Creator: A Green Bunny Studio Production
Director: Yasuomi Umetsu
Genre: Crime Thriller/Action Adventure
Length: 45 minutes OVA
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+ Solid Action Sequences
+ No pornographic scenes in edited
+ Nice jabs at Pop Culture
Hideous character designs
Japanese and American pop culture is increasingly saturated in sex and violence. While it is violent and disturbingly sexual, Kite nevertheless manages to satirize as well as exploit our desire to see sex and violence. While the story is only mediocre and the character designs are grotesque, small details throughout the film take amusing swipes at pop culture icons such as food restaurants, potato chips, and convenience stores. And in some sequences, the over-the-top violence manages to parody the over-the-top action of a variety of Hollywood action movies.
2 out of 5
Kite OVA Review
Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 4/7/2008
Kite is a controversial OVA written and directed Yasuomi Umetsu. It tells the story of Sawa, a young, beautiful, and deadly Japanese assassin in contemporary Tokyo. Four years ago, Sawa's parents were brutally murdered and she was taken in by Akai and Kanye, violent and corrupt cops investigating her parents' murder. Sawa is forced into a sexual relationship with the sadistic Akai and trained in the art of assassination by both Akai and Kanye. Accepting both murder-for-hire contracts and making up their own missions, Akai and Kanye rely on Sawa and fellow assassin Obry to kill a variety of celebrities, alleged criminals, and corrupt officials. Eventually Obry and Sawa become friends and make plans to break free of Kanye and Akai's control.
Later, corrupt and cynical Detective Akai arrives with a squad of CSIs to investigate what seems to be the latest in a string of gory murders of celebrities, business men, and corrupt petty bureaucrats. Akai has seen it all, he takes a casual air about the whole thing; he asks the CSI about the man's identity referring to him as "this clown". Death is cheap and meaningless in this world. The CSI never mentions the man's name but replies that he is a celebrity that some people "consider a comedian". They joke about the man's death, the CSI remarking that the comedian was known for his dead body jokes and Akai calls the whole affair a "fuckin' tear jerker."
Later, in one of the many jabs at pop culture scattered throughout the OVA, Akai is watching news coverage of the comedian's death. One of the dead comedian's associates (such men can not truly be said to have 'friends') sobs about his shock at the comedian's death, remarking that he was loved by all the "little girls". If crude sex in seedy elevators constitutes love, then this is true. The 'camera' moves away from Akai's TV and we realize that Sawa has come in through the window. Akai is 'investigating' or rather covering up murders by his own pet assassin. For motives not entirely explored in the script, Akai and his partner Kanye have transformed Sawa into a deadly assassin; she goes to school by day and kills at night and on her days off from school. When she eats anything other than snacks or sleeps is never detailed in the story.
Show More Meanwhile, Kanye, Akai's partner, is waiting in the park for Obry, the pairs' other teenage assassin. In a nice jab at the fast food industry, Kanye is revealed in tight close up, munching on fries from a box labeled 'Make Fat'. When he is fully revealed, Kanye is a lard laden blob of a man reminiscent of the Baron Harkonnen from Frank Herbert's Dune novels. With his pale skin, shock of bright red hair, oddly shaped glasses, and yellow eyes, Kanye barely looks human. In contrast, Obry, when he finally arrives, is young, thin, and effeminate with shaggy hair associated with the emo mode of fashion. Kanye berates Obry for his tardiness and then details the boy's assignment. He is to aid Sawa in the murder of three businessmen alleged to be pedophiles. Arriving in a subway station, Obry sets off a small car bomb as a distraction while he and Sawa gun down the three men. They operate with out pity for the men they are killing and show no empathy for the people whose lives they are disrupting. The people in the crowd are merely obstacles to the mission.
Later, after the mission, Sawa and Obry return to Akai's apartment; Obry wants out of the business. As usual in this type of story, he has one last mission to complete before Akai lets him go. Obry tells Akai that he stinks; Akai coolly replies it is from being around death 24 hours a day, he visits the morgue every day, the stench clings to him. Obry leaves, walking past some kids playing basketball in the alley. When the kids chase after an errant ball, one of them bumps Obry, splashing mud on his jacket. In a fit of manliness Obry tosses the ball through the hoop, and shoots it on the way down. It explodes just like the man he killed earlier. This show of marksmanship impresses Sawa. In another swipe at pop culture, the alleyway way where this moment takes place plays homage (or pokes fun of) several violent movies of the past – the graffiti on the walls depicts titles of famous American action films including The Terminator and Taxi Driver. And in a jab at our sex saturated culture, the words 'sex' and 'music' are also clearly visible. Whether or not Obry shooting the basketball was meant as the director's commentary on the prevalence of the American sport in Japan or just a display of kinetic action; is up to the viewer to decide.
