Red Data Girl – Episode 1

So. Started this thing last night, at two in the morning, somewhat drunk. Mercifully stopped myself halfway through. Took a look at what notes I’d amassed this morning; unsurprisingly, they read like an overwrought parody of my actual style. So I’m starting this fucker again.

I’ll hopefully be doing at least one traditional writeup for each of my potential pickups this season, and then sticking to the ones that I either enjoy the most or offer the most potential for dissection/analysis. Some shows don’t work that way! Some are just always fine in the same ways, or always bad in the same ways. And I’m sure some of these writeups will be less interesting than others – last season, I only started doing them because Sakurasou was broken in such interesting, continuously relevant ways, and I doubt a week-by-week takedown of, say, Robotics;Notes would have been nearly as interesting (more well-directed slice of life mixed with hokey sci-fi this week… color me surprised). But we’ll see.

Episode 1

0:32 – Love moody establishing shots. In “Understanding Comics,” Scott McCloud has a great piece about the differences between storytelling in Eastern/Western media, and this is a big one – so much visual real estate is spent establishing a specific world, a specific mood and context for a story. I really like that kind of pacing, and framing it with the conceit of the bird gives it just enough forward momentum. Good sign to start.

2:07 – This is some Fruits Basket shit right here.

3:34 – I really like how they’re establishing the isolation of this world here. First, the backgrounds are all beautiful, and that’s always nice. But then there’s this quick moment where the ostensible narrative is her explaining her hair, while meanwhile her driver pulls over to the side of the road to let a truck past. Why did they include that little gesture – just to add some visual interest to this scene? Possibly, but it also helps enforce the fact that they are out in the boonies (even main roads are single-lane) without using any actual minutes of screentime. Plus it parallels her isolation regarding her parents.

4:15 – That got pretty presumptive, so I’m gonna add a preface here – I basically like to assume any piece of art is “smart until proven stupid.” Until I’m confident enough to declare that things which appear on screen have no meaning and were chosen at random, I’ll assume the creators of a show made their choices for conscious reasons, and attempt to extrapolate those reasons from the context. Writers and directors are not stupid – they’re in this because they love it, and in a show like this, which I can already feel will not be aimed at the “pure entertainment” crowd, I have to assume they’re respecting their audience as well.

In the spirit of that, the glasses are a huge red flag (sorry). The title of the show, the visual real estate (which I’ve already said is a meaningful resource to expend) they’ve been afforded, the way their sharp color contrasts with all the muted, natural tones of everything else – either they themselves will be significant, or this show will somehow be interested in themes of perception and acuity of understanding. Let’s find out!

5:58 – There’s something a tiny bit off-putting, or… old-fashioned, maybe, about these character designs/hair styles. Maybe that’s also supposed to reinforce the distance these people live from any real center of culture.

11:42 – Awww yeah, lookin’ bisshie.

13:43 – This is some Girl Genius shit right here.

14:00 – Man, what am I gonna have to talk about if this guy just keeps announcing all the subtext?

17:27 – I really like how while this conversation maintains the core mystery, it does a great deal to establish the characters and separate dynamics between them. Again, multiple purposes.

19:25 – Ahahahaha. “He fell down some stairs.” “I FELL DOWN SOME STAIRS.”

23:30 – Is this the Jinrui ED singer?

And Done

Well! That was quite good, all told. I really love the mood, the visual style is distinct, evocative, and a little creepy, and the characters are already slamming off of each other and establishing themselves nicely. I think two of my favorite things about this first episode were things that weren’t shown – first, they let the viewer have some idea of her power and significance via the circumstances surrounding her, but never let that become the focus. Second, there were virtually no hints of romance whatsoever, meaning whatever bond these characters forge, it will be because of the experiences and conversations they share, not any preordained “love at first sight” bullshit that tends to eclipse real character development and believable romance. And yes, the “initially hostile dickbag” thing is a trope in its’ own right, but A. It’s a trope because it’s conducive to narrative fireworks and B. He’s just been told he has to give up his life to serve a wet blanket. Plus, it seems like a very carefully produced show – it might be worth continuing my commentary on this one just to look for positive craft tricks they employ. Good stuff!