- Genre : Supernatural thriller, suspense, action, drama
- Movie: 46 minutes
- Studio: Ufotable
Imagine that you had to share your consciousness with someone else. Another personality. A volatile and violent entity always on the edges of your consciousness. And now imagine that that someone else was your best friend. That they truly cared about you, maybe even loved you. What would you do if you woke up one day and they were suddenly gone? This is the situation Shiki finds herself in. After 2 years in a coma, she now wakes up in a world very different from the one she left behind. SHIKI is no longer there and in his place are nightmarish visions that plague Shiki’s every waking moment. For the very first time Shiki is the only one in her own mind and in complete control over her thoughts and life. And for the very first time, she is truly alone.
The fourth movie in the Garden of Sinners’ ongoing saga is called The Hollow Shrine. A disappointingly short title for my purposes but very pretty. And very fitting. I have a feeling this movie may have marked a turning point in the story, if so, the title seems particularly well suited, as I would say it’s a great way to describe the movies thus far.
I am currently watching ufotable’s Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba with Crow. It’s a fun series that really displays the studio’s flair for visuals and stunning animation. This is obviously a team that’s very skilled but also unafraid to try some things.
If you’ve been following along with my The Garden of Sinners reviews, you know that I started off flabbergasted by the production’s extensive and diverse use of visual and atmospheric storytelling. For better or worse, as the movies have progressed, this has been traded in for higher if more traditional production values.
I can no longer see layers of symbolism in each image. Colors don’t jump at you cryptically trying to tell you something. I didn’t even really notice the sound design at all. There is some obvious and heavy handed hallucination imagery and long lingering shots but it lacks the subtlety and sheer breadth of previous titles.
However, the movie once again is noticeably prettier. Designs are crisp and slight details have been added. Most scenes look like they could be used for promotional material without any extra editing. Movement is faster and even more fluid. Any awkwardness in proportions in action has been smoothed out. You can see my header gif for an example of a standard scene.
The voice actors remain the same and their performances haven’t changed much but they seem to have gotten to know each other better and the chemistry is definitely improved. It may have helped that Touko is much more present this time and she is a welcomed foil to the other two much more stoic characters. It makes the interactions between then that much more interesting with a different personality in the mix.
The Garden of Sinners 4 : The Hollow Shrine, is a difficult movie for me to review. As a standalone feature, I wouldn’t call it very good, because it’s not. A standalone that is. The story seems to pick up where the second movie ended. In 1996 Shiki spared Kokutou and turned her violence inwards instead. Ever faithful, Kokutou rushed her to the hospital where Shiki was barely saved and left in a coma. After visiting her regularly for two years, even seeking out a Magus’ (Touko) input to help and understand Shiki, Kokutou learns that she’s finally woken up. But this isn’t the girl he once knew, she’s somehow…empty. (or Hollow…you get it)
This time around, the story does even less than usual to establish its lore and characters, as such I’m not really sure how well someone that is not already familiar with the franchise could follow the story. Moreover, as The Hollow Shrine is mostly concerned with finally fleshing out Shiki’s character a bit, it’s possibly the slowest and most introspective movie yet. Even if you understand everything, without having formed a previous connection with the cast, I’m not sure you would care about what’s happening. Most of it is Shiki just lying around.
So let us instead consider it as what it really is, a denouement of a larger ongoing plot. If you approach it from the point of view of someone who has seen the previous movies, then it becomes much more interesting.
Like I just said, The Garden of Sinners 4 : The Hollow Shrine is essentially a character building and origin story for Shiki. There are no elaborate serial murder mysteries to solve, no strange disappearances in the background. Instead the bulk of the action such as it is, is centered on Shiki’s little hospital room, and her sparse visitors. But that doesn’t mean we get to know her all that much better. I still couldn’t tell you what her favorite food is, what pet she had as a kid or what type of music she likes. I can’t even tell you *if* she likes music. I still know nothing about her family and the movie pretty much tells us the mystery of the prequel will remain unsolved.
I do not know Shiki at all, but I kind of *get* her now.
The Garden if Sinners movies always had this tendency for vague and introspective story telling. You don’t understand what’s going on as much as you feel it. And this one was no different. Small movements, quiet moments and terse snippets of conversations slowly pile up to reveal a picture of a lonely conflicted girl. Powerful yet aimless. Uncertain whether the weight of existence is worth it on an almost purely practical level. I don’t know Shiki but I recognize her. The picture is still far from complete, and that’s okay.
Once again the running themes of existential angst and the nature of personal identity are tackled, even more head on but with a measured hand and less drama than I’ve come to expect. Make no mistake though, The Garden of Sinners 4 The Hollow Shrine is still far from a comedy!
In a way, the movie really started in the closing tag. We see all the lonely special girls from previous movies, and a few new faces, seemingly being recruited by a second Magus named Souren Araya, but for what purpose, remains unknown. It’s an exciting set up that really makes me look forward to the next movie but it made The Hollow Shrine seem like a somewhat dour preamble rather than a story in its own right.
Long story short: The Garden of Sinners 4 The Hollow Shrine is a decent entry in the series and you should watch it (after the second movie) if you plan on watching the entire franchise. As n individual movie it lacks both a beginning and an end, and doesn’t have enough buildup to support its own story.
Random thoughts, using a lit cigarette as a magic wand is awesome. you even have hat glowing tip. And it looks surprisingly less ridiculous. People should use that more!
Favorite character: Touko
What this anime taught me: SHIKI was a he? Not that it matters much but it was an interesting touch. Also, the Japanese version of singing in the rain has a drastically different melody.
Everyone has a hidden talent even they don’t know about..until someone pours tequila
Suggested drink: a Magus (not ancient)
- Every time anyone says Rougi – take a sip
- Every time Shiki sees “things” – take a swig
- Every time Touko is being rather unhelpful – raise your glass
- Every time it’s raining – get some water
- Every time Tuko smokes – take a deep breath
- Every time Kokutou visits the hospital – take a sip
- Every time someone mentions SHIKI – take a sip
- Every time we see flowers – take a sip
- Every time it’s sunny – finish your drink
As usual you can find a few more screencaps here if you are interested.