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Review: “Red Data Girl” is Shortsighted

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Red Data Girl

Red Data GirlIn the modern era, can you imagine a teenage girl blindly wandering through life without her cell phone, a Facebook page, or even an iPod? Izumiko is that girl, having lived a sheltered life at an ancient shrine hidden in the forest. More country bumpkin than city bigwig, she’s a shy wallflower in high school destined to be a host for an ancient spirit wronged years ago. With her new guardian, Miyuki, defending her from all sorts of ethereal attacks that would stunt the revelation of her powers, Izumiko must decide if she’ll be take the tough route of fitting in with all her peers, or take the easy path and burn them all to the ground.

Red Data Girl is a short, 12-episode series that is light on action and heavy on supernatural elements. Izumiko is a shy and timid girl who’s trying to take more charge of her own life, but fate always seems to intervene. Want to use technology that everyone else does, such as computers and cell phones? They’ll blow up and break down. Want to date this one guy? He’s actually kind of a pain. Want your own hairstyle? Everyone will comment on it when you drastically change it, and yet any time you let it down, a supernatural ancient spirit will take over you.

You know, the standard pains that any quiet kid goes through in high school.

Red Data GirlIzumiko wears distinct red-frame glasses, but that’s about her only defining trait when it comes to character design (which, was more of a defining feature before Beyond The Boundary also had a meek schoolgirl wear red frames), but that’s almost the point. She’s supposed to be this unremarkable and forgettable.

When she lets down her hair, though, her voice shifts alongside her attitude and design. Quickly she becomes a commanding and vengeful force; not evil, but just one that has been wronged in the past (and will not let it again). Slowly, the two come to an understanding on how things work, or at least it’s implied that one’s willing to cede to the other when it’s a necessity.

The rest of the cast? Laughably forgettable, especially since they’re the ones supposed to have normal personalities. The secondary and male lead, Miyuki, rings of any “tsundere” character archetype; “you’re an idiot and a buffoon, but I’ll die saving you because I secretly kind of like you” that was perfected with Asuka of Evangelion. The most interesting of the expanded cast is a set of triplets, just because of their dynamics. Given that the series revolves around demons, spirits, and posessions, you’ve got two living twins that occasionally host the spirit of the deceased triplet, one male that doesn’t particularly care if he’s in a male or female body. It’s a small plot in the series, but one that proves to be more interesting than others of more import.

Red Data GirlWith the series having a serial nature, the short series is over too-quickly for the plot, but none-too-soon for the viewer. Not much happens over the course of twelve episodes, with about four or five actual plots in the series. Nobody would want to dumb it down, but taking this concept and applying it to twelve stand-alone episodes (or even 24 stand-alone half-episodes, like Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt) could allow them to explore the world and concepts at a quicker pace, instead of spending ample amounts of time navel-gazing and feeling bad for one’s self. It’s decidedly slow paced, but that comes with the territory of being an adaptation of a novel. What works in the printed page for 20 minutes before bedtime doesn’t exactly translate to 25 minutes of television.

Red Data Girl’s two-DVD set includes modern extras, including two episode commentaries, textless opening and ending, and trailers for both this and other releases. Surprisingly, there’s no Blu-ray release. The commentaries rarely get into the actual action of the show, but feature more discussion about the art of voice acting, although it’s worth a listen if you’re a fan of that side of the business.

Red Data Girl is not a particularly bad series, but it is a bad 12-episode series. It could have been a tolerable 6-episode OVA, or it could even be something you could share with a teenager in your family that feels like an outcast (IE, every teenager ever). For many, though, it’ll be too little plot and action, too much time wasted.