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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Red Garden, Vol. 1: Live to Kill
Red Garden, Vol. 1: Live to Kill
ADV Films // Unrated // September 18, 2007
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted September 9, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Show:

Admittedly I'm not the biggest fan of the horror genre when it comes to anime. Sure I've watched the occasional title like Hellsing, Demon Prince Enma, and Gantz but on the whole I don't necessarily go out of my way to get spooked by animation. Honestly that "spooking" doesn't generally happen for me because, after all, these are animated shows. A certain mood has to be set with a certain quality presented through the atmosphere to really draw me in. ADV's latest release, Red Garden does just that.

Produced by GONZO Red Garden appears to be a labor of love because just about every aspect of it breaths inspiration. The way the voice acting was handled, the manner with which it was visually styled, and the scripting were a cut above the rest before it was even released. Given the fact that there are 22 episodes to play with the series has a lot of room for developing the interesting premise and as apparent by the first four episodes it's not rushed to do so.

The first interesting twist that you'll discover when you begin watching Red Garden is that the show doesn't take place in Japan. In fact, the series stretches its wings and heads off to New York to tell its strange tale. So few Japanese shows stray from their country of origin so it's nice to see for a change of pace. Of course because of this you can expect going in that there are going to be some fallacies and poorly spoken English words. Nothing too glaring mind you, but it's enough to remind the viewer that this isn't an accurate representation of NYC.

Red Garden focuses on four girls who attend a private institution set on Roosevelt Island. Like you'd expect from a snooty private school the girls have formed their own little group called Grace who governs most of the student body. Essentially it's a club for elite girls to get together and do what snobbish young females do. One fateful night all of that changed.

Kate, Rachel, Rose, and Claire wake up one morning and none of them can fully recall what transpired the previous night. It's apparently some form of widespread amnesia but the fact that it would only afflict the four of them is disconcerting to say the least. That's when things take a turn for the worst. The school announces the death of a student the prior evening and this girl, Lise, happens to be friends with the four main characters. As they ponder these events and identify their feelings night begins to fall and something else that could be categorized as bizarre happens.

Upon the onset of darkness Kate, Rachel, Rose, and Claire are inexplicably drawn by butterflies to a place they have no previous knowledge of. Once they arrive at the scene a man and woman appear and spout of the unbelievable truth that all four are indeed dead. Their spirits are being kept alive by a bond that will last presuming they kill unnatural beasts with their supernatural powers. Essentially the members of Grace become undead superheroes but the revelation of that slowly trickles through with these first four episodes.

Following a battle with a deranged man the girls put their friend, Lise, to rest. From that point they go through the remainder of this volume dealing with the fact that they are deceased. What does that mean for them? How do they go about their lives knowing the truth that they are supernaturally attachments to the living world? When will they find out what really happened? All of these questions compounded by the mystery surrounding a woman named Lula and a guy named JC lead to some very interesting plot developments.

Throughout it all Red Garden doesn't give any quarter or lack in quality of any regard. The story has been well-thought out with a great deal of focus being paid to the four main girls. It's compelling, haunting, and memorable from the moment the very first episode begins. As I mentioned already the voice acting and art style plays a big role in the success of this show and I have to say that it's one of GONZO's most unique efforts. If you're a fan of well-done horror or just of finely crafted anime in general then Red Garden is a title that you'll definitely want to see.

The DVD:

Video:

Red Garden was originally released in 2006 and wrapped up broadcast earlier this year. ADV's attentiveness and desire to pick this release up shows thanks to the quick turnaround time from airing to DVD release here in the States. The series is presented here with an anamorphic widescreen transfer that features boatloads of quality. The artwork is solidly represented with bold design and a striking palette of color. Seriously, there is a lot of contrast in the video here and the slight amount of grain that appears over most scenes doesn't detract from its beauty. GONZO is no stranger when it comes to producing quality anime from a visual standpoint and in that regard Red Garden looks great on DVD.

Audio:

As far as the dubbing quality in Red Garden is concerned I was very impressed. The original 2.0 Japanese language track conveyed emotion and feeling in ways that few anime are able to emulate. It appeared to me that the animation was developed to stay in line with the audio because the two come together more naturally than you typically see with anime. The 5.1 English dub holds up well in this regard with nearly identical quality. As you'd expect you have to give and take some things with the new language track and in this regard the songs don't sound as good and the emotional impact isn't as strong.

Technically speaking both tracks do well with their presentations. The 2.0 Japanese selection is somewhat limited with its range and you can expect the front channels to maintain the audio as well as could be. The 5.1 English offering spruces the sense of immersion up a tad with some nice sound effects but it's not as powerful as it could have been. This is a horror anime and if the little hairs on the back of your neck don't stand up then the rear channels aren't doing their job. Still, both tracks are decent enough with no flaws to report.

Extras:

Clean animations are about the only thing you're going to find on the first disc of Red Garden. I was hoping for a glimpse at the show's production but perhaps that just wasn't in the cards.

Final Thoughts:

When it comes to horror anime I don't go out of my way to watch a lot. Red Garden is a new series that makes me glad I did. The character development is phenomenal and you'll really feel what the four girls are going through from the moment they realize their friend is dead to the point they find out that they are all deceased. The atmosphere is rich as well thanks to some wonderful styling provided by GONZO.

From start to finish the first volume of Red Garden entertained me wholly. With every frame I was drawn into the bizarre world and felt the nagging sensation that I had to know more about what was going on. In the world of horror and mystery anime that equals a success. Whether or not that trend will continue with future volumes, I can't tell at this point. What I can tell is that despite the odd pacing Red Garden presents a compelling and engaging story that is original in many regards. Anyone looking for a quality horror series should definitely give this one a spin.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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