“Kyoukai no Kanata Movie: I’ll Be There – Mirai-hen”
Amnesia & Living a New Life:
It’s been nearly two years since the Kyoukai no Kanata TV series finished airing, and I have to admit that when I started this sequel movie, I had to rack my brain to remember where we actually ended last time. I re-tested the waters with the prequel OVA that I forgot to watch when it was originally released, which served as a good background to how our characters met several years before the current timeline. Funnily enough, I think that OVA was the best part of the entire series (TV and Movie included), which is a bit of a shame. Anyone who knows my tastes should know that I’m a self-confessed KyoAni fan. I love the majority of their works and have immense appreciation for their talent as animators and their attention to detail. It take a lot for me to dislike one of their shows, but I have to admit that Kyoukai no Kanata is probably at the bottom of the list. It was pretty, rest assured, and the characters were likeable enough, but once it got to the nitty-gritty it all became a bit nonsensical, and by the end I was left disappointed with the final climax. Thankfully, a sequel was announced, giving me hope that it would flesh out the many leftover plot threads from the TV series.
If anyone else can’t quite remember the details from the original, then I wouldn’t worry all that much, because neither does Kuriyama Mirai (Taneda Risa). After the final battle she now has amnesia – or at least her memories of her previous experiences have been wiped clean. It’s a good way to start fresh and remind the viewers what happened before, which I felt worked well in the first part of the movie. As Mirai slowly unravels the mysteries surrounding her, you can feel the lightbulbs going off in your head, piecing it all together. Kanbara Akihito (KENN) is already shown to be at breaking point, finding it extremely difficult to pretend him and Mirai never knew each other. Their relationship has been restarted, and Mirai sees Akihito has nothing more than a high school crush, wanting to join the literature club to be around him. It’s cute, but as it goes on you can see there are hints of her former memories coming out.
The highlight of Mirai-hen would have to be all the moments between Mirai and Akihito, which is amusing since I felt they were the weaker characters of the first season. Nase Hiroomi (Suzuki Tatsuhisa) and his snarky sister, Nase Mitsuki (Chihara Minori), stood out to me more in the original – Mitsuki especially – but they were pushed back here in favour of our main duo this time around. I can’t complain too much about that choice, since it makes Mirai and Akihito more appealing as a duo (and a couple), but Hiroomi at least got his own sub-plot with the ‘betrayal’ of his elder sister, Nase Izumi (Kawasumi Ayako). Like everything else in this movie, their scenes were very emotional and provided a nice end to the Nase side of the story. It’s just a shame that Mitsuki didn’t get much of chance to shine.
Very Little Has Changed:
While I’m sure the Kyoukai no Kanata has its fans, I wouldn’t consider myself among that group – there are various other KyoAni titles I’d rather get more out of *cough* Hibike! Euphonium *cough* – but I went into this movie expecting it to be an improvement on the original… which, unfortunately, it wasn’t. Sure, the loose ends were tied up rather nicely, as I hoped, but in all honesty Mirai-hen is much the same as the original. The visuals are still spectacular, and the battle sequences are among the best-looking of any action anime in recent years, yet the fights themselves lack that extra punch; they just don’t feel real. It’s all too flashy and over the top that it doesn’t feel all that dangerous. There’s no impact to it. Perhaps KyoAni have put too much effort into the production (if such a thing is possible) that the foundations of what makes a good battle sequence are lost in the making. With more practice, perhaps their fights will pack that extra punch, but for now it’s all just very pretty and praiseworthy on the aesthetics alone.
The movie started off quietly, not getting into the action until about 15 minutes in, which is when I felt my interest slipping away. As I said, my favourite scenes were those between Mirai and Akihito, but we didn’t get them much in the middle part. Mid-way through we were so lost in the action that I found it difficult to care all that much about what was going on. The exact same thing happened in the TV series when the later episodes seemed to trip over their own story and just threw a hundred different things at us at once. Sure, it looked pretty – and it still does here – but I felt myself drifting off when it all became too much. Thankfully, the last 10 minutes of Mirai-hen made up for the weaker middle part, though not quite enough to save the entire film.
Mirai-hen is like Tamako Love Story in many ways – except Tamako Love Story is far superior, and in my opinion brings out everything you could have wanted from Tamako Market and delivers it in a concise, beautiful way. Perhaps Kyoto Animation are going to make a habit of their movie sequels to their original anime resolve the romantic developments; if that’s the case, I can’t say that’s a bad thing, because it’s always nice to have some resolution. We see Mirai and Akihito gradually come together over the course of the film, hints of their former relationship and their quirky lines returning in spur-of-the-moment situations. One of the strongest scenes would have to be them revisiting the playground with the cherry blossoms swirling around them. Not only was it gorgeous, but it gave me nostalgia of the best parts of Kyoukai no Kanata. It all got very emotional very quickly – perhaps too melodramatic for some – but I enjoyed the tears, tantrums, and emotional turmoil that the characters went through over the course of Mirai-hen, if only because it made the final scenes that much more worthwhile.
The high point of it all has to be the climactic scene with Mirai and Akihito standing in the field of flowers, overlooking the ocean. It’s the moment the whole series has been building to, and even if getting there was a drag, the resolution is a worthwhile one. These two kids who were destined to kill one another end up pouring their hearts out, and I felt every moment of it. After nearly falling asleep throughout the senseless action scenes just minutes before, I was suddenly gripped by the emotional back and froth, and how they came together in the end, with Mirai finally remembering who she was and the relationship she had with Akihito. Add on that sweet little epilogue after the credits and you’ve got a satisfying ending that makes this film worthwhile.
Overview – Final Impressions:
Mirai-hen is a trip down memory lane, in more ways than one. Overall, it delivered much the same as the TV series, though I suspect some will be happier with the outcome this time around. A good ending can make a lesser series seem much better than it actually is, and even though I wouldn’t classify Kyoukai no Kanata as a ‘bad’, it’s still one of my least favourite of KyoAni’s works. However, fans of the original series will definitely get a lot out of this sequel, in the same way that Tamako Love Story served as the perfect finish to Tamako Market. All things considered, I’d recommend this to those who wanted more resolution in the TV series and have at least some interest in seeing these characters again. It did feel good for Mirai and Akihito to get the ending they deserved, and to finish the story on positive note.
ED: 「Aitakatta Sora」 (会いたかった空)) by Chihara Minori