Death, darkness and the meaning of murder is explored across this eight part series.
What They Say:
After spending two years in a coma due to a traffic accident, Shiki Ryougi awakens with amnesia. In turn, however, she finds that she has also obtained the “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception,” with which she can see the invisible lines of mortality that hold every living and non-living thing together. Working for a small independent agency, Shiki attempts to unravel the baffling mystery behind a series of abnormal, horrifying incidents, but do they foreshadow something even more tragic and ominous?
Things are not what they appear to be on the surface, but what dark revelations lie underneath? Shiki must tackle supernatural incidents with her special abilities while searching for a reason to live.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good overall as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps and in 5.1 which is encoded at 448kbps. While there’s no English dub, it’s welcome that we get both tracks here. But unfortunately, the show starts right off and doesn’t go to the menu first and it defaults to the stereo track, so a lot of people may not even realize there’s a 5.1 track. Both tracks service the show well since a lot of is dialogue driven as well as strong use of ambient sounds and music in order to set the mood. There’s some good placement and depth to it but where both tracks shine is when the action hits and it goes up several notches. It’s a bit more intense with the 5.1 mix in terms of placement, but both tracks work really well here in making the fights engaging, complemented by the music. Each film presents things in a similar way but there’s a lot going on in them and the mixes represent the show well and come across clean and clear with no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released between 2007 and 2011, the transfer for the eight features here is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Each feature gets its own DVD and they rang in run time from 33 minutes to 120 minutes, though the majority of the features are about an hour long. The bit rate is pretty consistently high and it’s helpful since there’s a rich visual quality here. The first feature is a bit soft as presented but as they go on, it gets sharper and more vibrant looking, particularly as the scenarios change. The series of features has a very moody atmosphere about it an largely plays out at night or interior locations, so it works a lot of dark colors that hold up well without a lot of noise in the background. The transfer definitely draws in the source the best that it can but it does hit some of the limits of the format, but not to the detriment of the presentation.
This limited edition release of the feature series brings all eight features together in one box set. The box is a decent chipboard type, not really thick but not paper thin, that’s all done in black. The front panel has an embossed version of the moon in black that’s really nicely done as it has the series logo overlayed on top of it. The back panel has a large full color shot of Shiki that’s framed in silver which looks fantastic here. Inside the box we get eight digipak style cases with each feature getting its own piece. They cases are all done in black but the front panels each have a gorgeous different piece of artwork related to the feature at hand. They’re all really beautiful pieces of artwork. The back panels are all black with just a technical grid along the bottom with a brief bit of legalese and assorted symbols. Opening up the cases reveals just the disc on the right while the left has an all black design with just the logo along the lower right.
Also included in the box is a gorgeous full color booklet. The first few pages delves into the story, breaking each of the features down in a good way while tying together some of the time line aspects of it. Two pages are given over to showcasing the eight directors of the features and their work which is nice to see given some space. The rest of it is filled with lots and lots of gorgeous artwork as it shows off the various Japanese theatrical poster artwork and the DVD and Blu-ray covers. The set also comes with one other gorgeous extra int hat there’s a package of postcards. Inside it we get fourteen glossy full color pieces that are just striking and vibrant. It’s the kind of things that you definitely pick and choose to frame and have them out on display.
The menu design for the release is decent, though you have to use the pop-up menu to get to it as the disc starts right into the show after the locked logos and warnings. The menu is done with a black background and a selection of small clips playing across it that build the moody nature of it fairly well. The top has the logo which is kept simple while the navigation along the bottom has a clean and easy look to it. Navigation is quick and problem free as you move about with sub-menus loading without problem. The show defaults to the stereo Japanese track and with subtitles on.
The only extras included in this release are the pre-show theatrical warnings which are tied to each feature. These are short overall but are hilarious and great little bits to have included in the release again.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the works by the people who eventually became Type-Moon, the Garden of Sinners is a multi-part murder mystery where each feature is essentially a new chapter in it. The original works were part of a doujinshi that gained a lot more attention after Type-Moon was created and the original works even showed up on a Tsukihime specials disc that was released earlier in the decade. With the growing popularity of it, and of Type-Moon itself, creating something serious, dark and fascinating certainly sounded up their alley for a series of features that are spread across the seven volumes that tell the tale.
