In one of his greatest movies ever made, Quentin Tarantino offers his fans a delicious blend of sin, action, animation, and a mind blowing narrative. Kill Bill is delivered in style to its viewers, and served chill with a slice of suspense thrown in. And just when the viewer begins to want more of this fast paced movie, Kill Bill ends, ensuring that the crowds are back in their seats for the sequel.
The sequel of course, is no less thrilling than it should be, although with an extra dose of sentiment and narrative added to it. The Bride, the Black Mamba, or Mommy, call her what you will ? Uma Thurman wakes up from a four year coma to go on the journey of revenge, as she prepares her death list of the ones who went on to murder her entire wedding party. While the story itself is stunning, to say the least, Quentin Tarantino has more to offer than just a gripping tale. This paper focuses on how the power of animation has been leveraged in this movie; how music video has been incorporated into the narrative, takes a look at the important role that anime plays and finally considers how intermedia and metafiction come together in this work of art.
Animated killings The major chunk of Tarantino’s film focuses on a perception of Japanese culture that is relatively Western to begin with. To start with, there are the scenes of sheer bloodshed done in a Kurosawa style as well as minutes of absolute action. While these give Kill Bill its characteristic flavor, the story telling changes direction when the “anime” segment begins. Literally speaking, anime is nothing more than the Japanese abbreviation of animation.
However, outside of Japan, the rest of the world perceives anime as animation that is usually produced within Japan and then spread across the world. Over time, anime came to be a hybrid version of animation itself and the Occidental view of animation lent a different look to anime. Japanese anime therefore can be considered as a hybrid form that combines the narrative traditions of manga and Hollywood. Before looking at anime in Kill Bill it is important to note how anime is a hand drawn art that has recently turned into an art form backed by the computer.
Tarantino effectively uses this anime sequence to go back in time and perform a quick flash back as he talks about O-Ren-Ishii ? the most feared killer in the Far East region of the world. A note on Anime Reviews mentions, “Technically, there’s no mistaking this as “anime”, but it will not be immediately stylistically familiar to many viewers. This is because Kill Bill’s animation is a product of Production IG that is known more for its visual work rather than for its plotting and storytelling. Therefore, although anime has been utilized in the film, reviews comment on it being sketchy and experimental instead of being an example of mainstream anime.
” Why would Tarantino have possibly used anime in Kill Bill is a question that critics often ask? After all, if he can go on to show an excessive amount of violence and bloodshed in the rest of the film, do a few extra minutes make a critical difference? On studying the segment closely, one realises that the reality of a situation like that would have been too stark for any audience ? to see a schoolgirl about to murder her boss while atop him, in an act that is not the most pleasant scene to view, is something only anime can deliver. O-Ren taking every bit of revenge possible on her paedophile boss who committed the crime of killing her parents before her very eyes is executed extremely well through the anime sequence. It is this section in his movie that Tarantino chooses to use as an important break. Tarantino’s choice of this as a pivotal moment in this inaugural Kill Bill film is interesting.
The Anime Review mentions, “The events prior to this flashback are much less theatrical and over-the-top in comparison to the events afterwards. It’s a subtle effect, but one that is appreciated, at least on a superficial level. This is a film worth watching once; to satisfy the fan’s curiosity about how a connection between Tarantino and anime could possibly work out, although odds are that one would really have to like Tarantino to fully appreciate what this film has to offer.” While Kill Bill was a hot favourite among viewers themselves, the critics were not overtly impressed.
The bone of contention arose with the very topic we are discussing ? borrowing from another culture, movie or art. If it isn’t an overdose, a movie maker’s love for pop may not be too much of a bad thing. For example, in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee generously borrows from several martial art movies. But instead of just borrowing from them, he adds substance to what he has borrowed.
He filled them out with history and friendship and the rituals of devotion and discipleship and, in the end, gave the material the weight and power of myth. Tarantino, using similar material, went in the opposite direction, into pure artifice and hyper-choreographed gesture and fountains-of-blood violence. “Kill Bill Vol. 1” was an unsteady combination of cult-film piety and lurid excess.
