Reviewby Gabriella Ekens,
The Garden of Sinners
Sub.Blu-Ray - recalled out summer [Limited Edition]
Sometime in the middle of the Garden of Sinners chronology, Shiki and Mikiya encounter two precognizants. Shizune Seo can predict the future three days in advance and has resigned herself to a predictable life. In contrast, Mitsuru Kamekura can actualize his ideal future, and has become a terrorist out of existential ennui. Their respective encounters with Mikiya and Shiki change their lives. Ten years in the future, Shiki and Mikiya's daughter, Mana, visits a legendary fortune teller alongside Mitsuru, now a famous children's author.
Seven films into the Garden of Sinners experience, do we even need to spend any more time with the characters? Shiki and Mikiya's love story has seen fruition, Shiki isn't the killer that her origin compels her to be, and Souren Araya's influence has been purged from Mifune City. What is there left to do? It turns out… not much. Recalled out summer is pure Garden of Sinners’ b-roll. This would've been fine if it had managed to be engaging, but instead it's just dull – three half-written stories crammed into the thin thematic shell of “future vision.” The story deigns to have a climactic action sequence, while the rest consist of non-narrative conversations in shot-reverse-shot for upwards of 20 minutes.
Recalled out summer's plot can best be described as a series of vignettes. Unlike most compilation films, the vignettes aren't presented in order, but rather interspersed with one another according to a loose chronology. The first two-thirds of the film consist of Mikiya's encounter with his sister's precognizant roommate, Shizune Seo, and Shiki's battle against Mitsuru Kamekura, a psychic bomber. The final third takes place ten years later. It features Shiki and Mikiya's daughter, Mana Ryougi, visiting a fortune teller known as the “Mother of Mifune.” The OVA recalled out summer – extra chorus features two more stories – Shiki taking care of a cat and some catch up with Fujino Asagami, the villain from the third movie.
Shizune was a promising idea for a character, but she isn't situated within anything that I could call a story. Her power is that she can see the most likely future about three days ahead, so she lives life twice over. She's resigned herself to a predictable life, not realizing that she can stray from the path at any opportunity. She just runs into Mikiya Kokotou, a main character from the film series proper, and proceeds to explain her life story to him over lingering shots of the two having dinner. It's not even a particularly interesting life story. It isn't recounted in terms of a series of events for the audience to follow in an engaging, cinematic way. They also animate what feels like the entirety of Shizune and Mikiya's meal – repeated shots of the food and the restaurant and even the waitress delivering new courses. It's just… inexcusably boring, especially considering that their conversation can be summed up in a few lines. Shizune feels like she's going through the motions in life. Mikiya tells her that the future is hers to decide. She walks away with a renewed zest for life. Fin. This is a 30 minute conversation scene. You bought the whole seat (for a retail price of $69.98!), but you only needed the edge.
Mitsuru's story is better, but suffers from being interspersed with Shizune's giant slice of nothing. He has the power to actualize his ideal future and commits bombings out of a sense of nihilism. Shiki catches on and defeats him by <i>stabbing the future to death.</i> That brings up another issue. Stories about time hijinks are usually interesting because they require unusual solutions. However, Shiki takes Mitsuru out like she does everything else – stabbing at death lines. As usual, it's gorgeously animated, but the villain's unique power doesn't matter if the hero doesn't need to adapt to it.
The third one is what people really wanted – a flash forward to Shiki and Mikiya married with children. We get a glimpse of Shiki, looking regal and terrifying as the head of the Ryougi Clan, but most of our time is spent with her daughter, Mana, and Mitsuru, the reformed bomber and her new babysitter. They meet a fortune teller, the Mother of Mifune, and reflect on their lives. It'd have been better if Shiki and Mikiya, two characters I'm actually invested in, were allowed to do this, but instead their future selves are largely left enigmas.
The only extra of note on this release is the OVA, and it's more worthwhile than the film itself. Recalled out summer – extra chorus has more entertainment for its runtime (32 minutes) than the accompanying film (122 minutes) and has the best vignette out of the two. It takes Fujino – Shiki's space-bending rival from Remaining Sense of Pain – on a journey towards coming to terms with her crimes. It's short, sweet, and isn't dominated by an interminable conversation. Otherwise, this release includes some postcards and a making-of booklet.
For as much as I like the Garden of Sinners films, I can see why it hasn't become a memetic phenomenon to the extent of Kinoku Nasu's other hit, Fate/stay night. When my attention isn't consumed by trying to figure out what's even going on, Mikiya and Shiki are the dourest people alive. Even a brief segment where Shiki takes care of a cat manages to be devoid of joy. I'm surprised that they produced a child as vivid as Mana. Unlike Rin, Taiga, Ilya, or Gilgamesh, these people aren't fun to spend time with after hours.
The Garden of Sinners -recalled out summer- is less a film and more a potpourri of material that didn't make it into the series proper. The recalled out summer – extra chorus OVA is more engaging because it contains the best story and is limited by a 32 minute runtime. At 122 minutes, however, recalled out summer is bloated to near-incomprehensibility. Brief moments of entertainment are smothered by long stretches of repetitive conversation. The Garden of Sinners stands as a unique accomplishment within the medium of Japanese animation, but the well has run dry, and I can only recommend recalled out summer to the most hardcore completionists. Which, to be fair, may be everyone who finished The Garden of Sinners.
Overall : C
Story : C-
Animation : A-
Art : A
Music : B
+ lush illustrations of urban decay, gorgeous atmosphere and scene-setting, Fujino material from the OVA entertaining
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