The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Red Garden

Title: Red Garden
Company: Gonzo
Genre: Drama/Action
Format: 22 episodes
Date: 3 Oct 2006 – 13 Mar 2007

Synopsis: Kate, Rose, Rachel, and Claire are four girls from New York who have nothing in common, except a shared friend, attending the same prestigious private school, and a fateful night in which they all died. A mysterious woman, Lula, tells the girls that they can come back to life if, when they are called, they fight and kill “Awakened” humans, who have super strength and reflexes, but only animal instinct and thought processes. Drawn into a centuries old conflict, every day is a struggle to stay alive and stay sane for the girls, whose formerly peaceful lives will never be the same.

The Highlights
Seiyuu: A fantastic cast with amazing chemistry.
Animation: A unique style that complements the American setting.
Characters: Fully fleshed out; amazing chemistry.
Action: A mixed bag.

The more titles any medium has, the harder it is to create a truly original work in that medium. Even though anime is being produced at a record pace, there are still a few titles that are stunningly unique and wonderfully crafted. Part high school drama, nail biting suspense thriller, and musical, Shakespearian in the style of its romances and plot, Red Garden is one such title. With a unique art style and Gonzo quality animation to boot, (I don’t mean Saikano quality) few anime are as amazing as Red Garden.

Gonzo once before attempted a similar story before with Gantz, but in that outing they quickly moved their focus away from the most important part of any drama: the characters. Showing that they can learn from their mistakes, Red Garden is first a character drama, and secondly an action show. The vast majority of the anime is focused not on the main conflict, or even the battling of Awakened humans, but on the everyday lives of the four main characters and how they cope with their surreal situation as well as the tough everyday life of a high-school student. Family, relationship, school, and even money problems all rear their ugly heads. Through these problems, the girls bare it all (you wish, pervert), letting you know them inside and out (I really need to watch these metaphors) by the time all is said and done. Even the side characters develop, change, and mature through their interactions with the main characters.

Like all aspects of Red Garden even the way the seiyuu were recorded is different. The seiyuu were recorded first, and then the show was animated to match the recordings, giving great artistic freedom to the seiyuu. This freedom shows in the raw emotional deliverance of the lines, connecting you to the characters on a level rarely equaled in film. The art style is one-of-a-kind in that the characters are drawn to look like Americans, and the typical stylistic approach in anime is toned down a bit to make the characters look more realistic. The characters are taller and have more defined noses, but there are also overweight characters, and African American characters who don’t look or act like a “Samba.” As an American, I think that Gonzo did a pretty good job capturing an American feel, both in scenery and character behavior.

Thankfully, Gonzo didn’t leave everything in the plot unresolved as they’ve developed a reputation for doing. My only complaint about Red Garden isn’t as much of a complaint as it is a wish. Most of the fights, while dramatically tense, aren’t very good from an action standpoint; however, there are two excellently drawn and choreographed fights that left me wanting more of the same. One could argue that Red Garden spends a little too much time making its characters, and not enough time breaking them in awesome action scenes. I never thought I’d say this, but there came a point where I felt I knew enough about the characters and wanted to see them in action instead of seeing more of their day to day lives.

Style and substance have come together to create an unforgettable anime in Red Garden. Gonzo has once again shown that it can be occasionally brilliant in more than just animation (if only they’d do so more often). If you’re looking for something different to watch, Red Garden is a truly unique work of art the likes of which we rarely see. This is one anime you don’t want to miss.

The Rating: 9
9/10

Reviewed by: Kuma

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