Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anime Review: Red Data Girl

And now it's time to start talking about the spring 2013 anime series, hurray because I was running out of time to watch a full series for review every week. Once I start talking about the summer shows I'll make an overview/wrap-up post for the spring anime on my tumblr or such since I ended up cutting a lot of shows this time around, this is actually one of only four reviews which might surprise some people since I did not like the first episode at all. But Funimation licensed it and like I said I would I tried out a couple more episodes on their site and by the second episode I was hooked, this one really does have a three episode hump you need to get over, just like everyone was telling me.

Red Data Girl

Summary: Izumiko has grown up living with an older caretaker couple in a shrine deep in the mountains while her parents live in Tokyo and while she's never quite felt normal (frying every electronic you come into contact with will do that) she's content with her life. So she's rather confused when an old friend of her mother's appears and says that his son will now serve Izumiko as a servant (and he is NOT happy about this) because she has great and unusual powers that require some help protecting.

The Good: It's hard to articulate why the second episode worked so much better for me than the first one did but by the third episode the plot has started moving, the characters have started talking to each other (both literally and in the sense of "they are exchanging ideas") and the tone (quiet yet with mystical things happening underneath) of is established and it all starts to blend. It may seem a little odd when I both describe the tone like that and say that the show is rather quick paced and chock-full of plot but it is, although I suspect this has more to do with the abbreviated length than anything else. The character development is a bit more spotty but by the end I can safely say that the characters aren't who they started out being and it's for the better. All in all it's a bit hard to explain why but the show really clicked for me I enjoyed it's plotting, character interaction, and overall tone well enough that it's a must buy for me at some point.

The Bad: This is a 12 episode anime based off of a six book novel series (I believe it's completed at six volumes but I'm not 100% positive) and only manages to cover five of them, I believe that makes a large problem very clear. Although, having read a summary of the last volume I'm not sure it even clears up some of the questions I had at the end of the series which isn't exactly a good thing either. Oddly enough the show does have decent pacing but you can tell it would have been much better if it had been two-cours long instead and had time to breath instead of cramming plot points into every last minute of each episode and would have let the character development feel a tad bit more natural. Finally, for me this anime reminded me of both Ghost Hound and Studio Ghibli's work but with one key difference, while all the strange things going on in GH were explained (to both the characters and the viewers), and likewise each Ghibli film takes time to explain at least a bit of it's mythology, this series seemed to assume that it's viewers understand a lot about Shintoism and Shugendo (which I hadn't even heard about prior to this series), in addition to some Japanese history, which makes some of  the plot points a little hard to follow. I'll probably end up skimming every forum thread I can find on the show to see if anyone can fill in the blanks and before I rewatch this show, which I do plan to do someday, I'm going to read up as much as I can about Shintoism and Shugendo to see if some thing make a bit more sense a second time around. 

Production Values: The good thing about waiting for the Funimation stream was that while I still wasn't watching an HD, 720p stream of the show it was still much better than the screenshots I've seen of the NicoNico streams (which were still way better than the stream I saw of the first episode) and looked rather gorgeous. The use of color and light was nice and the final episode had some really smoothly animated action sequences, that more than made up for waiting for the two week delay. As for the music, both the opening and ending songs took a while to grow on me but by the end I really adored those around and they certainly fit the tone of the series nicely (although I had an odd moment when I realized that the last time I heard the singer of the ED was for one of Humanity Has Declined's songs which is almost thematically opposite of this show).

This one gets a 3.5 or 4 out of 5 for me and I do plan on buying the show if Funimation acquires the rest of the rights. For those interested, it's streaming on Funimation's site and on Hulu and if the idea of a mash-up between Ghost Hound and Studio Ghibli's works interests you then by all means give the first two or three episodes a try, even if the first doesn't quite click for you try the second as well!