GARO THE ANIMATION – Anime Review
Synopsis: The Makai Knights protect humanity from demonic entities known as Horrors. But the King’s advisor begins a witch hunt aimed at eliminating the Knights. As the King lies bedridden, his advisor banishes the heir to the throne. In a daring attempt to save his people, the Prince seeks the aide of the legendary Golden Knight in his quest to reclaim his kingdom! (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Garo The Animation isn’t exactly a stand alone show. It’s part of a much larger franchise in Japan, that’s only just getting more exposure here in the west, comprised of live action tokusatsu TV series. Think something akin to Power Rangers, except with a darker tone. Since Garo The Animation’s first broadcast in 2014 the franchise has produced two other anime entries, Garo Crimson Moon and Vanishing Line, currently running during the 2017-2018 Fall and Winter seasons. Despite existing as part of a larger franchise, Garo The Animation strives to be accessible to audiences unfamiliar with the larger concept it’s a part of. Overall it succeeds thanks to an amazing character journey for its lead, Leon, a troubled young man equipped with the powerful armor of a Makai Knight, the Golden Knight Garo as he does battle against the terrible demonic monsters known as Horrors. It also helps that the show is set many years preceding any of the other Garo tokusatsu series, and continues to be stand alone from both Crimson Moon or Vanishing Line, each taking place in wildly different time periods and locations.
Linny: Garo makes sure that all its ‘good guys’ have likeable personalities, coupled with compelling backstories to make it easier for audiences to root for them. There’s a lot of tragedy in general throughout the show which runs the danger of feeling cliche but does ensure that viewers become interested in the resolutions of those story lines hoping for that happy ending. The earlier episodes of the show focus on one off tales about Zoro and Leon, our main duo, traveling around defeating horrific demons as they come across them. These make for fun little romps, introducing all sorts of bizarre monsters and plenty of drama, tension and action. However, as the show continues, it starts to falter by taking too much time to dispense even the most minute information and likely test the patience of certain viewers.
Tom: I found many of the more stand alone tales distracting from the overarching narrative, which remained the far more interesting aspect to the series. As the main narrative becomes more prominent, and more involved, any time the series turns back to that monster of the week format, things drag. It’s the same problem I’m having with the latest entry Garo -Vanishing Line-. Once the main plot gets going it becomes frustrating to have these one off tales that have little bearing on that overarching narrative and delay developments for the sake of padding episode count. More focus on Leon, his mentor Zoro, and Alfonso, the other budding hero, would’ve been preferred over a return to the series monster of the week format.
Linny: Another potential negative about Garo The Animation is its opening credits animation. The show employs a very experimental art style, one that often resembles the scribbles of a young child, making it look juvenile, silly, or even ugly. It’s a sequence that those more picky with their animation are going to suffer to sit through. Thankfully, that experimental art style is limited to the opening credits. Another minor ‘flaw’ is how the show ‘previews’ misleading scenes in its opening/ending credits that more observant viewers might latch on to and make them wonder if they missed an episode or two where those scenes took place. Both these complaints pale in comparison though to Garo The Animation’s biggest and undeniable flaw, a deus ex machina-ish move in the finale that makes the entire story lose impact.
Tom: Delving into the stories’ climax is where the biggest problems arise. In Leon’s ultimate battle a number of developments come out of the blue, with zero set up or foreshadowing. These damage an otherwise powerful climax that felt gripping and thoroughly engaging, thanks to strong emotional developments brought about a strong appreciation for Leon, Zoro and Alphonse. If you’re just in it for an emotional release, it still works, but if internal logic is important to you the ending really suffers in this regard.
Linny: Let me reiterate that Garo The Animation is a great starting point for someone who has never heard of the Garo franchise. It sets up its characters and tells its story in such a way that it is truly entertaining for newbies all on its own as we watch our heroes take on the monster of the week while eventually getting their own character journeys and reveals. Yes, it does have a few flaws and if you prefer good set up over emotional relief, the ending will disappoint. But if you like the sound of renegade heroes taking on supernatural demonic monsters, Garo The Animation is one of the better offerings out there.
Tom: Garo The Animation remains highly approachable, and while there’s likely some additional appreciation to be had from a greater familiarity with the franchise as a whole, it largely stands on its own well enough that none of that knowledge is required. The stand alone elements ultimately outstay their welcome, but never drag down an otherwise incredible action tale, with solid animation, remaining a fun ride from beginning to end.