A Kite: Special Edition (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, January 11, 2003
Release Date: Saturday, January 11, 2003
What They Say
(Region 2, PAL Format)
(OVA 18 of Germany - serial number DVD-OVA18-660)
Audio: The Japanese track (which does feature English dialogue for the last half or so of episode 1) doesn't sound bad at all, a decent Dolby Stereo mix, just like on all the other releases out there. No hissing, pops or dropouts, and that's all I'm truly concerned with. The German audio is kind of useless, unless you speak German, though. It was also in Dolby Stereo, and didn't sound all that great compared to the Japanese mix. It sounded far more ‘canned‘ than the Japanese track, and at least to me, most of the voices just didn‘t fit well. Pretty basic, but still, the supposedly worldwide preferred English track would have been a nice touch. The only subtitles are German, which are removable.
Video: There is some artifacting, and the pans get a little choppy, but when you remember that this is an NTSC to PAL transfer, you see it's not all that bad. (Besides, German DVD's I've experienced have not always been of the best quality.) There is definitely some blocking in the action scenes and all of the pans, which isn‘t all that distracting, but is certainly there. Colors are nice and solid with little to no bleeding, though, there's hardly any trouble with anti-aliasing, and I didn‘t spot any rainbows or cross-coloration. Not a terrible transfer, by any means, but it still could have been a bit better.
Packaging: Now, here's where OVA 18 really pulled out all the stops. Using a 'Comfort Pack' DVD case, which is a little thick and just plain bigger than most keep cases I‘ve seen, and doesn't seem to stress the DVD at all. I’m usually not too picky about just the case you get, but I wish we could get these Comfort Packs in the states. The front cover is a great image of Sawa, the same that was used on the old Media Blasters VHS. It features the German logo vertically on the right, followed by the Japanese kana. In the bottom corner, there is a small Dolby Digital logo. It also says "Special Edition" near Sawa's feet... But, that's something else entirely. Subdued and kinda' dark, but hey, this is A Kite, so I‘m not going to complain. The back cover features 6 screen caps, some of them violent, some of them erotic. There's also an image of Sawa - same as the 'Heavy Cut' DVD but with more panties showing - and a rundown of the plot, as well as all of the DVD stats.
Menus: Another part that really shines on the presentation. After some German FBI type warnings and a "Not for kids!" screen, we get the OVA 18 logo, and then the main menu. Most of the menu screens are animated, and all of them feature images of the city itself. The breakdown includes 'Play' (which leads to the language select menus), chapters (6 per episode), 'extras' (more on that later), and trailers. Also, the menu's use audio clips from the show, which loop along with the visuals. They're very cool, I think, but the load times between screens can get just a bit much.
Extras: This is the only real letdown the disc has. The only "Extra" I can see the DVD having is in the case, a fold out insert with a very suggestive image of Akai and Sawa, with the complete crew listing for A Kite. All that can be found in the extra's section are the DVD credits, and the German 'Trailer' for A Kite. German Trailers tend to be almost random compilations of the more explicit or defining sequences from the movie, all leading to the title, and this is no exception. Not much of a trailer, but at least it's up front about the action and sex. All the trailers are in Japanese, though many of them feature the English logos as well as the Japanese title cards. (And one of them features a brief bit of dialogue in German. *Shrug*) The other trailers are for Cool Devices, Inma Youjo, Urotsukidouji, Adventure Kid, and Angel of Darkness. All very explicit, but I'd hardly consider them extra's. The insert just about makes up for it, though. As does the presentation of the feature.
Content: (WARNING! Spoilers are below! If you haven‘t seen A Kite yet, you may not want to read this part of the review.)
A Kite. What a series.
Sure, some people will write it off as lifeless, or 'been done before', or what ever the case may be. Sure, it's derivative of both Leon: The Professional and La Femme Nikita, but so what? The tale of a girl's transformation from puppet to master after her family is killed by a corrupt policeman is sure a fascinating one, and running at 52 minutes (PAL) it makes up for any sort of lack of depth with it's white knuckle action, which is more than satisfying for a two episode series. Plus, it's got hardcore sex. and 'Bruce Pwillis'... In it's own way, what more could anyone ask for?
Based in turn on a project he did the character designs for, "Yellow Star" of the Cool Devices series, A Kite is one of the few hentai titles I've ever seen where the sex is the least attractive part of the whole. While sex is a huge part of the story, with Sawa's rape as a child and the final rape between her and her 'guardian', Akai, being the major turning points of the story, most of it was just sleazy, and not very pleasant. (Plus one hardcore sex gag. For the hell of it, I guess.) The sex in A Kite is often times just plain squirm inducing, but all the same, this is far from your typical hentai series.
