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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Kyoukai no Kanata: I'll Be Here - Mirai-hen

Kyoukai no Kanata
I'll Be Here - Mirai-hen.

I reviewed Kyoukai no Kanata, a rather odd series that couldn't seem to decide if it wanted to be a romance, a paranormal drama, or a comedy, quite a long time ago, and the whole thing left me rather ambivalent: While I certainly didn't hate it, its insistence on trying to be all things to all people meant it was spread so thinly as to just leave it a kind of non-entity, with a few good ideas and a plot that was never really developed.

I was also vaguely aware that there were films in production, but imagine my surprise when I saw that one of those films was now out on DVD, meaning that I could track it down and review it! My expectations were low.

Kyoukai no Kanata: I'll Be Here - Mirai-hen takes place an unspecified amount of time after the series. Following her mysterious return, Mirai has no memory of her clan's cursed blood or any of the adventures she had with half-youmu Akihito or Spirit World Warriors Hiroomi and Mitsuki. Their newfound equilibrium is swiftly turned upside down, however, when Spirit World Warriors start being assassinated by shadowy, liquid monsters, and Mirai is stalked by someone who claims they will tell her who she truly is. 

So, I mean, I was not looking forward to this film, and I was absolutely prepared to give it an extremely lukewarm review, but if I'm being honest, this film is everything I wanted Kyoukai no Kanata to be when I was watching the series.

What a nice sunset.

While the series didn't know what it wanted to be, the film knows exactly what ratio of romance to tragedy to comedy to adventure it wants, and knows exactly how to pitch it. It's confident in a way that the series never was, and that confidence has done wonders for it: It's well-paced, it's concise (do you know how much of a boon concision is in a story that has a lot of heartfelt conversations? We've all watched no end of shows where the dramatic, emotional high point is a boring, repetitive conversation), it moves seamlessly between action adventure and emotional drama without either feeling out of place.

(The film also cuts down on some of the more obnoxious elements of the show, like the 'haha Hiroomi and Akihito have fetishes' humour, which got old very quickly. They're not gone altogether, but they're reduced to the point where I wasn't rolling my eyes with exhaustion every time that particular joke was made.)

It's also beautiful to look at - it's a stunning work of animation, possibly the best I've seen this year, and that never shows more clearly than in the battle scenes, which are frenetic, fast-paced, and full of bright, dramatic effects. The series was certainly not shabby in the animation department, but the film (which, one presumes, has a higher budget and less minutes to space it over) takes it to a whole new level. 

Such blue, wow.

Mechanically, it also does well in nearly every other aspect, with a great soundtrack, good pacing, and good voice acting.

It's not a perfect piece of work, though, and most of the problems come through in the writing, and predominantly in the form of plot holes. Many of the elements of the adventure plot are at odds with the series, or even at odds with other plot elements of the film itself (if the worm youmu infects anyone who sees it, why did it need to be physically implanted in Izumi?). They're never distractingly huge plot holes, though, never anything that critically compromises the story - they're all minor quibbles.

In all honesty, I am not left with an awful lot to say about this film, because there's not a gigantic amount I can criticise about it. But I am left in a slightly paradoxical position, where despite being a superior production to its own series in nearly every way, I don't think this film could actually stand on its own. It can only really exist because it builds on characters that its intended audience already knows, and relationships that the audience already understands - if it wanted to build those relationships and characters up from scratch, it absolutely would not have the time to do that in its hour-thirty running time.

This is just very pretty.

Still, it's a very good film, and a definite contender for the 'anime of the year' award for this year's Fission Mailure awards, which is not something I expected to say about it. If you're a fan of Kyoukai no Kanata, then definitely look this film up. If you're not, then - well, maybe consider watching the first film, which is a condensed retelling of the series, and then looking this film up. Yes, that should work.

Honestly, weirdest review related surprise of the year, this one.

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