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[R1 DVD box art.]
AKA: レッド ガーデン (Japanese)
Genre: Drama
Length: Television series, 22 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Relicensed by FUNimation. (License rights earlier belonging to ADV.)
Content Rating: PG-12 (Deaths, violence.)
Related Series: Red Garden: Dead Girls (Sequel)
Also Recommended: Gunslinger Girl
Notes: An original production by GONZO; this predates the manga of the same name.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars

Red Garden

Synopsis

A sudden kidnapping and four teenage girls woke up to find they cannot remember what happened the night before. Worse still, they discovered that one of their school-mate had passed away, suspected to have committed suicide. Amidst the tension and apprehension and crawling cops and security, they were summoned late one night by a mysterious woman and told that they were actually dead. As they were living on borrowed lives, they must perform her bidding to kill a man with their bare hands.


Review

This is a frustrating review: It could have, would have and should have been a great series... but it wasn't! After agonising for hours and suffering from writer's block, I have come to the conclusion that this review can only be written in 2 parts: the first 18 episodes and last 4 episodes.

First 18 Episodes.

Amidst an intriguing backdrop of serial suicides of young ladies, we are introduced to our four main characters. There's Kate, the elite; Claire, the rebel; Rachel, the spoilt brat; and Rose, the crybaby; easily dismissed at first glance as steroetypical high-schoolers. But hang in there!

The series takes it time to trace the group as they grow and come to terms with their own deaths and a new destiny. The main focus here are the characters. And in this series, they are very profound and realistic. All of them started out as confused individuals with clashing personalities but through a common agenda, they have come to forge a close friendship.

As the story progress, the audience are allow glimpses into their family, personal life outside school and growing pains. Kate's parents expect nothing but the best from their daughter as a member of the elite called Grace in school. Claire is constantly broke after running away from home, estranged from her father and blaming him for her mother's demise. Rachel is aimless and idles her time away with parties and more parties. Rose has to juggle between taking care of her ill mother and two young siblings while looking for a debt-ridden father. In this way, the characters are very realistic and you feel as though you have really known a Kate or Claire or that you hated Rachel and Rose sat next to you in high-school.

And the character development is full of surprises. Everytime I was expecting the group to fall apart and start turning on each other during tense situations, they showed that they were able to bring their trust to yet a higher threshold.

A string of strong supporting characters is also woven seamlessly into the story. Herve, a jerk with an ulterior motive for getting close to Kate. A pair of dogged detectives bent on solving the mysterious suicides. Lula, also known as Mystery Figure A, the contact point for the girls. Not forgetting dead Mystery Figure B, Lise, who is really not so dead.

And there you have the ingredients for a classic anime series.

Last 4 Episodes.

Now imagine taking everything that was painstakingly and with great detailed established in the last 18 episodes and hastily bang together an ending. The effect is something akin with jamming the brakes of a train that was going at full speed. The audience are flung into the plot and forced to accept that, well... Things. Just. Happen.

I shall try not to give away the plot so much, suffice to say that there exist a private war between Kate's faction and the man-cum-monster faction that they were ordered to kill. And that's it. There is no reason given as to the origin of the war or why the two factions were reduced to what they were. My expectations immediately deflated like a pricked balloon and believe you me, I actually rolled my eyes!

The final showdown was weak and it is, in my opinion, one of the most unmemorable victory ever with little dramatic impact. A case to note: just a couple of episodes ago, our young ladies were having trouble utilising their special capabilities and suddenly in the final battle, they have total control over it? It does not make sense. Plus all the secondary characters were picked up and discarded like nobodies' child.

But the biggest bone I had to pick was the interaction of our main characters with Lise. Of course we were told that Lise shared a close friendship with all of them but the writers could have spend more time pondering over this issue. Because really, it is a feat how Lise could become close friends with such different groups of people, especially with Rachel's rather obnoxious clique. It is from personal experience that high-school kids usually make friends following the rule: birds of a feather flock together. And flock together our four ladies certainly did not. Not in the beginning at least.

Oh, one more thing. Be sure to have the mute button ready for the first 10 episodes or so. Because they tend to launch into some out-of-tune melancholy songs that make me cringe. Lesson learn: the seiyuus here should not consider a singing career.

Pity. Such a pity they decided to rush the ending. So here's what I think: GONZO must have blew their budget after the 18th episode. And they didn't manage to hire Maaya-san.

If we average 4 stars for the beginning and 2 stars for the ending, we get 3 stars. — Diane Tiu

Recommended Audience: Preferably mature audience who have been through high-school; younger audience will probably be bored. The characters behave very much like you and I and can be quite nasty when they succumb to stress-induced berserk behaviour.



Version(s) Viewed: Pre-release fansub
Review Status: Full (22/22)
Red Garden © 2006 GONZO, G.D.H., Trinet Entertainment.
 
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