So, there is this new anime called Red Data Girl or RDG. It looks like it's going to pan out to be a femdom, 'reverse harem' anime--or, in other words, my favorite thing ever! It's like they knew I was coming! I found the first episode on up on Hulu.com, so I watched it. (It's being simulcast over at Funimation.)
Thoughts on the episode follow. SPOILERY thoughts.
English Title: Red Data Girl
Japanese Title: Red Data Girl (spelled out phonetically in katakana)
Author (of the original novel series): Noriko Ogiwara
Anime Producer: P.A. Works
English-language Distributor: Funimation
Novels?: Yes [not available in English]
Manga?: Yes [not available in English]
Fifteen-year-old Suzuhara Izumiko is cutting her hair as the episode begins. It is highly symbolic. She spends the first chunk of the episode getting up the courage to tell her father she does not want to go to school in Tokyo, but would rather stay at her current school. Cutting her hair and stating which school she would prefer to go to are apparently the first things she has done on her own behalf, ever. Her haircut is a symbolic representation of her determination to improve herself, presumably so that she can be more open and assertive. (Those seem to be her goals, anyway, though it's not entirely clear.) Her haircut may also have awakened some kind of magical power, though that is also not explained.
Unbeknownst to Izumiko, the adults in her life--most notably Sagara Yukimasa, a helicopter-flying man only identified as a friend of Izumiko's father--had A Plan for her, which involved her going to a particular school in Tokyo where she would meet Sagara's son, Miyuki. Miyuki is apparently destined and/or obligated to serve Izumiko, whether either of them like it or not. (Why is not explained. When Izumiko asks Sagara for an explanation, he refuses to give one.) Once Izumiko establishes she would rather stay at her current school and her current home, Miyuki's father uproots him and has him transfer to Izumiko's school and move in with her at the shrine where she lives. Miyuki expresses his displeasure at this decision by running off into the woods and Sagara follows him. When they are next seen, Miyuki looks pretty beaten up, and Sagara tells Izumiko and her guardians that his son "fell off a cliff" because he was unfamiliar with the environment. Sagara is not terribly convincing.
Throughout the episode, Miyuki is pleasant and accommodating with Izumiko's guardians (Sagara not included), but glares daggers at Izumiko when they are not looking. He also verbally berates her whenever they 're alone together--which is, by the way, a stupid hobby.
The episode ends with Miyuki passive-aggressively introducing himself to Izumiko's class while she cringes in fear at her desk.
Obviously, they are destined to be together.
Miyuki is so, so clearly Izumiko's destined one true love. He's easy to spot. Our first clue is how he's forced into Isumiko's life by circumstances outside of her (or his) control. Our second clue is that they first met as children. That means, even when other boys are introduced (and we know they will be, as they fill up a large portion of the opening credits), Miyuki will have still met her first, giving him a kind of prior claim. Our third clue is that Izumiko and Miyuki hate each other. This means that them learning to not hate each other will qualify as the development of their relationship. (If they start at hate and end at love, that journey is longer than if they start at like and end up at love. It's simple math, guys!) Our fourth clue--and this is the important one, this is the clincher--is that Miyuki is an insufferable asshole.
So, Miyuki's terrible to Izumiko when he shows up, calling her ugly and hick and just generally doing everything in his power to make her feel worthless. And it works, because Izumiko has cripplingly low self-esteem! Good job, Miyuki!
But wait, there's more! Miyuki was apparently also terrible to Izumiko in the past, when they were kids together. At one point, Miyuki tells her to "go ahead and tattle" on him if she wants to, and this line triggers a flashback to a time when he said the exact same thing to her when they were little. (Apparently Miyuki hasn't come up with any original lines since then.) In the flashback, Miyuki throws balls at the back of Izumiko's head and yells at her while she hugs herself on the ground and cries. Good job, Miyuki, again!
But wait, there's more! Earlier in the episode, one of Izumiko's classmates accidentally brains her with a ball in gym class. He gets all offended by someone getting hit in the face by a ball he threw (because even minor characters can be assholes!) and defensively states that Izumiko could have dodged the ball. One of Izumiko's surprisingly awesome female friends tells him to apologize before criticizing, and reminds him that he should have known better, because apparently Izumiko has Issues with balls. And then later we get the aforementioned flashback to Izumiko's until-that-moment repressed memory of being hit in the head with balls by Miyuki.
Congratulations, Miyuki! You get extra points for being the source of Izumiko's childhood trauma.
But wait, there's still more! More than scarring her for life, you ask? Of course! When Izumiko tells present-day Miyuki about her traumatic memory, he says something along the lines of, "That sounds like me. I saw this weak little worthless girl and wanted to toughen her up. I wouldn't even bother with that now, though."
He was just bullying her for her own good, you see. Because bullies are always concerned about the well-being of others. But apparently the life lessons he lovingly tried to instill in her with his playground-variety verbal and physical abuse didn't take, and she ended up a hopeless case. Not even worth it anymore.
Miyuki, it's only been one episode and I hate you already.
In spite all of that, Miyuki is not entirely unsympathetic. He was forced to give up on his own plans and come live in "the boonies" with Izumiko, just because she didn't want to move. She didn't know that her decision would change his life when she made it, of course; she didn't even know he existed when she made it. And I get how that makes it worse. And the fact that no one even considers asking her to change her plans, because she is so important (for some as-of-yet undisclosed reason) that his feelings do not come into the equation at all? Yeah, that's pretty terrible. And let's not forget Miyuki's own trauma in the form of his father, who I'm pretty sure just beat him up for resisting a life of involuntary servitude. (I found that particular moment to be both creepy and unexpected.) Nevertheless, having abuse in one's own life is not a valid excuse for inflicting it on others. Because there is no excuse for that.
So far, however, Miyuki is turning out to be one of my favorite anime bullies, because his bullying of Izumiko seems realistic. Bullies really are as unapologetic and oblivious as Miyuki seems to be, and I totally believe that this guy exists. The bullying itself isn't played for laughs, which I appreciate, and is also shown to have long-term repercussions to Izumiko's psyche, which I very much appreciate, because bullying has long-term repercussions, and I like it when shows don't just write it off as "kids will be kids." Now, in part because this bullying is so realistic, I hope that Miyuki's character arc will involve learning to become not-an-asshole; as-is, he makes for a pretty unpleasant male lead. I also hope that Izumiko's arc will NOT involve deciding that Miyuki was right to bully her all along, and her trauma was totally her own fault for not 'toughening up' enough. Unfortunately, anime relationship arcs often go the victim-blaming route when it comes to dealing with bullying behavior, so we'll see.
As things stand at the end of the first episode, Izumiko is living together under the same roof with her two-faced childhood bully who has good reason to resent her. This seems like an unsafe environment and I am concerned for Izumiko's welfare.
Technically, everything looked good and sounded good in this premiere. The voice acting was strong enough that I forgot to evaluate it, and just kind of sat back and enjoyed the story. Same for the music and animation.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the episode. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.