Tarantino drew on the solemnity of Japanese genre movies; for instance, when the martial-arts star Sonny Chiba, as the samurai sword maker Hattori Hanzo, presented a gleaming blade to Uma Thurman, the dignity of the ceremony was worthy of the emperor himself. But the rest of “Kill Bill” had nothing to do with serious Japanese themes; it was an American’s spangled riff, and the sword scene sat there awkwardly, like an ancient religious statue deposited in a mall. Another facet of Kill Bill that ought to be noticed is the metafiction that is subtle yet displayed to the cautious viewer. The fighting segment, that occurs between Uma Thurman and Lucy Lui’s men (and women!), lasts for twenty long minutes.
And while it definitely titillates the mind and teases the violence in the viewer, it also doesn’t seem to serve any particular purpose. Except of course to exhibit the rather impressive yet hard-to-believe style of Uma Thurman ? without leaving a stone unturned, Tarantino showcases her violent and extreme style as she goes about chopping off the limbs of nearly a hundred people, and who knows, maybe a few more. The woman with a sword is making a mental image in the mind of the audience. Kill Bill’s metafictional character is derived from the presence of this segment.
The tone of the movie doesn’t try to make the audience believe this is real or accurate. Rather, through its self awareness it mocks the conventions of other ninja death fight scenes like it. Also, through the obvious implication of its foundation being built on these other action movies, it forces the audience to question the validity of action movies as a genre.Kill Bill in a post-modern contextViewers of Kill Bill who loved the movie, and it is obvious that there were quite a few of them, loved it for several reasons.
While some loved it for its sheer gripping story, and some others for its action, there was a section that loved it because it was many movies in one movie. Kill Bill had references to several other important movies and moments in movie history. Nearly everything in Kill Bill operates in part as homage to other films. For instance, the opening credit sequence and music evoke memories of Hong Kong’s legendary Shaw Brother’s films of the 1970s.
Several actors were chosen in part because of their links to famous martial arts stories. In particular, Bill is played by David Carradine of Kung Fu television series fame—even Bill’s flute in Kill Bill is the same instrument Caradine played as Caine in that series. Hatori Hanzo is played by Sonny Chiba—who played several incarnations of that same character in the 1970s series Shadow Warriors / Kage No Gundan; in fact it was Tarantino’s intention that Kill Bill’s Hanzo would essentially be the “100th incarnation” of that same character. And the characters Jonny Mo and Pai Mei are both played by Gordon Liu—of The 36 Chambers of Shaolin fame; there is also an additional significance that some film fans might note in that some of Liu’s early films with Shaw Brothers involved his fighting against the same character Pai Mei that he plays in Kill Bill.
There is thus a certain connoisseurship at work even in the casting. When one begins to notice all the above details, one cannot help but agree that Kill Bill, in its own striking way is definitely post-modern. In many ways, the movie is seen to intentionally tweak the audience’s interest and familiarity in the cinematic world. Quentin Tarantino caters to different audiences in different ways.
He catches the new comer and ensures that the movie is a hit with him or her. On the other hand, he also addresses his audience of connoisseurs with a few memorable delicacies. For this section then, the thrill of the movie lies in these special moments of recognising these delicacies and literally twirling the taste in their mind. Musically adding to Kill Bill Like in any other movie, music plays a pivotal role in the audience’s perception of the story.
In Kill Bill however, the music does more than just that. Tarantino sees to it that the music not only aids the story but tells the story as well. This is seen right from the very beginning of the movie itself. For those of us who may have missed the violence of the title or the dramatic effect of the first few scenes, the song that follows is a distinct announcement of what is bound to happen in the scenes that will follow.
While the first establishing scene shows that violence is an integral part of the movie, the song that follows ? Bang Bang by Sonny Bono is more than just a testament to the content and theme of the movie. This theme is strikingly reiterated in the song that follows and the lyrics as well: “Bang bang, he shot me downBang bang, I hit the groundBang bang, that awful soundBang bang, my baby shot me down.”  It is also interesting to note how Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of the refrain fits in beautifully over here. According to Deleuze and Guattari, the refrain is territorial and has the function of creating safe havens in the chaos of the world.
