The Red Data Book is a document that details those species of animal that are considered to be at the highest risk of extinction, even amongst those already considered endangered. As such, their protection is of the highest priority. In this vein, and for the purpose of the series, a Red Data Girl is one whose rarity makes them an anomaly within the world. They are to be guarded with vigilance, lest those who would abuse and misuse her ever managed to take her. At least, that’s what the series title card taught me.
Nestled far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, we find a pleasant town surrounded by nature. In this town lives a girl, one whose shy personality has left her somewhat isolated from the world around her. However, as is most often the case with anime protagonists, this girl holds a secret that even she does not know, an innate ability that puts her in tune with a realm beyond. Luckily for her, and story progression, she does not remain alone for too long as an ever expanding cast begins to intersect with her, each with an intrinsic knowledge of the world she is forced to discover.
With Izumiko being the shrinking violet that she is, the outwardly aggressive Sagara serves as her natural foil. Of course, since duty obligates him to protect her, they are never allowed to be too far apart from one another. So naturally their animosity turns into feelings of compassion and a whole “Will they? Should they?” subplot develops. Though honestly you could see it coming from a mile away. They even throw in the “knew each other as kids” story, although Sagara was an absolute jerk back then too. Despite this, both manage to affect each other as Sagara softens to the point of being nice to Izumiko and she in turn becoming a more confident character. This fact is made readily apparent through Izumiko’s physical changes, namely cutting her hair and deciding not to wear glasses.
Unfortunately, this aspect of the series does not get the chance to truly shine amidst the various other subplots and vague overarching story. A short while into the series, we are introduced to twins who share a special connection both to each other and to their brother who had passed away years earlier. In itself this is an interesting concept and one that has the potential to carry great emotional weight, especially in the fact that the siblings are continuously referred to as twins by their mother, coping with the loss of her son via denial. But despite all of this source material, this complex relationship never really amounts to anything as powerful as it could’ve. The spirit of their brother exists as a chipper character who is for some reason at odds with the other brother over the fate of their sister, an event which almost comes to a head…an then doesn’t. This is around the time when a sick horse almost tears the family apart because…of something. Personally I didn’t really understand why such an intricate relationship was established and then relegated to an underexplained b-plot.
Which, now that I’ve mentioned it, is kind of the problem with the series as a whole. We are given hints and promises of a grand story that spans realms, and then left in the dark throughout. No real explanation is given as to why Izumiko is the one true vessel for the Himegame, when her mother quite easily serves the same purpose. Then when the Himegame finally gets the chance to explain herself, her personality changes vastly from who she was before. Then when she actually explains her motivation, it is never given resolution. Also, I’m not sure why Izumiko is the only person in the entire series to be left in the dark, especially given that when she stumbles upon the truth nobody seems to care. Why isolate the poor girl for her whole life when there was literally an entire campus full of people in a similar situation? Why did her mother spend her life away from her daughter without providing a reason? It just seems like pointless secrecy that only served to harm Izumiko. Also if a group of people know the Himegame’s true mission, why aren’t they helping her more? How well known is the Himegame for that matter?
Questions, questions, questions. All I have is questions, and not in the fun “The true meaning is hidden” kind of way, more in the “what exactly is going on” kind of way. If Izumiko is the only one capable of bearing the Himegame, why was a school established to find the student with the highest spiritual potential? What deity will possess said student? What is a World Heritage in regards to the story and why is it something people want to be?
At the end of the day, I just found RDG to be a flat series. Despite the events that occur around them, characters just feel like bystanders. This is exemplified by the visual style, that doesn’t exactly place an emphasis on facial movement, Izumiko especially feels more like a doll than a person in certain moments, moreso than her characterisation dictates. Credit where credit is due, the series has a nice aesthetic feel to it, carrying its vibe of Japanese culture. That being said, it is definitely an anime that could equally show its true potential via a series of screenshots. Owing to its slower nature, an emphasis is never placed on action, with most characters deigning to sit and talk, or stand and talk…though sometimes they walk and talk I guess. Most action sequences are littered with cuts, that sees the more powerful clashes relegated to the realm of implied movement. So the most we witness is some weapon clashes and sudden leaps backwards, away from danger. It’s pretty disappointing.
In regards to the actual plot, we were just thrown into a pre established world, which is fair, that was then never fully explained, which isn’t fair. Sure you can extrapolate the important parts, but I just never felt the desire to do so. The pacing certainly didn’t help matters, remaining inconsistent for the entirety of the series, freely shifting between slow reveals and immediate, often deus ex machinaic, solutions. Thus, even the questions that are answered leave something to be desired and you may find yourself just as lost as Izumiko herself…
The Himegame will return through the vessel known as Hanabee