RED GARDEN – Volume 1: LIVE TO KILL (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 2, 2007 by  



INFO: 4 Episodes, 100 minutes


AUDIO: English 5.1 Surround Sound, Japanese 2.0 with English Subtitles



“RED GARDEN” is Absolutely Beautiful but Yet Dark and Disturbing


What would you do if you were given a second chance at life?

Welcome to the life of four teenagers who are given a new chance at life but things are not as what you may expect.
In October 2006, GONZO’s “RED GARDEN” appeared on TV Asahi. The show ended at 22 episodes in March 2007 and now the teen/horror drama will be released in the US in September.

“RED GARDEN” is an anime that takes place in New York and revolves around four teenagers:

Kate Ashley – A member of GRACE, the top students who police the school for students who are late to class and to ensure that all is well at their high school but trying to cope with life after the death of her good friend Lise.

Rachel Benning – The popular girl in school, wearing the most expensive clothes and always partying with her friends.

Claire Forrest – Independent and outspoken. Not a student but works (or tries) to make ends meet.

Rose Sheedy – A shy girl who takes care of her siblings while her mother is hospitalized.

The four girls have nothing to do with each other but each share a common friend named Lise Meyer who has been murdered. To make matters worse, other young girls from their high school are being murdered. Also, for the four, they can’t seem to remember what happened the night of Lise’s murder.

One night, the four are brought together and wait until a mysterious man and woman appears to them and tells them that they all were murdered and have been given a second chance at life. But to stay alive, they will need to kill the beasts who murder at night.

They have no choice but to fight and win. Or else they die.

The first volume of “RED GARDEN” is the introduction of the characters and shows how they are at school and how they try to cope now in their real lives knowing that they have been murdered. The four seek the answers to why they can’t remember that one night and the answer to their question is shocking.

The animation is actually unique when it comes to the character designs. Ishii Kumi does a great job at giving us something fresh and new.

I actually like taking certain situations from anime on characters in Japan but giving that spin on American characters.

For example, Kate’s group GRACE wear these interesting uniforms while policing the school grounds. Rachel has that prissy debutante look, Claire has the sporty look and Rose, well she’s quite normal.

Also, I like how on video games such as “Silent Hill” or “Rule of Rose” that utilize the noise on haunting and dark segments, the same on this anime. Very creepy and beautiful of how they animated these segments.

The scene which explains how the four girls were murdered was animated beautifully but at the same time, so disturbing.

“RED GARDEN” is interesting in that its an anime where it was created around the voice acting. Rather than the opposite way which most animation is made.

Now, I watched this anime both in Japanese and in English and the Japanese voice acting is well done and when the girls start singing a song… again, so beautiful but yet so creepy.

But after watching the English dub, I found it so appealing of how they made the vocals of the characters fit. A slight change in dialogue to make it more appealing to the dub viewers, although small changes, it definitely gives the viewers the feeling of where they are in their personal lives.

For example, there is a scene where Kate and Rose visit Rachel at home. Rachel, who obviously is rich, really is snide and condescending to both Kate and Rose. In the Japanese dialogue, you understand it. In the English dialogue, the delivery of how Rachel says it is captured perfectly. So, I definitely will say that I enjoyed the English dubbing for this anime a lot.

As for special features, the first volume comes with the clean opening and ending animations. Also, ADV previews.

I was a bit disappointed that there were no director or voice actor’s commentary (I’m growing to enjoy these with ADV releases) but all in all, I enjoyed the first four episodes and look forward to watching more.


I have to admit that I was not really sure what to expect from “RED GARDEN”. It’s almost like a twisted “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but in this case, these girls do not want to be killing monsters each night and its bad enough coping with the fact that you’ve died and now you have to fulfill this obligation of fighting monsters for the rest of your life.

Is it worth living this second chance of life or is it better off dying?

The way the girls are dealing with this, how horrified they are about having to kill or be killed, I must say again, I’m quite impressed with the storyline so far.

I hope that in future releases, perhaps an interview with the director or series creator discussing why they chose to create the anime around the voicework. Why they chose America as the setting for this series? Why all the monsters are men? Also, it would be great to hear commentary from the voice actors talk about their approach of playing the certain characters, especially since the characters are American.

From the music to the awesome voice acting in conjunction with an intriguing storyline and animation that is absolutely beautiful but yet with undertones so dark and disturbing, makes “RED GARDEN Vol. 1” a recommended buy.

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