Red Garden Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2008



What They Say
Just as the girls grow accustomed to killing, they are confronted with the soul-shaking consequences of their new, murderous “life.” For it seems their ravenous, monstrous prey are victims just like themselves—innocent pawns of an evil game being played in the streets of New York. Worse, it seems the players are not limiting the match to the moonlight hours anymore. Seasoned gamers, they begin encroaching in the daylight, slipping into each other’s camps to discover strategy and secrets, drawing even the most innocent of girls into the most wicked of traps—love. Don’t miss the next play in anime’s most dangerous game, Red Garden.

The Review!
With little action to it, Red Garden continue to explore of the characters lives as they come to grips with their situation.

Audio:
The bilingual presentation of this series is pretty well done for what it's offering on both sides of the track. For the fans of the Japanese language, there is a solid stereo mix done at 224 kbps which, since this is mostly dialogue based, comes across quite well. English language fans get a nice bump up to a 448 kbps 5.1 track that adds a bit more clarity in the placement of dialogue and a richer bass level. Both mixes do quite well overall and the end result is that we had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either language track and came away happy.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2006 and early 2007, the transfer for Red Garden is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Gonzo is no stranger to doing some interesting processing on their titles but Red Garden just leaves me in the cold. The animation for the show is rather good for them but they softened it up severely by putting a lot of grain/noise on top of it. The result is a show that looks far too alive in general, far too soft and seemingly introduces a kind of edge enhancement to the characters on the inside. The noise that's introduced doesn't devolve down into blocking thankfully, but it's like we're getting a stylized flashback moment for the length of the entire show. Some scenes make out worse than others but the nighttime scenes look good in this form. It's an unusual choice and one that's likely to be noticeable even among those who tend to not see such things.

Packaging:
With this volume having a rather good focus on Herve, it makes sense for him to be on the cover and that works rather well here. Using him as the central character with ties to Kate while also giving us the ghost like image of Lise in the background brings in a lot of brightness while still keeping to that dark feel. The butterflies and the one who has turned provide the blood red color that gives it a good nod towards the violent side. The back cover works well with some larger headshot artwork of the four leads with another murky background behind them. The summary is well done in the way it's laid out as well as how much it doesn't reveal. The production information fills up a chunk of the bottom in a fun red on black layout while the bottom technical grid is expanded to include more logos and some website information. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
Continuing a growing trend I suspect, the main menu design for Red Garden is very simple with a static image from the opening of one of the girls' midsections done in the creative design. Using a lot of the signature colors from the series with reds and blacks, it's an attractive enough piece on any size monitor. A bit of character artwork sneaks in on the sides but it's fairly indistinct overall and there is a bit of simple instrumental music that plays along to add a bit of atmosphere. Navigation is straightforward and easy to access and the disc correctly read our players' language presets by going with Japanese using full subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this release are the basics with the inclusion of just the clean opening and both closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Red Garden moves to the halfway mark with this volume and it's similar to the previous one in a lot of ways. Beyond one instance of dealing with someone who has turned, the show focuses more on the lives of the girls as they adjust to their situation and cope with the way they come across to others. Some of it is mildly interesting to be sure, but the saving grace comes from the unexpected direction of Herve as we see what's going on with his father and the family bloodline.

While the cast isn't large, it tends to spend more time with certain girls as it progresses so that we can understand their individual situation better. This volume focuses more on Kate and Claire with Rachel getting some good time as well. Rose has some minor moments just to keep her visible but they're really minimal overall, which isn't bad since she got a fair bit of time in the last volume. Each of the stories for the girls are well enough on their own and some common threads start to surface on the rare occasion that they all get together. Rachel's is the weakest of the three as she's still just having a problem getting close to Luke and finds that if she does, she's afraid he'll realize there's something different about her. That's enough to scare her away from trying to fix things up terribly well with him.

Claire's story is fairly interesting as well as we see her struggling to survive in general since she's thrown out of her place, without a job and without any money. Yuan does his best to lift her spirits but she's completely down for the count in a way because of all the things she can't tell him about. Her life has reached a new low and she has to face the prospect of going back to her family for help which doesn't ease her mind at all. What's interesting with her, and in some similarity to Rachel, is that she's starting to take her job more seriously in terms of the fighting. She's not exactly getting real skills with it, but she is spending more time trying to be better in swinging a bat. In the end though, you have to wonder why those that are backing them in this business aren't helping her out, other than to avoid any real connection with them. Does it do them any good to have her completely down and out as it would take the rest of the team out as well?

What is probably the most interesting part of the show is something that only gets to Kate much later in the game. When Kate discovers that her sister Emma is seeing someone, it doesn't take long for her to meet him. What is a surprise, one that neither of the ladies knows, is that the gentleman is actually employed by Herve. This gives Herve a chance to investigate Animus a bit more, though he's a bit slow on the uptake with the idea at first. Herve has grown increasingly concerned about the state of progress by his father and Dr. Bender with his sisters as much of the focus is now on the Lise body that's woken up. Anna and Mirielle are both getting worse in their own way and the doctor doesn't spend any time with them at all. So having a new connection to follow via Kate gives him a new angle to pursue.

Herve has really become the most interesting character of the show, and one that can really go either way at this point. His earlier appearances painted him more as a bad guy, but with these he's coming across as someone who is intent on saving his sisters no matter the cost and no matter the moral judgments that may fall. His hooking up with Kate through her sister and new boyfriend gets him very close to her and starts an intriguing new avenue to explore. I really didn't have much of an opinion on Herve in the first two volumes from what we saw of him, but with this one he becomes a much more interesting character and one with the right mindset to take things forward in an unpredictable manner.

If there's anything that disappoints with this volume, it's that the subtitles really take a nosedive for awhile. It's much more apparent in the first two episodes but there are several really bad misspellings and a surprisingly large number of missing words. Simple things like "to" and "am" to give it all the right flow. It does get back to normal in the second half but it's rare that I'm so completely taken out of the show by such things. It was just very noticeable and a surprise.

In Summary:
With half the series behind me, Red Garden really has a very unusual tone and flavor to it. Visually it's not a striking show because of the grain style they use but they make up for it with a lot of interesting fashion and some great character designs in a New York City setting. The actual story has plenty going for it but it's very slowly paced and is intent on teasing it out in a way that makes it very hard to keep going. While we had the first volume which did a fight scene over an entire episode or so, this one gives us a fight in just under a couple of minutes and then proceeds to spend the bulk of its time showing us how the characters are coping with their new borrowed lives. There's no sense of urgency and a lot of kept hidden still which makes it difficult to really connect with. Red Garden certainly has plenty of potential in the remaining half and I hope it capitalizes on it, otherwise it's just an intriguing visual series without much of a payoff on a regular basis.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Red Garden