Review for Garden of Sinners Movie Collection - Collector's Edition
“There isn’t going to be a Blu-ray, or if there is, not in my lifetime.”
I really need to stop making definitive statements like that. That’s what I said about Garden of Sinners back in 2014, when I reviewed the DVD Limited Edition, then released here by MVM. In my defence, that was when the anime market was still skewing DVD heavy, when only classic titles would get re-releases (that much is still true, although it was yet to be settled whether GoS was a classic), and it had just had an international Blu-ray release direct from Japan, with Aniplex of America importing a few Japanese boxsets and selling them for a ridiculously high sum, close to $1000.
But here we are, five years later, and we have Garden of Sinners on Blu-ray in the UK from MVM, a rigid artbox with four double Amarays, and a 32-page booklet, selling at a fraction of that original rare import release price. And I can confirm that these eight discs are the Japanese discs from Aniplex, complete with English and Japanese subtitles and that original Aniplex quality authoring. This is the presentation that this film collection demands. The only downside is that it’s still missing the final film, ~recalled out summer~. Now the only question is to see if the films still stand up after five years.
Rather than rinse and repeat, I’ll just link to my original review, and instead comment here on any differences...
Garden of Sinners tells the tale of an unconventional agency investigating and dealing with supernatural occurrences. It’s run by the Magus Touko Aozaki, and in her employ she has a powerful girl named Shiki Ryogi. Shiki has the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, she can see the seams in living things, the blueprints to their lives which she can cut to devastating effect, but for that power she’s had to sacrifice a part of herself. Touko also employs a seemingly normal boy named Mikiya Kokuto, but he’s a boy who has a connection to Shiki, a link to her humanity, and Kokuto and Shiki have a shared, dark past.
The first seven Garden of Sinners feature films are presented in this collection, along with an OVA spin-off, across eight discs from MVM.
Garden of Sinners Disc 1: Thanatos (50:09)
Garden of Sinners Disc 2: ...... and nothing heart (60:01)
Garden of Sinners Disc 3: ever cry, never life (57:24)
Garden of Sinners Disc 4: garan-no-dou (45:21)
Garden of Sinners Disc 5: Paradox Paradigm (113:53)
Garden of Sinners Disc 6: Fairy Tale (59:03)
Garden of Sinners Disc 7: ...... not nothing heart (120:00)
Garden of Sinners Disc 8: The Final Chapter (33:04)
The original DVD release of Garden of Sinners was good, discs authored well with little compression or aliasing, but you were always left wondering how the films would look in high definition, especially as the UK and Australian DVDs were PAL conversions, with the speed up that goes with them. Well, on Blu-ray Garden of Sinners looks as good as you might expect, although not as good as you might hope. I think it’s no real revelation that Garden of Sinners was animated at a lower resolution, and scaled up to 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p. There are rare scenes with a hint of digital banding, and a couple of places where you might see some shimmer on fine detail. What you do get here, especially with Aniplex’s authoring is as little compression as possible, smooth 24fps animation, great detail, and wonderful, rich atmospheric colour.
The world designs are exquisite, while the character animation is fluid, consistent, and not too far removed or distorted from the human norm. These aren’t characters with massive eyes or cutesy faces. The aim is to get the world and the characters looking and moving as real as possible, and then the animators can go to town introducing atmosphere, chills, and horror elements, slowly distorting this world away from reality. I have to say it is astoundingly effective.
The real reason to go Blu-ray is here, the audio. As mentioned, there’s no speedup due to conversion, and you have wonderful uncompressed audio in both PCM 5.1 Surround and PCM 2.0 Stereo form with optional subtitles. It’s a really nice soundtrack, a fully realised surround track that conveys the action, music and atmosphere of the movies well. The music soundtrack from Yuki Kajiura is perfectly suited to the material, supporting it without overwhelming it, as happened on another spooky OVA, Le Portrait de Petite Cossette. The actors too really give performances that a production of this calibre deserves. The subtitles are accurately timed although there are one or two minor typos. The font is rather typographic in appearance, white in colour with stark black outlines, but with a slight blurring effect at the edges of the letters.
I’ve only seen the check discs for the release, so I can’t comment on the packaging or the physical extras.
Each disc will play the movie directly after the copyright screens, defaulting to stereo audio and no subtitles. You can escape to the animated main menu, or change your preferences from a pop-up menu
Each disc except 8 also has Pre Show Reminders, short minute long Claymation shorts reminding theatre-goers of the correct cinema etiquette.
One thing I’m pointedly reminded of as I give Garden of Sinners its first re-watch, this time in high definition form, is that I’m not a fan of horror. I will never choose a horror movie to watch, although I have been known to enjoy a few if they’ve been on. I’ve also always thought that anime is the worst medium for horror. You need a place of reality to begin with before you start subverting it, and twisting it, and animation automatically removes you from reality, certainly the heavily stylised forms of anime does. Once in a while you get something like Serial Experiments Lain, or Texhnolyze that can really unsettle you with their visuals, but something like Boogiepop Phantom of Requiem from the Darkness just make it impossible for me to click with the horror, and I wind up bored instead. But when it comes to visuals, if you want anime horror, then Garden of Sinners is the set to get.
The production values are so high, the realism in the world design, and the more humanistic character designs make it really easy to get into the world, and engage with the characters. You’ll be into the stories in just the right way to get the most of the collection. It’s sufficient enough of an upgrade visually speaking to make the Blu-ray worth considering, but what makes the double-dip essential is the combination of audio and visual. The audio is full-on, uncompressed top quality, and with the video in native 24fps, the pitch shift of the PAL DVDs isn’t a thing here. The image is as it should be, and the audio definitely is as it should be. In that respect, you really need Garden of Sinners on Blu-ray if DVD is all you have seen.
The content is the same, so just click on the review of the DVD to see what I think of that. But this time around, the bonus disc eight did indeed succeed in sending me to sleep where I managed to force myself to stay awake with the DVD. Thirty-three minutes of pretentious twaddle cloaked beneath pretty visuals was unbearable, and actually made me long for the DVD, as it at least is 4% shorter. But discs 1-7 are some of the best anime horror out there, and deserve to be seen. Hopefully MVM can get the final eighth movie out as well.