Kite: Liberator - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: C+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 22.99
  • Running time: 57
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kite

Kite: Liberator

By Chris Beveridge     April 29, 2008
Release Date: March 25, 2008


Kite: Liberator
© Media Blasters


What They Say
The teenage assassin Sawa discovered the man behind her parents' deaths was her own her foster-father, the police detective Akai. She murdered him. Years later, her whereabouts are still unknown.

The story of a new killer has begun to circulate around the city. She is called the Angel of Death. She eliminates her targets with grace and precision, and then vanishes without a trace into the darkness.

By day, the Angel of Death wears a different face; the face of Monaka, an ordinary high school girl. But she seems so delicate and sensitive, can it really all be an act? Her past is tied with Akai, and her fate is a duel to the death with the one man who can protect her - the one she loves most.

Which heart is real? The icy heart of the Angel of Death, or the kind heart of Monaka?

The Review!
Mutant monsters rage from the stars to Tokyo and only a teenage girl can stop it with her amazing skills as an assassin.

Audio:
Not surprising for a high profile release, Media Blasters has pulled out all the stops on the audio side of the mix by bringing in Bang Zoom for the dub. This release contains four audio tracks for the two languages so that everyone can be treated well, or at least that was what I thought. The two 5.1 mixes are done at 448kbps while the two stereo mixes are done at 192kbps. In listening to the Japanese 5.1 mix, it turned out to be very problematic and weak, especially in comparison to the stereo mix. The dialogue felt muffled and distant and it lacked any serious impact during the action sequences. Going back to the stereo mix ended up being the right thing to do as it just felt like a smoother and better fit. The English 5.1 mix fares much better when it comes to the dialogue and overall sound effects but the differences are negligible for the most part from the English stereo mix.

Video:
Originally released in 2008, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Mostly taking place in a real world setting outside of the space station sequences, Kite Liberator has a good look to it as it takes place mostly at night and in relatively dark areas. When there are some moments of bright light and sunshine it looks strong as well, but the release in general is not without its flaws. Gradients are visible during a large number of sequences when it comes to the backgrounds but also several foreground pieces. The space scenes and a few interior shots here and there have a fair bit of noise as well which is distracting at times. Colors in general do look good however and there are a lot of very fluidly animated sequences that stand out strongly. The release is a mixed bag however and tended to leave me more disappointed than impressed.

Packaging:
This release is a bit of a marquee title for Media Blasters and it got a little extra love from the company by having a slipcover provided for it. The front cover of the slipcover has a really slick looking piece of artwork as it features Monaka in a near full length shot in her school girl outfit while behind her there's a slightly shadowed image of her in assassin mode. The logo is raised a bit and overall the artwork and material has a really slick feel to it. The back of the slipcover is done sideways - something Media Blasters seems to enjoy doing a lot - and it has a lot of white space as the text is done through the middle while a few images are at opposite corners. A central piece of artwork with Monaka looks really cute, especially with the dangling doll she has, which ties it all together. The slipcover is barren of any sort of technical information though which does make it a bit of a hard sell in some ways since you can't even tell what the runtime is.

The keepcase within the slipcover is really good as well, especially with the front cover that has a very cutely innocent shot of Monaka in her school uniform sitting on the moon with a pair of angel wings behind her. It has a lot of great detail to it and it plays up the innocence and danger really well. The back cover brings in some pieces from the slipcovers back cover but is laid out in a much tighter fashion and has a better flow to it. The extras are clearly listed and the technical grid covers everything in a very quick and easy to read format. No inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.

Menu:
The menu layout is straightforward for this release though with a nice bump in comparison to some of their more standard releases. The artwork layout provides for the different aspects of Monaka as we see her in a red and blue filter for each personality, one of just a normal school girl while the other has her in her assassin mode. Throwing a layer of animation over it with the Angel of Death feathers floating around works quite nicely, even against the white background. Navigation is kept to the right with a standard layout which is quick to load and easy to navigate. The disc correctly read our players' language presets but as is standard with a Media Blasters release, the first English subtitle track is the slates one.

