Izumiko Suzuhara is a shy, mousy girl who is destined to become the next vessel for a himegami that will destroy the world. Even though she’s pretty much helpless, she possesses a great deal of latent power. Miyuki Sagara is Izumiko’s childhood acquaintance, whose own plans in life are derailed when his father abruptly decides it’s time for him to fulfill his role as Izumiko’s servant. Together the two enter Houjou Academy, a school their parents have chosen for them. They soon realize that this is no ordinary school and they must be careful of those who would use Izumiko’s power to their own ends.
The root problem with Red Data Girl is its poorly established setting. Houjou Academy is said to be a special school for those with spiritual powers, but nothing about the academy lends itself to this distinction. Humans who have the ability to interact with the spiritual world are becoming extinct, and the academy was supposedly founded to prevent this. However, there are no classes that focus on honing one’s spiritual abilities or preserving spiritual powers, nor is it clear whether all the students have special gifts. Furthermore, the few students who display spiritual abilities seem to have mastered them through personal study or outside the school environment.
With this questionable setting at its foundation, the ensuing story feels forced. Destined to become the himegami’s vessel, weak and whiny Izumiko simply wants to be a normal girl. For her part, the himegami cannot decide whether she wants to possess Izumiko and destroy the world. This behavior is an obvious attempt to create drama and confusion and fails to reflect any definite character motives. Because the academy’s role in the grand scheme of things is not well-established, other subplots make little sense. For instance, the only connection the school seems to have to the spiritual world is that a World Heritage Candidate is selected at the school festival by a network of students in a secret society. Though there is a power struggle for the candidateship, it is never adequately defined. Even when the Candidate is revealed, the audience still has no idea what the title signifies, only that it might come with great power. It seems far-fetched that there are only two contenders for this position—Izumiko’s roommate Mayura and another classmate—and both of them are freshmen.
Moments of character development are used to feed the weak plot, rather than for fleshing out the characters or establishing relationships between them. In a story that begins with an isolated girl striving to be herself, one might expect the plot to lead Izumiko to a community of friends who will help her to fulfill or fight against her destiny. However, everyone in the story is focused on their own schemes and the school’s politics. Although we do get to know characters like Mayura and her strange brothers—one of whom is a ghost, or maybe a monstrous spirit in disguise who wants to eat all their souls—these backstories do not contribute to a strong friendship or connection with Izumiko. At times, it seems that the other characters are just using her. The only person who truly looks out for her is Miyuki, a strong character who recognizes that something greater is happening to Izumiko and the world, and is willing to sacrifice himself and his future to protect them both. Miyuki and Izumiko’s relationship progresses from disdain to attraction, but remains inconclusive as the story is drawn to an ineffectual close.
That being said, Red Data Girl isn’t a terrible anime; it just isn’t terribly good. Its beautiful animation style is eclipsed by the weakness of the storytelling, and it’s disappointing that this series does not live up to its full potential. Young teens and tweens who like anime series about magical high school students may enjoy this watch-alike to keep them entertained until something else comes along. For a more selective audience, better choices in this genre include Beyond the Boundary, xxxHolic, and Inu X Boku SS (best for mature teens and adults).
Red Data Girl
FUNimation Entertainment, 2014
directed by Toshiya Shinohara
300 minutes, Number of Discs: 2, DVD
Company Age Rating: TV-14
Related to: Red Data Girl by Noriko Ogiwara, Ranmaru Kotone