Kara no Kyoukai: Future Gospel, Say a Prayer for Shiki Ryougi

hisui_icon_4040 Kara no Kyoukai has done surprisingly well as a series of animated movies. The Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night anime definitely have their advocates and have brought in many people to get greater Type-Moon fandom, but they don’t have any real critical acclaim, and are mostly used as punch lines when discussing visual novel adaptations. Ufotable’s work on the Kara no Kyoukai anime stands apart. It showed that a Type-Moon property could be adapted to another medium in a way that could both please and impress the diehards, the casuals, and the professional reviewers. Fate/Zero showed that Kara no Kyoukai was not a fluke.

So the hunger only grew. The fans wanted more of Shiki and Mikiya’s adventures and Ufotable was more than willing to accommodate but the main story was done. So Ufotable looked to find all the minor pieces of Kara no Kyoukai that could still be animated. This has led to the production of the Future Gospel and Extra Chorus side stories.

I will mention that this article is not as much a review as my thoughts on the two movies. Mostly because:

1. Everyone knows my opinion of what a Type-Moon title would be.
2. At this point you have either decided to watch Kara no Kyoukai or not.

It would be very silly to try to start with this story here. You could. It would just be odd.

Future Gospel and Extra Chorus make frequent use of establishing dates because there is no fixed time in which either story takes place. The stature of the narrative in both is more theme than chronology.

Future Gospel ties together the story of three people who can see the future and their involvement with each other and Shiki Ryougi. One is a back alley fortune-teller, one is a professional bomber, and the other is a familiar face (if one that up until this point was only briefly seen.) Shiki may be able to kill anything she can touch but how can she deal with an opponent who is always one step ahead of her and can kill from a distance. Shiki is godlike powerful but can she fight against fate itself when the past, present, and future collide?

Extra Chorus on the other hand is a collection of short stories with a smaller scope set during events of the original seven movies. There is no real main character to all the stories. It is more tales of those left behind for one reason or another. It might be a cat or might be a girl who wonders if she should have died.

Future Gospel almost feels like a back door pilot for Mana. That is not to say that Shiki or Mikiya are minor characters in the story. They each get a major chunk of the story with a good 3/4th of the plot to divide between the two of them. Mitsuru gets the remaining 1/4 of the screen time, half of which he shares with Mana. But when Mana shows up she steals the show and teases the viewer with the possibilities of her adventures. When my roommate watched the movie with me he just assumed that there were later stories surrounding Mana. But as it stands Kinoko Nasu has a Tsukihime remake, Tsukihime 2, Mahou Tsukai no Yoru 2 and 3, or DDD volume 3 to finish before he gets to work on anything like the story of Mana.

The main story of Future Gospel is centered around Mitsuru trying to kill Shiki after she sees him during a job. Mitsuru brings into focus the fact that with Shiki’s powers it can be a bit tricky to send a challenging opponent after her. While she is crazy powerful she also has some distinct limitations. She is practically god like when she is in melee range of someone. If she can touch it she can kill it. Also she can parry almost any projectile attack as well. Therefore it is easy to make an opponent who is either far too easy to defeat or an overpowered monster who only loses because they make very poor decisions. Mitsuru has a good balance his supernatural ability combined with his mundane explosives that let him attack in a manner that is powerful enough that you understand why he can give Shiki a run for her money but still weak enough that her victory does not just seem accidental or improbable.

It is also important to note that Shiki does not kill Mitsuru. As the bulk of this story takes place before Paradox Spiral she can’t have killed anyone without it retroactively messing up the plot. That does mean that Shiki comes off as even more lenient than she was even with Fujino Asagami.

Mikiya on the other hand has a far less action hero role than his romantic partner. His story mostly revolves around meeting Shizune Seo and discussing her power. There is a bit of action with a scuffle over a bag and even some explosions and bus crashes but overall this is the more contemplative of the stories. But that makes sense. Mikiya works far better as a sounding board for other characters while adding in a bit of therapy at key points than as John McClane.

Shizune herself is a turning point. She seems to be in between Mitsuru and The Mother of Mifune’s world view. Part of her sees the world as deterministically static. Her visions are an absolute and immutable future and she is merely a slave to those prognostications. On the other hand she still wonders if she can change the future. Can she help people or is she doomed to be a Cassandra who tries to warm people only to watch as her predictions are absolute? If Shizune had embraced Mitsuru’s fatalistic viewpoint there is no guarantee that she would develop the same psychopathic detachment towards humanity but at the same time she does seem to have a growing sense of nihilistic ennui about her life. After Mikiya explains how the different types of future sight work and how none of it is set in stone she seems to have a renewed sense of purpose and vitality.

And Mikiya has a new admirer. Such is Tohno gene even before it was the Tohno gene.

But it is also interesting to see Mikiya’s unperturbed reaction that he will die if he stays with Shiki. It seems less that he thinks he can surely change that prediction and more that he accepted that his gruesome death is simply a distinct possibility when he decided to get himself so entangled in the life of someone like Shiki. The vision was more a conformation of something he had already long accepted rather than a shocking revelation.

