Funimation // 2006 // 600 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // October 30th, 2009
Would you kill to get your life back?
Four young women have made their home in New York City. They explore the streets, go to school, fight with their boyfriends, and generally do girl-type things. That is, until each awakens one morning with no memory of the night before. They're told they've been killed and resurrected to serve an ancient sisterhood of monster hunters. They can get their bodies back and live again, but first they have demons to slay. The girls also have social obligations to friends and family, and the usual teen angst issues to deal with. Balancing it all could be easier, if they weren't all seeing flittering crimson butterflies who call them out in the middle of the night to slaughter demons.
Studio Gonzo has given us some of the best anime around. Last Exile was a beautiful series with some gorgeous animation and a solid plot, and Samurai 7 was a startlingly effective sci-fi retelling of Kurosawa's legendary Seven Samurai. Gonzo has produced their share of crap as well, and -- save for the utter trash known as Gantz -- Red Garden is probably their worst effort.
It's not that anything particular in the show is overwhelmingly terrible, it's just that everything feels so bland. The plot is barely there, and the whole "resurrected monster hunters" angle exists only to inject a light touch of action into what is essentially a romance drama. The show takes way too long to ramp up, and things don't start fitting into a cohesive whole until the second half. It doesn't help that I couldn't really identify with or get to like any of the characters, which made the long-winded adjustment to their new lives that much harder to take. I have to credit the writers with one aspect: When action does hit, it generally hits hard and entertains while it lasts. But when it's gone, it might as well have never been.
And what the hell is up with the singing?!
Clearly, a lot of effort was put into establishing a strong setting. The faux New York City filtered through Japanese culture does prove interesting from time to time, but it's not enough to keep you engaged. The animation is somewhat stilted, and it doesn't help that the character designs tend to be unattractive and malformed, giving the show an off-putting visual look.
Dumped from an old ADV release, Funimation continues the trend of nice affordable packages for complete series runs. Sadly, this transfer isn't up to their usual standards. The picture is heavy on grain, with a soft image and some line ghosting throughout. The grain appears to be a deliberate choice, but the rest really harms the experience. The sound is passable, with a solid if unexceptional English dub that remains largely tame in surround effects, and the original Japanese language audio is a muddy 2.0 stereo. Extras, as usual, are just a textless opening and closing.
This is one weed you don't need in your garden. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Textless Open/Close