After I’ve finished watching an anime, I typically classify based on how easy it would be for a beginner or casual anime fan to get into. The three classifications I use are: Low Tier, Mid Tier, and High Tier. Low Tier represents the shows/films that can be viewed by just about anyone, enjoyment however is based on each individual person. Examples would be shows like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Fairy Tail, Death Note, and just about any Miyazaki film. Mid Tier represents the shows/films that require a bit more understanding of both Japan and anime to fully appreciate and can be harder for a non-anime fan to understand and get into. So they’re really only for anime fans who’ve watched a couple dozen series and gotten used to the kinks. This is where your fanservice heavy series go and anything that heavily relies on things that most westerners just won’t get without prior knowledge. High Tier shows/films are the ones that even anime fans sometimes have trouble getting into. It’s a place for the most die hard fans only, and this is where stuff like High School DxD, Hellsing, and Garden of Sinners live.
The story of Garden of Sinners, or Kara no Kyoukai, takes place in Japan over the course of the 1990's. It follows a woman named Shiki Ryougi, who possesses the eyes of death perception, as she tackles various paranormal threats for a woman named Touko Aozaki, and has a romance on the side with a man named Mikiya Kokutou.
That description probably doesn’t read like this series belongs in what I call the High Tier, but trust me, if you actually watch it for yourself, you’ll see why. The characters practically speak very cryptically, as if every sentence is meant to be philosophical in some way. This can make the story incredibly hard to understand at times, especially since the films are out of chronological order. The chronological order is 2, 4, 3, 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. And before anyone tries to correct me, yes, there are 9 films, not 7. Originally, yes there were seven, but the eighth film is the half hour epilogue film/OVA, and the 9th film is the somewhat recently released sequel The Garden of Sinners: Recalled Out Summer.
I’m not going to do a spoiler section for this one because it would probably break my mind trying to wrap my head around the plot and explain it to you. This is the kind of series that you have to rewatch multiple times in order to fully understand it. Luckily, films 1,2,3,4, and 6 are only an hour long each, while 5 and 7 are two hours, 8 a half an hour, and 9 an hour and a half. If marathoned you could complete the whole thing in eleven hours.
If you can’t tell, Garden of Sinners, one of the many Nasuverse series alongside Fate/Stay Night, Tsukihime, and others, was produced by Ufotable, the studio behind the recent adaptation of the Unlimited Blade Works route from Fate/Stay Night, as well as God Eater: The Animation. Though Garden of Sinners came long before those two and is probably the reason why Ufotable was trusted with Fate/Stay Night after Studio DEEN struck out twice. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the animation is fluid. Anything that’s CG blends seamlessly with the artwork and you will find nothing that looks better than these films. Not even Unlimited Blade Works. God Eater kind of gives it a run for its money though, to be fair. I’m still mesmerized by the rain in these films. It looks so real.
Oh, and word to the wise, watching these films in anything less than 720p is a disservice to the artists. I originally watched these films in 360p stream quality and my god do I regret that. Sure, the films were originally released on DVD only. The Blu-Ray remasters came later, but if you watch it like I originally did, prepare for anything that’s red to look really pixelated. Watching it at at least 720p, even on a stream, should clear that up for the most part, though shoot for 1080p is at all possible.
The soundtrack for every Garden of Sinners film was composed by Yuki Kajiura in conjunction with the group Kalafina. I guess you could say that this is where Yuki Kajiura’s distint sound came from. It started here and she’s reused those familiar melodies in every work since, rarely changing it up. But that’s perfectly fine because it is an absolutely breathtaking soundtrack, especially the two ending themes Oblivious and Sprinter. Absolutely magnificent.
The Garden of Sinners is a film series that is only for the most die hard of anime fans. Its hardcore philosophical bent can make it hard to understand for a lot of people, though there is quite a bit of action to make it worth an action junkies while. I’ll also be up front with you, these films are either R-rated or complete Unrated. There is so much gore it’s unbelievable. And I mean all kinds of gore. Entrails, twisted limbs with equally cringe inducing sound effects, blood pouring out of every orifice, canibilism, uncensored rape, you name it, Sinners probably has it. It knows no bounds just like Hellsing Ultimate.
Despite the fact that I’m still trying to wrap my head around the story, I can’t recommend this series enough to any of you that can stomach the content. However, I must warn you that acquiring and/or viewing these films legally is next to impossible. For one thing, there are no legal streams, period. And secondly, yes it was licensed by Aniplex, but just uttering the name Aniplex should tell you exactly why trying to buy it is a futile effort. Aniplex only did two limited print runs of the full film set, both on DVD and Blu-Ray. They also don’t sell the films individually. Sure, you could probably get the DVD’s at a fairly reasonable price, but as I mentioned earlier standard definition is a disservice to these beautiful films. Sadly, the Blu-Ray collection is far, far more expensive. We’re talking US$300+. It makes sense for 8, technically 9 films(There’s a recap film mixed in.) to be expensive, but that’s just robbery and I can’t justify that price for any film.
But I’ve said my piece. If I were to give these films a number rating overall, it’d be a 9/10, easy. Watch at your own risk.