Kite (1998)
Directed by Yasuomi Umetsu

Artistic Value: * * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * *
Director's Cut

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Sawa is a teenaged girl who, after her parents are murdered, is raised to be a killer by Aika, a shady policeman.

Yasuomi Umetsu's two part animated film Kite is a dark, fascinating, and genuinely affecting work.


Not only is the movie exciting and sensual, it is also very disturbing. The viewer is almost certain to be profoundly saddened when he is shown the circumstances of Sawa's life. Even the various action sequences which enliven the film ultimately reveal the ugliness of violence and the unpleasant effects such brutality has on the protagonist's existence. When viewed within the context of the whole of the movie's narrative, which includes depictions of Sawa's desire to live as an ordinary girl, such scenes remind the viewer of the disjunction between those desires and the life the heroine is shown as living and so arouse feelings of real sorrow.

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Moreover, although she is a vicious, relentless killer, Sawa is a sympathetic and tragic character. She is shown as being the person she is because of the way in which she has been raised, having been, from around the age of twelve, cruelly exploited, manipulated, and victimized by Aika, who has used her as a sexual plaything and a source of income. The viewer, thus knowing the pitiable circumstances out of which her personalty was born, empathizes with her even though she is a murderer.


Despite the presence of such dolorous sentiments, the various consistently well realized action sequences with which the film is punctuated are genuinely exhilarating. All are done in a wildly exaggerated style that completely defies the limits of the possible, and Umetsu has endowed each of them with a considerable sense of excitement. Sawa herself is a delight to watch in such scenes, and her agile, beautiful, and sleek actions are truly enthralling. She emerges as an appealing character living a dangerous life, and the viewer is easily able to engage with her.

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By so involving the viewer with Sawa, the director infuses his harsh depictions of exploitation, pedophilia, rape, torture, and murder with a terrible poignancy which, in turn, makes Kite a genuinely affecting and memorable work. The viewer is, by the movie's end, left with intense feelings of despair centered on the character of Sawa. The several sequences in which Aika is graphically depicted having sexual relations with her, for example, make overt his cruel treatment of the girl and assist in producing sympathy for her. While these scenes are clearly intended to titillate, any such feelings aroused are contrasted with the sorrow being evoked, and this contrast brings into focus Sawa's pitiable life and so makes the scenes profoundly touching.


While Kite is not a brilliant work of art, it is a well made and captivating film.

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Review by Keith Allen

Note: The version of this film offered on Amazon is not the director's cut.

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