Kara no Kyoukai: The Garden of Sinners - Overlooking View is a 50 minute supernatural, mystery movie, featuring a little action, which I would also designate a seinen. It’s the first in a series of movies based upon a trio of light novels by Kinoko Nasu and is part of Type-Moon’s works which include similar anime like Lunar Legend Tsukihime and the Fate series. I just started reading the novels last week and I’ve been putting off these movies as I want to read the original material beforehand. It is in fact set in the same world as those other anime, in particular it seems to be heavy related to Tsukihime and even Fate.
This movie gives off a very similar vibe to Fate, a lot of blood, supernatural stuff and most of all it can be very confusing (I watched the first episode of Fate: Zero blind and was left clueless). Which explains my opinion that this is a seinen anime, it’s not an anime that would be enjoyed by all as some wouldn’t enjoy the refined form story-telling, it’s similar to Ghost in the Shell. This is the anime equivalent of good old whiskey (I miss it, but my bank balance doesn’t). This series may depict content that some may find to be disturbing and even downright uncomfortable. I got a feeling of De-Ja-Vu as I was ill when I started reading the first novel and came across something I’m personally uncomfortable with and had to put the book down (I’ve was in the same situation before with a movie a few years back). These movies are not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, even though there is no weird bullshit.
The animation quality was stunning for a 2008 anime and it makes sense. Of course this would high production value, it’s a 50 minute movie so they can really put a lot of effort into it and it shows. I watched it in 1080p, the only resolution which would do it justice. The background and setting are so very detailed and the character models look very good, even at medium distance. It’s very fluid and beautiful, the intro is a great example of this, past the first instance of the butterfly the butterfly looks so damn stunning.
The style is very similar to other Type-Moon anime, even if the animation studio itself was different. Characters look so very reminiscent of characters I’ve seen, that I was inclined to believe certain characters were related. There is a lot of blood and strangeness and they even maintain the sensibility from previous anime when it comes to women and sexual stuff. I.e. there is nothing of the sort.
There are many purposely made animation decisions, Shiki in particular looks very androgynous, which is fitting since that was exactly what was depicted in the novel. This was one of my key worries before watching the movie, whether they would be able to maintain the mystery surrounding Shiki, they manage to pull it off here. There’s very sensible and creative shots of Shiki, such as getting out of the bath or bed, these are done at a distance. One particular shot that some other anime might use for fan-service if featuring a strongly female character, was Shiki sitting down on the bed in nothing but a shirt and underwear. Nothing pervy about it and surprisingly nothing that gives away Shiki’s gender, it cannot be discerned whether the white in between Shiki’s legs is a guy’s Y-brief or a girl’s knickers. Enough about how surprisingly unpervy this is, there is also beautiful artistic use of camera angles. Shots of things like traffic lines and random sleeping cats, made me feel like we might get powerline shots, Evangelion style. There is purposeful delay or advancement of visual scenes used for inventive effect. Absolutely beautiful.
One final note, product placement out the wazoo, this movie must be sponsored by Haagen-Dazs and Volvic mineral water, since those brands feature within this anime. Though to be honest, the Haagen-Dazs ice cream was also in the book.
Off the bat, the soundtrack of this anime is amazing and the overall sound keeps in line with the high production value of the rest of the movie. The movie actually has an opening, and both the opening and credits have beautiful songs. The soundtrack throughout the animation itself is similarly of high quality, appropriate use of choral and instrumental tracks maximise the potential delivery of the scenes. The sound design is on par, gentle use of sound effects is pretty much perfect to my ears. I definitely plan on getting the soundtrack at some point, probably after I’ve watched a few more of these movies.
