The murders from four years ago have begun again and Shiki is ready to put it all to rest.
What They Say
Shiki awakes from her coma and starts to live a new life. Meanwhile, a series of murders are occurring after four years of silence. Who is the murderer? The incidents remind her of a murderous impulse hidden inside her soul and SHIKI, her lost alternate persona. While Shiki searches for a suspect, Mikiya also starts an investigation of his own to prove Shiki is innocent. As he follows a lead of a drug dealer, Mikiya comes across Rio Shirazumi, who was a senior at his high school. Mikiya finds out that Rio is the one who sells the drug called "blood chip" and tries to convince him to stop, but he is instead harmed by Rio.
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 2009, 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 which has one of the cutest sequences yet involving Mikiya and Shiki finally getting close to holding hands.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After six installments of Shiki, events have really come around again and again as we've seen different pieces of the puzzle reveal their connections to others. It's been a fascinating if difficult ride at times because of the shift in time to tell the story, but it's also the kind of story that uses pieces from different periods and connects them in ways that surprise since you don't realize the importance of them early on. It's writing and execution like that which continues to makes the Garden of sinners such an engaging watch and one that's wholly worth multiple repeat visits in order to really see how tightly it all comes together.
For the final installment, the show continues with its movement forward by placing us into February 1999, a month after we had seen Azaka standing strongly in her fairy search. Shiki and Mikiya continue to get along well and he's doing his best to get closer and closer to her in the slow but subtle way that feels right to him. There's a certain charm to the way the two spend time together, especially when they're just laying about her positively barren apartment reading manga and the like, but there's a comfort to it that feels just right. Thankfully, you can't cut the sexual tension with a knife since that would take it too far in the wrong direction and it's hard to see Shiki as feeling that way, especially since she gained the Mystic Eyes.
What ends up interrupting their progress is the return of the serial murders from four years prior. That unsolved mystery hasn't exactly become legend, but when several murders start occurring again in a similar fashion, it reopens it all and puts it firmly in the minds of both Shiki and Mikiya. Shiki's intent on figuring out exactly whose behind it but Mikiya can't help but to wonder whether it's her that's subconsciously doing it, drawing back to the time of her other self that only wanted to live in the world of murder. It's an interesting challenger for Mikiya to have to work through because he has to be very delicate in his handling of Shiki because of her ties to it, yet at the same time anything will set her off on him and he can't find the right way to be delicate.
Over the course of the film, there's a good deal of connecting pieces that are introduced to previous installments which alter the flow of how you perceive things. A seemingly throwaway scene earlier involving a young man eating others after his first kill become vitally important here and show show casual words from someone can send them down a very unforeseen path. What really interested me was the scenes involving what happened to Shiki that caused her to end up in the car accident that put her in the hospital for a couple of years, something that Mikiya has felt responsible for. That sequence is revisited a few times here, from a different direction each time with the characters involved, and it adds some really engaging and fascinating layers to it that only heightens the importance of it all to the majority of the series.
What the Garden of sinners continues to come back to time and time again is what it is that really makes Shiki who she is. We've seen her in a few different states over the course of it and after all that's happened, especially with Souren and her other personality, seeing her in 1999 and having very little idea of what really defines her and what made her who she was earlier in it is apparent and key. With the loss of her other self, she's still found a huge need for murder in her heart but it's hard to tell if that's just something left over, guilt or more based on how the two lived and dreamed together for so long. She has a way she wants to be, but isn't quite sure she really can or deserves to be, and it eats at her in small ways until she's pushed by her opponent in this installment that she truly is just a bloodthirsty killer. Seeing her coping with what she's made herself belief for so long and to see the consequences of it makes her a thoroughly engaging character when you look at her development over the course of the for years we've seen her here.
This final pieces focuses heavily on Shiki and the killer that's revealed, but others have a very useful role as well. Azaka is thankfully a minimal character here, mostly used to tie her story to the main piece a little more, and even Touko is reduced a fair but. But she has some key moments here as does Daisuke, which helps to get Mikiya on the right path to helping Shiki. What really fascinated me on the secondary level in this installment is the story of Souren as we see more of what he's done over the four years and the ramifications of it all that impacted other installments. It further pulls the curtain aside for us to see just how intricate his involvement is, both in intentional and unintentional ways. So much of what happens here is simply because of a curiosity he has that he was never able to follow-up on. The magi really needed to have more about them explored, but Souren really manages to be the most fascinating when looked at as a whole over the course of the seven installments.
The end of the Garden of sinners answers a whole lot of questions and really fleshes out some beautiful and key moments from the past so that we know why certain things happened. And because of those events, many other things we've seen leading up to now have occurred because of that, including the main event here. The final episode is haunting in its own way as it focuses on these connections as well as putting Shiki through her paces in trying to get her to realize that she is her own person after all that has happened. This series of films has really surprised me as each one unfolded and you could see how tightly connected they all are, yet it's given such a relatively laid back approach to it all. This is such a powerfully beautiful series of films, rich in animation and emotion, intense in the music and simply stunning as a high definition releases. Each new installment upped the ante and let me feel like I was watching something incredibly special. This is something that will be with me for years and years to come and have me wanting to revisit it regularly to see more of its inner workings. If you're a fan of this, don't miss it if at all possible.
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.