The story of a teenaged boy, an ancient vampire, and an incredibly busty girl reaches its bloody conclusion.
[Note: This article contains spoilers for the first two Kizumonogatari films and a discussion of the themes of the third.]
Kizumonogatari III begins directly after the end of the last film with our hero Araragi finally in possession of all the missing limbs of the 500 year-old vampire Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade. By giving them back to her, Araragi’s goal of returning to his human life is in sight. Kiss-Shot, finally back in her true form, is overwhelmed with joy and she and Araragi spend one final night together–enjoying each other’s company and celebrating their hard-fought victory.
It’s only as Araragi basks in the emotional afterglow that he is brutally reminded of a simple fact that he had forgotten over the past few hectic days: Kiss-Shot eats people.
No matter how nice and supportive she may have been to Araragi, she is a vampire; if she doesn’t kill and eat humans, she’ll die. While she may be starting with the people who tried to kill her and Araragi, soon, uninvolved innocents will die as well. And with this revelations comes one more: he’s been the bad guy the whole time.
When Araragi first encountered Kiss-Shot, she was at her weakest–an ancient beautiful being at the edge of death and begging for life. At the time, he thought no further than choosing to give his own life to save someone else’s–even if she was a vampire. After being turned into a vampire himself, his goal was nothing more than to gather Kiss-Shot’s limbs and then return to being human.
Now, with the immediate goal of survival behind him, Araragi has no choice but to face the consequences of his actions; every death caused by Kiss-Shot from here on out is, at least partially, on him.
This brings into question the idea of responsibility. Araragi is a character with a strong sense of justice. For every crime, there must be a punishment. But as Araragi himself one-by-one defeated the vampire hunters in the area who had a chance of standing up to Kiss-Shot, this has left her to “feed” as she pleases with no one around to stop her. So if she can’t be stopped, the only thing Araragi feels he can do is atone for his own sins. And there is only one punishment in his mind for the act of taking a life: taking his own.
Yet, with the arrival of his romantic foil, Hanekawa, we see that there are several ways of taking responsibility. While one is atonement through punishment, another is to step up and correct your past mistakes as best you can. Nobly taking your life for your sins is a sin in and of itself, after all, and how can one sin correct another? But by that logic, can killing Kiss-Shot, another sin, really be the answer to the whole issue?
This is the question that permeates the film’s climax. What Araragi wants is a happy ending: Kiss-Shot alive yet not killing people; himself returned to a normal human living a normal human life; Hanekawa removed from the world of danger he has put her in. But this is, of course, an impossibility.
Kiss-Shot’s very nature makes her a murderer–she couldn’t change if she wanted to. Araragi would be shaped by these events no matter the outcome and would always be on the edge of being drawn back into supernatural situations. And as for Hanekawa, while Araragi doesn’t know it yet, there’s nothing he could really do to keep her out of the dangerous world of the supernatural.
Yet, just because there isn’t a perfect happy ending, that doesn’t mean that the choice is simply between two evils. There are more outside-the-box solutions out there where no one is really happy with the outcome but no one loses quite as much as they would with the more black and white options. And really, that is the moral of the entire film trilogy.
Kizumonogatari is the story of a person who believes in “right,” “wrong,” and happy endings learning about the painful process we call “compromise.”
Yet, just because no one is happy with the outcome in that moment, doesn’t mean that good things don’t stem from it–after all, how many people would have remained in peril throughout the rest of the franchise if not for Araragi’s choice at this key moment? Of course, there is also the alternative: How many problems would have been prevented if he had just taken the easy choice and removed himself from the equation in one way or another?
Though just because the film is serious in its stakes and moral lessons doesn’t mean it can’t take the time to have a bit of (perverted) fun. To break up the depressing drama, Kizumonogatari III contains a scene that alternates between the erotic and over-the-top awkwardly hilarious.
It’s easy to forget in this tale of vampires that two of the main leads are just kids. But this scene reminds us that, for all their bravado, they are just that–and that even in the most dire of situations, hormones exist.
Of course, neither the comedy nor drama would be half as powerful without the stunning visuals. Like the preceding two films, Kizumonogatari III is an exceedingly beautiful piece of animation filled with backgrounds as detailed as they are surreal. The film uses a dark color palette full of oranges, yellows, and browns. But instead of making the piece look drab or washed out, the colors fit the dark themes of the film and serve to accentuate the rare bright colors of a white hallway–or a spray of blood.
The animation is fluid in a way rarely seen in anime. The characters’ movements in the film all feel so lifelike that’d you’d swear it was animated by drawing over a live-action actor. This can be seen in everything from the slight corrections a character’s body makes while running or the subtle movement a person makes while removing a jacket. This technique also makes the action scenes of the film seem all the more real–even as bodies are torn apart among blood sprays that would make most horror films blush.
Kizumonogatari III is a visual treat and a film that finishes off the trilogy on a high note. It succeeds in explaining Araragi and Hanekawa’s deep yet, complicated relationship in the original Bakemonogatari–as well as the one between Araragi and Shinobu. But more than that, the Kizumonogatari films present a story about the nature of responsibility and the myth of happy endings, capped off by more than a few blood-filled over-the-top battles, if that’s more your thing. It is a standout in an already popular franchise and an adaptation that has been worth the long wait.
Kizumonogatari III: Reiketsu-hen was released in Japanese theaters on January 6, 2017. There is currently no word on a Western release, but the last two films were released to select theaters in the US from Aniplex of America.