Kara no Kyoukai Movie 5: Paradox Spiral – Impressions and Analysis

Everyone seems to be making goddamn Valentine's Day posts.  Believe me, this post has nothing to do with Valentine's Day.  In fact, I didn't even intend to post this on Valentine's Day, I wanted to post this three for four days ago, but couldn't finish it in time.

Everyone seems to be making goddamn Valentine's Day posts. Believe me, this post has nothing to do with Valentine's Day. In fact, I didn't even intend to post this on Valentine's Day, I wanted to post this three for four days ago, but couldn't finish it in time.

I was just blown away by this film. It’s incredibly tempting to wax lyrical about this incredible piece of film-making, but I’ll save that for later. This, instead, is a tentative attempt to get to the bottom of the some of the meaning woven into the film, to understand the numerous symbols, metaphors and philosophic quandaries that the film explores. I’ll just say this, though, this film is transcendent; it not only managed to tie the previous films together, but also raised the scope of the entire narrative as a whole. I’m not the most qualified person to talk about a Type Moon adaptation, my experiences of the Nasuverse are limited to the questionable anime adaptations we’ve received so far. Type Moon fans rant and rave about just how meticulous the Nasuverse is, but anime fans have had to wait until this series to see it at its most impressive. This post has moderate spoilers (as well as a splash of the pretentious philosophical discourse that Akira was railing against). As far as I can see, the only person who’s really attempted to analyze this film in depth has been ETERNAL from Memories of Eternity. This is written in part to complement his analysis, and also to expand on some of my ideas and interpretations of the film.

The meaning behind the title

The most prominent piece of symbolism in the film was the spiral itself, which was used to represent a number of different things. I daresay there’s at least four different meanings behind the title “Paradox Spiral“. Some are obvious, the building is clearly a paradox spiral, as is the spiral of origin. But are there are some which are a little more subtle. The film uses the yin-yang symbol (Taijitsu) as a visual representation of the paradox spiral, and points out that it exists as a meld of opposites, such as light and dark or man and woman, and that the dots mean, as Touko puts it “the small hole in both of them is a spiral of rivalry with contradictions”, and then goes on to say “everyone has a little of the opposite sex in them.” The symbol, in itself, represents two things in the film (that I can see anyway). The first is that it’s a comment of Shiki’s sexuality, the fact that she has the mannerisms of a man, which Touko says is a tribute, of sorts, towards her deceased second personality. The second is the rivalry between Touko and Alba, opposites who each have a little bit of each other within them (or, at least that’s how I interpreted it).

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Another slightly more subtle meaning behind the title was brought up during Touko’s death scene (and what a gruesome death it was), when she referred to the repetition of daily life as a spiral. The film constantly used repetition as a storytelling device (arguably one of the film’s few flaws, since it was a bit excessive, but even this I’m willing to forgive, since it played to one of the story’s themes), but this gives it meaning within the context of the film. There’s a stark contrast between this concept and that of the spiral of origin, the former being (relatively) meaningless, a consequence of “miracles and chance” as Touko puts it, while the latter is profound and quite deliberate (in the Nasuverse anyway). This is a relatively obvious dichotomy and arguably makes for the central conflict of the film, but I also think there’s a somewhat more subtle one which the film demonstrates with its highly anachronistic timeline. The events of daily life are constantly repeated and there are little vignettes here and there where the passage of time briefly becomes prominent (such as the montage with the ice-cream tubs). The concept of time in daily life becomes important when you consider that, at the origin, there is no time. I think this partly motivated Araya’s steadfast intent to reach the origin, but I don’t think it was his primary one. However, from his point of view, one could fathom that, if he saw no meaning in the repetitiveness of daily life and, by proxy, the passing of time, perhaps there was meaning in the absence of time. I think it’s highly relevant, from a philosophical point of view, that Araya was motivated by a search for meaning.

I also think that “paradox spiral” refers to the counter force, which I’ll get to later.

Symbols

The film was filled with symbols and I have no intention of dealing with all of them simply because I’m aware that if I attempt to be comprehensive, I’ll fail. I’ve already dealt with the spiral. One of the other prominent symbols was that of the puppets, and this one is a little more ambiguous to interpret. One could easily dismiss the film’s use of puppets as a plot device, but I still think there’s a deeper meaning to their appearance in the film. There are essentially two places in the story where a puppet is used to bring someone back to life, obviously with Touko, but also, a little more subtly, with Tomoe (notice how he has a girl’s name; possibly another embodiment of the Taijitsu through gender roles). I think the idea that the puppets represent a substitute for life isn’t too far from the mark, but I think I’m probably testing the logical waters by suggesting that the puppets, as a Super Mario style 1-UP, also dilute the meaning of the characters’ respective deaths, since it removes the finality of their deaths and gives them a second chance. This kinda brings things round in a circle and comes back to the idea of meaningless deaths which motivated Araya. It’s ironic since Araya, to a fair extent, was responsible for both their deaths, and, not only that, but he also made the puppet that Tomoe embodied. Does the fact that they came back make their deaths any more or less meaningless, and if it’s the former, was Araya aware of the irony?

