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Kite Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Kite CoverOne of the more controversial shows finds itself another release.

What They Say:
She may be cute. She may be young. She may seem innocent and naive, but don’t be fooled. She’s a cold-blooded killer, and if you’re on the wrong side of the law, you may be her next target.

After being orphaned at a young age, her parents victims of a brutal double murder, Sawa was taken in by the detective assigned to her case. Not content to just watch as the imperfect justice system let more and more criminals go loose every day, he’s decided to train her to be his instrument of justice. After all, who’d suspect a pretty college student of being a deadly vigilante?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us what we had before, but upgraded from the usual low quality DVD encoding to the DTS-HD MA lossless encoding. The show gets 2.0 and 5.1 mixes for both the Japanese and English language tracks, though the stereo mixes are the ones that in a way continue to feel stronger in general since that’s how they were originally designed. The show is certainly showing its age in some ways but we do get a decent forward soundstage mix that keeps the flow right and presents both the quiet and moody scenes and the big action scenes in a very good way. When it plays to each of those, it puts you right in the moment and keeps you there, so that when it does shift gears you really do feel it. Dialogue is well placed throughout and the action has a good bit of bass to it at times to make the impacts feel right. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 1998, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its full frame aspect ratio and is in 1080p using the AVC codec. I’ve seen so many versions of this release over the years that I have no idea what is what anymore in regards to the “purity” of it, and after all the debate I’ve long lost my passion for it in a sense. With this high definition release, we get a complicated work here because while a lot of it is in properly good high definition that looks great with some real pop and fluidity, there are sections where no proper quality materials existed. It’s noted at the start of the feature that those sequences, overall just a few in the grand scheme of things, will look different. And they do look different as it’s basically standard definition material and it shows. With the way this show has been cut up over the years, I’m not surprised that source materials are a mess, but this just adds another complication for the hardcore fan. Outside of those scenes, the show looks really good overall considering the age, the basic OVA nature of it from the late 90’s and all the work done to it. The end result is very much a mixed bag, but when you get those great high quality scenes it completely draws you in with the rich colors and fluid animation.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that uses some less than familiar artwork overall. With quite a few releases over the years, I definitely appreciate that they find different pieces to use each time. This one gives us a shot of the two leads done with a half and half facial feature, one upside down no less, and done at an angle for them and for the logo itself. With it being done in black, white and red, it reminded me of a lot of old Grendel comic covers in a good way. But it also feels like it doesn’t really sell the show in a strong way either. The back cover is a bit more traditional with the two leads along the sides while the middle breaks down the premise, the extra features and a look at several action oriented shots from the show itself. The technical grid is again a difficult spot because it uses a very small font with black text on gray to cover a lot of information. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is decent overall as it uses some really good clips from the feature to set the tone from the start and it’s definitely moody but with some beautiful colors to it. The character pieces really stand out well here overall for it too. The navigation is kept to the bottom where it’s just text over the clip itself so sometimes it’s a bit hard to read. With the logo along the left, it has a good bit of design to it that ties it in well and the menu itself is easy to navigate with everything loading quickly and cleanly.

The extras for this release are the real make or break feature I think for some folks. The best extra is a fairly lengthy video interview session with Umetsu, someone who in general just isn’t seen nor heard from directly over the course of his career which is close to twenty years now. Seeing him talk about the shows origins and his experiences on it and the way he drove the crew over it is interesting and a nice new light on the production in general. Complementing that is another video interview with one of the producers who talks about how they came about on the project and how it was working with Umetsu and the way his force of vision worked on those under him. Rounding out the extras we get a production gallery and a storyboards section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Over the course of the forst four years since this first came out in the US, I’d watched five new releases of it. The original US edition in 2000, the directors cut in 2002 and the special edition released in 2004. And in between those releases I picked up the original Japanese uncut release and their international version. I’ve seen a lot of Kite in that time period. Since then, I think I ended up seeing it once again when Kite Liberator came out, but it wasn’t something I dove back into. So getting a more recent copy, the first time on Blu-ray, I was definitely curious to get back into it once again, particularly after the largely failed live action film that I haven’t seen. Kite has its reputation, but does it really still hold up?.

The premise is pretty simple. One corrupt cop has an attractive girl act as his assassin for some of the scum of the earth that they get hired to take out. Said corrupt cop has a friend who he works with as well who has a similarly aged male as the attractive girl. The two team up for the first time to take down a trio of child molesters.

This all occurs after we see the attractive girl assassin, named Sawa, take down a TV celebrity punk who has a penchant for young girls himself. The opening sequence takes place with her in her schoolgirl outfit riding up the elevator to one of his secret lairs where he takes those special fans of his. While he’s harassing an elderly woman whose riding the elevator with them, she takes the opportunity to retrieve her hidden weapon, a gun that discharges special ammunition, and fill him up with it. The bullets act with a time delay and explode violently several seconds after impact. Sawa is quiet, quick and very efficient.

When Sawa is eventually brought together with Oburi, the young male assassin, the two end up striking up an odd friendly relationship that’s definitely more philosophical than you’d expect for their age, but actually makes a lot of sense. The way these young assassins play out is very similar in tone and style to Luc Besson’s “Leon” where he takes on a young apprentice assassin. Things go fairly well for the two until Sawa takes on their latest contract, which is a Hollywood man known as P. Willis, someone who looks quite a lot like a certain other Mr. Willis. This encounter takes place in a bathroom with one of the more violent anime shoot-outs I’ve seen that was later mainstreamed in a No Doubt music video.

The show definitely has some deviant aspects to it, especially with the origin of Sawa and how she came under the control of her corrupt cop and his friend Kanie. This area was obviously the most controversial with what it did, and while I don’t mind that it went there, I think it does work better with it a bit more implied than fully shown. Everyone has their opinion on it and that’s wonderful, but what worked for me was the looks, the mild “teases” and the implication of what was done with Sawa. There’s a number of sex scenes as well that give the show a really different feel, a feel some say is out of place while others think bring something more exciting to it. Though it’s only two episodes long, though blended here as one, the show provides quite a bit of story and a lot of action.

One area that continues to bother me over the years that I wish would get fixed is in regards to the Hollywood actor and his bodyguards. Their dialogue was recorded in English when it was released in Japan and they provided Japanese subtitles. The Japanese subtitles are removed here but no English subtitles are provided in their place. Why provide subtitles? Well, there are a fair number of people who watch anime who are hard of hearing and rely on subtitles to enjoy shows. I myself am already hard of hearing from a work related experience, so having no subtitles for an English piece is a problem.

In Summary:
Kite was an anime release from a certain heyday of anime releases that generated countless hours and posts about it because of the various releases, the various cuts, the censoring and related laws and more. I can’t recall how many hours upon hours of dialogue was spent on it, but now some ten plus years since I last saw it, I’m reminded of the overall folly of it all in a way. Kite is a show that I definitely like and I’m really on board with it in terms of the story, the animation and the mood it sets. There are aspects, as noted, that I prefer more as implied than shown, but everyone will feel differently about that. I definitely enjoyed taking the show in again, mixed materials that exist here and all, and part of me strangely hopes that Umetsu gets the chance to just do a full on big budget remake someday. If he even has any interest in this anymore. I’ve enjoyed a lot of what he’s done in the last few years and this is worth checking out for his fans.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Storyboards, Art Gallery, Interviews

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B w/caveats
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: February 26th, 2013
MSRP: $19.99
Running Time: 45 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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