Beginning with our heroine, the quiet and adorable Sawa, killing a mean spirited TV comedian in an elevator, the tone is set rather quickly, with the red eyed and almost plastic, doll like face of Sawa, cute on the surface but ready to kill you in an instant, set against the dark streets and neon lights that match her odd yet alluring earrings so well, she looks very much a part of the city itself the way she escapes in to the night. The plot is fairly simple; Sawa, after losing her parents to a pair of sleazy assassins four years ago, was taken in by one of them. He uses her in every way he sees fit, but when the girl meets a boy who's very much like herself, she slowly accepts that, maybe, there is more to her existence than being Akai's toy. The other assassin, Oburi, only owes Akai's partner, Kanie, a few more hits, at which point he plans on leaving for good. Sawa makes Oburi promise that they'll leave together. Akai, however, has other plans. The whole things screams noir in it's misty rooftops and it's
And so the stage for tragedy, bloodshed and very stylized action and music is set. The soundtrack is, in my opinion, quite good and fitting. The low key grinding for the action moving to the quiet tinkling of the city lights, provided by An Fu is a real breath of freshness from the usual combinations of dramatic orchestral and J-pop or Engrish tunes we've come to expect from even most high profile anime, adult titles or no. The action is really one of the more impressive aspects of A Kite, though, never once seeming all that unbelievable, and never resorting to anything like speed lines or double images. All of it is very fluid, doesn't much stretch the limits of time, space, or human plausibility, and it's easy to see how Media Blasters could try to market this as just an action piece, despite the effects to the plot. Had this been a live action film, I really think that it would have a far bigger following, if nothing else just for Umetsu's choreography and the always so much fun property damage. But, most action films don't feature hardcore sex with children.
Ah. Therein lies the real allure of this DVD. The first US release was cut heavily, to the equivalent of an R-Rating, and in losing the sex, really does make both the past, and the attitude of the heroine seem very different. (Making Sawa look like she wanted to sleep with Akai towards the ending really makes her look like a bitch. The more uncut prints shows this wasn't the case at all.) As the character of Sawa is perhaps the second most important part of the series (most of the others are fairly one dimensional, perhaps, but it‘s not about them, anyhow...), this was a real shame. After the fans groaned long enough, Media Blasters put back in all of the sex scenes, but they still removed around 10 seconds of actual sex with the pre-teenaged Sawa. The flashbacks aren't pleasant, but then, that's why they are there in the first place. The original Japanese releases were uncut, though frontal nudity was of course mosaiced over, but after the heavily cut US release was finished, Green Bunny re-released it in Japan as the edited version, under the moniker of "A Kite: International Version - Director's Edit". I'm not sure who decided that 'putting the remaining scenes in their original order' constitutes as a Director's Edit, but with Media Blasters hawking their mostly uncut print as the "Director's Cut", it gets so confused and muddled you need to write up a research paper just to have a clue as to what version you're getting.
So, you have the out of print and mosaiced Region 2's... Not a great way to see A Kite uncut, unless you don't mind looking hard and shelling out a huge sum for them. But, all is not lost! (So long as you can play a PAL DVD.) The OVA18 release is identical to the original 2 part DVD releases from Japan, save that they are on 1 disc, and are also digitally uncensored. Yep', this remains the only way to see the hardcore scenes with young Sawa and Akai without any blocking, though wither or not you'll actually want to remains a personal call. So, all the fans of Umetsu’s work have a new holy grail to find. I can only hope OVA 18 will release a few other infamous series the way they deserve. Come on, say it with me now; Who else wants La Blue Girl and Night Shift Nurses uncut?
While A Kite certainly isn't for everyone, it isn't subtle and it is full of blood and sex, it's a series I'm very fond of, and while there's no English (well, okay, not much...) on the German DVD, it's still the definitive release the world over. The transfer is decent enough, so the moment you see this particular disc, snatch it up. Even if you can only play Region 1. (Trust me.) The disc isn't easy to find outside of Germany, though, so best of luck to everyone who wants to know the whole truth about Umetsu Yasuomi's very personal, very explosive, and at times breath taking noir/action/porno tale.
Completely uncut & Uncensored,Japanese/English Language,German Language,German Subtitles,OVA 18 Trailers
Region Hacked Daewoo 5700 with internal standards converter, Stereo A/V cables, 19" Haier TN201 color TV
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Other
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 PAL
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2