Every once in a while, a new film comes from out of nowhere that is so shockingly brilliant, so mind-blowingly beautiful in vision and rendering, that you know missing it just would have been a crime against humanity. Yasuomi Umetsu, director of such notables as Megazone 23 Part 2, the "Presence" segment of Robot Carnival, the artsy opening to Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody, and character designs to several other releases, has always been one of my favorite directors, and as much as I was looking forward to Kite, it most certainly did not disappoint. In fact, it was more than I even dreamt possible.
Sawa looks like a normal college girl on the outside, but she has an extremely dark past... and an even darker present. Taken in by the slightly bent detective Akai after her parents are gunned down in front of her, she's been abused and forced to take up his hobby of vigilante crime-fighting. She conceals a high-powered gun in her Sanrio totebox, and when the time is right, the person deserving of death gets it in large doses of exploding bullets.
It's a rather lonely (and blood-soaked) existence, but she finally finds a soulmate in fellow urchin Oburi, who leads a similar existence at the hands of Akai's partner in crime, Kanie. Together, the two attempt to turn their backs on the life of crime they've been pulled into, but Akai and Kanie aren't exactly willing to let them go free. But there's more... Sawa's parents, embodied in her earrings made from their blood, keep her searching for their killer. Sawa, however, already knows who it is.
There isn't one thing about Kite that doesn't radiate some amount of painful, violent beauty. The storytelling, although taking up only 45 minutes, proceeds at almost a Zen-like pace. Sawa's dismal existence is made clear not only with her haunted eyes, but also with her speech, flawlessly dubbed by Costal Carolina Studio's Scott Houle.
"They're made from the blood of my dead parents," she says, pointing to her earrings, hinting at Umetsu's continuing obsession with ornate jewelry and wardrobe designs. "In memory of... my mother, and father. They're lucky." All of this is said in a quiet, innocent tone, beautifully portrayed by Charlie Watson. (Is that right? That's what the credits say...) Oburi is also well-acted, as is just about every other character.
The only potential problem with Kite (besides its short length... I want more!) is the amount of blood-splattering explosive violence adorned throughout. It's not enough that they fill bodies with holes, they have to use exploding bullets to tear them apart afterward! It's for a purpose, however: all of this exaggerated killing and exploding makes the entire film attain a heart-pounding, surreal environment. What's more, the violence is never exploited for the sake of violence, with no killing being truly happy, and the ending being a quiet commentary on the desperation of the lifestyle Sawa and Oburi lead. I personally found nothing wrong with the violence (and that it really helped the message of the film), but what is there severely limits the film's audience... a shame, because everyone should see this anime.
Nothing like Kite has really ever been animated before, in Japan or elsewhere. While the look and style of the film will almost certainly draw comparisons to the original production of La Femme Nikita, Kite has enough originality to stand on its own, and in the land of animation, there are really no competitors. No animation I've seen to date has achieved the level of gritty realism along with the satisfying level of suspense and depraved beauty as this one.
Kite is as close to a perfect release as I've seen to date. The anime is beautifully animated and the story expertly told. The dubbing achieves new levels of quality even for original productions, let alone dubbing. Everyone that can stand a certain amount of gore should see Kite. It's that good.
Overall (dub) : A+
+ Killer story, animation, and art. Flawless, haunting dub.
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