The movie is only available in Japanese …and French and German for some reason. The other Type-Moon universe anime have usually had English dubs, this is the first I’ve heard of this sort of anime not having English but having French and German dubs. I wholeheartedly recommend the original Japanese subbed in the language of your choice, I don’t feel that any French or German VAs could do this justice, no offence. In the Japan setting of this movie (and other anime), Japanese voice actors are usually best, with a few exceptions. Which just goes to show how good the Japanese voice acting is for this anime. Shiki’s voice was perfect, it didn’t sound strongly feminine or masculine and the type of language used was appropriate too. There’s a later scene where a mystery person speaks and they also manage to nail that voice perfectly, since the person cannot be guessed by voice alone. Those voice actors are very skilled. Mikiya also has a good voice, I can tell they chose voice actor’s who’d be able to voice the characters throughout the following movies in addition to this movie, thus a bit of flexibility on voice was required.
So who are these skilled voice actors? Shiiki Ryougi is voiced by Maaya Sakamoto (I could tell that a woman voiced this character, the perfect voice to choose), who has also voiced Kiyomi Takada in Death Note, Mari Makinami in the Evangelion remake, Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell Arise, Alisa in the (currently airing) God Eater anime, Mishio Amano in Kanon (2006), Crona in Soul Eater, Eto in Tokyo Ghoul and Tomoyo in Tsubasa Chronicle. Touko Aozaki is voiced by Takako Honda, who voiced April in Darker than Black, Satsuki Matsumae in Hanasaku Iroha, Gimma and Leite in Gurren Lagann and King Ashura in Tsubasa Chronicle. Mikiya Kokutou is voiced by Kenichi Suzumura, he voiced Hiroyuki Hatagai in Bokurano, Tora Igarashi in Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Atsushi Murasakibara in Kuroko no Basuke (dayum son!), Shiki Tohno in Lunar Legend Tsukihime (!!!), Kirikou Rung in Soul Eater, Hiroki Segawa in Witchblade and Ryouta Iijima in Yumekui (Dream Eater) Merry. Kirie Fujou is voiced by Rie Tanaka, she voiced Maria in Hayate no Gotoku, Eriko Futami in Kimikiss Pure Rouge, Sayara Yamanobe in Mnemosyne, Chizuru Aizawa in Squid Girl and Mariabelle in Yozakura Quartet. Finally, Azaka Kokutou is voiced by Ayumi Fujimura, having voiced Ayano Kannagi in Kaze no Stigma, Takashi Natsume (child) in Natsume Yuuchinjou, (a character in Nodame Cantabile who has the same name as a Japanese person I knew IRL), Saori Himemiya in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Eiko Aizawa in Squid Girl and Midori Nishimura in Xam’d a Tale of Memories. A lot of anime which I’ve watched recently there and a lot of good voicing under their belts.
The main character here is Shiki Ryougi, an adult of unknown gender who lives on their own in a very bare apartment. They have short black hair and always wear a kimono, they also sometimes wear a bright red jacket on top of it. Shiki is a strange individual, they don’t seem to eat much and drink a lot of water. Most strange of all, they are missing an arm, Shiki’s left arm is a prosthetic made by Touko and they have the ability to see lines in people. Shiki uses their knife (always carried on their person) to cut through even ghosts via these lines. This sounds a suspicious amount like a character of the same name in another Type-Moon anime. When I read this in the book, which was the first thing that came to mind. Shiki has a very close relationship with Mikiya and seems to also be well acquainted with Touko, the doll-maker and self-proclaimed detective. Unfortunately this anime movie leaves out a bit about Shiki’s past. Shiki woke up from a coma a few years ago and while they can remember things from before it, that life doesn’t feel right. It’s roughly put this way in the book, ‘as if Shiki was inhabiting someone else’s body and seeing their memories and living their life.’
Mikiya Kokutou is supposed to be the other main character here, but the movie just nudges his appearances enough such that he is only a secondary character. This man wears glasses and works for Touko the doll-maker (/detective). He is close friends with Shiki and keeps an eye on them, he is the one to buy Shiki their water and ice-cream, which he is trying to get Shiki to eat. He really carers for Shiki and lives in his own place further away from work than Shiki’s place is. Unlike the other characters, Mikiya seems to have nothing to do with the supernatural and is a normal human being. He is very kind and caring, even towards strangers, which might not be a good thing. He is drawn towards strange things like dolls and strange people like Shiki. By coincidence, his voice actor also voiced the Shiki in Tsukihime.
