The world is close to falling perilously out of balance.
What They Say:
Izumiko is a fifteen year old outcast who was raised in seclusion at an ancient shrine hidden deep within the forest. This mysterious teenager destroys any electrical device she attempts to use, and her painful shyness has left her with few, if any, friends. Her world begins to evolve after enrolling in Houjou Academy, a school home to students of supernatural origins. Accompanied by her fated guardian, the brooding monk-in-training Miyuki, Izumiko soon discovers the shocking truth about herself: she is a vessel for the spirt of a powerful and vengeful goddess from a time long since passed.
As her bond with Miyuki grows stronger, the spirit lurking within Izumiko begins to awaken. Can this fragile beauty learn to control her newfound power – or will the secret she carries make her the enemy of all mankind?
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is done with the original Japanese language track in stereo alongside a new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that comes across as being very much a mood and dialogue driven piece but it has some strong areas scattered throughout with bits of action, especially towards the end. But it also works some good atmospheric bits and incidental sounds along the way that definitely adds to the creepy factor in a variety of scenes. It’s a decent mix overall that certainly works for the show and it comes across with a very clean and inviting mix.
Originally airing in the spring of 2013, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episode show is spread across two discs with six on the first and six on the second. Animated by PA Works, the series has a very good look to it and holds up well here in standard definition with some good detail to be had, some great looking colors that largely hold up with a solid feeling during regular playback and nothing in the way of cross coloration and only a smidgen of line noise in a few places. While it has some high motion sequences, it’s a lot of smaller and quieter scenes that are easy to encode and comes across well here. You can see the quality of the production itself shining through even in its standard edition form here.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized clear DVD keepcase that has a slipcover over it that replicates the artwork of the case itself. The front cover has a beautifully illustrated piece featuring the two lead characters together in the garden with a misty feeling to it all in the background that adds some great atmosphere. Colors are appealing, the detail is great and it definitely sets a mood to it. The back cover does a decent vertical split where the right side has a small strip of red where there are several appealing shots from the show to it. The left side provides a decent illustration design and a good summary of the premise. The sets episode and disc count is listed clearly as are the extras and the technical grid that breaks it all down accurately. The case itself replicates this well while it has artwork on the reverse side with one side showing the triplets together and the other with the group of friends together. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice as we get an illustration style static screen for it that has a red and white letterbox style framing with some nice details in the red borders which gives it a good touch of classic elegance. The right side has the logo with the navigation in script form while the left has character artwork that’s different for each volume that presents a very appealing illustration piece of the lead characters. It’s very classic and refined in its design and just looks great. Submenus load quickly and easily and the navigation is standard fare that works smoothly and without problems.
The extras for this release are fairly standard fare but still pretty welcome as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a pair of commentary tracks for the show from the English language cast as they talk about the fun of working on the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the six volume light novel series by Noriko Ogiwara that ran from 2008 to 2012, Red Data Girl is a twelve episode series animated by P.A. Works that was part of an anniversary celebration from Kadokawa. The show aired as part of the spring 2013 season and was simulcast by FUNimation. I hadn’t seen the show during its run but during the lead-up to it had some very appealing promotional videos to it and artwork as it used a lot of illustrations to express its style. P.A. Works has certainly hitched their wagon to some interesting shows and one thing that largely defines them is that they tend to be fairly atmospheric and somewhat moody productions. Red Data Girl definitely hits that note nicely with what it does, though it suffers from the problem of feeling like the first chapter of a larger story, so we get only so far with it.
The series gives us the world as we know it, but shows events going on in the shadows of it that plays well to a much larger story. The basic premise to it is actually interesting in that the spiritual side of the world is hugely critical to the human race. A connection with the spirits of the world is important to be maintained and cared for as if it gets out of balance, it can be disastrous to the point of causing the extinction event of mankind. Because of this, there are those watch this and try to protect the people that can communicate and interact with the spirits and spiritual energy. There’s fewer and fewer than there used to be as mankind’s connection to this side of the world has lessened and that means that those that can perform these kinds of feats and connections are considered endangered. This is where the title comes from since Red Data pages in UN based book from decades ago labeled species that were on extinction paths were labeled that way.