They distinguish three aspects of the refrain which alternate in various ways. First, they distinguish the refrain as a way to create a stable center, a fragile point in the enormous black hole of chaos. In respect to cinema, one then could say that film music is not just a commentary on or a reflection of the image but rather has the function of calming the audience, the same way that a child whistles in the dark.  Tarantino delivers precisely that effect after he uses the repetitive refrain of Bang, bang… over and over again.
The song itself use those two words within its rhythmic effect, and after that violent beginning, in the words of Deleuze and Guattari, it “calms the audience”, much like how a child would whistle to keep from being afraid of the dark.One of the things for which Tarantino is famous is his juxtapositions: especially his innovative use of music to reinvent otherwise well-established visual narratives, and the use of heightened language or debate in mundane circumstances. The effectiveness of these juxtapositions usually depends on the audience’s knowledge of conventional use. For instance, much of the effect of having flamenco music play over a samurai sword fight (as it does in the final fight in the snow) relies in part on recognizing the dissonance with standard conventions.
However, Tarantino also plays with more widely known themes. In the fight sequence, he does this by juxtaposing stereotypical female gender roles with extremely violent—even sociopath—behaviour. In particular he dresses Gogo as a Japanese schoolgirl (which is also the outfit of a particular sexual fetish) and O-Ren in traditional kimono (which forces a demure, shuffling gait). Thus the violent actions of these female characters—among the most extreme in either film—are used to parody the gender roles themselves.
In conclusion, one has to admit that Kill Bill is more than just a movie. It is an epic of sorts that will remain unforgettable for various reasons ? different audiences will continue to react to it in many ways, its musical brilliance, the stark violence, the blending of cinematic effects with the hybrid anime, all of it will only continue to get noticed, make an impact and leave an indelible mark on the viewer.WORKS CITED 1) T.H.
E.M. Anime Reviews, Kill Bill Vol. 1, 2003.
Retrieved 29 October 2007, <http://www.themanime.org/viewreview.php?id=677 > 2) David Denby, Chopping Block – Kill Bill Vol.
2, The New Yorker. April 2004. 3) A Anderson, ‘Mindful violence: the visibility of power and inner life in Kill Bill’, Jump Cut, vol 47 , 2004, retrieved 29 October 2007 <http://www.ejumpcut.
org/archive/jc47.2005/KillBill/text.html > 4) P. Pisters, ‘The Matrix of Visual Culture: Working with Deleuze in Film Theory’ Stanford University Press, 2003, p.
189.  T.H.E.
M. Anime Reviews, Kill Bill Vol. 1, 2003. Retrieved 29 October 2007, <http://www.
themanime.org/viewreview.php?id=677 > T.H.
E.M. Anime Reviews, Kill Bill Vol. 1, 2003.
Retrieved 29 October 2007, <http://www.themanime.org/viewreview.php?id=677 > David Denby, Chopping Block – Kill Bill Vol.
2, The New Yorker. April 2004. A Anderson, ‘Mindful violence: the visibility of power and inner life in Kill Bill’, Jump Cut, vol 47 , 2004, retrieved 29 October 2007 <http://www.ejumpcut.
org/archive/jc47.2005/KillBill/text.html > Music video is now recognized as a practice increasingly adopted by artists. Singing a refrain – Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of the refrain, explores how narrative plays out in the territory of music video and further in aesthetic sound practices of glitch and micro.
 P. Pisters, ‘The Matrix of Visual Culture: Working with Deleuze in Film Theory’ Stanford University Press, 2003, p.189. A Anderson, ‘Mindful violence: the visibility of power and inner life in Kill Bill’, Jump Cut, vol 47 , 2004, retrieved 29 October 2007 ;http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc47.2005/KillBill/text.html ;;