Red Data Girl–Anime Early Impressions

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Red Data Girl (Funimation) is not going to appeal to everyone. For one thing it’s very shoujo. I can deal with that if it is done well and the heroine isn’t too much of an annoying loser.

The heroine in this case is timid and lacks self-confidence, but she seems to be working hard to overcome this so I’m willing to give her a pass so long as she continues to show personal growth. And the show has some great visual imagery, plus miko magic which is always fun.

The OP suggests a standard otome (reverse harem) story but it doesn’t seem to follow the usual pattern. That is, there is only one plausible romantic prospect so far.

Shrine stepsIzumiko Suzuhara has been raised in a Shinto shrine run by her grandfather. It is located on a mountain on the Kii Peninsula, an area famous for its many sacred sites. She is shy and withdrawn and not very happy.

(The name “Izumiko’ is not intended to advertise that she is a miko, or shrine maiden. It is written “Izumi·ko” or “Spring Child’–meaning the type of spring with water in it.)

At the start of the first episode she goes against her parents’ wishes by cutting her hair into bangs. It’s a minimal change; she doesn’t touch the long old-fashioned braids that her mother first put her hair in when she was a little girl.

Satoru Wamiya
Her grandfather and the shrine staff seem a bit shocked by the bangs and when she goes to school she gets teased about them. However a boy named Satoru Wamiya says that he likes them, which makes her feel better.

Izumiko has a handicap: whenever she tries to use a computer or cell phone it immediately breaks. She usually gets a friend to use the keyboard for her during sessions at the school computer lab. However today she lets herself be pressured into using the computer herself.

Room full of water
As soon as she enters the first search phrase the room seems to fill up with water.

Video conference with father
…and she finds herself in a video conference with her father who is working as some sort of computer consultant in America.

She tells him that she wants to go to the local high school. He has been trying to get her to go to Houjou Academy in Tokyo, a well-regarded private school. (Apparently it is also the place to send children with unusual spiritual powers.)

Computer lab
Her father seems upset by her declaration of independence, and is even more disturbed when he notices her hair. At this point Izumiko panics and every computer in the lab dies.

Nobody seems to have noticed that she was talking to her father. It is as if the video conference took place in a fraction of a second. The whole thing is pretty weird. The time zone difference should have made the conference impossible. Not to mention that it took place under water.

Sagara in helicopter
However it seems that she really did talk to her father because he notifies his friend Yukimasa Sagara, who arrives in a helicopter in a matter of seconds. (Some sort of violation of normal space-time rules is clearly going on.)

Yukimasa is a take-charge kind of guy. He bamboozles the school into turning Izumiko over to him and whisks her off to a hospital where he subjects her to a series of neurological tests.

Back at the shrine he reveals that he is a yamabushi or “mountain monk” and has great spiritual powers.

(Yamabushi actually exist. They are ascetic hermits who practice a form of Esoteric Buddhism derived from the Shingon and Tendai traditions, with additional elements taken from Taoism and Shinto.)

Miyuki and Yukimasa
Yukimasa summons his son Miyuki who is the same age as Izumiko and with whom he as a rather strained relationship. Yukimasa tells Miyuki that he should stay with Izumiko and be her servant. Miyuki naturally reacts angrily and stalks out.

Miyuki and Yukimasa talk it over
After thinking it over Miyuki apologizes and agrees to stay at the shrine and transfer to Izumiko’s school.

Izumiko remembers having met Miyuki when they were both small children. He bullied her then and he still regards her with disdain. By the usual rules of shoujo romance this probably means that he is her destined soulmate but that she will have to win his respect first.

Miyuki with bow
Miyuki has undergone some preliminary training as a yamaboshi but his spiritual powers are still fairly limited.

Izumiko and Miyuki are to go on a class trip to Tokyo. Izumiko’s mother, who lives in Tokyo, tries to arrange a meeting. Izumiko enlists Miyuki’s help but the meeting is thwarted by scary mysterious pursuers who are never actually seen.

Himegami with upraised arm
At the end of the adventure Izumiko is briefly possessed by a himegami or high-ranking goddess who tells Yukimasa that Izumiko will probably be her last “vessel.” After this Yukimasa tells Miyuki that he doesn’t have to stay with Izumiko if he doesn’t want to.

I think I’ve figured out what all the fuss about Izumiko’s hair was about. The bangs allow her to arrange her hair in the traditional hime katto (“princess cut”) style which supposedly dates back to the noblewomen of the Heian court. If she couldn’t wear her hair like that the goddess probably would not have deigned to appear.

Izumiko dance
In the third episode Izumiko and Miyuki have a scary encounter with a mountain thunder god and Izumiko demonstrates that she knows at least one traditional miko skill: the art of the ceremonial dance. This seems to raise Miyuki’s estimation of her by a notch or two.

After this they both independently decide to go to Houjou Academy which is apparently where the main story takes place. Which unfortunately probably means that we won’t see much more of the spectacular mountain scenery.

The title refers to the IUCN Red List, sometimes called the “Red Data List”, which lists endangered or threatened species. A note at the beginning suggests that Izumiko is herself endangered. “Many want to control her for such is the great mystery of her power.”

So far this is interesting enough to keep me watching. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to tie all these elements together into a good story.