Mikiya's life is complicated enough with Shiki and Touko, never mind his younger adopted sister who steps in as a magus in training with this installment of the series.
What They Say
Apprentice mage Azaka Kokutou, Mikiya’s younger sister, has been ordered by her mentor, Touko Aozaki, to investigate a certain incident in which fairies steal the memories of students at Azaka's school, Reien Academy. Azaka launches an investigation with the help of Shiki who can see fairies. As the investigation proceeds, Shiki finds out that Misaya Ouji, a student body president, is the one who controls fairies. However, the mastermind who gave her the power is Satsuki Kurogiri, a magus who controls words. Ironically, thanks to Satsuki’s magic, Shiki remembers that she had encountered Souren Araya and what he had told her two years ago.
This release contains two audio tracks to it with the PCM stereo mix encoded at 2.3mbps and the PCM 5.1 mix encoded at 6.9mbps. I've long been a fan of uncompressed tracks from some Japanese DVD releases, so getting it in this form and at this level of uncompressed is really fantastic. Having listened to the first three episodes in stereo and being quite impressed, listening to this in 5.1 is even more impressive, radically so. The depth and warmth of the music alone is really engaging, especially the vocals which have such a richness to it. The action scenes are much more enveloping in the 5.1 format with the ambient sound effects that creep into it. While the swelling of music makes it seem like much more, there's a lot of extra effects to that material which helps raise the entire soundtrack.
Originally released in 2008, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is encoded with AVC in 1080p. The feature uses a really good looking real world palette to it with some very strong moments of vibrancy that it can be very striking when you come across them. The bit rate counter seems to spend most of its time in the upper thirties, even when there's almost no motion on the screen, and that gives it a very beautiful look. There's a certain softness to some of it in its design, to add to the atmosphere of certain moments, but it avoids looking fuzzy or introducing any unwanted artifacts into it. The design of the feature is wonderfully captured by the encoding here with a rich sense of colors, depth and warmth with a whole lot of beautiful detail.
The main menu here is pretty nicely done with a style to it that's certainly striking. The bulk of the screen has clips playing throughout it, but it's in phases and of different sizes as it cuts across from all directions at different times. It's done in black and white as well, with only some color entering into it further in which makes it all the more eye-catching. The left side has the menu navigation which is also done in simple black and white along with the logo that includes the chapter name. Subtitle selection is quick and easy though the disc does not read player presets and defaults, naturally, to no subtitles at all.
The only extra included here is an absolutely adorable pre-show reminder done in stop animation about... not popping your own popcorn in the theater. It's a little more than that, but using all the in-show jokes with it while seeing characters from other shows mixed in just makes it priceless.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
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.
With the Oblivion Recorder story, the Garden of sinners takes us into the same world once again but asks us to view it from a slightly different angle. The focus on Azaka and putting Shiki in a supporting role is smart at this point after the way she's dominated so much and as others got the spotlight in the lengthy Paradox Spiral installment. There's this feeling that you can classify this installment as something less than the others because of the lighter nature of it at times and because of Azaka's personality and that of the other happy girls that filter in throughout it, but that would be doing it a disservice. Azaka hasn't gone through the pain and grief that Shiki and Mikiya have so she has a different perspective on life. And she excels in the action department as well, with her final fight rivaling anything that Touko and Shiki have done so far when it comes to a truly beautiful and gripping action sequence. There's less here in a sense but giving us some time to spend with Azaka, seeing her relationship with everyone else, really helps cement the show even more. It's a much needed piece that serves to expand and lighten things just the right amount without making it a total comedy piece. It's a hugely appropriate and well placed installment.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, Japanese 5.1 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Subtitles, Pre-Show Message
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.