Extras:
Only one extra is available on this release but it's a fascinating one to watch in comparison to the main feature. Running just under twenty-five minutes in length, it's a special alternative version of the film that was done up for the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2007. It's about half the length of the full feature and in some ways is much tighter and more interesting because of how it's done. It likely won't have a lot of appeal for most people, nor right after watching the main feature, but it's definitely a fascinating look at the film from a different perspective.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ten years after the original OVA series Kite came out and shocked plenty of people with its controversial material, Yasuomi Umetsu was finally brought back to the project that made him a name with Western fans. The original series saw plenty of controversy due to some of its underage material and the use of releasing a cut and uncut version - or multiple versions over the years that were less uncut. With this new feature, Umetsu keeps to the violence but the sexual side has diminished pretty strongly, which isn't a surprise as he's commented in the past that it wasn't something he originally wanted to bring into the show too heavily.

Kite Liberator takes place several years after the events of the original series and it shifts its focus a bit as Sawa is nowhere to be found. This feature revolves around a similarly young character named Monaka who is living with her uncle that gets by on payments and benefits from her father. She lost her mother several years ago and her father is an astronaut on board an international space station so she hasn't seen him in an age. Her distance from everything has made it easier for her to transition into the role of a young assassin that deals out punishment for money to deserving scum of the earth. When not doing that, Monaka spends her time either in school or working in a late night restaurant called Apollo.

While Monaka is getting about down on Earth with her life, her father's life on board the space station is about to impact it heavily. The astronauts up there have been getting along somewhat better recently due to a new food that was created by Defy Foods which is simply called Space Food. The food is designed to help the astronauts cope better with the low gravity and calcium issues that arrive from living in space but it apparently didn't go through proper testing. A pair of astronauts that got caught in a radiation storm from a solar flare end up mutating because of the food that's in their system which results in the space station acquiring mutated monsters that hunger and thirst at an inhuman level. Or at least that's the vibe they try to give off.

The feature goes back and forth for a bit between the two main storylines and we have a good bit of action happening on Earth with Monaka taking down some bad guys while fending off creeps that show up at the diner she works in as a waitress. The two storylines do eventually meet in a very predictable way and it turns into a decent sized conflagration as the diminutive Monaka battles one of the mutant monsters from space. The secondary cast filters throughout the film, such as the cop who is in love with her and the man who made the space food, but it's all pretty inconsequential. The only potentially interesting character is another waitress named Mukai who gives off some heavy Sawa vibes with what she knows and understands.

At the end of the show, I'm just left with the simple feeling of wondering why they bothered. I know full well that we weren't going to get what the original Kite was and I'd already had my post-Kite "letdown" with Mezzo Forte as that OVA series came shortly after Kite came out and didn't live up to what people expected it to be, even though I enjoyed it. Where Kite Liberator suffers is in that it's just so predictable. Once you get past the surprise at first with the space station and the slight advancement in the years since the original, nothing surprises or shocks. The violence even feels fairly tame most of the time and the usual of a mutant monster diminishes a lot of the personal impact that the original had when it came to the fight sequences.

There are certainly things to like however. Umetsu seems intent on revisiting a number of locations from the original and that provides for some great nostalgia as you see the different settings in a new light with different characters. The parallels between the two shows are strong throughout such as Monaka having a bracelet from her father in comparison to Sawa's special earring. The eye colors are used as well and that gets highlighted further into the show when Monaka is in assassin mode and ends up getting different colored eyes because of events. A strong draw for me continues to be the character designs as Umetsu doesn't use a carbon copy look of most every other show out there. The men tend to be ugly and the women have a very strange allure. There's a good sense of sexuality throughout it, but it's mostly restricted to panty scenes and a brief topless moment when Monaka is changing. Her changing between schoolgirl and assassin is far more common and that's done in a rather clean but enticing fashion.

In Summary:
Not unlike the original, Kite Liberator is very much a Yasuomi Umetsu project through and through. From the credits, his involvement in it came in the form of being the Directors, he wrote the screenplay, did the storyboards and was obviously the character designer. His hands are all over it so it's very much accurate when that first title card comes up to call it a Yasuomi Umetsu film. Unfortunately it just underwhelmed with its story and the intensity of it. There weren't expectations of replicating the original OVA series but I didn't expect this new feature to be so dull and predictable. Umetsu's work has been a favorite of mine since I saw his designs in the Megazone 23 Part II OVA all those years ago as well as numerous things since then. Hopefully it will be another ten years before he can be pulled back to this franchise so he can focus on more interesting projects.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Tokyo International Film Festival Alternate Version

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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