Garo: Crimson Moon – Review
Garo: Crimson Moon:
Original Air Dates: Oct 9th, 2015 – April 1st, 2016
Synopsis: Heian-kyo is the capital and center of the rich aristocrats that govern the city. It’s heavily guarded by a powerful spiritual force field that keeps the horrors, demonic monsters, at bay. In reality the onmyoji, powerful magi who erected the field, are only able to defend the palace itself, located in the northern part of the city. The poor are left to fend for themselves, under threat of horrors that tend to attack at night. But to defend the people, there exists a trio of Makai warriors, Raiko the Golden Knight Garo, Seimei, a Makai Alchemist, and Raiko’s ward: Kintoki. Together they stand against the forces of darkness. But when Ashiya Douman, a magi who’s turned to the forces of darkness seeking power to enact his revenge, returns to the city, Raiko, Seimei and Kintoki must find how to bring about an end to Ashiya Douman’s plans or watch the city they’ve pledged to protect be torn into nothing.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Linny and I have never been hugely interested in the Garo live-action TV series that’s swept Japan over these last ten years. Heck, we didn’t even know it existed until last year’s Garo The Animation, which we thought was pretty good. When we heard it was getting a follow up we got very excited. But Garo: Crimsoon Moon has been little more than startlingly bad, it’s animation being the primary detractor. We’re talking a poor color palette that makes everything look washed out, stilted animation with minimal character movement, and frequent off-model characters. The CGI, on the other hand, is the one place where Garo tends to hold steady, portraying the two Garo knights well enough in action sequences, but it’s only on rare occasions that the 2D animation joins the 3D in this higher quality presentation.
Linny: If you’ve watched the previous Garo anime, the dip in animation quality is rather noticeable and even in general, the muted colours and stilted movements are hard to ignore. The show seems to have saved and used up all its budgets on depicting the makai knight’s armour in combat. Those scenes were always the most impressive, so for fans of the Garo franchise, rest assured that the combat and action is top notch, even if the rest is disappointing.
Tom: As far as characters go, Seimei is the only really interesting character, the makai alchemist who aids Raiko in his battles. She’s sassy, has a dark past, and fights against the privilege she was raised in. But as she begins to realize her love for Raiko, she falls apart as a character, losing the sass in favor of pining love and eventually we then lose her for quite a few episodes due to plot reasons. It’s frustrating, as there’s no one else nearly as interesting. Raiko is too standard “good guy who needs to learn self-control” and we never learn exactly why his kid sidekick is perpetually stuck in the middle schooler age for all eternity.
Linny: I was initially extremely happy about having a heavily featured female lead, who dressed provocatively but whose sexuality was otherwise downplayed in favour of her flippant and happy go lucky nature. Especially when you realize that Garo: Crimson Moon has an extensive cast, it was nice to have a female lead who actively contributed to the story besides just as eye candy and fan service. That’s what made the devolution of her character that much more unsettling for me. The show has two makai knights, who, tbh, felt less than impressive to me when you realize that they more or less share the same background stories as the knights from the previous Garo show. Both born into royalty, one unaware of his true nobility due to tragedy, and the other, raised in nobility but choosing to go beyond the privileged life. Apparently, makai knights = blue blood always, or at least for these two series. Raiko definitely is a pale lead character, with an origin and background story that just doesn’t have as much emotional impact when compared to the others.
Tom: Raiko starts interesting, before we learn what Linny described above. That mystery keeps his character intriguing for the first few episodes as we wonder how Raiko, at such a young age, obtained the Garo armor. But the mystery is solved relatively early, taking any and all edge away, leaving Raiko as the bland character he truly is.
Linny: Thanks to its episodic nature, there’s always a nice rotation of new supporting characters. They help to keep the show and the story feeling fresh, providing either comedy or drama as the episode dictates, although they do start to feel a bit predictable as the one offs pile up in number.
Tom: Garo is almost entirely episodic, save for its mildling ongoing arc that they spend very little time developing until the final five or so episodes when the show abandons its episodic nature in favor of going full plot. It’s mostly for the better, although not by much, as many of the stand off episodes are unmemorable. They always focus on a demon of the week, and unlike the previous Garo, never become interesting (not even the demon who got really mad because he couldn’t join the soccer team. No. I’m not kidding.) There’s only one other episode that stuck out to me, focused on a noble man who was constantly cheating on his wife. The cheating, and eventual confrontation with his wife, is played up for comedic purposes and ends on a very bizarre note that flies in the face of most people’s ethics and morals. It’s a really weird episode that stands out against a show that generally ends with the moral of the story being to always do the right thing, or stand up for the weak, not “hey cheating is bad, but only until your wife turns into a Horror, then all bets are off.”
Linny: That episode about the philandering husband really got on my nerves. It was extremely frustrating to watch as apparently even his moral compass of a female friend ends up in bed with him once he tries to swear off his cheating ways. Yes, comedic effect and so on, but you can’t be a show that preaches about always being selfless and doing the right thing then pretty much show a man who gleefully forces himself upon every single female he comes across and basically ‘celebrates’ his wife’s death by immediately picking up women, suffering no real long term consequences for his actions. It stank of bad taste. It doesn’t help that while this show has a supposedly strong female lead, it then seems extremely sexist in some episodes. Another example of this is an episode where a certain woman is labelled ugly and unfortunate merely because she has more masculine habits. Now, one may argue that such thinking was a product of its time but the thing is the girl isn’t even drawn ugly. Nope, even the ‘ugly’ woman has to be drawn attractive.
Tom: Even when Garo strays from its episodic nature in favor of its ongoing narrative, it never rises above mediocre. It’s plot crawls at a snail’s pace, taking forever to pick up any kind of momentum. It’s a real shame, as the first Garo anime was so good. However, it must be noted that Garo: Crimson Moon has a fantastic final episode. The pacing picks up, the battle gets exciting, and the animation explodes with quality that makes you ache, wishing the rest of the series had only been this good.
Linny: Garo fails to shrug off the shroud of mediocrity with its cliched odd couple set up, its predictable one shot stories, and its low animation quality. Then there’s the fact that it tries to be both comedic and dramatic and struggles to make a smooth transition between the two. As the drama builds up and we finally get to the meat of the story, there’s a clear feeling that it’s just too little and too late, especially when you have to trudge through 20+ episodes just to get a compelling story and impressive visuals.
Tom: Ultimately Garo Crimson Moon is just another chapter in the long running Garo franchise, which extends beyond anime as a Tokusatsu series. Assuming you don’t have an interest in Tokusatsu in general, Garo: Crimson Moon is a tough sell, and I can’t see myself recommending it over the far superior first anime entry in the Garo franchise. Crimson is a severe disappointment both visually and through its lackluster writing.
Linny: As an animated series, Garo Crimson Moon is doomed to comparison with Garo The Animation. It’s unfortunate that even though Garo has some amazing finale episodes, the rest of the series just fails to come anywhere close to that. If you’re a dedicated Garo franchise fan, the show is definitely still worth a watch if only for the amazing ending. However, if you are unfamiliar or unimpressed with the Garo franchise and predecessing anime series, you won’t be losing out by skipping Crimson Moon.
Tom: There’s all kinds of talk about why Crimson Moon turned out so bad. Some feel it became an afterthought as the Garo 10th anniversary series is coming in just a few weeks. Whatever the case, Crimson Moon is best left to the die hard fans who need to see it all. For everyone else just seeking some good entertainment, stick with Garo: The Animation, the other Garo series that Funimation has on their streaming service.
Garo: Crimson Moon is available for streaming via Funimation.com