Red Garden is the story about four girls living in New York City, dressing fabulously and doing crazy things. Yes, it looks like I am about to review Sex and the City but I am not. Sex and the City is not a horror show, or is it?
The anime kicks off with a bang and lots of mysteries. The backgrounds of New York City and breath-taking fashion combined with supernatural-horror theme have already set this show apart from other anime since the first episode. I felt immediately obligated to see this to the end, where ever it might take me.
Kate, Rachel, Rose and Claire find themselves in serious trouble when they are summoned by two strangers who tell them that they are dead and if they want to regain their previous lives, they have to fight and exterminate rabid wolf-like monsters lurking on the streets of New York in the dead of the night. The first few episodes focus on the four girls struggling to survive each battle. It was suspenseful and horrifying. The show kept me at the edge of my seat and cleverly kept most of the details secret. Things would have been great if Red Garden had maintained this momentum and been more consistent with what it had started.
In my opinion, Red Garden is the show with great potentials. It could have been better, much better with more polished ideas, structured story and, especially, with more consistency in several elements which I will go into detail here.
First and foremost, Red Garden is a horror story only at the beginning. The show switches into drama genre in the large middle portion and turns into action/supernatural genre in the last few episodes. Not that the drama part was incompetent but I felt that it was not well incorporated with the rest of the series. Actually, the middle part which focuses on the girls’ reaction and adaptation to their new scary night assignments is pretty well done with lots of emotional turmoil and character exploration. It is surely an essential part but in Red Garden, the mystery and the action which are supposed to be the staple of interest in the show are totally neglected.
But the most starkly insistent element is the singing. How many horror anime has the characters sing and uses the song to tell the story during the show? The answer is none, at least from what I have seen. The girls of Red Garden actually sing in a Broadway style musical. And though I secretly wished they had used professional singers instead, I thought it was brilliantly unique. The only problem was that they just stop singing after a few episodes. Maybe they ran out of songs?
Talking about the action, they are scarce in Red Garden but the lack of action scenes is actually not my main concern. What bothers me is when the action happens, the show could have been more creative. The animus ends up flying around, punching enemies. There could have been more than that! Any kind of cool weapons would do (baseball bat does not count!). Any kind of awesome moves and battle tactics would have added much more excitement to the action scenes. As it happens, despite the Animus’ incredible power and potentials as fighters, the fight scenes are just plain dull.
Red Garden’s theme which tries to question the true meaning of life through undead characters is a nice variation of simple drama anime. Though the true nature of the two opposing clans is not central or directly related to this theme, it still needs to be plausible at the least. But in Red Garden, the big revelation at the end concerning the magical books and eternal life simply pops up out of nowhere. It feels too forced for me.
Despite the said inconsistency, subpar build-up and rather unconvincing ending, Red Garden is still very pleasant to look at. The character design differs greatly from traditional anime characters with more realistic facial composition and expression. Costume design is another high light of the show. The creators clearly put great deal of effort in making them look as beautiful as anime costume can be. The girls look fabulous despite the fact that they are already dead. Every now and then, I found myself drawn towards the costume even more than the story itself.
Conclusion: Red Garden started with admirable ambition and energy but the show soon faltered and seemed to lose heart as time went by. You know something is definitely wrong when the show’s strongest point goes to its costume design.
Title: Red Garden
Genre: horror, supernatural, drama, musical
Release date: October 3, 2006 – March 13, 2007
Director: Kou Matsuo
Animated by: Gonzo