Kite is infamous. The hyper-violent 1998 anime features explicit sex scenes, explicit violence and explicit human brutality. And now, according to sources connected with the project, it's going to be a "full-on female actioner" with "gritty realistic action".
Originally, Kite, or A Kite as it's called in Japan, was two thirty minute anime shorts that followed a schoolgirl named Sawa, who becomes controlled emotionally and sexually by the cops investigating her parents' murder.
Creator Yasuomi Umetsu once told me that he wanted to make Sawa a junior high school student, but was worried he wouldn't even be able to get the anime rated in Japan.
The sex scenes are graphic, and one depicts a young Sawa, hence why the film is classified as child pornography in some countries. The violence is also graphic: Sawa becomes an assassin, firing bullets that explode in her victims' bodies on impact.
Kite is one of those anime that people who have never seen it can easily point to as everything that's wrong with Japanese popular culture. Doing so misses the point entirely.
In Kite, nobody is completely good or completely bad. "I didn't want to simply redo the good versus evil you see in many anime," Umetsu told me in an interview I did for my book Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential. "Humans are interesting creatures, complex and multi-faceted. I hadn't really seen anime that addressed that ambiguity."
As brutal as it is at times, Kite is not only thematically complex, but also delicate. Kites are controlled and manipulated until their strings are cut, and they are free to drift up to the heavens or come crashing down to Earth.
Kite has long been the subject of controversy, but the anime has its fans. While making Kill Bill, Kite was one of the movies that Quentin Tarantino recommended to Gogo Yubari actress Chiaki Kuriyama to help her prepare. And No Doubt recreated a scene from Kite in the group's "Ex-Girlfriend" music video.
For years now, Hollywood has been kicking around a Kite movie. When I interviewed Umetsu, he was excited about the project, which at that time was supposed to be helmed by Rob Cohen.
According to a recently published article in Film Business Asia, the Kite movie is finally going into production. It will apparently be shot in South Africa for US$12 million and directed by David R. Ellis of Snakes on a Plane fame.
Twelve million isn't a huge budget, but perhaps the producers can stretch a dollar further in South Africa.
According to Variety (via ANN, the live-action version follows "a young woman living in a failed state, post-financial collapse, where the corrupt security force profits on the trafficking of young women. When her father, a cop, is slain by someone dirty inside the force, she vows to track the murderer down with the help of her father's ex-partner—never realizing he is, in fact, the man who had her father killed."
"I am a big fan of Yasuomi Umetsu and honored to bring the amazing world of Kite to the big screen," Ellis said.
There is going to be a lot that cannot be shown in the live-action version. It already sounds like the film is going to be very different from the source material. When Kite was first released in U.S., 15 minutes of the hour-long total had to be cut. Likewise, the live action version will be edited, too. There are things in the anime that simply cannot be shown in a feature film, unless the producers want it slapped with an X-rating.
The film's theme about a kite and how it's controlled by a string can be explored further in a two hour feature, providing fertile ground for an exciting, yet deep action film. The result could be an even grittier La Femme Nikita. Or it could be another bad movie.
Kite begins filming next January. In the gallery above, watch the Kite bathroom shootout (sorry about the dubs!) and No Doubt's take on it.
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(Top photo: アームス)