Red Garden Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: C-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Red Garden

Red Garden Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     November 27, 2007
Release Date: October 01, 2007


Red Garden Vol. #1
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
Kate, Rachel, Rose, and Claire are all students at a private school in New York. Waking up one morning, none of them can recall anything about the previous night. Their anxiety escalates when the school announces that another classmate, Lise has been found dead.

The following night the four girls are drawn and gathered at the same place where they are approached by a woman called Lula and her partner JC to tell them all that they are all dead, and must work for them if they do not want to disappear completely.

The Review!
The new series just keep on coming, and this time it’s almost like Gantz with girls in the latest flashy production from Gonzo.

Audio:
I listened to the English 5.1 mix for my main viewing. The track is really good, with a lot more directionality from dialogue than I had expected. The English dub was also really enjoyable with some good performances especially from the leads, so this is definitely one series I think I’ll continue in English. I also checked the Japanese track, which is a pretty standard TV series stereo mix, with enjoyable performance from the voice cast. I noticed no technical problems with either track.

Video:
With this being another recent show it looks very good, as you’d expect. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the show’s colourful daytimes and dark, sombre nights are presented very well, with only some mild blocking in the pitch black scenes noticeable on my setup. This just looks like another very good transfer from ADV.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font (ADV’s usual), and I didn't notice any grammatical or spelling errors.

Packaging:
The front cover is a bit busy, but I rather like it anyway. The four main girls are present on the left, with a foreboding image of Lula’s face on the right as well as a picture of Lise. One of the zombie men is at the bottom of the cover, while the show’s logo, volume number and title are across the middle. I’m not a fan of tag-lines, but if linking the show with Gantz and Hellsing helps sell it, I’m all for it. The back cover is well laid out, with the girls down the left and a description of the show to the right. Credits are also listed as well as the usual technical grid. Bizarrely though, to its detriment, there is no extras listing on the back cover.

Menu:
The menus are simple but functional. The main menu takes the butterfly theme and runs with it, with that being the main image, and the episode selections in huge type sprawled across the centre. The show’s logo and the Language and Extras selections run below it. The two submenus are static with exactly the same images just a change of text. Different music plays over each menu. Although I like that they’re easy to use, it’s hard not to be bored by these menus.

Extras:
Just the textless opening and ending, unfortunately.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When a new series hits, sometimes you’re eagerly anticipating it, and other times you don’t know much about it. The latter was the case for me with Red Garden, a new series from Gonzo, the studio that has more ups and downs than just about any other animation studio in Japan. But when I saw a few images of it, and heard that it was like an all-female version of Gantz, I was intrigued. While I see the comparisons, they don’t exactly ring that true, but nevertheless, Red Garden opens with an explosive first volume that throws a lot of interesting ideas out there.

It all begins with the death of a school girl called Lise outside of school. Her death triggers an investigation that affects everyone at school. In particular, a group of four classmates who are all interconnected in some way. Kate is involved with Grace, the school’s group of girls that make sure the rules are enforced. Claire is more concerned with her relationship with Yuan than school. Rose lives at home looking after her younger siblings. And Rachel is the hip and care-free youngster. The thing that connects them? None of them have any memory of the night that Lise died, and that’s because the four of them are all dead too.

After watching a day at school with the police investigation beginning, the girls are drawn to a place where they meet a woman called Lula who gives them this rather drastic snippet of information that not only sets up the rest of the series but changes the way the girls are and the way the series is set up. What seemed like some pseudo high school drama with a big mystery now has a nice twist that sets the tone for some potentially juicy character developments.

With the cat out of the bag, and after being forced to kill a man with their bare hands, the girls all take the news in different ways. Some freak, some are OK with it, but in the end despite some initial rejection from both Rachel and Claire, Kate and Rose manage to bring the two around and they end up meeting up several times to discuss the situation and try and uncover their lost memory of the night Lise died. But things turn a bit sour after Lise’s funeral, as the girls start to uncover the sad and brutal truths about their dire situation and become further embroiled in the police investigation.

Much to my surprise, I really dug Red Garden a lot, as it feels like something a bit different to the normal kind of show that comes out. Yes, it’s got a bit of violence, but the situation is a bit of a change and the fact that it’s all girls in a bloody world makes it feel a bit more fresh, even if the fact they’re all dead does link it rather incredulously with Gantz (a link I’ll try not to mention again). The best thing about the story though is what it means for the characters, as watching their reactions and behaviour after finding out they’re dead, and being forced to kill the random men, makes for an interesting character study. While it’s early days yet, you can only hope that it’s done right over the course of the show.

It’s great that the girls all have very distinct personalities as well, as while some of them might grate to a degree, and I’m thinking of Rose when I say that, it means that how they cope with the changes that befall them is different from girl to girl, which is one of the most promising things the show has to offer at this point. The atmosphere is really good as well, working with the story to present a dark and moody world at the best of times, especially when the girls’ missions take place at night, and it’s well contrasted with some of the day scenes.

In fact, the whole production is the usual slickness from Gonzo, with some interesting character designs and decent animation for a TV series, and the music fits the show rather well so far. With the story going some interesting places, and leaving some good questions out there, such as what exactly Lula’s purpose is and what she wants from the girls, the only cautious comment about the series has to be that you wonder if the momentum from the first volume will carry through the series. It’s hard with a studio like Gonzo not to think of how for every masterpiece they produce, there are several series they churn out that fall apart when they hit the midway point, though I really hope that doesn’t happen with this show as it’s so promising from the evidence here.

In Summary:
Red Garden is an interesting prospect, and provided it doesn’t fall into some traps that so many series do, it could go the distance and give an interesting look at what it means to be dead. Rose, Claire, Rachel and Kate are an interesting group of leads, each with individual and distinct personalities, and with a strong story setup in this volume it leaves you wanting more. The final images of the volume pretty much sum it up, and are very powerful. After the first volume, I’d definitely recommend anyone gives this a look.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Textless Opening and Ending

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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