Category Archives: Garo -Honō no Kokuin

Garo -Honō no Kokuin [91/100]

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Keita Amemiya got his start in the anime industry in character monster designing with 1989’s Ultraman. His first created work had been on Iria: Zeiram The Animation.  An action sci-fi adventure series.  Where he really shines though is in his fantasy works–  Mahou ShoujotaiGaro and horror OVA G-9.

Makai Knights under a code of honor by the Order are sent throughout the land to kill Horrors–  humans that are consumed by their own grief and/or hatred.  German’s wife is killed by being burned at the stake fueling the inevitable witch hunts led by Valiante King’s advisor Mendoza.  Some of the best narratives are the side-cast that Garo focuses on.  The horror doctor, the mother and child outed from their village, the blacksmith overcome by his grief of losing his son–  so many personal issues with these minor characters really build this world into a larger piece that plays onto Mendoza’s hatred wonderfully well.  His backstory is awesome:  he throws his wife and child off a cliff because they are marked just like him after he was banished from the Order as a Makai Alchemist because he was power hungry.

Ema Guizman is one of the strongest female characters of the past few seasons–  she’s doesn’t believe in the Makai Knights and tries to shoulder everything on her own.  The episode where her love with human-turned horror Luciano really illustrates the relationships people have with each other and how the code these Makai Knights and Alchemists follow can sometimes in unfortunate circumstances can change them.  Sometimes though the plot is flimsy–  the handmade Garo Knight felt entirely out of left field just for the sake of bringing back blacksmith apprentice Juliano.  Sometimes there’s overacting in times that doesn’t need to be just to deliver a more intense mood.  However, overall the story is so good that it’s easily passable.

The soundtrack is just as good as the art–  really dark and ambitious.  MONACA founder Keiichi Okabe is amazing–  I couldn’t tell this came from the same group that did the score of Hourou Musuko!  It has understated piano tracks and very toned down drum sections compared to Hiroyuki Sawano.  It works wonderfully in this series that is subtle with its grim narratives.  If you are a fan of Mahou Shoujotai, enjoy watching fantasy series with more mature themes than I highly recommend this series that is a twisted take on the tokusatsu genre!

Let’s see more original series from Amemiya like this one in the future!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [91/100]

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Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 24 [END]

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At last the conclusion is here.  I admit I wish this series was more than 2-cour–  it truly is a wonderful fantasy setting with mature themes wrapped around the tokusatsu genre.  Amemiya is able to mix these elements together without being flimsy.

So it looks like I was on the mark about German.  It’s great that this series didn’t wrap up right after Leon’s fight against the stereotypical final form Mendoza.

World domination in fantasy series have been beaten to death over the years but I have to hand it to creator Keita Amemiya in writing about a world with so much intrigue behind it.  I say this because the ending here lightly touches on the Horror’s realm right towards the gate.  Mendoza trapped inside of it after German sacrifices himself has me wondering if we will get to see that world eventually in another season or the feature film that was announced.

The voice acting in this is incredibly solid–  Takaya Hashi pulls off a wonderfully displaced Makai Alchemist turned villainous god desperately wanting to survive at the end of this!  Seriously!  This and Kemonozume‘s Jin Kakinoki are probably my favorite roles he’s ever done–  he’s really scary.  He would do justice as the antagonist of Urasawa’s Pluto.  If that ever gets made.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 23

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Hajime no Ippo Rising director Shun Kudo handled a very pivotal episode here that could either make Garo really good or end up having a weak ending.  This episode left tons out in the open to the viewer–  is Ema dead?  How about German because we don’t see his death on screen.  With only 1 episode left I’d say Kudo directed a well-polished cliffhanger here–  Ximenia bears German’s child which makes me wonder if the feature film will focus on that character.  Is this intentional build-up for more?

The animation throughout this entire episode is fantastic–  Octavia’s apocalyptic design brings this show back artistically to how this series had reminded me of D.Gray-man.  Its grim perspective on humans’ deepest darkest emotions with a fantasy twist–  Horrors are created from the melancholic feelings of a person’s soul.  We saw that a ton in the first half of Garo where Leon and German vanquished Horrors without a second thought that they could save the people succumbed to them.

