The Garden of Sinners (2007) Review: The Story that Romanticized a Murderer

My mother once warned me not to philosophize too much about the darker things in life. It takes you to a very gloomy place devoid of warmth and life. Dive deep into the world of the unknown, you might just end up in a mental hospital. So, let’s not go there. But if you insist, then this anime is the one for you! Okay, I am harsh. Just kidding. This anime is soothing despite its dark content. I really feel like I’m in the movies!

Garden of Sinners is based on a novel series by Kinoko Nasu. It tells a story about a high school girl with a split personality. Her name is Shiki Ryougi. She has a supernatural ability to see death and has a devouring burden to kill. But why? If you are into big questions about your boyish aggression in finding pleasure in destroying everything your way (i.e., playing violent games), you might find this show super cool, but I wouldn’t say profoundly enlightening. Rationalizing the concept of what constitutes a murderer doesn’t justify the desire to kill as a noble behavior. The argument in this anime is that you’re not a killer if you kill to protect those you love but is that just an excuse? It’s an exhilarating emotion close to love, according to the show. Shiki, the protagonist is set free when she has the chance to kill off murderers like herself and the fighting scenes really do illustrate that point. She even wants to kill the man she loves! It’s a struggle. It’s so poetic! As an audience, I think we are supposed to sympathize with her. She is battling against her masculine side, the desire to destroy and kill everything!

According to Wiki, this show is classified as dark fantasy. But I like to think of it as a supernatural show with elements of philosophical horror. Sounds kind of cool, doesn’t it? You see, the show is different and purposely complex. I felt as if I’m taking an introduction class to philosophy, listening to young adults discussing morality. And apparently, no matter what culture you were born into, teenagers care a lot about being unique and different (referring to the villain). In addition, some of the movies have different running times. Some are 1 to 2 hours long. There are only 10 episodes altogether. Most anime break into 26 or 12 episodes. Did I confuse you yet? I know I was when the word movie was used interchangeably with the episode for someone who occasionally watches anime. But that’s okay! I think this anime is meant for those who enjoy watching a show for the second time around! Good for brain exercise. Good for philosophy class! Cheers!

Overall, these long episodes which are called movies left me feeling kind of jaded at certain times during my viewing. Perhaps, it’s because I already did all this philosophizing thing in my teenage years and in my 20s. So personally, I sort of exhausted myself from the deep conversations of philosophy, which is trying to understand one’s aggression in relation to the universe. Unnecessary complexity for the purpose of complexity’s sake is not a good thing in terms of plot and this show is just that unless I’m missing the entire point of the show due to loss in translation. If that is the case, it’s a shame because I really connect with the melancholic vibes from this anime.

I might sound rather nitpicky with my review when in fact I enjoyed this anime. It’s an attractive anime with pretty moving illustrations that made me feel as if I was at the cinema. You know the immersive feeling you get at the theatre sitting in a pitch-black room? Yes, I felt it through the anime visual presentation watching with my headphones on. The sound effects and soundtrack are of high quality. Unfortunately, I couldn’t appreciate it to its max since I don’t find the protagonist’s struggles relatable even though I like dolphins* and I find the order in which the movies are arranged a bit bothersome. But hey, at least I gave this a shot. I can only imagine how the tone of the anime would change if it is titled Garden of Saints. Yeah…that doesn’t sound so edgy.

Note: Dolphins* is in reference to the blog post over at I drink and watch anime: “Anime Fans are Murderers?” I thought it was funny how dolphins are used to illustrate that someone who likes dolphins can be murderous. Ouch! Nobody likes being attacked. Let’s not group and generalize people based on their interests. I think that was the point of her blog post.