The final battle arrives and the girls go up against Herve… before Gonzo pulls a Gainax.
What They Say
They might survive the battle... but will they remember?
Christmas is normally a time of joy, but when you're a dead girl, nothing about your so-called life is as it should be. Instead of basking in the warmth of friends and family, the girls must prepare for a gruesome encounter with monstrous creatures obsessed with destruction. On the eve of battle, there can be no joy in the hearts of the dead. For these unique warriors, there are only memories to be lost - should they manage to survive.
Contains episodes 21-22 and the OVA.
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.
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.
The covers for this series have worked really well in general, even with the kind of collage that they are, because they all evoke a real sense of darkness and dread. This one is somewhat brighter than the rest as it has Herve in the center with his sister while the bottom features the four girls walking into the light. It’s a surprisingly brutal cover though when you really look at the details of it though and lingering with it is certainly interesting. 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.
Finishing out much as it started, 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.
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)
Eight months later… and I finally get to see the end of this series. Red Garden was never a favorite from the start, but unless it’s a horrendously long series, I like to see things through right to the end. Red Garden was appealing at times for its style, where it took on a more “film like” set of visuals because of the grain and because of the costume designs for it, but when it came to the actual story execution it left me feeling pretty empty. The series simply didn’t know how to pace itself and it ended up feeling rather jerky at times since it took awhile to get going and then to actually explain some of the much needed key elements.
The final volume of the series is even more awkward after eight months, unlike Pumpkin Scissors or Welcome the NHK. What we get here are the final two episodes of the series and then the double length OVA episode. Red Garden had been working up towards its culmination in the final two episodes and having those here is certainly good, but so much of the energy has been admittedly lost with all this time. I suspect people who bought the collections will get more out of this, or if you re-watch the series again prior to this release. A lot of series can redeem themselves at the end after a weak beginning or even a weak middle, but Red Garden manages to avoid this entirely. Episode twenty one is all about putting closure to things as the girls meet up with those that are important to them and sort of set things right as best as they can since they know they may not survive the next day. Some of it is touching and done well, but it feels very off since I’d not seen these characters in so long.
All of it leads into the next episode where Herve has finally made his move to save his sister and a rather pitched battle ensues against the girls and the school where the faculty have all been working towards protecting them and those that are secreted away with the other Book. The fight sequence is pretty nicely done as you have the police trying to figure out what’s going on as things turn bloody over the bridge and at the school. There’s some good intensity there throughout it, but it’s the kind of intensity and passion that was needed much earlier in the series and regularly throughout it. There are things to like in this and it does a good job of bringing closure to a lot of things, but it’s something that doesn’t click all that well admittedly because of the time between releases. When we re-watch this someday, I can see my opinion changing.
As much as the first two episodes annoyed me, I have to admit that I really enjoyed the OVA that’s included. Gonzo takes a cue from Gainax by leaping ahead into the future several hundred years and showing us what’s happened to the girls since they’re not really alive. Now something of an urban legend known as the Dead Girls, they prowl the streets of various cities over time and deal out their brand of justice to the bad guys. As is to be expected, they’ve come back to New York City after all this time and have come back to a number of familiar haunts. Even more amusing is that people from the past have shown up again with new names and personalities, though the girls don’t really remember them anymore. Familiar people such as Herve and Lise are all here and the school island plays heavily into what’s going on.
It’s not all sunshine though as Gonzo finds a way to bring mecha into this unnecessarily and they give us a plot that isn’t really needed about an android wanting to live with them eternally. There’s enough material to work with here in how the girls are adapting in this future that the plot really feels forced. The personality changes that they’ve undergone over time is really fascinating, such as Rose becoming one of the big Grace people in the school, Rachel having lost all sense of fashion and Kate being the more vigilant one into doling out the justice. There’s a lot to like here in the future and some fascinating little visual nuggets along the way that makes this something really good to see. As a series ender, it ranks up pretty nicely since it showcases what does happen for quite some time going forward and even further than we see from here. It’s the kind of ending that makes me appreciate seeing the weaker segments that came before it.
Red Garden was a very uneven series for me. When it had some good moments, they were quite good. Some of the background for the show seemed like it could be really fascinating but they never fully capitalized on it. A lot of what they did felt like it dragged on for too much. The opening fight scene alone when the girls first realized what they were came across as very poorly done in terms of pacing and design. But I liked the character designs, I liked the setting and I like the ideas that were being floated about in here. At the end, they didn’t really capitalize on any of it but they did finish it out with a good fight and finally the reason for the name of the series. That and giving me a future vision of things made the final volume more enjoyable than it should been, even if it is over six months later than it should be. People watching this in collected form may get more out of it than I did in single form and the ending may tie things up better for them. I’m very glad FUNimation did manage to get the last volume out by itself even for a small run, but I’m still legitimately annoyed it took so long.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.