Intrigued by Obry, Sawa tracks him down at work – he's a cashier at a convenience store modeled on 7 Eleven. They return to the run down, abandoned building Sawa calls home, and over a snack of Pringles, snack cakes, and Gatorade they find out about each other. We see that Obry, although an assassin, has a sensitive side, when he feeds his scrap food to the feral cats Sawa shares her room with. Sawa explains that Akai is her guardian, and has been, as we see in a flashback, since her parent's gruesome murder. His guardianship comes with a price as he forces her into a sexual relationship from a very early age. The man who has been contracted to murder pedophiles is himself a sadistic pedophile. Akai has likewise been a guardian to the parentless Obry. Sawa further explains that the earrings she wears are made from red jewels or crystals but are in fact made from the blood of her slain parents; they're her good luck charm. Their day out ends with them sharing apples in Obry's tiny flat decorated with posters of pop culture icons, including a prominent poster of silent comedian Buster Keaton.
Show More The next day, Sawa is sent to kill one half of a pair of action star identical twins. Except for having moles on the opposite side of their faces, they look exactly alike (they also bear an uncanny resemblance to some real life action stars, they seem modeled on both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis) and have been acting under one name. Apparently one of the twins is tired of sharing the fame and fortune with the other so he has contracted Akai to eliminate the competition. Kanye gives Sawa her instructions in an ice cream parlor modeled on Haagen –Dazs. Sawa corners the men in the bathroom of a fancy restaurant. They are heavily guarded but being a well trained, ultra-tough super assassin in an anime, Sawa is ready for any eventuality and is carrying a variety of weapons including her trusty pistol, an assortment of small bombs, and sharpened spikes strapped to her wrists and hidden by her sleeves. Her assassination attempt goes horribly awry and Sawa is forced to engage in series of increasingly impossible battles with the actors' bodyguards. These violent fights which involve martial arts, gun play, explosions, and falls mirror the kind of battles that have become standard in Hollywood action movies but with the violence exaggerated to an absurd level that would be impossible to create on a set with actors, stuntmen, and pyrotechnics. Some of the moments in the battle would be funny, if the violence wasn't so absurdly gory. Like other moments of the OVA, this sequence is both entertaining for the visceral use of kinetic energy and the way it pokes fun at the foibles of pop culture.
Amazingly, Sawa emerges from the battle which ended with a plummet from several stories up and with half of central Tokyo in ruins, with only minor cuts and bruises. She makes her way to Obry's apartment where they soon come to the realization that in order to have any kind of future they need to escape from their life with Akai and Kanye. That means finding a way to kill them. In a series of absurd plot twists that are about as subtle as being whacked on the side of the head with a brick wrapped in a lemon, Obry and Sawa manage to this. The story ends with Sawa waiting in her room for Obry to return from disposing of the last of his bombs. Once he has done that, they can start their new life together.
Kite gained a certain level of notoriety for its sexual content. Sex, when artistically depicted has a place in non-pornographic films. The sex depicted in Kite is raunchy, gross, and in no way erotic unless the viewer happens to find illustrated breasts more enticing than the real thing. While the sexual tension between Akai and Sawa adds an interesting psychological element to their twisted relationship, the actual depiction of sex between them seems to exist for the sole purpose of pandering to the widespread lolicon market in Japan. Various edits of the OVA have appeared in the United States, the earliest removing most of the actual sex but leaving some fan service and nudity. This version, while still violent and sexual, is in some ways better, it allows the viewer to fill in the details of the sex with their own imagination.
Technically the OVA is only so-so. The animation is perhaps best in its depiction of violence and action. The fights are stylish and look painful but are so over the top in some moments that they are reminiscent of the old Warner Bros. cartoons but with more blood. There is so much blood and gore in Kite that it is likely that the animators could have used up the studio's entire supply of red paint on this one project. The character design leaves something to be desired. The characters are such exaggerated caricatures that they barely register as human beings. Besides Kanye's fore mentioned resemblance to a science fiction villain, Obry looks like a Ken doll with an emo haircut, Sawa looks liked a glass eyed China doll, and the old woman in the opening scene looks like a troll. The only character that even remotely resembles an actual human being is the CSI tech who shows up twice for a total of thirty seconds in the entire movie. Where the film truly stands out is in small details. The graffiti depicting movie titles, the posters in both Obry's and Akai's apartments (instead of Buster Keaton, Akai's posters are of crime scene photos), and the foodstuff and restaurants associated with Kanye such as the Make Fat French fries.
Kite, if it is not obvious, is definitely not for children. The script is wall-to wall with expletives and even the most severely edited version is hyper-sexual, gory, and ultra-violent. However, adults and older teens may find it an interesting diversion that is both entertaining and takes some interesting jabs pop culture. Unless you absolutely must see a glassy eyed teenager perform oral sex on an overweight pervert, you might do yourself the favor of watching the edited version which removes the pornographic sex and most of the nudity. The sexual moments that remain will suggest details to your imagination that the animators could not possibly capture.
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