Before watching this, I had seen every Ring film except Rasen. Rasen was released with English subtitles in 2003, and I plan to see it soon. I am a diehard fan. So, maybe I am a little biased.
The series has a completely different take on the characters of Ringu, and a lot of major events are changed. Some of these changes were clearly made to stretch the story out over 12 episodes. Other changes are just inexplicable; like the video being "hidden" inside a J-pop music video. However unnecessary the changes may seem, they did keep the story fresh and interesting.
The closest American comparison I could make is to the TV soap opera Passions. The format is different, but this is still at heart a TV drama series involving the supernatural. It also has elements of The X-Files and E.R. If that sounds bizarre, just bear in mind that this is a Japanese program.
For the first six episodes, I was hooked. Edge of the chair suspense, real caring for the characters. However, it did start to get hokey as time wore on. By the end, I began to see Ringu as an allegory against multi-level marketing schemes. In fact, the final episode was hokier than the final episode of Hack Dusk and John Galt's final speech in Atlas Shrugged put together.
All that said, the good outweighed the bad. There's no other series quite like it, and it's a must-see for Ringu fans.
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