Titled as “Thanatos” and also as the “overlooking view” chapter, the opening feature sets us into this world with exactly that kind of mindset, to step back and look at the larger picture and to, as one of the characters says, see how even a mundane and pedestrian landscape can look amazing from the distance. The feature introduces us to Shiki, a young woman who has a prosthetic arm and is also someone with some spiritual ability, and Touko, a puppeteer who handles fixing Shiki’s hand but also provides something of the dialogue portion of their relationship as she’s always talking. And the talk this time around is about the number of school girls that are committing suicide in similar yet different ways across the area, throwing themselves to death with no notes and seemingly no rhyme or reason for it that the police can discern.
This opening chapter deals with two stories of sorts as it gets us acquainted with the main characters of the story. The subplot story involves Shiki’s friend Mikiya who we see at the start spends time with her at her very bare place by bringing strawberry ice cream to her and just hanging out. When we see him next, he’s not exactly in his mind as he sits on the couch at Touko’s office and just watches TV, though that’s there more seemingly to try and draw him out of it than for him to actually watch it. The problem of his condition isn’t made clear, but it eventually comes together more as we see the main storyline itself play out. The relationship between Mikiya and Shiki is one of the points that has potential for being interesting and instrumental to the show as it progresses, but here it’s a curiosity more than anything else.
The main storyline that takes place through here though involves the Fujou buildings that Shiki ends up running to when she has the feeling that someone is about to die. She makes it there too late, resulting in a chilling scene of someone falling to their death behind her, but it’s the discovery she needs as there are quite a few souls that are inhabiting these old and abandoned buildings. Shiki’s attempts at dealing with them is the main action point of the chapter and it’s beautifully done as she falls through on it the first time but then comes back with an improved puppet arm for herself and a sense of determination that carries her through a very attractive sequence. The story of what’s going on with these spirits, and the one that seems to have more about her, is dealt with in the aftermath and it’s the kind of leisurely yet creepy piece that helps to define what kind of series this is going to be like.
Like other Type-Moon shows, there’s a definite sense of style about it here. The visuals for it are very important as it’s used to built up the atmosphere. The backgrounds are really beautiful, especially when it focuses on the Fujou buildings and how they’re so worn down and falling apart. You can feel the age and lack of neglect in the designs so well that it’s almost hypnotic. Combining that with the sunset colors applied to it and it’s even more beautiful. Most of what we get here is very slow, very deliberate in creating the atmosphere it wants to have, but when it moves into action mode, it shines even more. The rooftop battle is very engaging to watch and the use of colors and camera direction really makes it an exciting sequence that helps to show a direction that the show can go in at any point.
……and nothing heart.
After the observation chapter, also known as the Thanatos chapter, the Garden of sinners gets underway with a main chapter entitled, “The Study of Murder, Part 1.” This chapter has us going back in time a bit as Shiki and Mikiya meet for the first time in 1995, three years prior to what we saw in Thanatos. Taking us to the their high school careers as they go through the entrance ceremony, the Shiki has definitely caught Mikiya’s eye as he finds himself drawn to her, both outside of school where he first met her in the snow but also in school, where she’s the only one wearing a kimono to the ceremony. Shiki’s expressionless face is one that can attract your eye, especially when so many of the kids there seem to be wide-eyed and excited.
With this shift back in time, there are a few stories that are being told that intertwine with each other. The first one is watching the way that Shiki and Mikiya, who she does continue to call by his last name of Kokutou throughout it, become closer and closer over the course of the school year. Mikiya is attracted to her from the start in a way he can’t quite place, though he’s certainly not alone as many others are as well. He does manage to get as close to her as anyone can, lone wolf that she is, and those small moments are very noticeable to others to the extent that they think the two are actually dating when it’s really just a mostly friendly relationship. He wants something more, but is fairly patient about it because he senses there’s something about her.