The symbol of Tomoe’s key is much less ambiguous, and represents family and security, things which were broken down by Araya’s spiral building. It’s interesting from the point of view that family and security are things commonly associated with daily life, which was threatened by Araya’s search for the origin. There’s a bit of contention about whether the counter force was acting through Tomoe, but I think it’s fair to assume it was. Him eventually being motivated by vengeance for his family (as opposed to his love for Shiki) adds another dynamic to his confrontation with Araya. It’s also interesting that Araya’s experiment failed, since his apocalyptic microcosm was, in essense, a combination of the two opposing elements: it was a place that was repetitive, but since it was final, it was a place where time didn’t exist (or only existed in a limited form). He said that he only expected it to disturb the origin, which implies that he didn’t expect it to create a path to the origin, yet he was disappointed by its result. This is one of those ambiguous little details in the film that I still don’t quite have my head around. Nor do I completely have my head around whether it was the counter force which made Tomeo aware of his destiny and, thus, flee it, or whether it was Araya. Araya took advantage of the fact that Tomoe fled, and used him to attract Shiki to the building, but what initially caused Tomoe to leave the building is a bit ambiguous (I’ll touch on this a little more later).

The directing in this film is superb.

The directing in this film is superb.

The dream-like scene in the cafe towards the end of the film, after the climax, cleverly displays Tomoe and Shiki as reflections of each other, making a point about the similarities of their respective characters. It’s a metaphor, but it’s a really clever one when you consider two things. First, it makes a point about their incompatibility with each other, and how they both need(ed) someone like Mikiya in their lives. It wasn’t so apparent in this movie, but in previous movies, Mikiya was something of a moral reference point, both for the audience and for Shiki. Maybe more importantly (from a relationship point of view), Mikiya has become someone to depend on for Shiki. Someone to protect as well, maybe she needs that… I’m not sure, that’s largely speculation. The other thing is that the Shiki in this scene is actually the “male” Shiki, as signified by the red kimono (which is a subtlety I didn’t figure out on my own). Given what we know about Shiki, this could turn out to mean all manner of things, but I think it has something to do with their murderous pasts.

Metaphysics

I find the idea of the counter force to be fascinating. It’s one of these little quirks in the Nasuverse which I find really inventive (another one being the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception). The basic implication is that the Nasuverse has a natural survival instinct, but because it isn’t sentient, it can be treated as a force of nature. Expanding on what I mentioned above, the film ambiguously presents evidence for both the possibility that the counter force acted through Tomoe directly, or acted through Araya and then through Tomoe. But I find it interesting that Araya attempted to use Asagami Fujino and Fujyou Kirie as a means to suppress the counter force. Is this because the counter force isn’t smart or quick enough to realize that their respective conflicts with Shiki were a means through which Araya could reach the origin? This raises a lot of interesting questions about the exact mechanics of the counter force, possibly ones which have been dealt with in more detail in the novels.

Possibly the most important line in the film.

Possibly the most important line in the film.

The origin is another interesting aspect, but I see it more as a means for Araya to find what he truly covets. The scenes of two hundred years ago (Araya’s dream) is the closest we get to an intimate analysis of his (unique) logic. He becomes a collector of death, because he thinks the least he can do to give meaning to meaningless deaths is to record them. As well as being a “place” where time doesn’t exist, Touko explicitly points out that the origin contains a record of everything. I believe Araya when he suggests that he’d forgotten his original motivation for searching for the origin, since he’s shown to be so devoted to his goal (which is one of the reasons why he’s such an awesome villain) that “details” like his original motivation are easily forgettable for him, but I think this idea of “true wisdom” and his bemusement with humanity aren’t as important as he explicitly states.

Philosphy

The final conversation between Araya and Touko was filled with contradictions. At first Araya confirms my thoughts that his quest for the origin was motivated by a search for meaning and an attempt to attribute meaning to “meaningless” deaths, but then he starts talking about the ugliness of humanity. It’s difficult to reconcile a disdain for humanity with a search to recompense the deaths of individuals, but my interpretation is that this is an indication that, as far as Araya is concerned, these concepts are separated. It becomes even more confusing when Touko suggests that Araya hadn’t anticipated Tomoe’s escape. While it almost certainly confirms that the counter force was acting through Tomoe, it still raises the question about Tomoe’s attraction to Shiki, which Araya indicated was something he programmed into Tomoe. Araya must have “gotten” to Tomoe sometime after his escape and before he met Shiki. That doesn’t quite make complete sense.

