I have always had a hard time explaining why I like the Kara no Kyoukai movies (or Garden of Sinners from now on) to the extent that I do. To me, the Garden of Sinners movies have been one of the strangest series I have watched. While I see the movies as sometimes confusing, indirect, and messy, it is, at the same time, few of my favorite films of all time.
Most of those who have seen my reviews likely know that I’m very much into the visual or technical side of shows. What makes me excited about a show is the presentation of ideas rather than the ideas itself. And to me, the Garden of Sinners is almost like an aesthetic bible, packed with bits and pieces that I look for in cinema in general.
So in my attempts to bring to words what I love about The Garden of Sinners, and what I look for in anime in general, I will go through each of the The Garden of Sinners films, analysing what makes each special. This post will be on the first movie: Fukan Fuukei or overlooking view.
Before I get into the show itself, I want to talk about the movies in general to give a better picture of how I will be tackling these films. The Garden of Sinners is in the middle ground of wanting to be both a high quality movie while being a long running series. While the 9 hour length of the movies would seem as though it would be better fit as a TV show, the shorter run time of the TV series would have definitely disrupted the pacing and flow you can manage to fit without restriction.
As most who know of these movies would know, Garden of Sinners is organized in a non-linear fashion. I always have fun with these types of non-linear narratives because it allows the directors to play with how the audience absorbs events. The likes of the Monogatari Series, Haruhi, Hidamari Sketch, Baccano are all 10/10 shows specifically because they were able to immerse the audiences into the story to the characters by having specific events happen first. These shows are able to introduce the audience to concepts with what happened in the middle and use this to build up to the larger event that leads the characters here.
Because of this, Fukan Fuukei is best seen as an introduction to the whole series of films. To fully immerse myself in the whole series and the progression of this blog itself, I will look at the movies from first view perspective when analyzing. In order words, most of the analysis will be on how different elements affect the viewers within the watch through rather than what it is foreshadowing.
Fukan Fuukei is a film I feel slightly differently about compared to other Garden of Sinners movies but it is, by far, the one I am most intrigued by. Whereas in other The Garden of Sinners films, I can comment on the writing or story, my enjoyment of the first movie comes mostly from the aesthetics perspective. And it is highly personal compared to the others.
Fukan Fuukei, the title of the first film, translates to “an overlooking view” and this movie is exactly that.
Throughout the film, there is a consistent use of wide, high angle cameras to give that overlooking view to the audience. Usually, we always get a full view of the setting and even in dialogue scenes there will many times be cut to master shot with both characters in the frame. Most importantly, there seems to be this focus around the setting rather than the characters. And I think this idea of a wide shot is what is essential in understanding the first The Garden of Sinners movie. Touko briefly mentions within the movie that in an overlooking view, you are unable to understand that you physically exist in such a vast world. The camera for us, does exactly this. The confusion created by the vast world that we live in is presented by the setting of The Garden of Sinners, the dark urban buildings that fill the city.
It’s also important to note that this camera angle puts the audience at a birds eye view. There is never really a scene within this movie where we gain a complete understanding of the characters. All we really get is the outside, uninfluenced view of what is happening with guesses as to the character’s personality through the setting. We get Touko’s messy office, Mikiya filling in Shiki’s refrigerator, or the emptiness in Shiki’s room. All settings implying something about our characters. While this does become confusing for the audience at many times with reasons I will go into, this unmistakably makes the first movie more intriguing for the later movies.
Outside of this, specific moments with the camera give a lot of impact matching with the event. For example, there are a couple of instances within the film where a shaky cam is used. The shaking camera is more often used in cinema to give that realistic yet nervous feeling to the movie. Here, a shaky cam is used in scenes such as a girl falling from the building to capture the shock of the event. However, the director strays from doing this in Shiki’s perspective but rather places this in a third eye camera. This allows the audiences to keep that outside view while also showing the reality of the situation along with Shiki’s relatively unfazed state.
