Garo is a medieval-fantasy action anime focused on a pair of Makai Knights, the womanizing German and his revenge-seeking son Leon, tasked with slaying demonic beings called Horrors and halting the plans of the corrupt Makai Alchemist, Mendoza, who is manipulating his kingdom's rulers to slay other Makai Alchemists and Knights. The anime offers up a solid balance of plot and character development that focus on exploring Mendoza's motives and reasons for wishing to slay the Makai Alchemists and Knights, Leon coming to realize the flaws of his obsession with revenge, and the Valiante prince Alfonso also getting caught up in the fight against Mendoza and the Horrors. It also offers up a good amount of world building with exploring the magical lore of the series that involve the Makai Knights, Makai Alchemists, and Horrors.
In spite of its solid story buildup and world building, the series still has its fair share of flaws. There are some plot holes that occur with certain major events in the series, some rather convenient moments of deus ex machina for the anime's final episodes, and an abrupt relationship development that is not too convincing with how it takes place. Also in spite of being a competent and manipulative villain with his plans, Mendoza is still a fairly typical anime villain with his motives and plans as he is power-hungry, seeking revenge, has a superiority complex, and lacks much dimension to his character. Plus for a series that is supposed to emphasize action, the visuals for Garo are a bit on the subpar side with its minimal detail on character designs, animation getting choppy at points, and the CG-animated rendering of the Makai Knight armor sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the regular animation.
In spite of its fair deal of flaws, Garo is still a solid fantasy-action title that establishes a solid mix of storyline development, world building and character development. Still, rent the series before considering wanting to buy it as the flaws for it are still rather glaring ones.
Last updated Sunday, October 09 2016. Created Sunday, October 09 2016.
(All episodes watched):
Well, most Sword & Sorcery anime are pretty unimaginative and as a result are dead at birth, but Garo managed to interest me. Perhaps it was the naughty scene where main character Leon's father is in bed with a prostitute, and as he explains the situation regarding witches and demons to her he does the same for us. Early on, at least, the show seemed to reveal things in a skillful manner, and in doing so the people who are talking grow some personality as well. It wasn't hard to guess who Leon and his father (Herman) were relative to an event 17 years earlier, but there were some other unpredictable twists. Initially, this show sort of struck me as a cross between S&S and mecha, given the amazing capabilities the characters have once they put on their fancy suits of armor. For some reason the animation of these magical suits of armor is head and shoulders above that of the rest of the show, which in turn is head and shoulders above that of the OP sequence (though it ramps up a lot during fighting scenes). There was enough sophistication in the plot, and enough personality in the characters, that I decided to watch. What really matters to me is story and characters, and Garo seems to be handling those well. This looked like a fun show.
For me, the strong point of Garo was the colorful personalities of the main characters, especially Herman. I actually like Herman more than Leon, who is supposed to be the protagonist, because he's a colorful character with outlandish opinions, while Leon seldom speaks at all. The characters do enough talking, and about subjects that are interesting enough, for them to be interesting people we can care about. I liked the way Leon didn't fall into a trap that had been set for him in episode three. He's a quick thinking guy, which means things get more unpredictable and interesting--normally the protagonist would be tricked, but would somehow escape later on; but that's tiresome. Another example is Ema, an alchemist woman who is under interrogation in episode two. When she turned up I got a good feeling that the plot as a whole would benefit from her. I also liked Garm, the sarcastic and lazy woman who's in charge of the Makai Knights (though we never learn all that much about her). The characters in general each have something distinctive about their personalities which makes it easy to keep track of who's who.
In some ways this show is predictable--like the conspiracy within the royal family (the people sure shift loyalties quickly) and the prince forced into exile; but I was confident that something of interest will come of it. Garo isn't brilliant, but it is fairly fun to watch. I liked the two major plot threads running side by side--Luis and Leon on one side and the overthrown Prince Alfonso on the other. I guess you could say there's third strand, Ema, as well. Leon and Luis solve a number of minor problems caused by 'Horrors' for people as they proceed towards the big problem, the usurpation of power by the evil sorcerer, Mendosa, the overthrow of the rightful rulers, and the reckless use of Horrors. Sometimes the show gives me a modest thrill and sometimes it seems pretty ordinary. Episode seven was kind of sloppy, as it seemed to bounce back and forth between several plotlines in an erratic and confusing manner. It did have one LOL joke, though. In general the different plot threads of Garo interweave with each other in a pleasing manner which suggests that genuine talent was at work in the making of this show. It's neat how everything fits concisely together, like Luis' former best friend now being his bitter enemy. Little time is wasted, which makes the building conclusion exciting and intriguing. We know exactly what needs to be done--Mendosa needs to be taken out--and the question is how that will be managed, and whether the good guys will live to see the outcome. These guys are not so unrealistically awesome that their losing and dying is out of the question. So things could go many different ways, which, again, is exciting and intriguing.
Well, for a show which seemed to maintain a plot which was fun without being unnecessarily complicated, and seemed to have been written in a professional manner, what I thought would be the conclusion of Garo went in a way which defied all conventions. One thing that goes without saying in an action series which has two good guys fighting side by side is that they will win and share the glory. But that wasn't what happened in episode twelve: one major character winds up completely humiliated. And, while the battle against Mendosa is won (isn't it?), it's hardly a happy ending--indeed, it is kind of disturbing. The explanation turns out to be that the story is by no means over, no, it has only reached the halfway point. But what will the task for the second half be? Haven't the villains been defeated and destroyed? Not quite all of them, it turns out. Indeed, Mendosa himself reappears, which is goes largely unexplained. The problem is that the second half of Garo seemed to me to be decidedly inferior to the first. What was once a concise, clear plot now seems to wander about rather than focusing on an upcoming climax. Ema's deal with her former husband, Leon's sort-of girlfriend, the quarrel between Leon and Alfonso--none are exactly brilliant or seem critical to the story. Garm's explanation of why a certain person needs to be protected and what the real problem is didn't thrill me all that much; it seemed as if this bit had been casually tacked on to the plot rather than carefully developed so that it would seem as if an obvious piece of the story was now falling into place. The crazy alliance between Herman and Mendosa never made much sense and I can't see why Mendosa ever trusted Herman for a moment. And then it peters out more with a whimper than a bang. The dragon-like thing Amina seems to be casually tacked on to the story, because the heroes needed something big to fight at the climax. The one thing which did make me sit up and take notice--and this made no sense whatsoever--was when the team somehow finds themselves in the present-day world. WTF was that all about? We never get an answer. Basically, Garo is a show which probably should have quit while it was ahead, and been a good one-season series rather than a not quite as good two-season one.
My favorite line: "At the very least, be destroyed by women. That way you can go like a man" --Luis
Also: "As you can see, due to extenuating circumstances I'm not wearing any clothes" –Luis
Last updated Wednesday, April 01 2015. Created Monday, October 20 2014.
|Official Japanese Series Web Site