The first season of Red Data Girl (Funimation) turned out to be better than I expected, but I have one significant reservation.
Let’s list the good points first:
- It’s a solid High Fantasy story that draws on Japanese folklore and history in a way that seems fresh and original.
- It may be a shoujo stroy but is not, as I feared, a conventional reverse-harem drama. There is only one boy that the heroine i interested in and she is quite willing to tell the others that they don’t have a chance.
- The heroine may seem shy and timid but she is not nearly as much of a wimp as she seems at first (as the suitors who won’t back down quickly find out.)
- The show looks beautiful. To be more specific, the scenery is amazing. The character animation seems adequate, not outstanding in itself but not bad enough to detract from the other visuals.
Now the big caveat: the first season does not feel like a complete story. It’s a satisfactory initial story arc for a much larger series. It lays out the main premise, introduces the characters and lets them test their abilities against some initial challenges that are a warmup to the main show. It is indicated that the heroine will eventually face a crisis in which she will either save humanity or destroy it (with the odds favoring “destroy”.)
This is based on a series of six novels by Noriko Ogiwara. They aren’t available in English but it looks like the first season of the anime adapts only the first novel. So probably it will take at least 2 more seasons of 2 cours each to complete the story, maybe more.
If enough additional seasons are made to complete the story, and if they are done as well as the first, this could be a great series. But it is always uncertain whether a late night anime will be picked up for another season. Many shows have made a promising beginning, only to be allowed to languish unfinished.
So just for the fun of it I will now to try your patience by comparing Red Data Girl to other series which it does not much resemble. Please indulge me; there is a method to my madness.
First, RDG is unlike Neon Genesis Evangelion in almost every respect save one: The heroes hate their fathers and this drives much of the character interaction. But the circumstances are different in interesting ways.
In Evangelion Gendou Ikari abandoned his son Shinji at an early age, then summoned him at age 14 and ordered him to risk his life to save the world. Shinji naturally resented this and spent the series moaning, whining and wimping out at crucial moments, making him one of the most hated heroes in the history of anime.
In RDG Yukimasa Sagara subjected his son Miyuki to harsh and dangerous training from an early age to make him strong. Even today he shamelessly tries to manipulate him. As a result Miyuki is full of resentment and tries to frustrate his father. (For example he does his best to avoid falling in love with Izumiko because he suspects that would please Yukimasa.)
The irony is that Miyuki actually is strong, the sort of reliable hero who may complain a bit but can always be counted on in a pinch.
Gendou is a perpetually glowering figure who radiates disappointment with Shinji. Yukimasa on the other hand looks insufferably smug about how well his schemes are working out. (Frankly it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Yukimasa turned out to be the main villain of the story.) He’s actually proud of his son but he’ll never let him know it. Maybe the yamaboshi don’t believe in hugs.
Izumiko has a different set of problems. While Miyuki was born with no special abilities and gained his spiritual powers from years of intense training, Izumiko was born with a special ability to interact with the spirit world. Her parents and grandfather raised her in isolation so that she would not be confronted with any supernatural threats until she was old enough to deal with them. Even sending her to Houjou Academy was presumably part of their plan. It lets her test her powers in competition with other children who have not fully mastered their own special abilities.
This upbringing left Izumiko shy, awkward and lacking in self-confidence. She wishes most of all that she could just ditch the supernatural stuff and just be a normal girl.
This may sound like heresy but she reminds me of Cardcaptor Sakura. Sakura is younger and has more social confidence, but like Izumiko she considers herself timid and doesn’t realize how brave she really is. She also tries desperately to hold on to the life of a normal girl, even while it becomes increasingly obvious that fate has other plans for her.