Garden Of Sinners Collector’s Edition (Cert 18)
8 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 540 minutes approx.
This movie collection based on the light novel series by Kinoko Nasu about a young woman who can see death fighting off evil beings in 1990’s Tokyo has already been released in the UK by MVM back in 2014 and originally reviewed by yours truly HERE. However, this re-release sees the series get the HD treatment in a Blu-ray collection, featuring the seven feature (ish) length films and bonus epilogue OVA episode.
Since I have already gone into detail regarding the plot and story discussion of Garden Of Sinners in the first review, and with the content being the same, I shall refrain from wasting everyone’s time by repeating myself as I find my stance towards it is largely unchanged. However, upon this second viewing I did enjoy it a little more and understood some of it much more clearly than before, which I why I have upped my score from the initial review.
But, many of the cavils I discussed and lamented in the first review remain – such as the non-sequential running order of the films proving confusing and the occasional turgid pacing being more soporific than atmospheric. Having a better grip on the storylines and character doesn’t automatically make a slow moving story move any faster or any less of a slog to watch.
Given its literary origins, this is a dialogue heavy series and in dealing with existential subjects like duality and identity, along with its dark, supernatural bent that takes in spiritual possession, dream-stealing fairies, and reality bending mages, the cast have a lot to discuss. Whether they actually need to is a different matter and is something a pristine HD transfer can’t disguise or compensate for.
Along with the non-chronological running order, this doesn’t do much for the character development of the central cast of Shiki Ryougi, Mikiya Kokuto, and Touko Aozaki either. Granted, we learn a lot about them this way but only philosophically as the next film will be set in a different timeline, set either before this or quite a time after to make gauging the results quite difficult.
On a positive note, the visuals and animation courtesy of Ufotable, which I did praise highly before, look flawless in HD, making this one of the best-looking anime I’ve ever seen. With a reliance on weather, night time landscapes, and colourful supernatural set pieces, the images are incredibly immersive, bolstered by an equally effective sound design that places the viewer right in the heart of the scene as if it were occurring right in front of us.
I must rescind one opinion – I said the characters looked dated and expressionless but seeing it again, I realise that this was necessary to match the tone of the story. Plus, Ufotable were going for a vintage cell drawn look for smoother and realistic rendering of the physical movements, so having the cast be overtly gregarious in their demeanour, in this instance, would be grossly incongruent.
With the content remaining unchanged, the objectionable material highlighted in the first review – the gang rape in the third film and the grossly perverse saliva fest in the final one – is just as shocking and upsetting second time round and not any less gratuitous. One might also say this about the violence but the central theme of the duality of good and evil in people means it is therefore relative to the point being made.
Something I did notice that is significantly different between this release and the original DVD version is the titles of the films have changed, for reasons I am not sure of. For your reference, here are the titles as listed on the DVD (left) with the new ones (right):
Movie 1 – Overlooking View = Thanatos
Movie 2 – A Study in Murder, Part 1 = … and nothing heart (Murder Speculation 1)
Movie 3 – Remaining Sense of Pain = ever cry, never life
Movie 4 – The Hollow Shrine = garan-no-dou
Movie 5 – Paradox Spiral = Paradox Paradigm
Movie 6 – Oblivion Recording = Fairy Tale
Movie 7 – A Study in Murder, Part 2 = … not nothing heart (Murder Speculation 2)
Disc 8 contains the 33-minute OVA Epilogue which clearly didn’t need changing, although there are actually two other entries in this series, an 88-minute Future Gospel and 32-minute OVA Future Gospel: Extra Chorus, neither of which are included in either release, again for reasons unknown.
Referring back to my original review of Garden Of Sinners, my conclusion was it had the potential to offer so much more than it delivered, specifically if it had an overarching, linear storyline to hold it together. Upon re-watching it, this is still a prominent concern, but the luxury of being able to watch all the films together does make it easier to discern which incident, past or future, is referenced or foreshadowed in each episode.
That isn’t to say the non-linear format doesn’t work for this series but the density of the writing and the sheer verbosity of the info dumps and exposition cuts into the visual storytelling which could get the points across more succinctly and with greater clarity. It just makes paying attention – or more accurately, keeping the viewer’s attention – a lot harder.
When anime combines the supernatural and psychological with the philosophical and existential, you know it’s not going to be any easy ride, so if you like your shows simple, this isn’t for you. Fans of this series who already have the DVD release I believe will find their passion for it rekindled by this superb looking Blu-ray and will find things about it they missed first time, or like me, get more from it second time around.
Garden Of Sinners is a title I wish I could have been more effusive about and endorse more heartily; instead, I’ll doff my cap to those on its arcane wavelength who can see in it what I am evidently missing.
Japanese Language 2.0 Stereo
Japanese Language 5.1 Surround Sound
Discs 1-7 only:
Rigid art box
36-page Colour Booklet
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black