Review by: Faith McAdams
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Night of the living dead girls.
Waking up with no recollection of what happened last night, four girls with nothing in common except for the fact that they all go to the same school and had – at some point – come across a classmate whose body is discovered out in the woods – come together to discover a startling fact about the events of that night. You see, while their memories are hazy, these four girls died in an abandoned mansion but somehow still walk the land of the living. What they are about to discover is that their lives will never be the same in Red Garden, Collection 1.
The sad death of Lise Meyer is a mystery the sparks the events that find four New York City High school girls struggling to find meaning of that night they just can’t remember. These girls do share a few scattered images in their mind such as an abandoned mansion, dogs with glowing red eyes and a handsome young man with an inviting smile. It isn’t until these girls find themselves compelled to meet in a dark and lonely street when a mysterious man and woman approaches them. The woman tells them that all four girls are dead but living on borrowed time. In order to remain “living,” the only solution given to them is to kill humans that have become feral, mindless monsters.
In the early episodes, these girls from various backgrounds begin to piece together the events that bring them together and try to make sense of the words passed on to them by the mystery woman Lula and her brother JC. A number of questions begin to surface such as why can’t they sleep and why do they all have a thirst that can never be quenched by normal means (the girls suck on lemons to ease their thirst). Why do colorful butterflies appear when monsters are about to resurface and why do their wounds disappear the next morning? More importantly, did one of the girls jump up into air like Spider-Man?
Oh, unlocking these mysteries is what makes Red Garden such a joy to watch and the 12 episodes have no shortage of interesting twists and turns. On top of that, the main characters are not only interesting but they’re also superbly well-drawn with distinct personalities. There’s Claire Forrest, a tomboyish girl that just so happens to be one of the toughest members of the team and Kate Ashley who comes from a wealthy family and a member of a student disciplinary committee called Grace. Then there’s the short and seemingly weak Rose Sheedy and party girl Rachel Benning. We witness the lives of these four girls change dramatically as they try to come to terms with their new nightly duties.
Of course, killing monsters that still look human is not easy and all four girls – especially Rachel who does start to lose it – begin to feel the toll of taking a life. It isn’t until Lula reveals a secret about the girl’s “condition” as well as what really happened to their classmate and friend Lise that the four find a reason to fight. In the meantime, the girls’ find it hard to keep their secret life from spilling on to those around them such as friends, family and – in the case of Claire and Rachel – the boys they like. Then there’s the detective in charge of Lise’s case that find something strange about Lise’s death. Meanwhile, we meet the enemy that comes in the form of a handsome young man named Harve.
Oh, there’s so much more but I would be doing a great disservice by saying more since the series just gets more interesting the more you watch. Red Garden certainly isn’t for everyone seeing as its gritty and bloody. Still, there’s more to the series than bloody violence. Rose, Claire, Rachel and Kate react the way you would expect girls of their age to react to the supernatural events that had brought them together. The friendship they form because of it is endearing and their singing is almost heartbreaking.
Yeah, there’s singing and if this was some other anime series I would have chuckled at how cheesy it is but here it’s hauntingly beautiful. On top of that there’s the great voice acting performances that show genuine emotion.
Deliciously dark and downright gruesome, Red Garden is one of those riveting anime series that will have you on the edge of your seat. With a well-rounded cast of characters, mysteries aplenty and a macabre twist, Collection 1 of Red Garden is a dark tale that makes this one of those genuinely compelling Must See animated series that rivals some of the recent live-action fare on the big screen. Give this one a chance if you like a supernatural tale with a heavy dose of blood, sweat and tears.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Four girls discover that they’re dead and must kill monsters that were once human in order to survive and regain what was lost to them. This is but the start of a 12-episode series that is wonderfully dark, surprisingly stylish and a compelling tale with a lot to offer.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation is quite lovely and looks great on DVD so those with a good HDTV setup will definitely enjoy the visuals. The grainy look and drab colors add to the series style and setting nicely.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
Strong performances can be found in both the English dub and Japanese work so you’re in for a treat no matter how you chose to watch the episodes. The original score by Akira Senju is just as haunting as the songs the characters sing. Plus, “Rock The LM.C” and “Oh My Juliet” by LM.C are awesome closing theme songs.
Cleaning opening and closing theme songs rock but we would have loved us some audio commentary from the cast, though. Collection 2 will most likely feature the “Dead Girls” OVA.
Red Garden, Collection 1, is one of those wonderfully visceral, delightfully original and intelligent anime shows that is delightfully strange in the best way possible. The 12-episodes have no shortage of surprises and revelations that will definitely keep your eyes glued to the screen. Add this one to your Must Watch list.