Most misleading title ever.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment
Based on the original fantasy novel by Noriko Ogiwara, Red Data Girl is an interesting case, not being an adaptation of the umpteenth light novel but a more typical novel about a not so typical girl. What does the Inverseman think? Find out!
There’s no sci-fi in this anime, it’s actually fantasy. The “Red Data” portion of the title comes from the “Red Data Book,” a book that logs endangered animals, and endangered is certainly one way to describe Izumiko Suzuhara. Izumiko is a shy timid girl who is actually the vessel for the Himegami, a powerful divine spirit, and is the last of her kind. Izumiko has lived most of her life in seclusion in the mountains, away from the countless people who would abuse her hidden power, protected by mountain monks. One of these monks is Miyuki Sagara, a trainee who initially dislikes Izumiko. However, after a chance encounter in Tokyo with the Himegami, the two are enrolled into Houjou Academy, a school for those with spiritual powers, where their lives will change forever.
The world is teeming with exposition between who the Himegami is, how certain planes work, and the overall magical nature of the show. Tons of Shinto themes are present which hold hidden symbolism and make it easier to understand. However, if you’re not as versed on your Japanese myths and folklore, you may find a lot of moments flying over your head. The anime is still enjoyable, but it’s incredibly dense for twelve episode, almost too dense at times. There were plot points that had me scratching my head at times. I knew certain things which could rationalize some decisions some of the characters made, but it became more overwhelming as I felt myself going, “Wait, when was that established?” Perhaps this was a trapping of trying to cram a whole novel series into twelve episodes or a weakness of the books from the start. Towards the ending, I was left asking many questions that have been burning since episode one, but at least it was emotionally satisfying because of the anime’s greatest strength.
While the plot was at times rushed and had its share of confusing moments, the drama was excellent. Red Data Girl is one big illustration of a girl becoming a lady, and it’s beautiful. We see real development from Izumiko as she grapples with being the Himegami and finding her voice. She starts out terrified of everything, practically whiny in this dark and gloomy setting, but the curtain pulls back as she has new experiences, meets new people, and finds love. Miyuki also undergoes the same developments; seeing the Himegami’s majesty is a metaphor for him seeing Izumiko truly for the first time. Sagara learns to care for Izumiko, but faces the conflicts of being the Himegami’s page or Izumiko’s lover, and if the two are even all that different to begin with.
The twins Mayura and Manatsu have their own moment with their deceased brother Masumi, although their story is a bit more confusing, especially as to what Masumi actually is. The three triplets grapple with the idea of change, and their struggle becomes real as the two living siblings grow up realizing what may eventually happen one day. Even though I found some of the motivations odd, especially since we’re not completely upfront as to what Houjou Academy’s purpose is, the overarching themes and messages are quite clear. While I appreciated Izumiko and Miyuki’s story more, I found the siblings’ story to also raise some truly emotional moments.
I must say the animation is impressive. Everything is well drawn, giving great life to Izumiko’s world. While it is typical for an anime to fall off by the third episode, towards the last episode, those who stood by were treated to a grand finale. The show presents itself as “low-key”, preferring to stand on the merits of its caliber instead of being loud and proud about it. To reflect that attitude, the soundtrack is low-key, and it helps maintain the tone of the series with more orchestral and ambient pieces. As for the voice acting, the dub is passable. I enjoyed Micah Solusod and newcomer Bryn Apprill’s performances as Miyuki and Izumiko respectively, especially as Apprill puts some good layers to Izumiko. The rest of the cast provides an alright performance, though more of a language issue, name pronunciation is not as keen. The DVDs come with the staple creditless OP and ED as well as the staple commentary, a very cut and dry package.
Overall, there is no brass band to Red Data Girl, it does not boisterously promote itself with over-exaggerated save-the-world-and-find-true-love claims. If last year had a “sleeper hit”, this would definitely qualify as one. While the plot is heady and sometimes inconsistent, the emotions are rich and the characters are deep. For someone more romance minded, I’d definitely recommend this series. Join me next time when I unite a nation.
– Character driven drama is strong
– Story has powerful emotional moments
– Overall production plays to its strengths
– A little arcane for those less knowledgeable about Japanese folklore
– Plot is a little inconsistent and all over the place
Original Author: Noriko Ogiwara
Studio: P.A. Works
Director: Toshiya Shinohara
Writer: Michiko Yokote
Music: Masumi Itou
Character Design: Mel Kishida, Minako Shiba
Original Run: March 16, 2013 – June 1, 2013
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