© 1998 Yasuomi Umetsu / Green Bunny
First of all, before I dive into the review, allow me to address the controversy surrounding Kite. For those who don't know, the original version of Kite included some graphic sex scenes, which were omitted from the version Media Blasters released. And no, a completely uncut version is not domestically available and probably won't ever be (although, Media Blasters released an almost-uncut version as Kite: Director's Cut).
But you know what? It doesn't matter. Sure, there are some die-hard fans that scream bloody murder every time a scene is omitted from a licensed anime, but there's more than enough content left over that allows the American version to stand on its own two feet.
Directed by Yasuomi Umetsu, probably best known for his work on Robot Carnival's "Presence", Kite is a memorable and powerful piece, portraying a young girl named Sawa orphaned after her parents are brutally murdered. She is taken in by a detective, Akai, and forced to become his puppet, carrying out vigilante-style justice for him. This is one anime that doesn't pull any punches. The violence is quite graphic, so for those with a low tolerance for that sort of thing, you've been warned.
At the heart of the Kite are the excellent characters. Sawa is central to the story, a young and beautiful assassin with a past shrouded in tragedy. She seems rather out of place in a title like this, a figure of beauty and innocence amid a tale of death and despair. She meets another like herself, a young man named Oburi. The two begin a friendship, much to the chagrin of Akai, who uses them to carry out his own brand of justice.
Where Kite really excels, though, is in visual storytelling. Every scene is so potent and ripe with meaning, and nothing seems superfluous. Simple, peaceful moments are quite pleasant and an artistic joy to behold. Scenes of brutal violence are exciting and shocking as they are visual pleasures. The artwork has a decidedly stylized look to it, and the background work is appropriately moody. And make sure you pay attention to the end. It's quite shocking, and left me thinking about it for some time afterwards.
The technical qualities are outstanding as well. The artwork is appropriately stylized and the animation is fairly fluid. Sound effects were noteworthy as well, especially during the action sequences. I never thought the effect of a shattering tiles could sound so good.
I've actually watched Kite twice; the first as a rental, the second after I bought it. During the second viewing I was able to pick up on several elements I missed the first time around. It was definitely a treat, and I think I actually enjoyed it more the second time (which doesn't happen very often for me).
Kite is a memorable and enjoyable title, on all counts. Don't miss it.
The Verdict: * * * * 1/2 (very good)
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