While this unfolds, the second element to the feature is made apparent as there are two sides to Shiki. We’ve seen much of her normal cool and aloof self as she goes through her school days and the training her father puts her through with kendo, but there’s something else to her that ends up meeting with Mikiya on several occasions. Another Shiki inside of her that is more open, a bit more aggressive and a lot plainer in her style of speech with him. She invites Mikiya out for what’s essentially a date but it’s more to make somewhat subtle inferences about her true nature to him to try and get him to understand. It’s an interesting series of conversations as you try to pick up on the small differences at first between the two and understand which one is which.
What ties all of this together in the background at first and then larger as time goes on is that of a series of murders that are taking place over the city. The murders are brutal as bodies are pulled apart and put together again in different ways in some cases, but it’s a series of killings that have similar threads to them and we see Shiki around many of those bodies in a way that shows that she may have been the one to do it. For at least some of them. There’s a brutal scene where Mikiya even comes across her as a body still has blood spraying from it. The murder investigation is dealt with from Shiki’s perspective at times but also from a detective named Daisuke who is related to Mikiya. It brings some close ties to events as it all comes together and adds an intriguing layer to the storyline.
Much like the first chapter, the atmosphere of the Garden of sinners is a huge part of the show. It works to create such a slow piece of tense material through the use of music, backgrounds and still moments that it’s a real visual treat to get into. An early scene with Mikiya and Shiki standing outside the school as the rain falls is such a beautiful piece of work as it focuses on the various backgrounds and the small bit of music to bring it all together that it leaves quite the impression. Shiki’s house being outside of a bamboo forest is just as intense to watch, whether it has Mikiya just walking along the path or the frantic race through it later on. The details, the color and the fluid nature of the animation really takes this chapter to another level after an already very impressive first one. The visual design of the Garden of sinners has completely won me over again and then some with this chapter.
ever cry, never life.
The third chapter of the Garden of sinners unfolds a few years after the flashback episode we had with the second chapter as Mikiya is fully engaged in his work for Touko. Or as engaged as can be as she just blew all the money she’s made recently on a vintage Victorian Ouija board and can’t pay him or herself at this point. So he’s off to find himself a little money to be made to tide him over for the duration while Touko ends up accepting a job she’d rather not. A grisly series of murders occurred the night before in an abandoned bar which lead to numerous men being killed. Shiki’s pretty much eager to take this on, as eager as she can be, as she feels that the person she’ll have to confront is just like her in the end.
Crossed paths is the initial theme of the feature at this point as Mikiya had come across a young woman named Fujino on his way home the night before. She wasn’t feeling right and in a type of pain, so he helped her out and even took her back to his place so she could collect herself. What he didn’t know is that the woman was being taken advantage of in that bar just before then and was the root cause for the murders that Shiki would be investigating the next day. Fujino, who is also a friend of Mikiya’s sister, is in a strange place where she can’t seem to feel pain and isn’t able to connect well to the world. The only time she can feel like others is when she’s brutally killing them through a form of telekinesis, turning their bodies all which way. Her lack of feeling pain goes back to her childhood in a truly disturbing scene for any parent to see, but it highlights her issue plainly in a simple way.
Where Mikiya comes back into play with it as Shiki goes about her hunt is that the friend he goes to get some money from is looking for a friend of his named Keita who went missing that they knew back in school. Mikiya’s life since college is touched on a bit here, giving us a clue as to the relationship with his parents and the fact that he dropped out of college after the car accident, and it helps to more clearly define the place he’s in with his life. His helping his friend fits in with his personality, but it puts him on the path of finding one of the men involved in the raping of Fujino, though he ended up escaping the brutal violence that occurs when she cuts loose upon feeling pain. Keita’s telling of what happened is chilling as we see filtered events from it playing out with the bodies coming apart, the amount of blood as well as the raping of Fujino herself.
As the story progresses forward, the investigation into what Fujino is all about is explored, at first with Shiki going after her and then with a look at Fujino’s past itself and what it all means. There’s an interesting exploration of what pain is and the way her life has been while living like this. I really liked that Touko took a more central role in this story as she eventually works closely with Mikiya to try and find both Shiki and Fujino before things end up going towards a really bad conclusion. There’s an interesting relationship that’s slowly revealed between the two young women as the blood flows freely while they go through the hunt.
