Kara no Kyoukai: love is an ecstatic escape out of the boundary of emptiness
After about four years, I have finally found something truly worthy to displace one entry in my top five. From what I have read many people will disagree, but at the same time many people will agree as well. The anime I am pertaining to is Kara no Kyoukai, or the Boundary of Emptiness. After having seen the fifth movie I was all but ready to include it in my top five. However, previous experience (for example, with Toradora) made me quite wary of doing so, and made me wait for the final entry of the series before altogether concluding upon its merits.
This time, there is no doubt. While the sixth entry was relatively light-hearted (and packed with humor) unlike the other entries of the series, I believe it was merely some sort of appetizer for the final, emotional, and pathos-invoking entry of the series. Although it wasn’t the ending I wanted to have (since I really appreciate cheese in such wonderful examples of anime), it was the ending that the show deserved: it was bittersweet, thought-provoking, heady, and yet masterfully and painfully beautiful.
I expect that this entry will mostly be read by other fans of the show open to other interpretations and opinions, so I simply have to warn the rest that there will be spoilers from this point on, especially because I want to express my own beliefs as regards the plot.
After the anachronistic beginning of the series and the avant-garde method of storytelling in the fifth movie, the seventh was relatively normal (temporally and methodically). It was, after all, the culmination of the mystery behind Shiki and her personality. Frankly, I saw it as a pleasurable ending to a romance (despite everything, it was their love for one another that saw them through everything, and it is highly expressed in the final movie).
The seventh movie begins with another string of murders similar to the murders of four years ago, and Shiki is the prime suspect (it does not help that her clothing is just as anachronistic and striking as the story itself: she wears the traditional kimono at all periods of the year). Mikiya maintains her innocence despite evidence stacking up against her, and his persistence is rewarded with the truth that it was Lio Shirazumi, an upperclassman of his, who has been murdering people all along, culminating in his dubbing as the ‘homicidal maniac.’
It is at this point that Mikiya realizes that Shiki has not yet murdered anyone human: she did not kill Asagami Fujino; she killed Araya Souren, a transcendent magus; and she killed the avatar of Fujou Kirie, but it was Kirie who killed herself. He wanted to save Shirazumi, but even Touko herself said that what Araya did to Shirazumi had both their consent: he was unsalvageable. Later in the story the viewer discovers that Shirazumi killed all those people to force the murderous Shiki to come out, so that he will have a companion, another ‘special’ being like him. Shiki has, however, changed: due to Mikiya’s love for her and his persistent humanity her SHIKI personality, the personality who only knew of murder, developed feelings of love as well. Because SHIKI wanted the composite of their personalities to live at peace with herself he decidedly killed himself so that Shiki can live a life unbounded by desires for murder. It was the extent of his like and gratefulness for Mikiya that he was willing to throw himself into oblivion. Despite this, what was left of Shiki (the ‘atashi’ personality of hers) compensated for his loss by speaking more like him and by consequently developing a murderous intent.
The film does not immerse itself in bathos: there is no epiphanic revelation for Shiki, and it does not end with her letting Shirazumi go. There is just the implied realization for the viewer that Shiki had gone against the grain of her origin, which is death (thus she possesses the Chokushi no Magan) and bore her desire to murder because she loved Mikiya more than anything else in the world. In fact, it can be said that she killed a part of herself because of her overwhelming desire to love Mikiya. She may not have expressed it explicitly throughout the series, but it can be seen, even at the very first movie, that she treasures Mikya so much, not only by her symbolic partaking of the strawberry Haagen-Dazs, but by the more obvious sign that she blushes in his presence, and only in his presence.
It is also noticeable that she does not willingly just kill people: in fact, there is always a reason why she acts upon her murderous intent: it was for the sake of Mikiya thrice and for Tomoe once (who she empathized with). She fought Kirie because she wanted to save Mikiya; acted upon Fujino to protect Mikiya’s friend; and finally killed (the only person she has killed) Shirazumi because she could not forgive him harming Mikiya, such a kind and loving person. Even then, there was a necessity to his death: he was a murderer, and no one could have stopped him except Shiki: even Touko herself acknowledged the impossibility of saving him. If he had not died, he would have gone on a rampage, and even killed more people in the process of his drug-dealing, all to succor his desire of having an equal. Yet he could not awaken it in Shiki, even while she killed him, because she found someone more important and an emotion more powerful, love. While the series has its highlights in well-animated action sequences and wonderfully-rendered powers, it has its foundation in the humanity of its characters: Shiki’s ultimate victory and triumph was over herself. She turned back against her impulses and her desires and channeled it to something more productive, despite everything. It was not a knife she wanted to hold, after all, but the hand of the only person who was there every step in the way, for her sanity and sake, because of his love for her.
This is probably my top one or two anime. What a wonderful show.