I was first told by a few readers that Red Garden was a creepy, almost Twilight Zonish series that would kind of "freak [me] out." Then I saw the opening animation. It was gayer (and, well, MUCH gayer) than the whole of Paradise Kiss (I know what I'm saying, and I'm not making it up. It is apparently possible). Flowers and jewelry and clothes everywhere, a peppy, really gay, song, and... well, what more do you need? I continued with my watching though, and in the end I was very pleased that I did. Let me state this matter of factly: Red Garden is NOT Paradise Kiss. It is Gantz with high school girls. And it is pretty cool for it.
And no, not Gantz the anime, but Gantz the manga.
Anyway, Red Garden starts out a little something like this: A bunch of black sedans are cruising around New York City early one morning, with a passed out girl in the back of each of them. All the sedans, and their small armies of men in black occupants, proceed to drop the girls off in their respective homes, well, all the sedans except for one. One team of men in black is attacked by another bunch of men in black (this second group totally psycho and supernaturally strong... and acting like rabid fucking wolves), and the girl in this last car is taken. Soon the grabbed girl (Lise) is found dead in Central Park, though there's nary a mark or wound on her. The police are all like, "What the hell?! ZOMG, NFW!" But the girls (the four chicks who were successfully dropped off in the beginning) at Lise's high school whom the pigs interview are all like, "Oh NOES! Lise is DOA! :(" And they don't even recall anything about the previous night. Then the four girls are called to an abandoned parking lot late one night (by following a bunch of psychedelic butterflies that only they can see), and told by some creepy blonde chick that they're in fact already dead, and that they must fight and kill another rabid wolf-like guy with glowing eyes if they ever want a chance to live a normal life again.
Then this shit gets weird. There's talk of curses, ancient tomes with mighty, magical, magnificent powers, undead warrior queens, and secret graveyards filled with non-decomposing bodies. Things are pleasantly confusing at first (I loathe it when complicated storytelling is forsaken, and everything is spelled out at the very beginning), but rest assured, everything becomes crystal by the end of Red Garden's run.
How are these girls already dead if they're walking around and living (sort of) normal lives? Where do the girls' strange new super powers come from (and boy howdy do they have super powers!)? What the hell is a private high school doing on Roosevelt Island? What the hell is up with those crazy, super-powered animal men? Do the Japanese really think that all Americans all have noses the size and shape of shark fins, and bodies that are skinny as eels? Will Kate ever find true love? Will Rachel realize that the clique she's in is all show and no substance? Will Rose ever stop being a goddamn pussy? And will Claire ever go ahead and simply get that operation that'll turn her fully into a man?
All these questions and more are asked and answered by the final episode. And as stated before, it's all good. No more spoilers or anything from me simply because this was just a really fun show, and it's much more fun going into it blind. The pacing could have been tightened up a bit, sure, but it's already only a 22 episode series, and trimming anything more out would have brought it down to like 19 or 20. Then some Japanese animation studio head would have had to commit seppuku for creating such an oddly numbered series. It's just not worth it.
Back to things. The shoujo character designs are pretty much straight out of the previously mentioned Paradise Kiss, but the setting is all dark, isolated and foreboding — like the previously mentioned Gantz (the manga). They do a fantastic job of making the viewer feel everything that the main characters (Kate, Rachel, Rose and Claire) experience and go through, and they reveal stuff to us at just the right moments in order to keep us interested and psyched. For instance: Early on I was digging the slight plot we're given, but started wondering if this thing was simply going to be 90210 during the day, and demon-guy of the week by night for the rest of its run, and as if to answer my question before I even asked it we're hit, POW, with some creepy news that added a whole new dimension to all the events taking place. Then, just as I worried things'd get stagnate again, BAM, another revelation occurs dwarfing the first one. This story layout continues until the end, with shocking or interesting additions popping up with more frequency as we build to the climax.
And what a fun climax too. Not global, or end of the world in scale, but large enough and very fulfilling. Especially the very end and how it appears that the writers didn't cop out. Yes, being vague on purpose, Chachi.
Anyway, the start of the show is very surreal in tone; it looks like normal NYC, but there are major changes to geography, and the girls tend to break out into song every so often (singing a sad, haunting tune that really evokes strong emotion from the viewer... without making me seem like a sissy)... But that singing tendency sadly disappears soon after, and the show takes on more of a horror-tone, with a sciency back story (which in all honestly got me a little worried since it originally appeared that this was a supernatural tale)... But then it's revealed that yes, everything is mystic in its origin, and things are more disturbing and ominous for it (the first 5 or 6 episodes are actually the creepiest though when you, along with the girls, have no idea what the fuck is going on, and why they must kill all those business-suited, glowing-eyed, scary fucks).
So, to wrap up: If you like a bit of mystery in your anime, watch Red Garden. If you like characters that are fully fleshed out with their own complicated social lives stirred into the mix, watch Red Garden. If you like brutal and vicious, hard to take violence enacted on both the girls and their glowy-eyed prey, watch Red Garden. If you are a pussy who only likes anime with gay, effeminate men who like to make out all the time, watch Red Garden... Then seek help.
I never got into this show that much, bitch, but I did love seeing that all-whitey, private prep schools have just as much violence and killin' as the inner city schools tend to have. Though instead of knives, shivs and guns, those crazy Catholic school hos use their hands and shit! Damn! Remind me to use a roofy before I try anything on one of them bitches.
Other than that, my brothas, there ain't much to say about Catholic High School Girls In Trouble... They get whiney over boys, kill the shit out of poor, little demon men at night, get jerked around by that blonde lady and her creepy brother, get fucked around by the enemy syndicate, and then have all-out war declared on everybody's ass by the last episode. Tha's about it.
Girl POWER! Well, when they're not complaining about how much their lives suck, and they're fighting those evil dog men, then they're powerful. But they do whine about their lives quite a bit.
Anyway, this was a fun, but pretty dark, show. The girls acted like real girls, they were all different and fully realized characters, and they all watched each other's backs like real sisters would! If only I had one to compare to them though, instead of two older brothers. "Don't touch my stuff, Jaime! Why'd you go in my room, Jaime?! Why are you getting upset over me making out with your best friend, Jaime?!"
URGH!!! I don't know where that came from, but there you go.
Oh, and I liked the cute little references to New York staples like Nathan's Hotdogs, Wicked - the Musical, and the Soup Nazi! For a girl originally from Yankee Central herself, these were cute little bonuses! (Note from the Rossman: Actually, these references were pretty ghey, and the stupidest part of an otherwise very good series.)