Shiki, Mikiya and Touko find themselves drawn into a layered and disturbing story that explores the magi and what Souren's plans may be.
What They Say Shiki meets a boy named Tomoe Enjou, a runaway who claims to be a murderer. Shiki allows Tomoe to use her apartment as his hideout. And from that day onward, their strange cohabitation begins. But then one day, Tomoe sees his mother whom he's sure he's killed. Shiki and Tomoe head for the Enjou residence in the Ogawa Complex where the two see Tomoe's parents alive! There Shiki encounters a mage named Souren Araya and finds that he is the mastermind behind all of the incidents involving her up to then. Shiki finds herself trapped within spirals of paradox. And this is only the beginning of a vicious plot by Souren Araya, the powerful sorcerer and archrival of Touko.
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 signal boundaries when it comes to your phone. Mikiya's reaction when the ringing starts as he's next to Shiki and she glares at him is priceless.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
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.
With this installment, the Garden of sinners really outdoes itself with what it tries to do. While we do have something that feels familiar to shows like Twilight Zone, taken much further of course, it really carves out its own identity through the characters that are involved and the sheer beauty of the animation and atmosphere of it all. There's so many layers that are worked through here for several characters with all of it being interconnected in ways that may be obvious but still thrill and excite nonetheless. Twists are definitely to be had here and the expansion on characters like Souren and Touko really help to make this all that much more fascinating. And at the same time, it has you wanting to go back again to the previous installments to see how these events color your interpretation of it, which is a very good sign in my book. This show continues to defy expectations with each new installment and I fall more and more in love with it.
Features Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, Japanese 5.1 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Subtitles, Pre-Show Message
Review Equipment 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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