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Media Blasters presents
Kite (Edited Version) (1998)

"People die everyday."
- Akia (Goro Shibsawa)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 13, 2001

Stars: Kotome Naruse, Shingo Oyamada, Charlie Watson, Shane Callahan
Other Stars: Goro Shibsawa, Tatsuo Matoba, Dave Underwood, Charles Denson Jr.
Director: Yasuomi Umetsu

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (16+ for extreme graphic violence, nudity, language)
Run Time: 00h:45m:28s
Release Date: April 25, 2000
UPC: 631595020267
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+B+A- B-

DVD Review

If you are familiar with films such as La Femme Nikita and Leon, you are in the right ballpark for the subject matter in this version of Kite (pronouced Key-tay), except that the violence level is elevated beyond any live action film. The central character is Sawa, a college student who is also a professional assassin, working under the direction of Mr. Akia, a corrupt police detective. He adopted Sawa as a young girl after her parents were brutally murdered, and she wears the earings made from their blood as a reminder of his promise to help her find their killer, but there is more than just a professional relationship between the two.

When we first meet her, Sawa is on the job to terminate a popular TV idol, with the help of her custom sidearm and special bullets, which cause her victim to explode from the inside out. She finds a kindred spirit when, on her next hit, she is paired up with Oburi, a young boy who appears to have become involved with Mr. Akia and his partner Kanie under similar circumstances. Their target is a trio of child molesters, who are dispatched with skill and precision, using explosive cover to mount their attack. Oburi wants to quit the business, which Akai agrees to, after he has fulfilled his final three missions. He and Sawa hit it off, as we learn some of the backstory about Sawa's parents. As more targets are lined up, the group dynamic begins to change, as more truths from the past shed light on the nature of their assignments.

Originally released in 1998 as two OVAs, like Sawa, they themselves have a somewhat shadowy past. Writer and director Yasuomi Umetsu had been trying to sell the story, but his only interest came from companies producing hentai, which meant Kite was originally animated for an adult audience, with an ample amount of sex added, some of which enhanced the plot, some simply gratuitous. When Media Blasters aquired the anime for North American release, it was decided to edit the content (approximately seven minutes) to make it suitable for a wider audience, some of which featured rape and explicit sex with a 14-year-old girl (the age of consent in Japan), which had questionable implications with North American child pornography laws, on top of obvious moral ones. The two OVAs also had the first end and second opening credits dropped to form a single piece.

While some of the original sex scenes change the tone of the OVAs, and add depth to Sawa's motivations for her actions by elaborating on the characters of Akia and Kanie, this edited version of Kite still works extremely well, and excels in the action department. These sequences are stylish, over-the-top, and extremely graphic and violent, easily rivaling anything similar in live-action films. The background artwork is terrific, with elaborate shading and texture, and character design is very unique, although I found some of the profiles odd looking. With a runtime of 45 minutes, things move by pretty quickly, and the story does have some interesting twists along the way.

What is not as well handled is the character development—Kite still manages to go beyond the highly superficial characterizations found in most anime—but with limited access to their history, and only glimpses of the relationships between the cast, there is not enough to fullly explain their motivation. This additional depth would have increased the impact, though the way it is presented in the full length cut would not be acceptable to many viewers, and while there is room for improvement in the development aspect, it does not diminish the intensity of the program appreciably, though it does alter the perception of the characters from the original intent.

Despite the edits, or perhaps because of them, Kite still holds up as great anime. For those who would prefer it, Media Blasters are releasing a longer cut version in the near future, apparently restoring all but one or two controversial sex scenes. Kite is an exciting action piece for mature anime fans, and definately not suitable for children due to the excessive violence, sexual overtones and language.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: For the most part the transfer looks quite good, despite some visible compression issues, though these are not overly distracting or noticible. Several scenes do suffer from excessive jaggies, which I suspect are a result of zooming in on the image. Colors are well rendered, though some of the reds look slightly muted, and black levels are solid. Given that this is an older disc, it holds up fairly well, specific scenes aside.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio is well presented, with a solid sound field and some use of directionality in the dialogue. The action sequences are well designed and the unusually jazzy theme music comes off clean. No distortion or hiss was noted. The English dub is actually pretty good, though uses far more profanity than the subtitles.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Earthian, Elf Princess Rane, Fake, Magic Knight Rayearth, Marriage, Ninja Cadets, Ninku: The Movie, Princess Rouge, Sailor Victory, Tokyo Vice, Yu Yu Makusho
Storyboard
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Storyboards
  2. Original animation cels
  3. Art gallery
Extras Review: A storyboard to final scene comparison section features four segments from the show running a total of 04m:51s. The storyboards are presented in filmstrip fashion on the left side of the screen, with a larger window showing the final animation. This is an effective way to present a feature that is often fairly boring with static storyboard cards.

The image gallery features 20 stills from the show, including some promotional shots. These are of decent quality, unlike some photo sections which use extremely low resolution images.

Trailers for Earthian, Elf Princess Rane, Fake, Magic Knight Rayearth, Marriage, Ninja Cadets, Ninku: The Movie, Princess Rouge, Sailor Victory, Tokyo Vice, and Yu Yu Makusho are also included.

Finally, a short Kite music video is included.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Kite is a terrific, action packed assassin thriller, featuring great animation, original styling, and plenty of intense, extreme graphic violence. This version removes the graphic hentai content, toning down the explicit sexual content considerably—making it more acceptable to a wider audience—though I would stress that it is not suitable for children. The added value content is well done. Definately a keeper, though which version you prefer is a personal choice.

 


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