The original Japanese release ran for two 30-minute episodes. However, subsequent releases, including all three DVD releases in the United States, have edited the OVA into a 60-minute anime film.
Kite revolves around a schoolgirl named Sawa who is orphaned in her early teens. Her parents are the victims of a gory double murder. When the film opens Sawa is on a date with a celebrity, but he begins yelling at an old lady, who had rebuked him for promiscuous ways, being on a date with such a young girl. Sawa kills him, and the old lady dies of a heart attack sometime later, after feeling around for her glasses in the bloody aftermath. The detectives investigating the crime, Akai and Kanie, are her guardians. Akai has had a sexual relationship with Sawa for the duration of his guardianship. Akai also gave her a pair of crystal earrings, each one allegedly containing the blood of one of her parents.
Sawa is an assassin, who the corrupt detectives make kill an alleged rapist of young girls. Subsequently, over the years, she kills whomever she is ordered to, including corrupt police officers and corporate fat cats. Sawa's assassinations are famous among the police for her use of special bullets that explode inside the body after piercing the skin.
Eventually, Sawa meets a fellow assassin named Oburi, who is of a similar age, and a bond quickly forms between them. Due to their relationship, Sawa slowly gains the emotional strength to escape from her guardians to set out on her own. Oburi is leaving Akai and Kanie's service after killing three more targets, but Akai orders Sawa to kill Oburi instead of letting him go. Realizing that Sawa has the drop on him, Oburi tells her that Akai and Kanie were the ones who murdered her parents, but Sawa reveals that she has known that for years. She lets Oburi live and goes to take out her next target. The bodyguards of this target nearly kill her in a struggle in the men's restroom. During it, she loses one of her earrings and sustains several minor injuries. When Oburi shows up alive, Kanie sends him after a corrupt district attorney, but the man is actually a SWAT officer, who nearly kills Oburi before Sawa arrives and saves him. Oburi confronts Akai and tells him that he and Sawa are both leaving, but Akai overpowers and savagely beats him. Sawa comes to Oburi's rescue again but is captured by Akai and Kanie. Akai appears to decide that just killing Oburi isn't enough, and after Akai says "Sawa, thank me", the screen cuts to black. When Kanie drags Oburi off afterward, Akai tells Sawa he's impressed with the depth of her plan to kill Oburi, saying that he almost believed her act. He tells her where Kanie is going to kill Oburi and that he is looking forward to finding Oburi's body. Sawa then leaves, saying she has an exam the next day.
The next morning, Akai arrives at a murder scene. He draws back the covering over the body and flinches when he sees it is Kanie. One of the crime scene investigators reminds him that the body's location is where a double murder occurred several years prior, when the parents of a teenage girl were killed. Akai then goes to where Kanie had been taking Oburi to confront him, but instead finds Sawa, who shoots him in the right hand and groin before emptying the magazines of both her and Oburi's guns into the rest of his body. She tosses both guns into the sewer, then removes her remaining earring and discards it as well.
Before Oburi and Sawa can reunite, Oburi is shot by another presumed child assassin – perhaps coincidentally a girl whose basketball he had destroyed near the beginning of the movie in response to an insult – and most likely the assassin Akai was talking about after raping Sawa for the last time. The scene changes to Sawa at Oburi's loft in an abandoned building, waiting patiently for his return. There is the sound of a footstep and a creaking floorboard, and Sawa turns her head to look at the source of the noise before the screen goes black.
First released in 1998, Kite is controversial in its depiction of extreme gory violence and sexual content, including graphic rape scenes involving a very young Sawa (which is only shown in the uncut version of the film). The DVD description states: "College student by day, vigilante by night, Sawa protects the innocent and mercilessly kills criminals in this intense Japanese anime."
Subsequently, the OVA has been released three times in the United States, each with less censorship than the last (with the most recent release being reputedly uncensored).
Kite was also banned in many countries. Kite is banned in Norway due to scenes in the film being considered "child pornography" which is a criminal offence in Norway. However, a censored version is available. It is considered an anime cult classic by some fans.
Two versions were initially released: the "Original Version" (rated 16-Up), which does not include sex scenes and the adults-only "Director's Cut" version (rated 18-Up), which contains nearly 15 additional minutes of unreleased footage, making it 60 minutes in total. This Director's Cut version removed some scenes found in the original Japanese release such as few shots of sexual contact between Akai and Sawa. A third release, labeled "Uncut", contains Kite in its original Japanese version. All contain every violent scene in the film, but the general release and Netflix versions only contains a scene featuring a mature Sawa naked at the end and brief nudity. The other two contain scenes of extremely graphic sexuality and graphic nudity. This film was re-released on DVD in 2008 entitled Kite Remastered (16-Up version), and Kite Remastered: Special Edition (18-Up version) to coincide with the release of the sequel Kite Liberator. The special edition version of Kite Remastered still has the same footage from the Director's Cut version with some scenes omitted. Kite is available now on Netflix along with Kite Liberator for a limited time as part of Media Blasters' deal. Like the general release, Kite on Netflix has few sex scenes omitted from the film.
A sequel entitled Kite Liberator features a different cast of characters including a new character named Monaka Noguchi, and two returning characters such as Oburi who now works as a police officer under the name Rin Gaga and Sawa with her different appearance. It was released on April 8, 2008 in the United States and Japan and bundled with Kite: Director's Cut. Kite Liberator along with Kite were released in December 2013 on Netflix.
A live action adaptation of Kite was reported to be in various stages of pre-production for several years, with American film director Rob Cohen attached as either director or producer. The content of the live action film is expected to be toned down from the original OVA. On September 2, 2011, David R. Ellis took the helm for the remake. On December 17, 2012 Samuel L. Jackson announced that he was the first to join the cast of Ellis's Kite, with filming taking place in Johannesburg. The film, which takes place in a post-financial collapse corrupt society, follows a girl who tries to track down her father's killer with help from his ex-partner. On February 3, 2013, Ralph Ziman took over as director of the film after Ellis died on January 7, 2013; actors India Eisley and Callan McAuliffe subsequently joined the cast. On May 10, 2013, The Weinstein Company acquired worldwide distribution rights for Kite, with a release date of August 25, 2014.
Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies called the anime a "shocking story of violence, abuse and perverted self-justification".
Kill Bill writer and director Quentin Tarantino recommended Kite as part of actress Chiaki Kuriyama's preparations for her role as Gogo Yubari in the first film.
Several scenes in the music video directed by Hype Williams for the song "Ex-Girlfriend" by No Doubt are based on Kite.
The Velvet Acid Christ song "Pretty Toy" samples one of Akai's lines from the English dub.