Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anime Review: Red Garden

I remember about a year ago a friend and I were watching this show together and we got about halfway through before it was just too much of an effort to coordinate our schedules, plus I think I was enjoying it more than she was, and I didn't have enough time to try and find it online to watch the rest of the show. But recently the first few episodes were shown at my anime club (for "mindf*ck night," although really it isn't one at all) and I decided to pick it back up to watch during the Halloween season. I was able to find the dub online (on hulu) but not the sub so now I've seen half the show subbed and it completely dubbed, I think that's a first for me.

Red Garden

Summary: Claire, Rose, Kate, and Rachel were average high school girls who all ran in different circles although they did all have a common friend, Lisa. So when she is killed all of them are upset and then become even more upset when they learn they were actually killed along with her and now have to fight monsters nearly every night to stay alive. Each one reacts differently to this truth and the overall larger conspiracy that they have fallen into.

The Good: I've seen a number of monster-of-the-week and you-are-the-only-one(s)-who-can-fight-these-monsters kind of stories and I think this story does the best job at showing how people would really react to that. Some of the girls break down, others manage to keep living normal lives and, while it might be annoying to see just how broken this leaves some of them, it feels a lot more realistic than the majority of this genre. It was also nice that each of the girls have a very different group of friends and all of them got enough screen time to fully flesh out those relationships and see how they change throughout the series. While this story does have a central plot line I think the strongest part of the show was the character parts instead. 

The Bad: Towards the very end of the series it got really strange and, even though it was well-foreshadowed, the sudden expansion in the scale of the plot didn't quite work. The story went from a story of four girls who are fighting to live and dealing with the psychological effects to a centuries old, fur-vs-fangs feud and it didn't quite work. I kept yelling at the characters to try and negotiate instead of just fight, which is never a good sign, so by the end of the story I actually felt less emotionally connected to the characters and in a sense relieved it was over. 

The Audio: The English dub is, okay, you can easily tell it was produced in that time period between the god-awful English dubs and today's pretty darn good dubs. The weirdest bit however is something that's in both the English and Japanese version, random, musical-esque bits of singing*. It sounds kinda awful in both languages, apparently the Japanese version was bad on purpose so that's why the English version was bad but that's based on the word of Steven Foster, someone who isn't well liked by the anime community lately for writing a bunch of sub par dubs in the past year. The opening song was okay and both of the ending songs were really weird, none of which were translated even though this was a licensed Funimation stream, not a simulcast stream where they can't always get approval to translate the songs. The Japanese dub didn't really stand out to me either but I would probably recommend that one in the end since the character's voices in the English version just varied too much to sound natural.

The Visuals: The opening sequence is a bit reminiscent of Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (also produced by Gonzo) with all the unmoving patterns but the rest of the series looks more normal. The characters are lankier than most anime characters (although they look much more realistic than say, Clamp's "noodle people") and almost all the characters have really big noses as well, some of my friends joked that you could tell this was set in America by the noses. Odd designs aside, the art was consistent, the setting seemed like a good representation of NYC and the many fight scenes looked pretty.

I also saw the OVA for this series, Dead Girls, which was, well, um, not very good. It didn't feel like a part of the series at all, rather like Gonzo had a (kinda) cool new idea for another series and just reused all the character designs. It did answer a few questions from the final but it raised a dozen more and was neither needed nor coherent. Booo, Funimation has put out this series as part of their super-cheap SAVE line so I plan to get that some day. 

*and now that I think about it, there never has been a musical anime has there? I don't normally like musicals but that could be interesting.... 

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