Red Data Girl (RDG) is a rather disappointing series from PA works (in comparison to its other works anyways). Still, to me it was a breath of fresh air from all the generic tried-and-tested series of shows that air for the most part of anime today. It has a rather unique storyline while still having a more "vanilla" feel to it.. Of course, in terms of anime, pantsu will probably be considered vanilla, but I mean that it doesn't pander. To pretty much anything. No fanservice, no cliche character archetypes, no asspulls, no fetish fullfillment and so on.
Review contains minor spoilers. probably more minor than whatever the description said anyways.
That said, while RDG is very careful not to make any faults, it doesn't really have a lot going for it in the story department. While the story is rather well crafted, it just doesn't have any content in it, its almost....empty. But I'll get to that in a while.
I do feel I should mention why the series is named Red Data Girl. The name comes from the Red List published by IUCN which lists all the endangered animals. Apparently Izumiko is a rather rare girl. Yeah, that's it.
PA works seldom disappoints in this field, and it sure as hell is true for RDG. The artwork is nothing short of beautiful with great amount of detail to the characters and extremely well crafted faces. The environment is nothing to laugh at either, its expansive, lush and heavily detailed even at long distances. To the point that I thought that it was ridiculous. Every single cliff that will never show up again has its own unique texture, no quality drop over distance whatsoever and even the crowd has well drawn-out and heavily detailed non-clone characters. The special effects are also over-the-top levels of good and magic and stuff resonate with energy. What more, it even handles any boost to the saturation with ease. I got upto 200% and even then the colors didn't get messed up.
I don't think I can honestly ask for any more, It puts most other anime artworks to shame. Almost perfect.
Only shortcoming I can think of is Masumi's face at times is unable to relay happiness and it ends up giving him a weird look. Even then, its an isolated example. Rest of the series is nothing short of stellar in this field.
Well, PA works did the sound, so you know the drill. No point in a large music section.
As of the music, for the most part, the music is quiet. It fits perfectly with the entire theme. The OP is pretty good with a great AMV to accompany it, but the ED in itself is kinda average. But the outstanding BGMs that accompany it are quite something.
The story of Red Data Girl revolves around Izumiko being a vessel of a (the?) goddess. The rest is in the description above. While the story in itself seems nothing special, it is made to be one. Everything is shrouded in mystery. While it may seem comprehensible at first, it quickly drifts to KsNH levels of complex. Nothing at all is explained. It throws a bunch of words around and you just gotta ride with them. This is made even worse by the characters being realistic. Usually, in an anime, X asks Y a remotely personal question and Y responds with all his history and then explains every word he uses. This usually looks stupid and unnatural, so RDG gets rid of it. Leading to no explanation at all for the interactions between characters. Hell, you even gotta guess who the person being talked to is, and what their relationship with the talkie is. While that may seem overly stupid on RDG's part, its actually quite the tactic to hold people's attention. It allows for a rather good buildup and it strokes the curiosity of the viewer - to push him until that next episode where he finally understands what happened, with things becoming cleared and clearer until....they stop doing that.
That may seem like a very good plan, but it has one fatal flaw - it requires that the doubts it creates gets cleared up. That, sadly, never really happens. It just makes things even more complex. This in turn causes one of the most major problems for RDG - an unsatisfying ending. A really, really terrible ending. One that clears up exactly nothing. Half the things mentioned in the first three episodes are never heard from again, and those that are heard from, are just mumbled here and there. The end is extremely rushed too, like as if they fit in 26 eps worth of stuff into 12.
RDG's plot is reliant on an arc based structure with an overhanging plot. Now, that is usually not a problem, but RDG deviates too much from its original concept. It really stops being about the goddess and more about what Mayura does and some sort of a competition which achieves....something. None of these even have a little to do with the original plot, so it seemed like a weird direction to take the entire series in. Some of it is rather interesting, but other than the occasional "visits" by the goddess, there was honestly nothing else to it. See, that is why I said that the entire story was empty earlier on. To me atleast, the original concept was new and good. I liked Mayura a little, but after a while, she just came off as greedy and bitchy. Why the Souda twins were given so much importance was beyond me, they served little to no purpose to the main storyline.
And to be honest, melodramatic fights between the family or rivals in school is just a lot more dull than a goddess descending and making shit happen. Her appearances are usually pretty awesome too. Sadly, these appearances are few and far between. But when she does appear, its brilliant.
On the other hand, one great thing about it is the immersion in the story. Now, I'm not sure whether it was caused by the downright brilliant artwork or the soothing BGMs or the traditional Japanese atmosphere, but whatever the case may be, it sure as hell got me immersed to the point where I marathon'd it.
So, to summarize, RDG doesn't make the classic faults, becomes really unique and falls flat on its face.
Characters - (23/30)
It starts off being totally focused on Izumiko, but as soon as the first three eps are over, it switches over to focus on Mayura. After that, the first arc is totally disconnected from everything as the triplets take the spotlight and almost become the main characters. The entire story starts moving around them. This keeps up until episode 9. It talks about their life, their families, their goals and even their pets. On the other hand, none of these are ever made clear for the so called "main characters", who are resigned to the background despite being protagonists.
Still, atleast the the characters don't follow any certain archetypes to speak of, so I was really surprised when Miyuki turned out to be an incompetent failure. Considering how good he looks and how this is a shoujo anime, I expected him to charm the ladies around him with his broken japanese english and then hit bulls-eye with his bow. In reality he gets beaten up by a bunch of students and his arrows miss their marks. Well, that was new.
The development for some of the characters was actually fairly decent, and this was pretty clear in case of Izumiko since she actively tries to change herself and succeeds. Miyuki doesn't have such a development, but its still there, its mostly passive, but its still there. Other than that, the support crew gets varying development depending on the person. The triplets get lots, but other than those, no one else really even comes close. The villain and his "army" is never really explained and nor are his motives or reasons. Same applies for a lot of other characters (Murakami, Honoka, etc) which makes the entire series a bit flat because the motives of characters are never really clear.
Despite all that, the characters were pretty likable and the main cast had some great development to go with it. The far-support could have been better though.
For me, if I can finish a series, it was enjoyable. To that end, RDG did a great job in holding my interest, and even though I was conscious of its faults at the time, I chose to overlook them to enjoy what I had. To be honest, I even had some respect for it for trying to break free of the usual route.Despite that, I just can't help but shake my head at the plot though. There was nothing in it, and I was still interested. I can't really say that it had "decent romance" or "decent adventure" or even "decent fantasy", but at the same time, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Perhaps its a series for me that I enjoyed solely because I might as well do that over calling it shit and picking at its faults. No matter the objectivity, I can quite confidently say I had fun with it. In hindsight though, its a pretty ugly sight.