GARO -VANISHING LINE- – Mid Series Anime Review
Synopsis: Highly advanced town – Russel City. While people enjoy its prosperity in the town, there is a huge conspiracy secretly going on which will shake the world. Sword, a man who notices its movement determines to throw himself into battles and reveal the conspiracy, but only to find a clue – “Eldorado”. At that time, Sword happens to meet a girl Sophie who has been looking for the meaning of “Eldorado”, a message left by her missing brother. These two, attracted by the word “Eldorado”, somehow feel invisible ties each other and start to act together. Their journey with mixed feelings now begins. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Garo is best exemplified by the sliding scale of its animation quality: Often enjoyable, rarely incredible. Garo contains incredible highs, where the animation is fluid, detailed, crisp and eye popping. These moments are the stand outs, the most memorable battles. But the series is rarely that good. Never outright bad, never awful, but more like decent junk food than anything else. The art to the series starts strong, and regains that level as Vanishing Line’s main story pops up a quarter of the way into the anime’s run. Other times characters lack detail, animation is more static, clearly to save on budget/time and ever so often a few shots look downright cringe worthy.
What perhaps save’s the series visuals is its style. The series boasts an almost 80s-90s anime vibe, with big muscled bad asses, large weapons, and an altogether American esthetic, from the sprawling western city design to the rural deserted highways and western inspired towns. There’s even some not at all subtle references to American pop culture in a fairly obvious nod to the Bates Motel of Psycho fame. It’s this oozing of location, style, and visual design that makes the series’ art endearing even when it’s lacking in quality.
But the art, as I said, best captures what’s going on with the rest of the series. Take the characters: rarely do Sword, Sophie, Gina or Luke feel all that deep. Sword is undoubtedly a near paper thin hero. He’s likable enough, always doing the right thing, and has a very honest obsession/appreciation with large breasts that feels a little easier to swallow than other bosom obsessed leads. Sophie is similarly thin, her entire character existing to provide avenue for the story to move forward, as she tags along with Sword in his search for El Dorado, where her brother disappeared to. Sophie’s cute, and brings a human element to the story from time to time, but because of her lack of ability she rarely has anything to do but get in trouble and be in need of rescuing.
Strangely the most depth comes from Luke, a Makai Alchemist and aid to Sword in his battle to hunt down the horrors, deadly monsters, that plague society from the shadows. Luke gets a fleshed out backstory by episode twelve, sooner actually, yet is easily the most underutilized character. His appearances are fleeting, near as fleeting as the bad ass, sexy female fighter, Gina, a staple of Garo anime, there’s always a bad ass and sexy woman. While Gina is fun, she’s similarly as thin as Sword when it comes to character exploration. That’s what makes it all the more stranger that Luke gets the most character study, yet appears all so infrequently.
The story isn’t much different from either of these two other elements as well. Vanishing Line opens with a blast of main story and set up, before devolving into monster of the week over and over again. They’re fun one offs, and often contain silly enough ideas, and bad ass battles, that it feels like a fun little plate of junk food week to week. Nothing special, but decent entertainment all the same. Garo elevates itself however whenever the main story chooses to burst onto the scene. The series shifts its focus entirely, offering several episodes back to back that really advance things for our characters, offer insight into the villain’s plans, and provide what’s easily the best action and animation the series has to offer.
But even after the main story really gets kicking, and actually sends our characters out actively chasing down our primary villains, things revert back to monster of the week. It’s never bad, I want to stress that, but it feels like a disappointing step down.
So far these first twelve episodes have been generally enjoyable, with periodic bursts of incredible animation and excellent story. Everything else is fun, but hardly inspiring. If the series remains more monster of the week than anything else it’ll be a fine, fun, yet forgettable Garo anime. But if we can get bigger tastes of that overarching story, El Dorado, the Dark Knight, and more character work for our four heroes, and give Sophie just a little more to do, then things could really get cooking. There’s kernels of potential here for something really great, but the series has yet to build on them.