Who is regarded as the other main character in this movie Touko Aozaki is a red-haired woman who smokes and sometimes wears glasses. She seems to have an understanding of the supernatural occurrences, or at least she can notice them, just like Shiki. Thus the two are able to discuss these things while Mikiya remains clueless. She has hired Mikiya effectively as an office assistant, mostly she just gets him to do errands for her. She is also a doll-maker and makes/maintains Shiki’s prosthetic left arm.
That’s about it for characters, there is the mysterious ghost woman, Kirie Fujou the terminally ill woman and Mikiya’s younger sister Azaka appears after the credits. By another strange coincidence, Azaka looks a lot like a character from Tsukihime (and to me Mikiya does too).
So… there are mysterious murders, some sort of supernatural stuff involved and for some reason, Mikiya has fallen asleep for a very long time. As I mentioned before, this story is difficult to understand and it doesn’t help that many aspects are a mystery. The murders seem to be related, while Touko and Shiki are on the job of trying to solve it with their perception of the supernatural while Shiki takes his long nap.
Being a mystery, it is very unpredictable. The viewers are given very little as far as clues, there could have been more foreshadowing and subtle clues. Or perhaps those that are there are too subtle. It goes by quickly, though if I’m honest it’s roughly the same length of time as reading the equivalent part in the book. It’s a lot like the Haruhi novels (I haven’t watched the anime), each book has a few stories and it seems each individual story is a movie. I will note that this movie left out a few things from the book. Mikiya didn’t feature as much as he should have and the movie has nothing on Shiki’s past. If you never plan on reading the books, I’ll just say that Shiki was once in a coma and ever since has felt very weird about their existence, as if something is off, besides the lack of a left arm.
This anime does have interesting themes. Suicide and life in particular, the characters discuss quite a bit about suicide. This may be distasteful or offensive to some, but the movie is sensible about the way it handles the topic. Among the things mentioned, people who willingly take their life usually leave suicide notes and usually commit suicide in a way to be noticed. Otherwise they seem like more of a disappearance. Jumping off a building and being airborne is also discussed. The desire to fly and how it can be similar or different to falling, though they did miss out the reference to Icarus in Greek Mythology which was in the book. It’s fairly interesting actually. Even if it does get a bit philosophical and almost psychedelic at times, but I personally love it when an anime does that.
This isn’t much of a spoiler but there is a post-credit scene and even a preview of the next movie, which was released immediately after this one. It’s almost like these movies are like a very long anime series with double length episodes. Thinking about it, I seem to remember that the first episode of Fate Zero was similarly long. Perhaps they nailed it as a series for that?
This movie is definitely not aimed at all audiences. I’d recommend this to fans of those difficult but deep anime like Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell and such. It also has a bit of mystery solving, so folks who like that kind of stuff might like this. This first movie may seem tame in comparison to the rest of the series, if one though this was tough and prickly, they wouldn’t want to keep watching as things can get more intense in the later movies. It can most definitely be appreciated and I personally enjoyed it thoroughly. While previous anime I may have been bored at times and diverted my attention away from screen, this anime had all my attention, even if I have already read the novel equivalent. For those who give it a try and see it for what it really is, they will realise how beautiful this anime really is. Don’t let the link to Tsukihime bother you (some folks really didn’t like that Type-Moon anime), someone who hated that, loved this. And I like both (everyone has their own opinion). So give this a try if you want something unique and difficult or if you like those crazy sorts of anime, you’ll be able to understand and appreciate this.
Family-friendliness Rating: 4/5 Unsettling themes (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 (higher is better)