iSugio

Red Data Girl – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Izumiko Suzuhara is a 15-year old girl who has been raised at Tamakura Shrine, part of the Kumano Shrines World Heritage Site. She destroys any electrical device that she comes into contact with. Despite being shy, she wants to try living in the city. Her guardian Yukimasa Sagara recommends that she enroll at Hōjō High School in Tokyo, accompanied by his son, Miyuki Sagara, who has trained to become a yamabushi from a young age. While in Tokyo on a middle school field trip, an entity named “Himegami” appears. Izumiko learns that she is a yorishiro, a vessel for a shinto spirit known as a kami. She also learns that Miyuki is tasked with being her guardian and protecting her.

Based on a collection of fantasy novels by author Noriko Ogiwara, Red Data Girl is a series that functions primarily as an introductory piece to the characters that reside in Ogiwara’s novels more so than offering any valid attempt in consolidating the entire novel collection through the form of animation. While the novel collection had spanned six volumes in length, as an animated series Red Data Girl does not necessarily succeed as a stand alone production nor as an accurate reflection of the novel series itself, unfortunately presenting a convoluted narrative that treads the same tired territory we have all seen before. In many instances, while the series does an adequate job in conveying the intricacies of Japanese folklore, it is also a series that is seemingly more concerned with the protagonist Izumiko’s reluctance towards simply accepting her destiny and facing her fears.

Obviously the trajectory of character growth can only take one so far, but Red Data Girl seems keen on having a protagonist that does not quite develop in any plausible matter until literally the last two episodes of the series. We witness Izumiko continually stumble in life, never really gaining much confidence in herself until the most crucial of events in the series’ narrative, but by that point, it may be difficult for some viewers to even still care. Couple this with that of the initially strained relationship Izumiko shares with that of Miyuki, a young monk in training who must protect Izumiko from harm, and you have a formulaic approach in which the inevitable – and highly predictable – romance will blossom between the two without much serious hesitation outside of Miyuki simply not finding Izumiko ‘cool’ enough to be around at first. Miyuki rather stubbornly can not accept that he is and will be a guardian for Izumiko only to later come full circle through the most physically enduring of tasks, which is an approach that some viewers will genuinely appreciate, but then again, it is also one that does not stray too far in terms of being original.

But despite the rather conventional approach that Red Data Girl takes in terms of character development, the series does elaborate upon some great notions of understanding one’s responsibilities and upholding them. While Izumiko is a young girl whom some viewers may find overly timid to the point of being annoying, considering that her role is to be a vessel to a powerful ancient goddess one will slowly see that she has much at stake in regards to her true duty in life. As she discovers more about herself as the series progresses, we begin to slowly see her difficulties in dealing with both her school life and her struggles to understand the extent and purpose of her supernatural abilities. Whether this is viewed in her seeing terrifying spirits walking amongst her at the most unexpected of times, to letting the follies of high school life affect her emotionally, Izumiko is shown as a character continually attempting to grasp her true potential as both a paranormal mediator and regular teenage girl. While this does not excuse the issue of her being overly apprehensive in practically everything see does, it does convey her as an individual at least trying to reconcile her two conflicting lifestyles.

As an overall viewing experience though, Red Data Girl is certainly not a series that will keep many viewers interested for too long, instead working more on providing an exceptional exploration on supernaturalism and Japanese folklore. Perhaps more appropriately viewed as a slice-of-life drama intermixed with that of magical girl fare, the series is definitely one directed towards a shoji-related demographic. Whether this is viewed as a negative or positive depends on the individual viewer, but given the universal understanding and subsequent approach of its narrative, Red Data Girl is a a series that could have greatly differentiated itself if it was based on a smaller, more cohesive work rather than a sprawling six volume collection of novels, in turn doing justice to an extensive universe that is otherwise constrained by the series compacted episodic structure.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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