The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 166 – The Garden of Sinners

The Garden of Sinners 1

This week we look at an anime film series, and a series which deals with many disturbing themes. Beware: you may want to avoid these films if you don’t wish to see murder, violence, blood, vomiting, rape, drug abuse, or people’s legs being twisted like a corkscrew.

The Garden of Sinners, a supernatural thriller, began as a series of novels by Kinoko Nasu written between 1998 and 1999. The series has been adapted eight separate films, ranging from less than an hour to nearly two hours in length, most of which were released between 2007 and 2009, with the final film coming out in 2013. Other shorter works have also been released as part of the series. The story is not written chronological order, although you can easily watch the films to be in this order if you prefer to see it over the commercial release order.

The films take place between 1995 and 1999. The story follows Shiki Ryogi, who is a peculiar girl for several reasons, and not just for the fact that she normally dresses up in a red leather jacket over a kimono. Shiki was trained as a demon hunter, and like all the demon hunters in her family, she was brought up to have two distinctive personalities: her normal, unsociable female one named “Shiki” and a friendlier male one named “SHIKI”.

A fellow student at her school, Mikiya Kokuto, becomes friends with both sides of Shiki. However, this leads to conflict between Shiki’s split personalities. This is partly responsible for resulting in Shiki getting involved in an accident that results in her being put into a coma for two years. When Shiki awakes she discovers she has undergone several changes. These include the SHIKI part of her personality disappearing, and gaining an ability called the “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception”, that allows her to see the normally invisible lines of mortality in all things, both living and non-living.

Mikiya had hoped to attend college with Shiki, but the coma put a stop to his plan so instead he took up a job with a firm of paranormal investigators lead by a woman named Toko Aozaki, a sorceress who also makes dolls. Also working for the investigators is Mikiya’s over-protective sister Azaka, who is annoyed that Mikiya is so close to Shiki. Shiki meanwhile also joins Toko’s firm after awaking from her coma to investigate paranormal activities, use her hunting skills to take down demons which are responsible for death and destruction, and also trying to come to terms with her new identity.

At times it does feel that watching The Garden of Sinners is a bit of slog – not surprising when this is an eight-part film series. Also, the adult nature of the content of these films will be off-putting to many viewers. A lot of blood is spilt, and the supernatural nature of some of the attacks is quite literally twisted. No, it really is literally twisted: one of the characters in the film is a rape victim who then tracks down her attackers and kills them by using an ability to twist their bodies around like human screws. Some of the attacks are less bloody but are a lot more creepy. One antagonist holds Shiki captive and tortures her by among other things drooling all over her body. However, there is also plenty to like, chief among which is the artwork, in particular the backgrounds and sceneries, as well as the soundtrack.

For many people though the most shocking thing about The Garden of Sinners was not the violence, but the cost. When the film box set was released in the USA it retailed at nearly $600. Fortunately for us in the UK, the box set is lot cheaper, but annoyingly does not contain the final film in the series.

The Garden of Sinners box set, containing the first seven films, is released on DVD by MVM Films.