While is has more than it's share of missteps, RDG is still an entertaining series that should not be ignored by fans of the genre.
Taking its inspiration from Shinto mythology, RDG is a slow-burn kind of story, taking deliberate steps to set up its characters and world as the foundation it builds on with each story arc. The plot follows Suzuhara Izumiko, a girl who is next in line to inherit the mysterious powers of the Himegami. However, lack of explanation about this has lead to Izumiko feeling over-sheltered and wishing that she had the life of a normal girl. From there, the show is a series of discoveries about herself and the world of spiritually powerful people, with increasing levels of danger each time.
The show spends long stretches of time letting the characters talk to each other and chew over the scenery, which can be either an enhancement or a detriment depending on your personal taste. I thought that it worked well in this particular show, since it provided a solid look at the characters before the inevitable magic and supernatural themes popped up. The result is something that is more character driven than your average supernatural piece, focusing more on how the characters relate to this mysterious world than on explaining the world itself.
Two major players in the plot, twins Mayura and Manatsu, play the role of Izumiko's first close friends who are aware of her secret, but their own powers and motivations prior to meeting her make for a good early example of the world's "everyone's out for themselves" philosophy. Getting into further details would require spoilers, so I'll leave it at that. Takayanagi, the main rival of the show, doesn't make as many appearances, but has the kind of sleazy aura of a politician, and his influence is felt across the later story arcs even before he steps in. And then there's Izumiko, whose desire to be normal clashes with her latent powers. Innocuous statements become powerful spells when she says them, and she can't even make a change to her wardrobe or her routine without incurring the wrath or interest of the powerful beings around her. This is the cause for most of the conflict in the show.
But the relationship that's given the most weight in the show is the one between Miyuki and Izumiko, who are also the Designated Romantic Couple. I wasn't happy with this at all at the start of the show, since Miyuki is characterized as the kind of person who takes out his frustrations on those who don't deserve it, but his growing resolve throughout the series plus his banter with Izumiko warmed me up to the idea of them as a couple by the end. Miyuki's character growth is almost completely tied with his level of magic proficiency as well, so he goes from a whiner with no power at the beginning to someone using his decent level of magic power to protect what's important to him at the end.
If this review has sounded vague so far, that's because of one of two reasons: 1) I'm trying to avoid spoilers, or 2) I don't understand it myself. A lot of things in RDG are left unexplained, or the show acts like a confusing topic was perfectly clear. By the end of the show, I still had a lot of lingering questions, some bigger than others: What are the Himegami's powers, exactly? Why does everyone she meets become obsessed with her? Is everyone on the school campus competing for the World Heritage title, or are only a few students aware? Why was the "real" student council president never seen of mentioned again after the episode that made a big deal about his power over the school? What does someone get out of "winning" the World Heritage title? Similarly, why were Mayura and Manatsu competing with Takayanagi for it? And is Masumi really a sprit or something bigger?
And so on. To RDG's credit, these questions came to mind after I would finish watching an episode. The show does a great job of drawing you in, so there were no problems with suspension of disbelief when I was viewing it. However, once I was away from the pretty animation and intriguing characters, the unexplained parts and holes in the plot became obvious and bothered me. I'm always disappointed when a plot starts to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. It feels like this was a problem with the source material rather than the adaptation, because the show does seem to go out of its way to maintain the mood when the plot isn't there. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work out. One example is when an episode ends on an emotional cliffhanger involving the Himegami, but by the next episode, the problem had resolved itself offscreen, missing a great opportunity for at least one good scene. All of that said, it's completely possible that my questions about the plot and problems with the focus were caused by my lack of knowledge about Shinto mythology. Maybe then RDG would make more sense, because it was a show I enjoyed even as I became more confused.
While it wasn't a standout title from the Spring 2013 season, RDG is still a solid show. P.A. Works delivered stunning and consistent visuals with movie-quality nature backgrounds. Even with my confusion over some of the plot details, I enjoyed and appreciated the story's ability to show restraint early on for better payoffs later. It also deserves praise for picking a stopping point that tied up most of the ongoing conflicts that the show presented, which doesn't happen often enough in anime adaptations. The show also boasts surprisingly good character development, especially on the romance side, which I'm mentioning again because it's really hard to win me back once I've decided I don't like a character! I definitely recommend this show to fans of supernatural and character-driven series. The combination offers something a little bit different from the norm, but if you're willing to take time for RDG, it's got a facinating world waiting to be uncovered.
Images from Hulu.com and Funimation.com.