And so it comes to an end... well, sort of, if you don't count this series epilogue chapter which will be released as either a movie or OVA further down the line. After countless hours and six movies of wonderful animation and fascinating storytelling, we've finally reached the seventh and final "proper" instalment of Kara no Kyoukai, which finds itself with quite a bit to wrap up in its two hour running time.
As the name suggests, in a sense this final movie is closest in theme to the series second instalment, but naturally the overall narrative here takes in aspects of all six of the films which have gone before. As we rejoin the world of Shiki Ryougi and Mikiya Kokuto, we find TV reports filled with talk of a "homicidal maniac" on the loose, with murders (or slaughter, as Shiki would prefer to have it, with "murder" versus "slaughter" an important theme which runs throughout the movie) occurring in the style of a killer still at large from three years ago. Despite Shiki having lost the part of her split personality which turned her into a cold-blooded killer in the past, Mikiya naturally suspects that Shiki is in some way responsible for this new and disturbing series of deaths, particularly once he realises that she has no alibi at the time of any of the murders.
While you might expect this almost traditional murder mystery aspect of the movie to continue to the very end, the "is she the killer?" question is actually resolved quicker than you might suspect, albeit not before taking the viewer on a rollercoaster ride where it seems as though the truth about something is revealed only to have that particular rug pulled out from under you as the story shifts and distorts. This part of the movie is set against a backdrop of back street drug dealing as Shiki wanders the streets for reasons we begin to understand but perhaps never quite grasp fully, while revelations slowly unfurl both from the incident before Shiki's accident that left her in a coma through to the appearance of an old face from previous films who is watching her from afar and trying to lure her into fulfilling the idealised world he has built around her.
This gives the second half of Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 2) an even darker tone, as Shiki confronts Lio Shirazume (the just mentioned stalker) but finds herself torn between her desire (or perhaps more accurately her need) to kill him and her loyalty to Mikiya and his assertions that murder is wrong, no matter the reason for it. This internal struggle seems to pin down another of the key tenets of this movie - The importance of instinct and the nature of a person. In Lio's case the urge to kill is purely predatory, a trait he has "inherited" from past incarnations, while in Shiki's case her urges are far more complex, a blend of the "missing" half of her former split personality, a need to protect Mikiya (which is where the real duality of her situation stems from) and the need to fulfil a prophecy of her grandfather's.
With the three main players in this drama swirling around, we inevitably reach a climactic half hour that is in turns brutal, disturbing, bloody and inevitable as the various battles both internal and external between Shiki and Lio in particular come to a head. It's at this point where the movie finally loses a little lustre, with Lio's supposed predatory instinct letting him down in what I found to be a most surprising fashion at a key moment in favour of what can only be described as a happily ever after ending (or at least as close as Kara no Kyoukai was ever likely to get to it). That said, the major storylines that ran through the series are given the requisite amount of closure, while there is still enough left unresolved to merit that epilogue instalment in whatever form it might take.
Even with my slight feelings of disappointment at an ending that felt like either a bit of a cop-out or just clumsily written depending on how you look at it, you can't help but marvel at Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 2) as a cinematic and animation tour de force which easily takes its place as the most impressive of the seven films. The cinematography is absolutely spot on throughout, with both the lighting and camera angles in every scene seemingly thought through to perfection and accentuating the tone of the film perfectly. When it comes to action sequences, again there's little to do except watch wide-eyed at the frenzy of speed and violence depicted before you - It's not quite up there with Sword of the Stranger or CANAAN perhaps, but it works in its own lightning fast and vicious way.
Despite my misgivings about the handling of its climax, as an entire body of work I can't help but have the utmost admiration for Kara no Kyoukai, which almost transcends simple story-telling to become an "experience" in its own right - The kind of experience that makes you want to sit down and watch all seven movies consecutively to gain a greater appreciation of. That so many occasionally complex or subtle devices and concepts have been weaved together so compellingly over the course of so much material is an achievement in itself, and if you haven't done so before then now is most definitely the time to clear some space in your diary for a Kara no Kyoukai marathon.