Going back three years, the story of how Shiki and Mikiya came together unfolds amid a series of brutal murders.
What They Say After spending two years in a coma caused by a traffic accident, Shiki Ryougi awakens with amnesia. Inexplicably, she finds, in turn, that she has also obtained 'Mystic Eyes of Death Perception' in 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 are they a foreshadowing that leads to something even more tragic and ominous? Things are not what they appear to be on the surface, but what dark revelations lie underneath? This is a modern occult-action thriller where Shiki must tackle supernatural incidents with her special abilities while searching for a reason to live.
the Garden of sinners is a stereo-only production and the Blu-ray release for is presented using the uncompressed PCM format. I've long been a fan of PCM stereo presentations and this one, encoded with a bitrate of 2.3mbps, comes across very strongly with its layout and design. The simple things such as the footfalls on the floor or the larger sweeping music moments really shine here and show just how easily immersed into a show you can get with just a stereo design. The opening music piece alone really shines beautifully as it has such a haunting sound to it and there's just an incredible warmth and depth to it that it's almost surprising since few anime shows really seem to get this when they create this kind of production.
Note: Due to operator error, the PCM 5.1 track, encoded at 6.9mbps, was not used when listening to this release. The disc defaults to 2.0 and you have to select the 5.1 for it to play, something we did not check to do since it's not a bilingual release.
Originally released in 2007, 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.
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 how you shouldn't videotape what you're seeing for obvious reasons. Building upon what we saw in the previous pre-show reminder, our favorite girl gets all violent on him...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
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 Mikya. 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 Mikya 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.
In all the years of watching anime, I can't remember seeing a character in a kimono wearing a jacket on top of it. At least as a minor story point to be drawn into things as Shiki wears one because she can't just go in a kimono to school in the rain or winter like that. It's a small piece but one that has stood out big to me as she moves through this story. And these small moments are what defines a lot of this feature as it teases out the story with the murders in the background yet focusing on the relationship between Mikiya and Shiki. And the other Shiki within her. Serving as a flashback that shows how the two came together, it accomplishes its goals very well while still having you want to know much more about the murders and the ties that binds everything together. The feature again holds a lot of promise and potential, but it also delivers on what I wanted the most in creating a haunting and engaging atmosphere that's positively captivating.
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.
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