Also this really makes is clear that Shizune Seo is really just the 1.0 version of Seo Akira. Nasu has always been rather upfront that many of the Tsukihime are merely revisions and tweaks on the cast of Kara no Kyoukai. At the same time Ryougi Shiki and Azaka Kokutou are similar but very different from Shiki Tohno and Akiha Tohno. The influences are unmistakable but they are hardly carbon copies. Shizune and Akira on the other hand are practically the same person. They are both shy but vibrant girls who can see the future and fall in love with their roommate’s brother (and said roommate is crushing on said sibling).  They even look rather similar. In the end they are both minor characters so it is not as notable as the similarity between Akiha and Azaka even though the differences are greater.

The Mother of Mifune acts like a bridge but in a very different way than Shizune. While Shizune is the movie’s philosophical link that ties together the different views of the future The Mother of Mifune instead in the narrative bridge. Her philosophy is set in stone. If people come to her for help she tries to prevent disasters in their lives. She clearly can’t save everyone but she can try to help those who need gudience and are willing to seek it out. What she does is tie the various plot threads together in unexpected ways.  SHIKI, Shiki, Mitsuru, and Mana all become linked just with the Mother giving them a few little predictions. She even manages to tie together the beginning of the story with the end to complete the Möbius loop. That is a fairly impressive feat.

On a certain level that is a bit of an irony since she is the oracle who most believes that the future is volatile but her fortunes are the one whose predictions come true. It is more the act of finding her and then listening to what she says that is important more than her warnings themselves.

Overall Future Gospel is an interesting side story. The main problem with midquels is much like prequels and interquels it is rather easy for them to open up major plot holes as they try to tell a story in the cracks of the previously established story. Thankfully the Garan no Dou detective agency is an easy to seamlessly add new stories into the existing story.  That does not guarantee a story without holes but it provides a framework that makes it easier than say Fate/Stay Night or Tsukihime. I can’t think of any major inconsistencies that came up due to Future Gospel. That is probably the best things a story like this can do. It adds to the original tale without providing unnecessary friction with the plotting of Souren Araya and Cornelius Alba.

Extra Chorus on the other hand feels much more like a happy little bonus rather than a full-fledged adventure. The book ending story is about Mikiya asking Shiki to take care of a cat. It is more shipping porn than anything else. In the original movies the relationship between Shiki and Mikiya was never ignored but at the same time it was never the primary focus as well. It was always something that was being developed while the main story was going on. That is hardly a poor decision. In fact that is probably the only way to successfully integrate a romantic subplot into a supernatural thriller like the Garden of Sinners. But at the same time I know there are many people who really liked that aspect of the main story. The story of the cat was a simple way to just focus on the main characters and their chemistry in a simple and effective way. Since it is a bonus story it can be pure romantic fan service and short enough that is does not wear out its welcome.

At the same time the bulk of extra chorus actually focuses on the new character of Miyazuki. She was a friend of one of the girls who was compelled to commit suicide in Overlooking View.  All in all the girls killed by Kirie Fujou were more nameless victims than anything else. But much like how Maiko Yamase gets a back story with Daybreak in Kagetsu Tohya it is time for at least one of the girls to get some fleshing out beyond girl who died, became a ghost, and then died again.

Well that is not exactly accurate. Yuuko Andou for the most part remains an enigma. In fact what little the audience sees of her is from the perspective of an unreliable narrator that was in love with her. It is more the story of the hole left in Miyazuki after Yuuko Andou dies. We see Miyazuki walk around with a shell-shocked survivors guilt. Since Miyazuki does not know of the supernatural circumstances of her partner’s demise she carries the weight of her death. Then Fujino Asagami enters her story.

Fujinon’s involvement should not be that shocking. From several interviews about Kara no Kyoukai it has become clear that Fujino has easily become one of Nasu’s favorite characters. What is shocking is her Tyler Durden styled method of snapping Miyazuki out of her suicidal depression. Admitting to being behind the deaths in Remaining Sense of Pain is one thing but pretending to try to kill Miyazuki in order to make her realize what life is worth is another thing entirely. But Fujino was hardly a character of tempered degrees even before her run in with Shiki despite her seemingly mild personality.

This was distinctly the weightier of the two halves of Extra Chorus. But it was probably the most useful. In the end of all the enemies that Souren Araya sent after Shiki it was only Fujino who survived. And so she is the only person who does not really get any major resolution. In many ways Remaining Sense of Pain and the rest of Kara no Kyoukai seems uninterested in what happens to her despite the fact that there was no way that she could not have been changed by her fight with Shiki. This gives us a glimpse into who she becomes after that. Still a twisted woman but one who seeks redemption for the things that she did.

Random Note: I never realized what a template that Fujino Asagami was for Sakura Matou.

When push comes to shove Future Gospel was not necessary (other than maybe to give some closure to Fujino and that was not even in the main story.) It does not fill in major plot holes and it even has its own set of themes outside of the ones in the original narrative. But it does succeed because it actively adds to the main story without taking away from anything that made the original so well-regarded. That is what separates a good gaiden from one you desperately ignore.

– Alain

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