What They Say:
Years after the events that transpired in Kite, Sawa’s whereabouts are a mystery. Soon, rumors of a new killer begin to circulate the city. They call her the Angel of Death, an unfeeling assassin who eliminates her targets with grace and precision, leaving only a flurry of feathers behind as her calling card. What the public is unaware of is the fact that this notorious hitman is actually a polite young lady named Monaka.
Like her spiritual predecessor, Monaka has lost most of her family, and her father’s duty as an astronaut keeps them literally worlds apart. Despite the physical distance, her father promises her that he will return someday. Until then, the mundane daily routine for the timid and clumsy Monaka is school and a part-time waitress job – except when she receives an assignment and instantly becomes a cold-blooded killer!
Similar to the DVD release, Media Blasters goes all out here as there are four main language tracks. We get the original Japanese in both 5.1 and 2.0 mixes as well as the English language adaptation done in both, which is encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. While doing the separate mixes worked back in the main DVD days, I’m not sure how useful it is to do that anymore. But both tracks and languages are well represented here and they come across quite well in providing for an engaging and fun mix when it comes to both action and dialogue. While the 5.1 mix doesn’t come across as weak as I found it back with the original DVD release, it’s still something where the original design of it is in stereo and that just feels the strongest throughout. The action uses the forward soundstage the most and there’s some good bass to be had with the explosions and other elements of the second half. Dialogue itself is pretty smooth and there’s some nice placement to it while also handling the quieter moments in a very good way..
Originally released in 2008, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by ARMS, the transfer here is pretty solid all around when it comes to handling everything. Taking place in a real world setting outside of the space station sequences, Kite Liberator has a good look to it as it takes place mostly at night and in relatively dark areas. When there are some moments of bright light and sunshine it looks strong as well. We had some problems with gradients previously on the DVD, but a lot of that is softened here because of the better resolution and encoding, though some of it is still there simply because of the source material. Colors generally look good with some great pop in a number of sequences and the noise is very minimal overall, making for a cleaner and better looking release in general.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard-sized Blu-ray case that features Monaka in a near full length shot in her school girl outfit while sitting atop the moon, all of which is set to a blue sky with some clouds in the background. Giving her a pair of wings just adds to the unusual nature of it, but it’s eye-catching enough. The back cover has a lot of white space as the text is done through the left while a few images are at opposite corners. A central piece of artwork with Monaka looks really cute, especially with the dangling doll she has, which ties it all together. The extras are all clearly listed, albeit sideways, and the bottom brings out the technical grid, which is done in a pretty small font considering what it wants to cram in there, making it a bit hard to read. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty simple as we get a white strip along the bottom that features the navigation itself in large font while the feature name is along the left. It’s clean, simple and easy to load while also working well enough during playback as the popup menu. The bulk of the menu is given over to clips from the OVA that run through with different quiet scenes, action moments and some character panning sequences that helps to showcase the quality and design of the animation. It’s a solidly functional menu all around.
There’s a few extras here to be had and one of this pretty interesting in general with the TIFF version of the film. Running just under twenty-five minutes in length, it’s a special alternative version of the film that was done up for the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2007. It’s about half the length of the full feature and in some ways is much tighter and more interesting because of how it’s done. It likely won’t have a lot of appeal for most people, nor right after watching the main feature, but it’s definitely a fascinating look at the film from a different perspective. We also get a good interview with the director and a series of short interviews with the main Japanese cast.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ten years after the original OVA series Kite came out and shocked plenty of people with its controversial material, Yasuomi Umetsu was finally brought back to the project that made him a name with Western fans. The original series saw plenty of controversy due to some of its underage material and the use of releasing a cut and uncut version – or multiple versions over the years that were less uncut. With this new feature, Umetsu keeps to the violence but the sexual side has diminished pretty strongly, which isn’t a surprise as he’s commented in the past that it wasn’t something he originally wanted to bring into the show too heavily.
