Red Garden: anime review – the best dressed zombies in the world!

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.

Rating: C+

Title: Red Garden
Genre: horror, supernatural, drama, musical
Release date: October 3, 2006 – March 13, 2007
Episode: 22
Director: Kou Matsuo
Animated by: Gonzo

24 responses to “Red Garden: anime review – the best dressed zombies in the world!

  1. I still haven’t managed to finish this one, although I do plan to at some point. There are just so many other, more enjoyable things to watch. My main problem with what I’ve seen of the show is that I just don’t care much about the characters. Either they rate a “meh” from me, or I kind of dislike them. I have a feeling that what will inspire me to finish is a need to know everything that’s going on. I may not be enthused by the characters, but their situation is interesting.

    When the first musical-style song popped up, I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think I can recall ever watching a single musical anime. I was hoping that, at some point, there’s be some justification for the spontaneous singing, although from the sounds of things there isn’t.

  2. You have mentioned the flaws and I kinda agree with ya. Having said that, I found myself enjoying this one. Maybe because how the characters developed (the irony is not lost on me). I guess, what I’m saying is, I loved the drama and didn’t mind the lack of horror and action parts. By the end of the shows, I was rooting for them dead girls. But like you said, this one could have been better if they take into consideration of those things.

    Have you seen the OVA? I love the futuristic part of it and how them girls’ personalities changed. You should try it.

    Speaking of being fashionable, this one definitely one of the best. If you want to talk about K-ON or OreImou setting up the par, think again. This one is bound and leap better.

    I loved the first ED of this one too, just saying.

  3. ariannasterling

    I’ve watched the second episode of Red Garden in the past–not episode 1, just episode 2. For some reason the DVD from NewtypeUSA decided we didn’t need to see the beginning. It’s on my list of things to get around to eventually.

    The art is good, but it’s not my preferred style, and when I don’t like the art, that can push an anime further down on my list. What I’m reading here with all of the flaws doesn’t exactly make me more excited to watch. It will stay on that list of things I’ll watch when I run out of things I actually WANT to watch.

  4. Although has its faults this is one of my favorites series, mainly because of the cast, that girls are no moeblobs at all. I love how the act like real people with boyfriends/families/doubts/responsabilities/jobs, etcs. There is a lot of angst but thankfully isn’t (mainly) focus in their romantic relationships that sadly is the main raison d’etre the most females in anime and others media. In fact the resolution of the only love triangle was INTERESTING even moving, but being just a part of the story of one of the characters not a tumor for the series.
    The girls really grow on me as they get closer with each other and mature. A great series if you want multilayers female characters that DOSEN’T HAVE THE SAME FACE, dressed fabulously, and can’t take a good dose of angst and can value arty attempts.

    • I agree with all your points on the realistic/non-romantic female character development and relationships. That was one rare and valuable thing any anime could offer amidst the current moe-storm. Now I feel like I shouls have focused more on this topic in my review. Thank you for pointing this out :)

  5. I’ve never even heard of this anime, and frankly, I don’t know why. I’ll watch anything with zombies in it, so I’m giving this one a go in due time. I like shows that slowly divulge details as opposed to telling you everything at once, so I might like this show.

  6. Broadway-style singing? Hmmm…I may have to continue the series just to see this. I quite several episodes in because…well, the Anime Network stopped showing new episodes and I wasn’t interested enough to search out the rest.

    I will say that the characters’ style really stood out, like you mentioned. It’s what I remember most from the first few episodes. That, and not really liking any of the main characters.

    • If you want to watch the singing, you would probably be disappointed because they stopped singing right around episode 5 or 6. (and seriously speaking, they didn’t sing very well -_-)

  7. Isn’t Red Garden korean? Not that it matters :)
    Loved the LM.C ED for the series ~

  8. Well, at the very least, it has a great wardrobe. That’s always important, although it should never be more important than the actual story and content.

  9. I was originally attracted to this series a while back, I liked the look of the art and was intrigued by the horror aspect. But after reading a few reviews I pushed this series from my mind.

  10. The music might actually be the best thing about this series. Especially when KOKIA takes over the musical segments. Hearing her voice is just totally awe-inspiring and it’s one of the few soundtracks I’ve rated as a masterpiece.

    I’ll disagree with your review though since I thought it was pretty solid all around. Part of where the series shone lay in how well the characters’ suffering and acceptance was relayed.

    • I think my impression was greatly affected by what the beginning of the show lead me to expect. And when everything changed, like the sudden intense drama, I might have perceived that as flaws. *brooding seriously*
      Admittedly, Red Garden has a lot to be admired :)

  11. Pingback: Suggested Reading January 28th « Black and Blue Socks

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