(Disclaimer: All images were found via Google.)
It’s only appropriate that the latest film in the franchise that I genuinely enjoy comes as a direct follow-up to another film I genuinely enjoyed. Not insinuating these films aren’t direct sequels to one another (though some aren’t), but Part 7 is a sort of continuation of Part 2, hence the “(Zen)” and “(Kou)” within the names. Part 7 is also technically the last film in the series, with the two upcoming films serving as side stories, though still within the realm of importance. One can tell with the sense of finality to the film’s ending scenes that it’s all come full circle. If only it included everyone.
As if it’s expected by this point, production value is a major positive for Part 7. Animation is spectacularly glossed over each scene and the character’s expressions. Choice of instrumentation in the background does very well for the most emotionally charged situations, all accumulating with Shiki’s fight within herself, something that’s been hinted at for many films. It did to some extent with the last movie, but seeing as I was more immersed with the story this time around, the final fight, while not amusingly gory or loaded with an epic appeal, amassed a flurry of emotions within me. Among the first times within the film series where I acknowledged the beauty of a specific scene or situation.
Something of a debate between fans of the series is the difference in quality between this film and Part 5. The latter has the advantage of sheer spectacle and psychological creativity and intrigue. Characters are more plot pieces than individuals and the bizarre framing of perspectives makes for a very intriguing two hours. Part 7, on the contrary, appeals more to the humanity of its characters and the morality of the situation. It treats the characters as though they manipulate the plot, making their issues and conflict feel more personal and within their control. It also makes the characters feel more alive within their environment, something that Part 5 hardly did. It revealed necessary and interesting info about them, but it never allowed them to simply exude their charisma.
It is this switch in priorities that make the divide between these two parts intriguing, with one focusing on a more apathetic, psychological front, while the other appeals to the emotions and the well-being of the characters. The reasoning involved makes the difference in quality quite appropriate: viewers are likely to find Part 5 more entertaining and technically sound, and Part 7 more affectionately humane. One is likely to find Part 5 the better film, but Part 7 the more likable film. For me, it’s no different. I acknowledge that Part 5 is probably a better film, but I enjoyed Part 7 far more, especially during the second half. What becomes the central issue is how much of Part 7’s more forced arbitrariness one can tolerate.
Realism isn’t exactly one of the series’s major focuses, but here one could make the case that it’s trying really hard to be both subtle and direct. Bloodshed is also one of the series’s more prevalent identifiers—the amount one survives this time around is a little worrying. Stenches of plot armor fill the scenes to a high degree. Some characters don’t seem to be of any importance, despite their roles in prior films. And for the last time, the male lead’s uppity attitude is still fairly annoying. There’s not a gray fiber within him, it is only good and bad, moral and amoral. God forbid one kills out of self defense. Even so, with that stipulation in place, the final scenes offer an intriguing take on what the characters truly stand for, and how they cope with it moving forward.
Emotionally gratifying as it may be, this is not of its entire body. The second half is splendid in its build-up and highlighting of the characters’ dimensions, along with some signature uncomfortable moods. Prior to it, the film is just build-up of the same degree as films past. People talk, listen, gather information, do some things here and there in a slow, but gradual pace to a tormenting end. A plague to most of the films in some capacity, slow starts are something that make the films a little tiring to marathon day after day.
Is it the best? Or the second-best? It could be one or the other, depending on one’s preferences and priorities of technical splendor vs. emotional value. I enjoyed Part 7 a lot more than Part 5 when all was said and done, but again, Part 5 had a lot more going for it to make it a longer-lasting experience. I really appreciate that by series’s end (kind of), the characters are the ones receiving the brunt of the importance, rather than trying to fulfill more of the depressing story it adores to overexaggerate. Still, it would’ve been helpful to have the narrative serve far more closure to those outside of the two leads and within the universe that seems still so very unstable. Also, if I may be frank, the ending is just a wee too “Happily ever after” for something like this.
Final Score: 7.5/10
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
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