While the first two chapters were fairly mellow and atmospheric in its storytelling, with really only one action sequence in each of them, a good amount of this feature is given over to the action itself. Shiki hunts Fujino at first but finds that she’s not worth the time. When things change and she goes after her again, it becomes more bloody on both their parts and Shiki really gets into it. Because of the nature of their abilities, it isn’t a hugely choreographed fight scene like we’ve seen before, but it’s a piece that really puts things out there with the destruction that’s caused all while making sure that the atmosphere of it all, the backgrounds, music and intensity of emotions that need to be felt, is fully there. It’s very different from previous instances but at the same time it shares so many similarities that it’s very easy to be drawn to it and be on the edge of your seat wondering how it will turn and twist next.
the Garden of sinners takes an interesting turn with the fourth movie, entitled The Hollow Shrine, as it goes back in time to when Mikiya was in high school still with Shiki. It opens up to her being raced into the hospital, comatose and bloody, with Mikiya waiting patiently outside. For Shiki, her time is spent in a void inside her head as she deals with what’s happened. For Mikiya, he continues to visit her regularly, bringing flowers each time, as he finishes out his high school life and then begins to work for Touko after accepting a job with her through a phone interview. Mikiya’s life is moving on to the next phase, but there’s a sense that he can’t really do so until Shiki is back in the realm of the aware. But until then, he’s doing his best to get things moving as best as he can.
Shiki’s recovery is interesting and certainly surprising to the medical staff as two years have passed. She doesn’t remember much of anything from before and what she sees now is frightening to her. Her sight is normal but she sees ragged and jagged red lines across many things and people that flash brightly, leaving her confused and frightened. The combination of the two quickly pushes her over the edge and has the medical staff finding themselves incapable of helping her psychological recovery. Enter Touko to save the day, as she takes on the job of helping Shiki recover from her aphasia, though they both know that’s not what’s really going on. With Mikiya having been working for her for the last few years, Touko has figured out what’s really going on as she reveals to Shiki that she’s truly a magus and is there to help. Though it’s not the magus abilities that Shiki needs, but rather the human connection as she’s feeling empty. It’s a brutal time for Shiki, but also for Mikiya as he’s spent the last two years visiting constantly, so much so that the nurses continue to be very impressed by him and admire him greatly for it.
Much of the episode is given over to the psychological side, though it comes down to a lot of talking between Touko and Shiki as Touko tries to draw her out. Shiki has undergone a traumatic experience and is walking that line between not living but not wanting to die. Touko’s exploration of what happened, going into some detail about the way the male form of herself inside (which is named SHIKI in the subtitles, while spoken it’s Shiki-kun, something I wish had been kept) sacrificed himself in order to save her during the time she spent in the void getting closer to death. That time has given her the power that her eyes now have, which sees the seams in everything, and is something that Touko tells her that she can teach her how to control and use.
With Mikiya relatively kept out of the picture here, the focus on Touko and Shiki together works exceptionally well. It’s a very muted series of discussions over time as Touko is trying to get her on the right path to see that there are options in front of her, though having seen the other episodes you know there’s a selfish motive of trying to get someone with Shiki’s abilities to work for her. The back and forth between the two, with the majority of it spent in the hospital room with Shiki in bed, makes for a quiet yet surprisingly tense feature that keeps you thoroughly engaged, wondering where the verbal sparring will go next and what twists it might take.
Because of its nature, I wasn’t sure of there would be any action to be had in this segment, but they find a way to make it work. Having Shiki realize her true potential, or at least get a taste of the fact that she can find a purpose with what she can call a life, is very well done as she has to deal with the threat being made to her when she’s so very precariously walking between wanting to live and wanting to die. The fight isn’t exactly intense in the way that we saw in the previous features, but with Touko being actively involved in it and using her magus abilities, we get a nice taste of what she has to offer. The fight works more in regards to the emotional context with Shiki’s true awakening.
The fifth installment of the Garden of sinners is a curious one as it’s twice as long as what we’ve had before, clocking in at just under two hours. While the previous installments have managed to use their time well, presenting a very distinctive atmosphere in which to tell a very precisely laid out story, doubling the time could lead it to being more leisurely in what it wants to do, and thereby losing the viewer along the way because it doesn’t get there. Some shows can pull this off well though and based on what we’ve seen in the first four chapters, there’s a plan with everything that goes on here.
