- A Kite (1998: Arms) 1/1 ep.
A Kite is rather infamous among old school anime fans for both the graphic content within it as well as the consistently depressing tone of the piece. A Kite was original a 2 episode hentai, animated pornographic film, by Yasuomi Umetsu. Umetsu is a bit of a weird guy as he did awesome character designs on things like Megazone 23 Part II as well as directing the fabulous ‘Presence’ section of Robot Carnival but he then also has done some creepy stuff like the original cut of A Kite, leading AWO’s Daryl Surat to start calling him ‘doggy style pedophile man’. Going back to A Kite being a porno originally, Umetsu created the show with multiple scenes of sex and rape with the main character while she is a child, and I mean a young child not just a teenager. As such the original version is actually banned in many countries as child pornography. It was due to this content that when the show was first brought to the West they decided to censor it, removing the sex scenes, and merge the two episodes to create a single roughly hour long film. This censored version then went onto become a bit of a classic in the West as it perfectly fit with what anime was in the west at the time; future/near future violent action pieces with a dark tone, remember this is the era of Wicked City and Akira. It has actually come out since that Umetsu prefers the edited version and the English dub and that he views it as the definitive version, which is why I am reviewing that version…also I don’t want to be arrested!
Going onto the show itself we find something very odd; the show is quite in almost every regard and yet it has such a force of emotion behind it that one can’t help but be compelled. The story follows Sawa, a child assassin, who goes around killing bad dudes, somewhat ironically they all seem to be pedophiles. Her bosses are a policeman called Akai and a creepy motherfucker called Kanie. One day Sawa finds out that she isn’t the only child assassin those two are handlers for as she comes across Oburi during one of his missions. The two strike up a friendship, much to their handlers’ dismay, especially as Oburi has only 3 missions left before he can retire. The plot is quite easy to understand, and to see where it is going, from that description but Lord knows it isn’t that easy to figure out when watching the show. Stuff seems to just happen and characters try to kill each other with no apparent reason until it finally clicks near the end, but it isn’t a good type of clicking like in a solid mystery story. So, the narrative is a super simple and yet a bit of a mess, what about the characters?
Well the characters are all either super robotic or loathsome creatures, and by that I mean the two assassins are like robots while everyone else is a piece of shit. These characters aren’t deep or particularly interesting in terms of how they will grow and develop. You never want to really know more about these characters and yet it does seem to work with the general tone of the show. As I said above, despite the massive flaws with this show it has such a forceful sense of tone to it that I can’t help but be compelled. The show is unrelentingly dark, melancholy, and oppressive. In many ways it might be the peak point of that wave of melancholy productions we saw following the economic crisis such as Macross Plus, Jin-Roh, Cowboy Bebop, and Wolf’s Rain. To explain it in words doesn’t give what A Kite manages to do justice really, I mean how can words relate fully such a forceful emotion? But I do truly think that it elevates what could have been a fairly OK action piece.
Speaking of action this thing has some truly great moments of it. While not as filled with action as one might think, it is punctuated sporadically by extreme and well directed violence. The two main fights have gone down as classics with the bathroom fight probably being the more famous of the two. It isn’t glorified ‘cool’ fighting, instead it is grim, unrelenting, and ugly in a way that works perfectly with the tone of the show. The animation in these action scenes is generally great, however outside of these scenes the animation can get quite stuttery at times. But for me these moments of animation weakness are more than made up for by those action sequences as well as the amazingly strong art style the show has throughout, for all Umetsu’s problems the man can make things look damn good.
I should also mention the music which stays away from the expected synth or rock music in favour of erratic jazz, perhaps influenced by Cowboy Bebop? This certainly adds to the atmosphere and helps the show seem fresher than it otherwise might have been. Both sub and dub tracks are fairly good though I prefer the quieter performances of the sub track personally.
Overall, A Kite is a weird one. In terms of story and characters the show is pretty damn weak but it has that forceful oppressively melancholic feel to it that just makes that whole piece sing, no doubt greatly aided by the visuals and audio. I honestly have no idea what to rate it or if it is good or not. I recommend checking it out, especially as it is on Crunchyroll, as if nothing else it has some dope fight scenes.
Final score: ?C