fashion; but due to my lack of cinematography skills and inability to walk on two legs, it didn’t work out.
Back in Fukan Fuukei, I said that Kara no Kyoukai was visually the kind of story I always wanted to portray back when I wanted to be a director, with its wide-angle shots and dark urban setting. What made it the ultimate summation and culmination of my interests in the animated medium back in 2010 though, was that it was also the kind of story I wanted to tell. A story filled with psychotic badasses having epic supernatural fights. A story where the main characters would lose body parts and get killed, but those who lived would always keep soldiering on. A story where the romance of the main characters would persevere against all hardship and they’d continue living on in the end. Kara no Kyoukai was exactly the story I’d always wanted to write. I guess it’s not that surprising since my biggest influence had always been Boogiepop and Others, but it still hit me pretty hard back then.
However, Kara no Kyoukai is no longer the ultimate summation and culmination of my interests. It no longer reflects the only kind of story I want to tell. Over time, I’ve grown more interested in stories that look outward instead of only looking in. Back in my late teens and early twenties, I was obsessed with myself and with the idea of self-discovery, and an insular story like Kara no Kyoukai with a small cast of characters who are only concerned with themselves really appealed to me. Now, I’m more interested in shows that present an entire society. Stuff that deals with how changes in the world around us affect our morals not only as individuals, but as a group. Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex and Psycho-Pass better reflect my interests now, and I suspect that as time goes on, Kara no Kyoukai will continue to feel more nostalgic to me and less relevant. It feels like something written by a young guy, aimed at young people like himself, in which he sought to capture the ideas he had at that time–and it resonated with me strongly at that age and place in life. Now, it more strongly reminds me of where I’ve come from. Seeing myself in Mikiya is no longer a revelation, and loving his relationship with Shiki doesn’t fill me with longing the way it used to. I’ve grown up and I understand myself now, and my concerns and interests have gotten broader.
Nevertheless, these films will always hold a special place in my heart. They will always be that perfect reminder of who I was at nineteen years old, when the world was just opening up to me. I suspect that dark urban settings, supernatural badasses, violent action, psychotically romantic relationships, anachronic storytelling, stoic hardass women who smoke, and morally driven storylines will always be some of my deepest loves, so Kara no Kyoukai will always give me something worth coming back to. Tomorrow night, we’re gonna finish this baby off. Seeya then.