This is easily one of the more obscure anime I’ve watched so far. Produced by Gonzo, Red Garden aired between Fall 2006 and Winter 2007, so it falls very neatly into that huge pile of mid-’00s anime that have never been on my radar, mostly because of a lack of a famous director and/or studio. Ok, ok, no, Gonzo deserves better than that. They’re not an obscure studio, it’s just that they made so so many shows during that time that I’m understandably not familiar with most of them. And such was my relationship with Red Garden, until one fateful day when it was recommended to me.
To be more specific, the first episode was recommended to me because it features a twist that I won’t spoil here. I watched the first episode, and I found the twist quite cool, so I continued watching. I’ll be honest, I spent the vast majority of it playing Candy Crush on my phone instead of focusing on the show, but by the end of it I felt that I’d gotten something out of it. In fact, I found that it ticked quite a few boxes on the list of “elements that I find interesting in anime”. There were secret organisations that were implied to be more complex than what was shown in the anime, there was high school drama (about bullying, fitting in, making friends, etc, i.e. the kind of drama I like), and the story is set in New York of all places (which also helped the high school aspect of it, because it meant it wasn’t a Japanese high school). The show also delivered some pretty powerful scenes, some relating to main characters being forced to “grow up” in an unnatural way (understandably being traumatic), others were about humanising the antagonists, regarding which I think the show did a particularly good job.
Well, at least until the final episode, that is. The conclusion of the series was something of a letdown, because I felt like its generic action scenes could have maybe been replaced with something more philosophic or dramatic, or both. The show was also bad at making me care about watching it (hence the aforementioned playing of Candy Crush), because it was often really boring. As relatively simple as the story ended up being, I don’t understand why it had to be 22 whole episodes. I guess there’s a good reason why it didn’t become more well-known than it currently is. I would still recommend trying it out, though.