Garden of Sinners 3: Remaining Sense of Pain

Normally, I'm impatient when it comes to anime. Too much to do, too little time to get it done...'nuff said. When someone tells me that a series hits its stride 40 episodes in, that's a series I will never, ever watch. Movies are a different story; you're not wasting as much time if segments aren't that great. But I have to admit I'm getting a little impatient with Garden Of Sinners. The first movie, while beautiful, was a jumble. The second film left a lot of plot points open, but it made the central characters more interesting. Movie number 3, Remaining Sense of Pain? It's going in the right direction, but I'm still not totally sold. Then again, if you thought the first two films were boring, you might find this one a lot more enjoyable...if the subject matter doesn't bother you too much.

A young woman named Fujino is raped in an abandoned bar on the seedy side of town. Strangely, she's not panicked or hysterical; she's almost in a trance. That's when the bloodied limbs start flying. Apparently, this crew picked the wrong girl to brutalize, and the police start mopping up the mess. That's when Mikiya and Shiki get involved. Mikiya knows Fujino and let her rest at his home after the attack, as (for all he knew) she was suffering from stomach cramps. He also happens to know one of the guys responsible for the violation of Fujino. Mikiya's detective skills come out as he pieces together how Fujino is not only a victim but also the perpetrator of a series of revenge killings.

But no matter what Mikiya finds out, Shiki knows better. Fujino is slowly losing control. Not only does Fujino not have a sense of pain -- or didn't, anyway -- she has some of the same "quirks" as Shiki herself. While Fujino had every right to defend herself, the violence she commits begins to extend outside the circle of her attackers. That's when Shiki determines that she's going to take Fujino down.

As with the first two films in the series, Remaining Sense of Pain has an unmistakable ambiance. I wouldn't say that it's as beautifully made as the first two, possibly because the action sequences in this one (which are considerable) drained the budget. Will you miss it? Probably not, since these still are among the best-looking anime of recent memory.

Those who found the conversations convoluted in Overlooking View or the slow burn of A Study In Murder Part 1 too pokey should find themselves on solid ground here. While there are many questions left unanswered about our leads, Remaining Sense of Pain is about as straightforward as I can expect from a series that's this much into brooding atmosphere. No one is going to mistake it for a Transformers movie, but for the average viewer, this won't be a frustrating experience but an exciting one. At the same time, there's still the solid character interaction that gives the show an interesting edge. Mikiya does a good job at balancing out my feelings towards Shiki; it's good to have a strongly moral player to at least counteract the wildly anti-hero side Shiki displays. In one sense, it's the easiest of the films so far to really enjoy, if that word can apply here.

But that gets into the problem that continues to confront me in Garden Of Sinners, but moreso in this episode: how much darkness do you really want in your life? I'm honestly not sure I need to watch a movie where the opening shot is of a woman being violated on a pool table. It's not particularly graphic or sexual, though breasts are on display, and it doesn't go on for too long. Mikiya's utter disgust at his friend who turns out to be a rapist shows the ethical core of his character. But rape is not what I want to watch in my anime. I've had too many friends go through various forms of assault, and I don't think the show does as much as it should to be sympathetic to Fujino.

Nor am I convinced that Shiki is all that sane a person to be promoting as the center of the show. Yes, she has multiple personalities (how many, I'm not quite sure). But she enjoys killing, and that's not good no matter how you look at it. I recently reviewed the TV series Berserk, which is about as bloody as you're going to get, with a lead who's really only good at dispatching other warriors on the battlefield. Yet there, Guts (the hero) never slaughtered with a twinkle in his eye. Simply put, here it seems that Shiki gets off on taking out other psychically empowered individuals. Again, not something I exactly revel in.

I'm not sure why Garden Of Sinners bothers me more than some other dark entertainment. Heck, I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead, and seeing as I'm a David Fincher fan, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will make it into my Netflix queue even if I don't get out to the theater to see it. Perhaps it is, in fact, that the oppressive atmosphere is so well done that I find it a little unnerving. Maybe it's because I don't really know what the heck is going on with this freaky devilwoman Shiki. I dunno.

Am I going to keep watching Garden Of Sinners? Yes, of course. It's very well-made, it's fascinating at times, hauntingly beautiful at others. I wish it wasn't so disturbing, but it's not so bad as to turn me off from it, nor is it immoral or amoral as of yet. I even imagine I'm going to start watching the movies closer together so I can catch more of how they interrelate to one another. But I really do hope that the rumors are true and that the fifth film is worth the entire journey...'cause if not, I'm gonna be honked off.

Garden of Sinners 3: Remaining Sense of Pain -- graphic violence, rape -- B