Kite Liberator takes place several years after the events of the original series and it shifts its focus a bit as Sawa is nowhere to be found. This feature revolves around a similarly young character named Monaka who is living with her uncle that gets by on payments and benefits from her father. She lost her mother several years ago and her father is an astronaut on board an international space station so she hasn’t seen him in an age. Her distance from everything has made it easier for her to transition into the role of a young assassin that deals out punishment for money to deserving scum of the earth. When not doing that, Monaka spends her time either in school or working in a late night restaurant called Apollo.
While Monaka is getting about down on Earth with her life, her father’s life on board the space station is about to impact it heavily. The astronauts up there have been getting along somewhat better recently due to a new food that was created by Defy Foods which is simply called Space Food. The food is designed to help the astronauts cope better with the low gravity and calcium issues that arrive from living in space but it apparently didn’t go through proper testing. A pair of astronauts that got caught in a radiation storm from a solar flare end up mutating because of the food that’s in their system which results in the space station acquiring mutated monsters that hunger and thirst at an inhuman level. Or at least that’s the vibe they try to give off.
The feature goes back and forth for a bit between the two main storylines and we have a good bit of action happening on Earth with Monaka taking down some bad guys while fending off creeps that show up at the diner she works in as a waitress. The two storylines do eventually meet in a very predictable way and it turns into a decent sized conflagration as the diminutive Monaka battles one of the mutant monsters from space. The secondary cast filters throughout the film, such as the cop who is in love with her and the man who made the space food, but it’s all pretty inconsequential. The only potentially interesting character is another waitress named Mukai who gives off some heavy Sawa vibes with what she knows and understands.
At the end of the show, I’m just left with the simple feeling of wondering why they bothered. I know full well that we weren’t going to get what the original Kite was and I’d already had my post-Kite “letdown” with Mezzo Forte as that OVA series came shortly after Kite came out and didn’t live up to what people expected it to be, even though I enjoyed it. Where Kite Liberator suffers is in that it’s just so predictable. Once you get past the surprise at first with the space station and the slight advancement in the years since the original, nothing surprises or shocks. The violence even feels fairly tame most of the time and the usual of a mutant monster diminishes a lot of the personal impact that the original had when it came to the fight sequences.
There are certainly things to like however. Umetsu seems intent on revisiting a number of locations from the original and that provides for some great nostalgia as you see the different settings in a new light with different characters. The parallels between the two shows are strong throughout such as Monaka having a bracelet from her father in comparison to Sawa’s special earring. The eye colors are used as well and that gets highlighted further into the show when Monaka is in assassin mode and ends up getting different colored eyes because of events. A strong draw for me continues to be the character designs as Umetsu doesn’t use a carbon copy look of most every other show out there. The men tend to be ugly and the women have a very strange allure. There’s a good sense of sexuality throughout it, but it’s mostly restricted to panty scenes and a brief topless moment when Monaka is changing. Her changing between schoolgirl and assassin is far more common and that’s done in a rather clean but enticing fashion.
Not unlike the original, Kite Liberator is very much a Yasuomi Umetsu project through and through. From the credits, his involvement in it came in the form of being the director, writing the screenplay, doing the storyboards and was obviously the character designer. His hands are all over it so it’s very much accurate when that first title card comes up to call it a Yasuomi Umetsu film. Unfortunately it just underwhelmed with its story and the intensity of it. There weren’t expectations of replicating the original OVA series but I didn’t expect this new feature to be so dull and predictable. Umetsu’s work has been a favorite of mine since I saw his designs in the Megazone 23 Part II OVA all those years ago as well as numerous things since then. I’m definitely glad I got to revisit it though and look at it once again in higher quality form because the technical side is definitely what I wanted out of it from this kind of creator and the release here largely brings that out.
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, Kite at Tokyo International Film Festival, Interview with Director Yasuomi Umetsu, Interviews with Cast
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Running Time: 57 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.