Thankfully, what the show does is essentially split it in half to tell the story, with the first part being Shiki’s arc and the second being Mikiya’s arc. The first part introduces us to Tomoe, a young man who is on the run after killing his parents in their condo unit and is now waiting to see what happens. While he expects to become celebrity news, he has to first escape some teenage moneylenders he’s run afoul of who want their money back. The chase leads him down the wrong alley where he’s got to fight his way out, but it’s Shiki who arrives and gives him an assist. She pretty much takes him in after that, though it’s more just offering him a place to hang his hat so to speak while he figures out what it is he wants to do. Through this, the two of them get closer in a simple but very platonic way that’s far more charming for Shiki.
To Tomoe’s surprise, the double murders he’s committed haven’t made the news, though there is a confusing scene about the police taking note of it. The weeks go on and he continues to hang out there at night, eating the ice cream that Shiki doesn’t like, and spending his days walking around. What becomes chilling about Shiki’s arc is that we get to the truth of why Tomoe killed his parents, something at home that had built up to be very intense and destructive, which has Shiki telling him he needs to return there to see what’s really going on after he catches sight of his mother walking down the street one afternoon. Like previous installments, there’s a fascinating piece of supernatural design at work here that ties into things from before. While it does lead to a rather intense and thrilling action scene for Shiki, it’s largely a psychological piece that pulls at different things until it comes together, leaving you at a very frustrating cliffhanger.
The flip side of it deals with Mikiya and Touko who are drawn in to investigate the residence which is something that is really beautifully design. Mikiya’s research reveals a lot about it but what it comes down to is that it was designed with magic in mind as the two halves of the moon shaped building are very distinct and part of a larger experiment. Mikiya’s difficult in grasping it is understandable, especially with the oblique way that Touko talks about it at times, but a lot of what goes on in this part deals heavily with a larger game that Touko is playing with Souren as well as Alba, another magi who has some serious issues over how powerful he is compared to Touko and plans and plots to show that he’s far more powerful. But mixed into all of it is a search for something calling the Vortext Radix, which is tied to Shiki and her eyes which makes her a key part to things.
Seeing the story play out from two sides over the first half of the feature works really well as it builds up things appropriately and then starts to show you the ties that bind them together. Everyone comes across very well here as they add much to the storyline as a whole. Shiki comes across as more human than before but her initial fight against Souren is powerful visually and for its meaning. Tomoe’s discovery of the truth of what happened is soul crushing, particularly since he has to not only watch it play out but see the full results of it after a fair bit of time has passed. Mikiya makes out pretty good too as we see more of his concerns for Shiki shown clearly but also because his level of skill as an investigator is becoming clearer, something that definitely helps Touko when it comes to her own job.
The intriguing side is seeing more of these other magi and the kinds of things that they’ve created. Souren’s experiment with the apartment complex truly is fascinating in its own right, but even more so as we start to learn more about him and his past, which figures heavily into his goals. Souren has such a presence about him that when he gets to shine here, and he does, it’s brutally impressive. Alba is certainly the mirror of him in a lot of ways as he’s more flamboyant and unsure of himself, though he seems as though he has far greater power overall. The layers to both Alba and Souren add a lot to everything and colors the previous ones we’ve seen as well. There’s a beauty and a brutality to all of the magi related material here and both of these characters exhibit it in different ways.
the Garden of sinners spends its first half in a very intriguing way and then builds on it by going in a few different directions in the second half. The combination of characters and how they interact keeps it pretty fluid and adds new nuances to it as more things are revealed. Tomoe in particular comes across very well in this, much more so than I expected, as his role is one that you expect to be rather pat and simple. Yet there’s a good deal of depth added to him here and his emotions, fears and so forth all help to make him a far more interesting character than he would be in another show. And thankfully his demeanor helps to offset the utter nuttiness of Alba. While Souren is a character that I can figure out and understand in his own pained way, Alba is so far around the bend that watching his actions, especially when he’s in pursuit of Mikiya, it’s full of surreal moments.
