While I haven't covered the previous five Kara no Kyoukai movies on this 'Blog, I suppose it's important for reference to start out by mentioning that I have watched said movies - Indeed, I took in the entire series up to that point a couple of months ago over the course of a few days, leaving me hungry for more and waiting for this sixth instalment.
This sixth movie, Boukyaku Rokuon, begins with an introduction via Azaka Kokuto, the brother of Mikiya (with whom she is in love) and an apprentice magus under the teachings of Touko. Quite naturally, she sees Shiki as her love rival, giving the pairing something of a fractious relationship initially; a set of circumstances not helped when Azaka and Shiki are teamed up to investigate some strange goings on at a religious boarding school.
The goings-on in question seem to involve fairies, who are capable of "stealing" memories, and are also believed to be responsible for the death of Kaori Tachibana, a girl who officially speaking commited suicide. With Shiki's eyes required to see the fairies, and Azaka on-hand to provide the magic (with some pyrotechnics and a glove, both of which Roy Mustang would be proud), so their investigation begins, taking in a teacher with more than a passing resemblance to Mikiya and a student council president who appears to have something to hide.
In essence, this entire instalment of Kara no Kyoukai is a study on the importance of memory, with all of the major characters upon which it focuses affected by a memory, or more frequently the lack thereof. Azaka finds herself trying to justify her illicit love of her brother despite not being able to recall why she fell in love with him in the first place, Shiki as we well know has something hidden away deep within her memories, and of course those aforementioned fairies (and later their "owner") are all about memory. If this movie were to be a question it would probably be something along the lines of "Is it better to forget the things which pain us?"; a question which it never really sets out to answer, preferring instead to let both the characters on show here and the viewer reach their own conclusions. However, to my mind the balance is tipped towards forgetting even bad experiences being a dangerous thing, given the ease with which certain people are swayed by the instigation of false memories (which could in itself be a commentary on the nature of faith and/or belief).
From another perspective, some of the conversations between Azaka and Shiki were fascinating to watch here - Despite the vast gulf between these two characters in terms of personality, their initially cold relationship actually melds into something rather close and almost sisterly, with the two developing an understanding of the other's motivations at times without a word spoken between them. This is perhaps the most important aspect of character development on show here, and it'll be interesting to see if or how it plays out into the final movie.
Of course, as with any series like this, Boukyaku Rokuon is going to be compared to the previous instalments of Kara no Kyoukai, and I'm sure I'll be neither the first nor the last to state that this episode does suffer compared to what came before - It has neither the bite nor the cutting psychological edge of any of the five movies that came before, which can leave it to feel rather plain in comparison. That said, this particular effort remains a solid one which becomes progressively deeper and more thought-provoking the longer you examine it, which arguably puts it on a slightly more level-footing with its predecessors. The final minutes after the credits roll which serve as a precursor to the final movie do perhaps point to what is missing here - The vicious darkness and insanity served up there is more what I've come to expect (and have previously commended in discussion with others) from Kara no Kyoukai. It feels like there's still a lot to be covered and taken on by this final movie, which could well make for a fascinating experience.