Going backwards in time again, Mikiya spends much of his days watching over the hospitalized and comatose Shiki.
What They Say After spending two years in a coma caused by a traffic accident, Shiki Ryougi awakens with amnesia. One day, Shiki is visited by Touko Aozaki, a wizard and proprietor of a studio called "Garan no Dou." Due to the loss of her alternate personality, Shiki has lost not only any memory of her accident, but also any real sense that she's alive and spends her days as a mere empty shell of herself. Strange, enigmatic beings begin to attack her, trying to take control of her body, now that her soul is hollow. However, one day, she confronts the attackers who've resorted to force and Shiki makes the decision to fight of her own volition.
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 presentations and this one has a stereo mix encoded with a bitrate of 2.3mbps and a 5.1 mix encoded at 6.9mbps which comes across very strongly with its layout and design. 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 how you shouldn't shouldn't eat outside food or eat loudly in the theater. The cast of people watching the movie, and in the movie, is growing nicely and fans of various Type-Moon shows will grin when they see some of their favorites in this form.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
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 back and forth nature of the show in its storytelling can be off-putting at times, but there's a certain fun in trying to put which feature in the proper place so you can see how the ties come together. This one shows off the meeting between Touko and Shiki very well, as well as covering what happened after graduating high school for Mikiya. The quieter nature of the story here really draws you in well by exploring what Shiki is going through with its highs and lows. You really feel for Mikiya, even though his role is slim overall, but seeing Touko establishing such a connection with Shiki hits all the right points. As the midpoint in the run overall, this segment does a very good job of exploring more of the relationships that have formed and the reasons behind it. There are some really neat teases that come into it toward the end that enhance the previous features as well, which in turn provides hints as to what's to come. The Garden of sinners his serving up a thoroughly engaging show.
Features 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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