Kite (Japan 1998)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/14/99

A dark and gritty tale about a young female assassin, with a passing nod to Luc Besson's "La Femme Nikita" (1990). Sawa is a cute, young school girl, but her cold heart and frighteningly blank stare give away her dark nature and lost innocence. She was adopted by a secret agency when her parents were killed, and has been in their employ ever since. The odd thing is that her benefactor raped her on that fateful night, and continues to use/misuse her as a sex toy. Yet, she sticks with him, hoping to someday avenge her parents' deaths. (you can already guess who's responsible) She meets a young boy who is also in the trade, and the two of them share an awkward relationship of hopeless desperation as they try to cope with their messed up lives. Then things turn sour as Sawa gets ordered to kill the boy, but the two of them decide to run away from their life of killing and start anew. Too bad things don't quite work out. The wicked shock ending actually made me bolt out of my seat (how's THAT for a spoiler!).

It's a fairly well made and good looking film, but the character design isn't very attractive. It's also a little too trashy for my tastes, and the porno jazz soundtrack doesn't help. However, the cinematography (for lack of a better word) is very slick, and the over-the-top action sequences are exciting and well realized. Additionally, it's refreshingly violent. The gunplay is straight forward, hard hitting, and fairly realistic - excessive, but not overly stylized or romanticized. Another interesting thing I learned from this film is that American voice actors in Japan are considerably better than their stateside counterparts. This continues to beg the question, "Why is english dubbed anime SO bad?"