The Garden of Sinners 1 (Overlooking View): Impressive Visuals But An Empty Start

The Garden of Sinners (also known as Kara no Kyoukai) is a seven-film series adapted from a light novel series of the same name written by Kinoko Nasu. This film (Overlooking View) was released in 2007 and licensed by Aniplex of America. It is animated by Ufotable and the directed by Aoki Ei (director of Fate Zero).

Synopsis

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Shiki is a member of a detective agency that investigates paranormal activity. The movie’s narrative starts when four female students commit suicide. Aozaki, apparently the leader of the three-man agency, suggests that the suicides have similarities and draws their roots to paranormal territories. She pays a visit to the suicide spot- Fujyou Building and finds out that the suicide won’t stop until eight are dead. She also finds out that her love interest Mikiya is out cold… Okay, that’s all for this lazy synopsis. Essentially, this film is a mystery.

Plot & Narrative

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This movie is almost entirely narrative with philosophical monologues (mostly from Aozaki) inserted in between the development.

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The philosophical dialogue drops, most of the time, are in context and make sense; but there are times when Aozaki goes on a tangent and start to sound like a broken audio book. Speaking of dialogue, the script of this film has chunks of minimal conversation. Then, the script gets heavy in the end when the story enters its final stage.

The flow of the narrative in this movie is pretty neat and normal- then again, the sparse distribution of conversational dialogue in the narrative makes this anime film quite stretched out and ’empty’ (I will get more into that later in this review). Then and then again (haha): for a 50 minute movie, the narrative has a good pacing and manages to stretch out the story just enough to not make it excruciatingly empty. Basically, the plot is solid and clean- just like what an introduction film should be.

Characters

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Speaking of introduction films (I am not sure whether it is an actual term or not), the character writing is pretty sparse and bland. It isn’t horrible- I liked the doll exposition part on Mikiya and I am sure the anime has more to build on the characters in the six movies I will be watching. It is just that the characters rarely have character exposition interactions and that makes the chemistry between Shiki and Mikiya start out in a pretty feeble way.

The cast is comprised of just four characters and I find this to be potentially advantageous for solid character writing but that was not the case because the film had focused on Shiki more than any of the cast members for most of the time and I find it strange that the film doesn’t show any flashbacks.

Yeah, I find this film starving of character exposition. Or maybe I am not getting the subtle-ness in character writing this film may have. Oh wait, that ice cream scene was really subtle (Shiki you tsundere!).

Seriously, though- the character interactions could have been written better. This made the film feel disconnected and empty to me.

Art & Animation

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The character designs are okay with some kind of strange rigidity (with a thin line work) in their posture and clothing that kind of fits the tone of the film, but I don’t like the way there expressions are weakly lined- they seem to become invisible at times.

The background art on the other hand… is stellar. Ufotable certainly knows how to play with the lighting in scenes and the thin line work certainly helped to create that glossy, high detailed painting that makes its animation look stellar too. This is one of my favorite shots from the movie (I love the color scheme and lighting here):

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I am not a huge fan of highly detailed (rigid) animation- the sort of animation where if you pause on one scene, you would see no deformation of the characters outline- simply because it is not really expressive. But I would be lying if I say that I wasn’t impressed by the great attention to detail it had and, again, how the background art complemented its style. However, the animation style did get a bit misdirected sometimes and the shots got a bit strange (like that water sliding animation during the fight between Shiki and the girl in white- that was good animation but irrelevant in terms of the fight pacing and progress and the camera had a weird angle).

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This is just the last section of the take. The whole thing took 15 seconds to play out. But boy is it flashy!

While I am on the direction of the film, I noticed that the framing of the characters when they were talking in the office seemed to be framed with the symmetry of a visual novel and I didn’t like it- it made the anime seem stagnant and, again, empty.

But I digress, the film certainly did a good job in this department. It left me wanting to watch more fight scenes from the rest of the movies.

Sound

The sound design in this movie really helped to pull off that mysterious atmosphere but other than that, the ending song was quite generic.

Conclusion

This first movie didn’t impress me (except the art and animation), but I am hopeful that the second movie would be better and write a more meaty script and make me feel something about the characters instead of an (almost) empty character piece. It is ironic that I call this film ’empty’ when it has the word ‘kara'(emptiness) in its Japanese title.

I would give this movie a strong 2.5/5 to a light 3/5.

Thank you for reading. I hope I can write more reviews this month.

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6 thoughts on “The Garden of Sinners 1 (Overlooking View): Impressive Visuals But An Empty Start

  1. I’m in the process of watching this series at the moment too – I’ve just watched number 5 and I’ll cautiously say I think the character development improves; it’s just a bit of a slow burning thing. The animation is really beautiful at times isn’t it? ufotable do a good job whether it’s a film or TV series in that department. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure if Kara no Kyoukai is meant to be rigorously judged by every film separately. As a single entry each film may look weaker than as a part of the greater story – the series as a whole for me made an unforgettable impression.
    The story of Kara no Kyoukai isn’t told in a chronological order, so the first film basically throws you headfirst into its world to provide the general impression about what you could expect but of course it costs a lot as the characters are just there without any decent introduction.
    The emptiness partly descends from the light novels, as Nasu takes his time and spends far more time analyzing the philosophical issues and giving much food for thought while the characters barely show their inner worlds for the most part. For me it worked as I’m more of a solitary person myself, not wearing my emotions on my sleeves. Also, Shiki herself has a big emotional void inside herself, so in a sense the film succeeded in portraying that.
    Anyway, I hope that after the whole series all the dots will connect and overall you’ll have a good experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My review probably ended up a bit too nitpicky than I intended it to be and I agree that this film’s character writing might just be a bead in the sparkling necklace of the series as a whole. The fact that the story isn’t told in chronological order (I didn’t know that) certainly consolidates that the series is more focused on the philosophical arguments that the characters make rather than just telling standalone mystery movies (which was what I was under the impression of). I think it is valid point that this film paints a portrait of Shiki’s character through the sparse dialogue and her lack of expression- I never thought of that (I should’ve watched some of the latter films ahead). Thank you for reading and sharing your views on the series.

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  4. Definitely a film series that needs to be taken on the whole and not on its parts. I’ve watched the first 5 (somewhere along the line it got put on hold) and the series does improve. Though some of the directing is questionable, some cuts are a jumbled mess in particular scenes. That being said, there was a ton of staff on this and they all brought a unique flavor to each film. I should probably do a write up on this film series sometime come to think of it… Any way, nice review even if the score is a bit low :p

    Thanks for the follow, plan to do the same once I read some of your other stuff 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, I should have watched a few more films ahead to get the overall feel of the series, and then comment on the relevancy of each film. Maybe that’s how I should approach this series. Thanks for reading and I look forward to your write up on this series.

    Liked by 1 person

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