Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 27th 2011
DVD - Complete Collection
Teenager Kakeru Satsuki is abnormal in more ways than one. He wears an eye patch over his right eye because it a disturbing golden color which got him teased extensively in the past, his sister committed suicide in his presence several years earlier, and he was raised in an orphanage. More typically, he is close with a female “childhood friend,” Yuka, who was initially with him in the orphanage before getting adopted. One day things go weird and the duo gets briefly drawn into an alternate world which resembles theirs but is nearly barren of people, crawling with monsters, and dominated by a red sky featuring a dark moon that, upon their return to their world, they can now see there, too (although almost no one else can). When they are pulled into the place they come to call Red Night again, they encounter Misuzu Kusakabe, descendant of a long line of onmyouji and a fellow student at their school, who helps them survive the basic monsters and the Black Knights who seem to be behind them. Gradually they gather around them the other individuals who make the transition to this world, including Yukiko, a chirpy girl who cannot die and who becomes a cold-blood killer when she takes her glasses off; Takahisa, a cocky pyrokinetic whose mother is the school nurse; Kukuri, a mute girl who projects deadly chains in a fight and bears a startling resemblance to Kakeru's dead sister; and Shiori, who seems to have some kind of magical affiliation. As Kakeru and Yuka gradually discover their own powers, the whole group also discovers what lies at the heart of Red Night: a girl trapped in a crystal who may be far more, and something far more dangerous, than what she appears to be.
In the bonus OVA episode “Peach-Colored Fantasy,” Kakeru and crew find themselves transported to a warped alternate world which is pink-themed rather than red-themed, dramatically alters how their powers work, and seems generally far more naughty-minded.
The latest in a long line of adult visual novel adaptations, 11eyes at least makes an effort to do something different for its genre: it tries to spin a dark, violent tale about super-powered teens which peripherally speaks to how power does not necessarily bring happiness. Sadly, the caliber of writing necessary to successfully pull that off is simply not present. Instead we get a series which, despite a few strong scenes and a massive, inventive plot twist in the late stages, too often feels like it is just going through the motions, and it does not have good enough action or fan service, or compelling enough characters, to get away with that.
The first sign of trouble is that the bloblike Larvae which mob the heroes in Red Night fail to generate any sense of menace once one realizes that they do not actually do much of anything beyond making intimidating moans at their targets. The second big sign of trouble comes when the minimal attempts to develop Kakeru get stuck in an “I will protect Yuka no matter what” rut, resulting in his character not standing for much of anything beyond the single-minded protection focus. And the third comes when the Black Knights, who are supposed to be the elite foes, get whittled down to their toughest ones in completely formulaic fashion. Other problems include lead-handed managing of the matter concerning Kukuri, the series making a big point of showing one character gradually growing insanely possessive only to completely revert the character back to normal at the end, and a supporting casting composed primarily of common ero game/visual novel stand-bys, although the writing does try to mix things up a bit by having Cheery Girl also be Split Personality Girl and giving her an almost ridiculously dark past to reconcile against. (In her earlier days she repeatedly served as a suicide bomber because she couldn't die from it, among other bits of nastiness.) And can we come up with a better villain motivation than the tired, nihilistic “the world is crap, so I must wipe it clean” shtick?
The series does have a few things going for it, though. The plot twist involving why the Black Knights insist on referring to Kakeru and the gang as “fragments,” and what that means, is a doozy, the kind that can redefine a series, and the way the parallel worlds gimmick figures in during the series' last quarter may be convoluted but still works. The series also comes up with a semi-clever way to work in a Bad Ending without actually having the series end on it. A few scenes in the second half of the series do put enough characterization together with enough dramatic push to generate some quality moments, including (thankfully) the climactic battle scene in episode 12, but unfortunately the moments when the series achieves that level of quality are infrequent.
When the series does succeed, the musical score is almost invariably an essential component; in fact, the music is the series' greatest strength. For much of the series the musical themes and sound effects define the content, and are responsible for giving events whatever degree of power they have, rather than just supporting the content. The disturbingly discordant twist on standard school chimes effectively sets an uneasy tone early on and key battle sequences are backed by powerful themes which flirt with going overboard but never actually do. Opener “Arrival of Tears” gives a vague Revolutionary Girl Utena vibe before segueing into a heavy rock number, while the even heavier “Sequentia” closes out each episode.
Other than the “breaking glass” effect which signals the transition between worlds, the visuals do not do anything special. Girls have typical cutesy moe trappings, guys look generic, and the Larvae just look rough and ugly. Even the wider variety of appearances amongst the Black Knights still constitutes an ordinary selection of anime weirdoes. The red tones of the Red Night setting do create an interesting visual effect, the scenes where Misuzu draws her swords have some nice CG work, and there are some nice magical effects, but the action scenes only sporadically impress and definitely suffer from mediocre choreography.
Sentai Filmworks has given this one a TV-14 rating, but that might be a little on the light side. The graphic violence can, at times, get quite intense, including one scene which strongly implies that one character is ripping another's gut open to pry something out of it. For most of the series the fan service is comparatively mild, with frequent panty shots, one character appearing in lingerie on a couple of occasions, and the odd set of bouncing boobs or girl-on-girl breast groping constituting the prurient content. Episode 11 does have a strongly-implied sex scene, however, and the OVA episode, which takes an extremely perverse and dirty-minded (but also quite funny) twist on the series' basic concept, is a different matter altogether.
Sentai also judged this one to be too much of a niche title to merit an English dub, but that is less objectionable. At least their subtitles are (mostly) clean of errors and they do include the OVA episode. The only other Extras are clean opener and closer found on the first disk.
So is it worthwhile to wade through the mediocrity in the title just to get the handful of choice scenes? Probably not, although fully appreciating the OVA episode does require being quite familiar with the series. Its few strong points simply aren't enough to outweigh its bland execution.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Effective musical score, a few strong scenes and ideas, OVA episode.
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