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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Red Garden: Live to Kill vol 1 Impression


ADV’s latest thriller anime, Red Garden, is both enthralling and perplexing. Set in New York, Red Garden cranks up the mystery and action but breaks frequently for the needed story components. I know that a good anime needs story to go with the action, but Red Garden is different. The pacing is so extreme where one episode sees the girls fighting for the lives while the next shows them sifting through emotions of being dead, kinda like 28 Days Later meets Dawson Creek with a visit for Buffy. Let’s take a step back to the beginning.

Red Garden is brought to us by studio Gonzo, responsible for such great anime as Afro Samurai and Chrono Crusade. The director, Kou Matsuo, is new to me sans Rozen Maiden which he directed. Set in modern day New York, Red Garden right away distances itself from many anime which take place in Japan and adds in a private high school setting most anyone in the states can relate to. So, we’ve got our setting, and we’ve also got our stars, Kate, Rachel, Claire and Rose.

Our young ladies all come from various clicks from preppy snob to withdrawn wussy. Their private school is shocked by the death of a classmate and the same evening this is announced our four heroines are drawn to Central Park by red butterflies only they can see. Once gathered a blond chic appears and tells them they’re dead, that they must fight to stay alive (borrowed bodies and all) and eventually they’ll learn the mystery of their own deaths. Volume 1 of Red Garden, Live to Kill, does a great job of introducing the story, setting and characters mixed in with story snippets to tantalize the taste buds of even the most hardened mystery fan.

So you ask why would I talk about this series being perplexing? Art design and animation quality. I love me a good mystery, and the pacing of the series is pretty good, some of the story segments could be sped up a little; I really don’t need the Dawson Creek-ish inner-reflections from each girl, but hell if it gets the mystery rolling, sweet. The art, oh the art is just not that high a quality. It takes a different design angle as these girls are not your typical anime hotties, they each look like a girl you could know, from bad noses to unique dress styles to just plain Jane ness. I took the DVD for a spin on an HD LCD and it just seemed grainy to me, which really took away from the overall experience.

So, how would I rate this series on a scale of 10? It’s an easy 8. As I said the story is great and leaves the viewer wanting more. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful anime that just suck story wise, this one does not so hook it up. If you’ve EVER been interested in Buffy, Angel, X-Files … anything of that vain then pick up Red Garden and enjoy, you will like it. I was a doubter at first, but having seen volume 1 I’ll follow these red butterflies till story end.

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