Oftentimes, the director chose to zoom out when presenting scenes. By doing this, the audience is signaled that the event ahead of them is going to be significant or the problem that Shiki has to deal with is bigger than what she is expecting. These shots all capture the distilled atmosphere of the movie.
Other than this, there are a few interesting transitions with the books dusting as a girl falls off the building or the round cup of coffee transitioning into the moon at the same part of the frame. While these do not add too much meaning, it definitely adds interesting presentation to keep audiences intrigued at the event.
The frames also use a lot of photography techniques to add flare. When Shiki goes to the building the second time to fight the ghost, leading lines that guide the audience’s eyes towards Shiki are well employed to provide the stress of the situation. For example, in the photo below.
The lines from the hallway guide our eyes to the almost faded silhouette of Shiki. The frames created by the ceiling and the wall give additional emphasis to Shiki in the location. The use of leading lines and frames within frame presentations are prevalent within the whole movie to give emphasis to the center of the screen.
On the other hand, in the photo below, the frame is composed with balance giving emphasis on the box with Shiki in the middle. Many times, The Garden of Sinners uses balance, especially with the setting, to give us a complete, unfazed look at the setting. This of course, adds into the overlooking view ideas on top of all this.
The couple of scenes in the opening minutes of this movie uses all this to give the audience a good grasp of the movie. Fukan Fuukei is an introduction; this means that it’s crucial that they introduce the characters, their personality, their dynamics, and the event to follow. And here, they do exactly such.
The first few minutes of the show presents to us our two main characters, Shiki and Mikiya and does everything to establish the dynamics between the two and present key parts about the show. We start off with Shiki looking at Mikiya. Shaking eye highlights, releasing out a sigh after seeing Mikiya. This shows Shiki being nervous about something and being relieved after seeing Mikiya. We are then introduced to Shiki’s room.
One immediate set up that we are given is Shiki’s leather jacket. The director places the red leather jacket on the top right focal point of the frame. This location on the frame is where the audience’s attention is director to first without outside influence. So we know it is of heavy importance to Shiki.
The important part to note here is that when Shiki is in the frame, the leather jacket is almost always there. One way the diretor creatively achieves this is by the reflection on the glass to place the focus on the leather jacket like this.
Of course, then they go on to blatantly fill the screen with the jacket. Again. Emphasis on the jacket.
As I mentioned previously in my Hyouka post, at the end of the day, film comes down to two people talking. And because of this, I am always fascinated to see how directors edit and present dialogue between two characters. Here, the camera is placed in the middle of the two characters, placing us right into what the characters are looking at rather than having a third eye there. To me, this is an interesting choice to start off this movie. Most of the time, you will find in the movie that dialogue scenes or just scenes with characters in general will cut to the master to show an overlooking view. Here, other than the first frame, the characters are never shown in their master shot at the start. This gives us the importance of the two in their relationship.
The blocking of the characters is also made to make the empty room seem more filled than it actually is. Shiki is next to a refrigerator and a sink with the red leather jacket always in the frame. Similarly, Mikiya is sitting next to the bed’s ledge with a reflection of himself in the background. Compared to the completely empty room, the director seems to be using almost every prop in the room to fill the scene. This may have been done to reflect how the two characters fill each other with their relationship or merely just to fill up the frame with interesting visuals. It may have also been foreshadowing to Mikiya’s wishes to seek and fill emptiness around him. Either way, these go a long way to make a dialogue scene a lot more interesting.
We also get a fairly interesting dialogue from the two where Mikiya mentions that Shiki is like a strawberry: they are pretty yet they are still a rose. The dialogue is also a good representation of this. Whereas Mikiya talks smoothly and approaches Shiki, she is a little bit sharper in the response. Again, showing the two’s dynamics. Sakamoto Maaya, the voice actor of Shiki, did a perfect job of getting this sharpness in the tone of her voice.
