Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: The Garden of Sinners Collector’s Edition
Anime Studio: Ufotable
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Released: November 25th 2019
Extras: Pre-Show Reminders
Kara no Kyōkai follows the story of Shiki Ryōgi, a teenage girl raised as a demon hunter who acquired the “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception” after surviving a fatal accident. It also chronicles Mikiya Kokutō’s unwavering efforts to get closer to her when they were still high school students and their adventures later on in dealing with supernatural cases as investigators for Tōko Aozaki’s detective agency, Garan no Dou.
Garden of Sinners Collector’s Edition
Rigid art box containing:
36 page colour booklet
4 x double pack amaray with individual sleeve art containing 8 x feature length films.
The Garden of Sinners: Thanatos
The Garden of Sinners: … and nothing heart
The Garden of Sinners: ever cry, never life
The Garden of Sinners: garan-no-dou
The Garden of Sinners: Paradox Paradigm
The Garden of Sinners: Fairy Tale
The Garden of Sinners: … not nothing heart
The Garden of Sinners: the Garden of Sinners Epilogue OVA
So, let’s start with a little history here. The Garden of Sinners is based on a light novel series, written by Type-Moon founder Kinoko Nasu. The series is actually listed as the company’s first production. As such, this is essentially what we got before Canaan and the Fate/Stay series. It also has a loose tie to Type-Moons Tsukihime, which stars a protagonist named Shiki who has the same Mystic Eyes of Death Perception ability.
With all that being said, you may be expecting this to be a supernatural series in a modern setting, that comes packaged with a long, complex plot. If so, you’d be right. The films generally work as standalone movies, but they all tie together really nicely. The characters are mostly dealt with in a realistic manner, even with the crazy supernatural elements at play, and the overarching story is definitely one that’s worth taking the time to understand.
I say taking time in this instance because it’s not particularly straight forward. For one, the films don’t actually tell the story in order for the first half of the set, with film one being fourth in the timeline, two being first, three is third, and four is second. Once you hit the final four discs, things settle into the correct order, but there are still a lot of points to cover in terms of storytelling.
It is worth it though. The key characters are really quite memorable, and the antagonists in each film make excellent foils for them. The designs work really well with the feel the story is going for, with the characters looking grown-up (bar the high school arc), and sporting realistic clothing for their job. This is all accompanied by some superb animation from Ufotable. The first seven films look absolutely stunning throughout, and present a good mix of fluid animation and brutal – but not overused – viscera.
The soundtrack is one of my favourites from recent releases. The music puts me in mind of a mix between Akira and Ghost in the Shell, but rather than sticking with a set tone, it makes shifts to add a horror-esque quality at appropriate moments. I was not surprised to see Yuki Kajiura’s name attached to this element of the release. She composed the soundtrack for the first anime OST CD I ever bought: .Hack//SIGN. In more recent times, you may recognize her work on ERASED, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Sword Art Online. Meanwhile, the voice cast is excellent here, with not one bad performance among them.
The on-disc extras are a series of stop-motion animated shorts that teach you cinema etiquette. Trust me, Shiki does not take kindly to people texting or smoking in the cinema. They’re pretty funny, largely due to the combination of Shiki’s extreme reactions and them being short.
As far as content warnings go, it’s worth noting that the third film opens with a rape scene. I personally found this to be more graphic than the Goblin Slayer one in some respects. Outside this, it’s mostly bloodshed that you need to be aware of.
In terms of the issues I had with the films, there are only two. The first is that the sixth film features one of my most hated tropes: the sister in love with her brother. Here, we have a decent story that sees Shiki investigating a fairy problem at a Catholic High School. Her partner for the case is Mikiya’s little sister, who outright admits to loving her brother. It was an unnecessary character trait that did nothing more than distract from the main story.
The second issue pertains to the final disc. This contains ‘Epilogue’, a twenty-minute OVA set after the events of the seven films. In one way, it’s very good. While nothing more than a long, philosophical conversation between Shiki and Mikiya, it does provide resolution to some things. The problem is, it’s tonally very different from the other seven discs. That creates a strange disconnect and one that’s not helped by the change in art style. The characters and backdrops still look nice, but no longer fit together. The scenery is set in light tones with pure realism in mind, while the characters are brighter, and feature a different shading style to the other films. It’s a shift I wasn’t expecting.
So, how do I rate this one overall? It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but for me, it was well worth watching. Featuring memorable characters, smooth animation, a complex story, and a beautiful soundtrack, The Garden of Sinners is a great release. I give this one 4 out of 5.