Araya sits on a throne in a room filled with brains.  What an amazing (and disturbing) piece of imagery.

Araya sits on a throne in a room filled with brains. What an amazing (and disturbing) piece of imagery.

The reference to the group unconscious and Araya’s reaction to the irony that he shares his name with the associated Buddhist concept of consciousness (Arayashiki) is another component of his philosophy and motivations which I don’t have my head around (this article is starting to feel like an exercise in expressing what I don’t know, rather than sharing what I do). My guess is the ugliness in humanity which he was simultaneously trying to end and find value in is typically associated with a plane of consciousness which is shared by all humans (this is me showing my lack of knowledge of both psychiatry and Buddhism). I’d speculate that this is an endorsement of individuality and introspection from Araya, but I think I’m starting to look for things that aren’t there.

That’s my attempt to analyze the fifth Kara no Kyoukai movie. I think I’m in a really interesting position to interpret the film, since I haven’t read the source or any other source dealing with the Nasuverse, so I’m in a really “unbiased” position to judge the film’s storytelling. I’ve had to draw nearly every conclusion I’ve reached from the film itself (as well as a few other discussions I’ve seen on the internet here and there). It’s certainly an ambitious film and it’s highly stylized, which is done to aid its ability to draw the audience in, but there’s a lot of substance in the film, a lot to think about and interpret on the film’s many layers. It’s a tough film to rip into though, since it isn’t made to be explicitly obvious in every instance (I think many of the ambiguities are quite deliberate, since they play to the film’s themes), so I do have quite a few lingering questions and unknowns, but I think for the most part, the film has put together a tight story… it just has to be pieced together afterwards like a jigsaw, which, obviously, not everyone’s going to have the patience for.

5 Responses to “Kara no Kyoukai Movie 5: Paradox Spiral – Impressions and Analysis”

  1. This is the longest one, and maybe the most exciting and deep in 6 movies released so far. Thank you for such a deep review

  2. This is a really interesting review! And i agree with “ndqanh_vn” about how this was the longest movie…and also EPIC!! BUT i don’t agree with what you said about, Shiki being a male in the cafe scene near the end…the red Kimono could mean something totally different…i think that it just showed how they are so much alike (as referred to in the movie)…also it was kinda like he was there to see her again to say “goodbye” for the last time, because he loves Shiki! ….well something like that ^_~ so yea i don’t entirely agree there, but overall, nice review! ^_^

  3. Wow, very indepth analysis. However, I do disagree with your analysis of Araya and his motivation. I think the author’s state of mind for Araya is that Araya suffering from cognitive dissonance caused by the inherent nature of individual vs group, which you can obviously see from the world around us (right to own guns vs safety for everyone, income disparity and what not) exacerbated by the one of the theoretical self actualization of people: Logotherapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_to_meaning). This dissonance forced Araya to see the ugliness of the world and try to correct it in his very unique way applicable only to Nasuverse (which also incidentally will destroy the world). Given this view point, it is easy to see how the ugliness of humanity drives him to his goal of seeking meaning; the ugliness shown to him increases his internal dissonance and make him see the pointlessness of it all, thus reinforces his search for meaning because he seeks to correct this meaninglessness. Its the same reason some people seek god and the people who seek god are mostly powerless, ie. powerful people don’t have time for god while powerless people seek god for an answer to the fate dealt to them. That is why, to me the conversation at the end is especially relevant because it vindicates araya’s motivation. He seeks true wisdom (meaning/logotherapy), he seeks it within himself because he realizes the futility of seeking the ONE TRUE TRUTH (either that or he is crazy enough to think his truth is the one true truth) so his only desire is to calm his inner cognitive dissonance, and his means is to destroy this world (which ironically enough may be a vindication of meaninglessness of everything and a step backwards). Thus, with this view, we can perfectly understand what kind of person Araya is and what kind of person Toukou is. Araya is someone who does not accept the contradictions of the world and will do anything to correct it, even if it means destruction of the world while Toukou is someone who accepts the world and its imperfections, and thus naturally tries to prevent Araya from succeeding. (PS. This is how I would rate the characters: Araya – nihilist, Toukou,Tomoe- existentialist (tomoe found his meaning before his death).

  4. […] Kara no Kyoukai Movie 5: Paradox Spiral – Impressions and Analysis » Behind The Nihon Review […]

  5. I see I am not the only one ho just couldn’t let this film go out of my head. Thanks for this article. Helped me a lot to sort things up my head.

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