Red Garden Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, April 17, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2008



What They Say
BEAUTIFUL GIRLS ARE LIKE ROSES. BEWARE OF THEIR THORNS.

Now that they know their fate, the girls begin embracing their battles - and discover remarkable powers within themselves. So while their daylight lives fall apart, their nocturnal battles become more violent, more bloody. Yet as one of their members continues to be their weakest link, they begin to plan - they may need to leave her behind to die. And their shadowy enemy? They are making their own advances, sacrificing an innocent child to a disgusting curse, and trapping a beautiful girl in their horrible experiment.

The Review!
The secrets slowly begin to reveal themselves as the girls lives continue to spiral out of control.

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:
Evoking similar feelings as the previous volumes did, Red Garden has a dark and disturbing look to it as it features very different things. The foreground image is primarily that of Rose finally going berserk against one of the turned while the others watch on, but it's given some good balance by having Lula and JC in an emotional moment behind them which is quite stark considering their skin coloring. 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' arms 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 shifts into the second half of the series and things start to heat up considerably in terms of plot and action. The plot side of the show dominates in a different form for the first three episodes while the last episode is where the action is ratcheted up nicely as it signals a real turning point in the story. In its first three volumes, Red Garden established a very slow moving story and that still holds true here, but the pace is picking up at key times as events are progressing ever closer towards their conclusion.

While not extremely frustrating, a lot of what Red Garden has been about is watching the four girls go through their lives in this form. They've become dead and are living in different bodies but still go through their normal routine of living. The surreal nature of it is something that could be very engaging but instead it plays a lot more like real life does in that it's fairly dull at times. Rose dealing with her mother in the hospital, caring for the other kids and trying to find her father has some nice moments to it but it doesn't particularly engage. Claire's issues with her father and her brother are regular moments just like her difficulty in paying the bills and eking out a living. Rachel's still having a hard time coming to grips with what she's become and she continues to push away the hot guy that's interested in her still. That's perplexing enough in itself considering how badly she's been treating him and her friends but when you see his fashion choices maybe it makes a bit more sense...

The one character that has really been interesting to watch is that of Kate and a lot of that comes from her being central to a number of stories. Her close ties with Lise keeps her the focus of attention for the detectives who keep coming back to the school to talk with her, she's got plenty going on within Grace that causes trouble as Jessica can't figure out why Paula lets her get away with a free ride and then there's the whole dating Herve thing she's got going on. Red Garden decides to add a bit more to her busy plate in this volume by having her be the first to really start getting a grasp on her powers and how she's able to do superhuman feats when in the midst of a fight with one of the turned beasts. This element adds a lot more interest to the fight scenes since she's able to be far more aggressive in what she's doing. This should have been introduced earlier into the show but the pacing just hasn't allowed it.

What proves to be the most interesting in this volume though is the way everything is seemingly coming together faster. At the school, unless I've been blissfully unaware of a lot of things, it's quickly revealed just how deep the organization that Lula is part of is there as the principal and at least one of the teachers appear to be key members of it. And that Paula has been assigned to protect the girls from problems which is why she lets Kate get away with the things she does. At the same time that this comes together, Herve finds out that Mirielle is collapsing faster into the bestial state and that's pushing all sorts of buttons within him to try and save both her and Anna. Things that will have him finally using his growing hold on Kate in order to get what he needs. Herve has been the most interesting of characters for this show since he's working solely to protect the ones he loves and will do whatever it takes to accomplish it. He's the supposed bad guy from the start but he's the most sympathetic of all the characters here.

In Summary:
Red Garden has slowly but surely bringing me over to its side but it's still a show that I haven't completely come to enjoy. It has some great moments throughout but it's working through a very slow paced style of storytelling that barely works in a multi episode format like these DVD releases are. I cannot imagine watching this on a weekly basis and still being interested in it. This set of episodes does start to show more of the shows real potential and where they're going to go with it as the status quo is about to be formally shattered by the end of it. Watching Red Garden, it's easy to see why fans of the show are so enthralled with it, but it's also easy to see why it's not a huge draw for a lot of others.

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