We then move on to see a girl standing on top of a building. And this was where the show really sold me. The “overlooking view” of the city, a wide angle view of the whole town minimizing the person on the building, the radiant greenlights, the sense of emptiness, all created just by the colors and the camera. The most interesting part about this scene was how they used the lights of the city to make the radiant white dress blend in making her almost feel as though she isn’t there. Again, minimization of people to the surroundings around this.
However, the strengths of The Garden of Sinners’s visuals doesn’t come from the camera. In fact, there actually is a lack of camera movements throughout the movie. A lot of the times the camera is focused on an object that slowly pans over like a slideshow or meaningless focus on characters for the sake of having characters on screen. Usually, these lacking bits in the visuals would make scenes, specifically dialogue scenes that don’t have much going feel pretty boring. And because The Garden of Sinners, especially at its beginning scenes, is filled with dialogue, you would expect that the entertainment value would rely on spoken information only. However, even without such creative camera placements in dialogue, The Garden of Sinners is able to create visual flair through color, setting, and objects.
As briefly mentioned above, my favorite part of the movie is the urban setting. Much like ufotable’s other works in fate, this movie has a lighting choice that is highly illuminating making scenes feel almost as if they are glowing. I absolutely love when a director choses to add color into darker settings to add specific atmosphere to the frame rather than sticking to a saturated dark to bore the audience. A modern work example of this is the first cave in the slime movie while a bad modern example of this is the first cave in Arifureta. By having some type of light, directors are able to still signify that the location is dark and unsettling yet still make each scene visible while adding an additional layer of the atmosphere. In this movie, the green of the buildings and the city add the eerie aspect on top of the chilling effect of darkness.
A similar example of this is also there when Shiki is fighting the ghost for the first time. Here, the red, orange light shines from above towards the building while the lower floors are lit with darkness. The light shining upon Shiki shows a sense of danger yet also a bit more brightness as she was able to fend off the ghost. Here, the physical separator in the middle with the ledge with Shiki on the left side while the pit is on the right side, emphasizes her avoidance of death with this event.
Other than the lighting, sometimes, it’s the objects in the room. Scenes in Touko’s room and her office, for example, are able to keep the audiences interested with the setting. Whereas there aren’t very many interesting camera placements, there is definitely a lot going on just within the room. For example how files and TV are aligned in a strange way in her office or how the dolls are hanging around Touko’s room. The additional layer that the director uses with these is the lighting. With the first example, the director provides a normally lit room to present the lack natural of the room away from the suicide cases whereas her work ofifice is lit in bright primary colors showing the unique and experimental natural of Touko. Here, just from the visuals, we learn what the atmosphere is like with Shiki, Mikiya, and Touko in her office, and also the mysterious nature of Touko’s abilities.
While this isn’t something I can specifically point out as to what it means, I simply just love how the contrast is used within the movie. Because of the lighting that the movie creates like in the scenes mentioned above, there is a high contrast that is created with the light and the darker settings. Whether it is the characters or the objects in the frame, the high illuminating highlights makes each character standout a lot more in the scenes.
Here, the bright blue lights from the back shining on Shiki gives a pretty highlight towards her raincoat. From this, Shiki is emphasized with the darker tone, showing her gloomy and confident mindset going to fight Fujou on the building.
I also want to talk briefly about the auditory bits in this movie. By now, everyone knows how great the music from Yuki Kajiura is. In the movie, her chord fits perfectly with the ominous mood of the film. The choir-like sound of her music fits in almost perfectly with the tension of each scene and the green, radiant light of the city itself. While the music isn’t matched per say with the editing, the tension that is built in the music matches perfectly with what is happening in the scene. For example, how the music builds up as Fujou climbs the building with the elevator or how the music is intensified when Touko talks about Mikiya in the doll rool to cut off into unconscious Mikiya and Shiki walking in the rain. The voice actors do a great job in portraying the characters, as briefly mentioned above as well. Whether it be the toughness in Touko’s voice or the almost boyish, empty yet sharp tone of Shiki’s voice, the subtle implications given to the audience by the voices give a lot of characterization which is direly lacking in this movie.
