Genre: Suspense/horror (anime)
Produced by: Gonzo Studios
Number of episodes: 24
Red Garden is the story of four girls who find out that after one very confusing and forgotten night, they died. And yet they are still able to remain on the earth and live a life resembling the one they had only a short time before. The difference is, they aren’t in their real bodies and they must fight whenever called upon. The synopsis may sounds a little cliche, however, this piece actually takes some twists that are anything but.
Although each of the girls is around the same age as the other, each is given a distinctive social class and personality. In this way, the viewer gets to experience the events of the story from several different view points and walks of life. These different walks of life seem to influence how each girl reacts and deals with each set of circumstances placed before them. Setting the girls up this way was a great way to enhance the storyline, it works in favor of both developing the girls and keeping the plot line interesting.
Although one can say that the story progresses fairly slowly, with unfortunate repetition of some dialogue, the pace at which the story is revealed does actually contribute to a fair deal of wanted and credible suspense. There is actually something left to want to watch for. The viewer is finding out the details as the characters are, which is an effective element in adding to the suspense and drama of the story.
Another element requiring a deal of commendation is the way in which the characters and settings were designed. In a world where anime is becoming wide spread and so many companies and animators are jumping in on the success, you’d think originality would be easy to run into. However, that just isn’t the case. In fact, it has become quite easy to tell which companies have released which anime as their styles are quite unique to every animation they put out. Although this doesn’t necessarily make the animation bad, it does take away from its originality. Red Garden brings that back.
The setting is placed in the U.S.A, which isn’t that odd in itself. However, the characters are actually drawn to appear more like American students than is usually seen. Hair styles, make-up, fashion, and facial features are all drawn in a purely original style that really make the setting all the more realistic and believable. Let’s face it, the Japanese school girl/boy look may be endearing, but it doesn’t exactly fit into our schools or lifestyles. Though the girls are enrolled in a prep school and well equipped with prep school uniforms, the difference can clearly been seen in uniform and casual fashion.
As for the facial features, I found these to be particularly fascinating. Generally, Japanese animation stays away from putting too much focus on the nose and lips. The characters in Red Garden are given both of these features in full. The characters noses are notably larger than most anime characters (don’t get me wrong here, it was a fantastic art move and really serves to portray the origin of the girls), and the lips are generally fuller and doused with a nice shade of lip gloss or lip stick for good measure. This is not commonly a tactic used in Japanese animation, so it is one that is more than noteworthy and more than effective in this series.
Now, you must be thinking that with all this gushing over the originality and suspense of this series that it is simply without fault. Unfortunately, I can only wish it were so. While the faults I found with the series were small, they were present and thus should be addressed. As briefly mentioned early, there is some repetition to be found throughout the series. This repetition seems to occur mainly in the conversations between the girls and with their inner struggles. When you think about this critically, it is rather understandable that there would be repetition in conversations and the struggles that one is battling inside as a result of the conflict (finding out you are dead and trying to get your real body back), however, for film production purposes and in favor of interest, the director probably should have kept these little bits to himself and out of the series. At times, you find yourself thinking “haven’t we already been through this?”
All in all, repetitious conversations and inner conflicts aside, the series is one worth watching. The new twists on the old cliche seem to work well to both attract and keep interest. The settings and characters are beautifully animated; the voice acting and music are fitting, so although this may not be awards material, it is fantastic for a night of lounge pants and popcorn.