One of the potentially more powerful spiritualists that’s out there is a middle school student named Izumiko, who lives in the countryside and has been protected for years. Her mother spends her time drawing the attention of others that would seek to harm her by staying away and her father spends his time in Tokyo, hoping that she’ll come there for her high school career. But for Izumiko, she wants to stay where she is and to keep to that small world that she knows, particularly since her spiritual abilities cause a significant problem with electronics, the point where she can’t use computers or the internet as she breaks them. When she does a small trip to Tokyo, it ends up shutting down the subway with her presence and other devices have problems. So it certainly makes sense that she wants to stick to these areas where there’s a simpler way of life and people she can count on to help her through some of her problems.
Izumiko’s insistence that she stays and goes to high school in the countryside, she ends up with a protector to her status as a Himegami. This comes in the form of a protector family named Sagara with a thirteen year old boy named Miyuki, whose father is friends with Izumiko’s father as well. He’s not exactly thrilled with all of this, or her, but as we learn about her role as someone important and endangered, we also learn that he’s been training to be a Mountain Monk for most of his life and has an array of abilities himself. His time with her early on helps him to realize just how powerful she is, something even she’s unaware of as her family has largely kept her in the dark over the years, and the two end up on a pretty decent journey of discovery together as they go into high school together at an academy that is populated by people of similar skills and powers designed to test and train them to handle it and to be tested for their larger role in the world.
The academy time is where most of the series occurs and it’s here that we watch the real growing relationship between Izumiko and Miyuki as they’re paired but unable to really have a relationship because of their planned destinies. While Miyuki is a bit experienced in the ways of the world, Izumiko isn’t and she has a lot to cope with, especially as her powers start to cause more problems along the way and as she deals with more people out there that are operating their own agendas. A lot of this comes in the form of the very smart and calculating Takayanagi, who is working towards a student council position as well as an even larger agenda with his abilities as he’s able to stuff the ballot by using shikigami to create people and achieve greater position. There’s some neat stuff with his abilities and what he does and it provides a darker and more manipulative balance to the generally good nature of Izumiko and Miyuki.
The show also brings in an interesting couple of friends that end up aligning with both Izumiko and Miyuki in the form of Mayura and Manatsu, who come across as identical twins. While this is not an unusual anime trope, it changes up nicely here as they’re actually triplets but their brother Masumi died when he was six. But he still exists for them through their spiritual abilities as they’ve been able to grow up with him, and he with them, as they’re a very tight unit that brings a lot to each other. The second half of the season actually deals with the trio a lot as they factor into events and connections with everyone, including a trip to their home town that brings out its own issues, but it was interesting to see this dynamic play out and to see the triplets taking up more screen time than you’d expect them to. And with their being a very tight spiritual bond, with its own dangers, it really has an interesting feeling to it.
Another aspect that dominates the second half is the culture festival. While I normally groan a bit at these as I’ve seen countless of them over the years, because this is a special academy they actually did some fun stuff with it. What it comes down to is that the school divides into two camps and they replay the Warring States period with its battles through various competitions that go on. It’s not heavily done, but it’s a persistent piece throughout as other events go forward and it’s rather fun to see everyone running around in the traditional garb while some of the spiritual elements play out. It also works in some of the student council stuff, which factors into Takayanagi’s own goals with it, and with Izumiko and Miyuki being on the council as well, so they get some interesting if minor roles to play as the new members of it.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into this series as I had liked the promos and the feel of it but it generated little buzz during its simulcast and seemingly little interest in its home video announcement. What I found was a series that, while it does play its role as an opening chapter to a larger storyline, presents itself as an engaging work with some really curious ideas that I suspect must be really intriguing if given the time to develop. I like the concepts, I like the characters and the difficulties of their relationships – especially the triplets – and I really love the animation and crave to see it in high definition. It’s a show that could develop a nice little cult following overall and I’ll admit that I’m hopeful for more to see if it can really find its way, but I suspect it’s a one season and done approach here, which is a shame. Definitely worth checking out if these ideas are interesting to you though.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries (2, 7), Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.