My favorite scene that combines all of these aesthetic elements is the final fight scene. With this being the first time this scene was crucial. We get the same overlooking view with the illuminated colors of the city as you can see on this shot above. Again, the colors here should have an eerie atmosphere. Interestingly, whereas directors would normally put focus on colors that differ from the setting like Shiki’s red leather jacket, The Garden of Sinners places the emphasis on the white glowing dress of the ghosts, Shiki’s eyes, and the red slashes. This signals that like the ghosts that are supernatural, Shiki’s eye is closely connected to her supernatural powers. While we are not specifically told what power Shiki has, we can infer slightly to what she is able to do. The music building up as she fights adds to the excitement while the music fading down as Shiki speaks gives so much emphasis to her dialogue as she walks towards the ghosts. These little nuances do so much to add atmosphere to the whole film.
Watching the fight here is pretty amazing to experience. While I will be elaborating further in future movies, the fight choreography of the movies is absolutely fantastic. There is always a succession of insert shots towards the slash of the hit that makes the hits a lot more impactful. Shiki also movies very elegantly allowing the whole fight to feel a lot more smooth. The blur with the shaky cam helps this out a lot as well. Watching Shiki slide across the root with water splashing towards the camera was probably the most exciting moment in the film.
Finally, I want to get into the other sections of the movie. I mentioned that this film is one which I feel slightly different about. That comes from everything surrounding the visuals: the writing, the story, and the characters.
There is a very interesting symbolism within this movie which I highly resonated with: one of the floating butterflies and the flying dragonfly. Touko states in the film that this means without a purpose and with a purpose respectively. With Mikiya’s metaphor at the end, we see that while Fujou as a butterfly can not fly, she ended up trying only ending up in exhaustion. Within this movie, we get quite a lot of references to this idea like how the ice cream in Shiki’s fridge is standing up (the icecream Shiki eats) while one is fallen or with the opening sequence, outlining the butterfly and the dragonfly because we see Fujou die. While we do not learn much about Mikiya in this movie, we learn that he is interested in emptiness and most likely wishes to fill the emptiness. We see this in the dialogue by Touko, his implied actions, and him visually filling in Shiki’s empty room and refrigerator.
However, as interesting as these ideas are, they aren’t presented in a very comprehensible way. It’s not as though there as any visual support either. As mentioned previously, there are a lot of pointing panning in insert shots that doesn’t mean much. When this is paired with what seems to be crucial dialogue when Touko and Fujou are talking, it’s very hard to see this anything other than a novel.
It also doesn’t seem as though the larger ideas about suicide or the characters are never explored too deeply. In fact, they aren’t really explored at all. We never get proper explanation as to who these characters are even less their motives, powers, or background. Sure the relationship between these three characters have been implied through the visuals, but we never really get the interactions between them except for Touko talking to Shiki about the case which really doesn’t show any of their personalities either since it’s merely just facts to what is happening.
The way that Touko speaks isn’t understandable if not convoluted. She speaks in a very round about way with a lot of metaphors to explain her points. But for someone like me who doesn’t speak like an elitist everyday, they just make everything more unclear. It doesn’t help that we are never really given an introduction of the supernatural events that are happening in the movie.
And it is because of this that all that the viewers, especially first time viewers, are left with is confusion as to what really is going on. My feelings about the first watch of the movie can be summarized to “slash, slash, pretty buildings. Cool!”
I’m not too completely sure what Nasu wanted to achieve when writing this as his first novel to the series. Because without the visuals, the first movie seems like a messy explanation of a case without much supporting explanation of anything that happens. But maybe that messiness is exactly what he wanted to achieve. Intentionally leaving the readers slightly confused using the shocking suicides to hold on the readers, setting us up for what’s to come in his next novels.
I don’t know how I should feel about these moments especially when I love the movie as a whole so much. Is it the countless rewatches that built my love for the first movie or is it really just the aesthetics that pushed this film forward? If there is anything I do know, is that the atmosphere that is established in this movie is what will define the upcoming movies.