This Week: Kite (A Kite)
This is not about leaving a beautiful corpse. This is a bubblegum shotgun to the face.
With exploding shells meant for child pornographers and rapists.
The sort of unspoken rule I have been operating under for these posts over the last several months is I buckle down and write about one thing so as to maintain my focus. Whatever anime left the biggest impression on me in a given week, for good or ill. I usually watch episodes of more than one thing in a given week, after all. And it is very difficult for an average week of content consumption to outgun Kite. It can also likely generate a much livelier conversation than, say, Martian Successor Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness.
The tricky bit with approaching something like Kite is one almost by requirement needs to group it into a similar category of productions like 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave. A work of sexual violence and human destruction that commits so thoroughly to its traumatic objective that many experienced film critics then and now consider that later work to be one of the worst films ever made. That it was seen as vile piece of inhuman filth with zero redeeming qualities.
I think that does, at minimum, a great disservice to the raw nature and extent of the violence though. Thoughtless, heinous crimes perpetrated by monsters in positions of power, and cascading experiences of visceral yet joyless content one after another. Which applies to Kite as well.
The scene choreography is excellent, with great sense of spacial geometry and where everyone is in relation to each other in a given area. Sequences are punchy and to the point, like it is swinging a metal baseball bat at the wall. Which it just as well may be, as I feel this should be thought more as a thematic piece than one of a stricter focus of the dialogue driven escapades. A lot of people die. Brutally so. And we have multiple graphic rapes of young girls.
This is pretty much what any given extended conversation about Kite comes down to. Which version between the three (Uncut, Director’s Cut, and General Release), and how that changes the experience. For purposes here, I watched the Uncut version.
They hurt, without question. The world just sort of stops for a while.
How much that subtracts from the experience as a piece of art or media is up to the individual. Everything else grinds to a halt during those scenes, so the pacing shifts alone could be problematic for some, let alone the content. And we are talking about multiple extended sequences of painstakingly visualized and in your face non-consensual sex. Rape. Not everyone needs or wants to see that in their leisure media for understandable reasons. I can respect the desires of the general release, as it does make the content more palatable to a wider audience. The ability to at least see some rather than all or none.
Are these most explicit scenes wholly detrimental to the work though?
Well, again, I think one should think of things like I Spit On Your Grave. That movie is built around a savage gang rape sequence that goes on for nearly a half hour. The portrayal is intended to be blunt to the point where it is past shock value and straight into aggravating the audience with frustration, then past even that into straight up numbness to the continuing event. In that respect, it achieves its objective. There are many ways to try to tell a story or evoke a series of feelings, and that happens to be a rather particular one. Kite I feel is in a similar boat, though its extensive sexual violence does not last as long. They are moments the viewer endures, that they hope against hope will end. That they wish to get away from, to escape. That there is a sense of hollowness from it all.
This is not a very fun production to sit through. But it does not have to be.
It is certainly a very gritty and raw piece, and I think it is a well put together production.
From the general uses of color and camera work to the level of gloss applied, it flows smoothly for its needs. Yasuomi Umetsu got the nod to create the “Presence” section of Robot Carnival earlier in their career for a reason (which I covered at least a little bit a few months ago here). Part of the visual quality look does come him being an absolute monster for this sort of detail thing when one can pin him down and he puts his mind into it (the recent Wizard Barristers animation problems should likely not be considered representative of his full capabilities). One of the last times he held an “Animation Director” responsibility prior to this work had been in his Robot Carnival segment a decade prior, and his short looks spectacular visually. He also was the animation director for the infamous (because it’s the one folks are most likely to remember) first episode of Angel Cop, which contains an easy ranking member of one of the most detailed destruction sequences of a human head one can find in professional animation. A viewer can easily imagine Kite was on some subconscious level being treated as a new demo reel project for him, as he was also the writer, character designer, and overall director in addition to animation director.
Though I would by every means hesitate if somebody went on an excited verbal parade of how “totally badass” they thought Kite was. You know the type, those folks who almost pride themselves on missing the point of a violent work so thoroughly that all they see are bullets and body counts but none of the trauma. Where something like Cannibal Holocaust or I Spit On Your Grave is seen as super cool gore slip and slides as opposed to the social commentary driving through the room like an eighteen wheeler.
I think Kite is a well realized piece of media. I would call it a good OVA. I think the idea of the shootout gore violence being seen almost as a kind of power fantasy for Sawa in an environment and life where she has had others power fantasies hoisted upon her is an intriguing series of ideas to explore. There is a really interesting series of artistic conversations to be had then about the audience and if they then try to use Sawa’s power fantasies as their own. How far they may be willing to ignore what turned Sawa into who she is, and what is driving how ferocious her actions are.
The production narrative goes that the sexual escapades were included out of a contractual obligation. Yasuomi Umetsu was able to secure the production funding with them so as to get the project made. I think that crops up a bit in the finished product if one is looking for it; lovingly painted cels of firearms closeup shots and high grade close quarters combat look a bit more dedicated to the cause than the effort put into, say, the proportions of the sexual assault perpetrators. However, one would I suppose be able to get a kind of thematic element from that as well, definitely. It all depends on how one wishes to engage with the material. And I think it is a work that wants to be engaged with.
In an effort to at least end on a note of levity: If even one percent of what I watch could lead off with “Soon to be a live action feature film staring Samuel L. Jackson,” this whole internet anime writing thing I try doing would be a lot more relevant to folks, haha.
[The live action trailer is located here, for what it is worth and if you have not seen it. Surprisingly safe for work, outside of maybe one part in the middle, though they are clearly rewriting a lot of material.]
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.