After the fairly sizable events of the previous chapter, it’s really not all that surprising that the Garden of sinners wants to go for something a bit more comedic and mild this time around, though not without its serious and intense moments. Taking place a few months after the events with Souren and Alba at the condominium complex, this story focuses on Mikiya’s younger sister who is not related to him by blood. Azaka makes it clear from the start she loves her brother, but not in that way, and is simply interested in making sure he lives a good life and is happy. Because of the way their feelings are, she’s made sure to go to a school somewhat far away so as to no serve as a distraction for him.
So when she returns to his place in the city and discovers Shiki there in the room with him, she’s positively shocked. But with her positive attitude, she decides that she’s going to place Shiki in the rival category and will outdo her completely. It’s an admirable goal and one she takes surprisingly far by even becoming an apprentice to a magus, Touko no less, and doing fairly well there. What she finds herself involved in at this point, after all the mild info dump material we get, is a mission for Touko in that she has to take down another magus using only fairies. What makes it an unenviable task for her is that Touko has sent along Shiki to help out since she has the eyes, like Touko, to be able to see such things. While she’s not happy about it, she works rather well with her in their opening piece in trying to figure out a story about fairies attacking a particular class several years ago, one that Touko has a connection with, and working from there.
The investigation into what happened in that class with Kaori Tachibana going off kilter in the second semester and starting to thin out and talking about seeing fairies has a fairly layered approach to it. The incident, which plays out partially early on, shows us her running out of class and then being told that the building burned down afterward. There’s several possibilities for what’s going on with who the magus is that’s controlling the fairies, then and now, as Shiki is seeing these very curious and interestingly designed creatures. They avoid the modern sense of what fairies should look like and go with something that definitely feels more rooted in magic and the supernatural.
This installment definitely has a different flavor overall compared to the other ones and it’s rather welcome at this point as more of the same would have been problematic after what the Paradox Spiral installment provided. The focus on Azaka here, with Shiki in a good supporting role, has some very positive elements to it. She has more of an outgoing style than Mikiya or Shiki do, a certain type of whimsy in a sense, that lets her shine in her own way without seeming like just another one like all the rest. She’s definitely distinctive in her own right and her approach to the action sequence is certainly not how Mikiya would approach it for example. What becomes important in this episode is the same as what we saw before with the atmosphere and music to it all, but there is what feels like a good deal more investigation and dialogue about everything that allows it to unfold in a different manner.
……and nothing heart.
After six installments of Shiki, events have really come around again and again as we’ve seen different pieces of the puzzle reveal their connections to others. It’s been a fascinating if difficult ride at times because of the shift in time to tell the story, but it’s also the kind of story that uses pieces from different periods and connects them in ways that surprise since you don’t realize the importance of them early on. It’s writing and execution like that which continues to makes the Garden of sinners such an engaging watch and one that’s wholly worth multiple repeat visits in order to really see how tightly it all comes together.
For the final installment, the show continues with its movement forward by placing us into February 1999, a month after we had seen Azaka standing strongly in her fairy search. Shiki and Mikiya continue to get along well and he’s doing his best to get closer and closer to her in the slow but subtle way that feels right to him. There’s a certain charm to the way the two spend time together, especially when they’re just laying about her positively barren apartment reading manga and the like, but there’s a comfort to it that feels just right. Thankfully, you can’t cut the sexual tension with a knife since that would take it too far in the wrong direction and it’s hard to see Shiki as feeling that way, especially since she gained the Mystic Eyes.
What ends up interrupting their progress is the return of the serial murders from four years prior. That unsolved mystery hasn’t exactly become legend, but when several murders start occurring again in a similar fashion, it reopens it all and puts it firmly in the minds of both Shiki and Mikiya. Shiki’s intent on figuring out exactly whose behind it but Mikiya can’t help but to wonder whether it’s her that’s subconsciously doing it, drawing back to the time of her other self that only wanted to live in the world of murder. It’s an interesting challenger for Mikiya to have to work through because he has to be very delicate in his handling of Shiki because of her ties to it, yet at the same time anything will set her off on him and he can’t find the right way to be delicate.
