DVD Review: Red Garden – The Complete Series

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How would you react if you found out that you were actually dead and you were brought back to find Demons? Well we find out as we take a simplistic DVD Review look at Red Garden – The Complete Series, which is being brought to us in the UK by MVM Entertainment.

Synopsis:

An odd string of suicides surrounds a private institution on Roosevelt Island. On the night a classmate dies, Kate, Rachel, Rose and Claire wake with no memories of the evenings’ events. The next night, the four girls are drawn together by mysterious red butterflies only they can see. Converging at Central Park, the girls are approached by a strange woman who tells them they are dead. Now, the four girls must work together to learn the secrets of their death – and the means to return to their previous life.

Our View:

Red Garden follows the story of four high-school girls Kate, Rachel, Rose and Claire who are forced by an unnamed organisation to defeat human shaped demons in hopes that they can survive long enough to reclaim their lives back.  Basically the main protagonists of the series are dead and after a ‘complicated’ explanation of how they died (it’s revealed that the girls were murdered), this “organisation” brought them back to life so that they can defeat the demons that rampage the city. If the girls are successful in defeating all of the demons then this ‘organisation’ will grant them their real human life back, however if one of the girls gives-up or abandons the task at hand then the whole group will be punished, which in this reality means death to them all.

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This isn’t the only developing story either as while the girls attempt to uncover the truth of who murdered them the police begin an investigation into the amount of ‘apparent’ suicides sweeping the nation, which ultimately leads to the police keeping a close eye on the main characters and their late night shenanigans.  Moving away from the main cast there are developing plot twists and conspiracy’s at every corner, with new characters mysteriously being introduced over several episodes. All of these plot twists and new characters eventually lead to an all-out war raging between the Animus and Dolore, two factions who have been at war for decades and now the fight has come into the open which not only leaves New York crippled but the girls fighting for their lives as well as everyone else that they care about.

Red Garden is a, at its best, a complete mixture of a show, and this is not only confirmed by the amount of ‘genres’ it holds (such as thriller, supernatural, horror, action) but with the characters themselves who all come from different social backgrounds and personalities. There is the ‘stuck-up’ fashion girl (Rachel), the ‘sports-fighter’ type (Clarie), the shy modest type (Kate) and then finally the normal family girl (Rose) each of which bring a different character personality to the screen, but none of which are enjoyable.

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The un-enjoyment of the series doesn’t stop at the characters either, as the animation styled used for the show makes it a rather awkward viewing experience, mainly because the picture looks so grainy and horrible. Apparently this is intentional, which for some darker scenes of the series would fit, but during the daily activities of the girls (and bright scenes) it becomes more of an eyesore than beneficial.  The series itself has lots of problems too, such as pacing, story progression and well a dedicated plot – nothing is fully explained to the viewer so it becomes boring very quickly, however at least the voice acting is ‘reasonable’ with a variety of (now) well known voice actors being included in the English track list, but even this becomes tiresome when the characters start to sing for no apparent reason.

Extras:

Just like the Pumpkin Scissors release the DVD disc is an exact replica of the US FUNimation release, and so we are yet again treated to a basic DVD menu with the only extras being Text less opening & closing songs as well as a variety of trailers for other anime releases.

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Since the DVD’s were originally produced several years ago the trailers are considered old, however most of them included (on Disc 2 and Disc 4) are available to purchase in the UK. Trailers include Claymore, Basilisk, Afro Samurai, Samurai 7, Burst Angel, Black Blood Brothers, Strain, Witchblade, Moonphase, Baccano, Solty Rei and finally Trinity Blood, some of which are distributed by MVM Entertainment.

Specs:

Media:  DVD 9 x4
Region: 2
Running Time: 10:00:00 (600 Minutes / 22 Episodes + OVA)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 448Kbps (English), Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

Red Garden’s story is slow, complicated and overly un-entertaining but for those sticking around long enough may enjoy it for what it really is, an anime approach to a western-styled thriller with four girls tasked to defend the city from demons with their lives as a prize. While fighting does occur in the series it usually involves the girls screaming and running away, with them eventually coming to turn with their powers – which is just as slow as the story progression itself. Overly the series is, in my opinion, extremely boring and un-memorable, though the later few episodes do feature some high-octance entertainment but by then it is all too late.

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In regards to the DVD release its “as you’d except” with all 22 episodes (as well as the Bonus OVA episode) and a few minor extra features spread out across the four DVD Discs. Just like the Pumpkin Scissors DVD the menu is very basic with each episode listed individual on the main menu itself (though it does automatically play the next episode unlike recent Kaze & Manga releases).  The thing that hurts this release the most is the picture quality, which is heavily grainy and of shoddy quality, but amusingly this is intentional from the original Japanese animation studio (GONZO) but for those unaware of this fact it may seem like a botched release, especially since it was produced in 2007 (23 years after the Dragon Ball anime, yet Dragon Ball looks visually better in comparison).

The Audio doesn’t make this release much better either as it while it features a 5.1 Surround English Audio track, with some respectable acting from the main cast, it’s the constant screaming, whining and random singing (which is all part of the story) that makes it an uncomfortable watch and even the Japanese Audio track (which is presented in 2.0 Stereo) doesn’t make it any better.

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Overall Red Garden (as a series) is terrible, but for those looking for the complete collection (since the original ADV Films release of the series can be hard to track down) then it is a reasonable purchase as not only do you receive the complete series and OVA in one box, but it can be purchased at a respectable price online. Those wishing to give this series a try however, be warned as its nothing like what you might expect it to be.

Score: review-stars-1

Red Garden – The Complete Series will be available on DVD from the 16th September 2013.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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