Over the course of the film, there’s a good deal of connecting pieces that are introduced to previous installments which alter the flow of how you perceive things. A seemingly throwaway scene earlier involving a young man eating others after his first kill become vitally important here and show show casual words from someone can send them down a very unforeseen path. What really interested me was the scenes involving what happened to Shiki that caused her to end up in the car accident that put her in the hospital for a couple of years, something that Mikiya has felt responsible for. That sequence is revisited a few times here, from a different direction each time with the characters involved, and it adds some really engaging and fascinating layers to it that only heightens the importance of it all to the majority of the series.
What the Garden of sinners continues to come back to time and time again is what it is that really makes Shiki who she is. We’ve seen her in a few different states over the course of it and after all that’s happened, especially with Souren and her other personality, seeing her in 1999 and having very little idea of what really defines her and what made her who she was earlier in it is apparent and key. With the loss of her other self, she’s still found a huge need for murder in her heart but it’s hard to tell if that’s just something left over, guilt or more based on how the two lived and dreamed together for so long. She has a way she wants to be, but isn’t quite sure she really can or deserves to be, and it eats at her in small ways until she’s pushed by her opponent in this installment that she truly is just a bloodthirsty killer. Seeing her coping with what she’s made herself belief for so long and to see the consequences of it makes her a thoroughly engaging character when you look at her development over the course of the for years we’ve seen her here.
This final pieces focuses heavily on Shiki and the killer that’s revealed, but others have a very useful role as well. Azaka is thankfully a minimal character here, mostly used to tie her story to the main piece a little more, and even Touko is reduced a fair but. But she has some key moments here as does Daisuke, which helps to get Mikiya on the right path to helping Shiki. What really fascinated me on the secondary level in this installment is the story of Souren as we see more of what he’s done over the four years and the ramifications of it all that impacted other installments. It further pulls the curtain aside for us to see just how intricate his involvement is, both in intentional and unintentional ways. So much of what happens here is simply because of a curiosity he has that he was never able to follow-up on. The magi really needed to have more about them explored, but Souren really manages to be the most fascinating when looked at as a whole over the course of the seven installments.
the Garden of sinners.
With the final entry, which was released as an OVA since it clocks in at just thirty minutes, we get a piece that’s far more dialogue driven overall than what we had before. It revisits some of the particular beauty that we got earlier in the series, with Mikiya making his way up the snowy hill with the beautiful light of the city on it where he comes across Shiki. Or rather, the emptyness that’s between Shiki and SHIKI, the quiet aspect of everything. With the series having delved into the different aspects of the main two Shiki characters, coming back to this familiar place is yet isn’t familiar for her, but it’s a necessity as she knew that Mikiya would end up there eventually and that they would have a meaningful conversation like this. The makeup of Shiki in her forms is quite fascinating, but one that definitely resonates better when seeing the series of a whole.
With a discussion on intelligence, personality and where everything is derived, it goes into some pretty ages old philosophical moments but with the twist of having someone who has had three different people inside of one vessel. That brings a different kind of perspective to it, but also the knowledge of what other mages have done over the years when it comes to trying to free the mind from the vessel and what those results are. It’s the kind of discussion that’s definitely an unusual way to close out the series overall, but with the way its presented, the way the two of them talk about it and how the whole visual design of it is done with the sky and snow, it’s a surreal kind of moment where such discussions really feel appropriate and illuminating. It has a strange mixture of sadness and hope to it that fits better than one might think and seeing these two, after all that has been said and done in the four years since they met at this spot, is the kind of epilogue that the story deserves. And is ambiguous enough to engage as well.
The Garden of Sinners is a series that really blew me away the first time I saw it and it holds up even better the second time around. Taking in the details, the connections and the time frames more, you see just how well it’s all woven together and some of the meanings of it all in a different light. The DVD edition gives us a very, very good looking release overall as it uses the format to the fullest with the bitrate maxed out for the video in order to drive home the visual quality. This is a series that similar to my first experience is one that I found works beautifully if you watch each chapter separately and just curl up in the dark and let it all soak in. There are beautiful high points of action and some fascinating dialogue driven pieces. The stories are varied and some of the more creative ones are thoroughly engaging and yet creepier than you might think on first blush. The first time I saw this, it made a huge impression on me. This just reinforces it and is the kind of work that falls in that tiny percent of absolute must-see material.
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, “Theater Pre-show Reminder” Video
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 13th, 2012
Running Time: 532 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.