Octavia is a great representation of a person that lost something or someone and was taken in by Mendoza:  ultimately being manipulated as a tool for his desires.  Even her design screams the sexual representation that this anime series focuses on with its female characters.  Recently, I’ve been re-watching Kemonozume by Masaki Yuasa and can see similarly with Garo how pertinent it can be when a series handles sex:  bridging a gap between genders and how mature sequences can motivate its characters further along.  This is a big reason why I like this series–  it has been about passing on your genes as a Makai Knight and this show doesn’t glaze over the fact on how that is done.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 22

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A feature-length animated film has been announced for the Garo series and I wonder if it will be a compilation of this series or an alternate take on the universe.  This has been an exceptional series with episodes in-between that lack substance however this episode kicks it back right on track!  Really enjoying what MONACA has been doing with the soundtrack!

I like this episode quite a bit.  Mendoza is trying to harness the power of Anima–  a collection of human souls all unified at single point to create a Horror based on the witch hunts we saw from the beginning of this series!  Fantastic!  He’s been setting his plans up all this time, German working alongside him didn’t even know this and I like how it’s this balance that gives Mendoza the upper hand.  Even to where Ema, Leon and Alfonso get trapped inside an alternate dimension of a futuristic city.  I really like how vastly different the world they are in is compared to the melancholic background designs of Valiante!

The CG might have looked distinctly out-of-place during German’s fight with the demon soldiers and there were some distorted facial expressions this episode nonetheless the plot is finally moving at a pace [unlike last episode] without layering too much on it!  It’s a basic perspective of Mendoza wanting to regain the power he had been originally corrupt to attain in the very beginning and now his dreams are becoming a reality.

Octavia’s loyalty displays this spot-on–  she’s foolish, prideful and until now was unable to understand the anguish of a Horror.  She’s become the sacrificial piece to Mendoza’s plans that usually would have been thrown together last minute however without Episode 20 this would not have been as powerful.  I also thought it showed greatly how lost she is leaving a close-to-dead German alive in order to challenge Garo Knight Leon.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 21

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We’ve got quite the veteran director working on this episode here.  Masami Hata.  Starting out around the early 60’s as an animator for Mushi Pro.  This at the time was the leading studio in animation as it was headed by the grandfather of japanese animation–  Osamu Tezuka.  This is where he started his directorial debut with television series Wonder 3.  I can clearly see how strong his influence is on this episode here–  the camera angles feel rather old-school.  Before Sanrio’s animation company dissolved he worked as a director on some of their top feature films of the 70’s well into the 80’s.  If I recall, two of the biggest produced films he worked on were Adventures in Slumberland and Chirin no Suzu also known as Ringing Bell.  As of today Hata works as a freelance animator, script writer and episode director.  This and Hajime no Ippo Rising are about the only episode directed television series he’s worked on that I can recall as of late.

The heroic death trope.  This has been overdone to death in fantasy series and Garo isn’t any different even if takes an entire episode to build up to the inevitable fate of German Luis.  So many things happen in this–  Mendoza wants to control the world through Horrors, Garm and German are willing to destroy all of Valiante in order to deal a large blow to the Horrors coming out of the gate.  A tough decision between knights that are supposed to restore peace and order throughout the lands–  especially for Alfonso.  The young prince that lost his mother through Mendoza’s cause will only lead to more suffering.  I do have to wonder what sort of Horror Alfonso would have turned out to be if the country had been destroyed here.

German backing these ideals really illustrates Leon’s abrasive angst towards his father really well.  The flashback sequence that plays against the good use of CG fight between father and son portrays the relationship they have in a much more closer manner than what we’ve seen.  Somehow I feel their past should have had more focus for at least an entire episode or two much earlier;  possibly in the first half of Garo.

As this series is concluding for me it has done well in establishing its characters by focusing on the minor cast around them.  Getting to the end though is a rushed attempt at giving a somewhat satisfying ending especially with this episode’s jump between father/son quest of redemption, Makai Knights decision to choose what is the greater sacrifice and Mendoza’s twisted plot to reclaim the very world that denied him.

This would have been an awesome stopping point for a

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 6/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 20

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So as it stands Garo is slated for only 24 episodes.  I hope we see more of this in the future because this is a fantastic view of nobility mixed with horror as a backdrop!

While this episode of Garo could have come across more solid it would have been better to place this episode towards the beginning of the series when we are just learning about the kingdom.  Considering how it focuses on Octavia’s loyalty towards Mendoza.  Octavia is a fascinating character because while this show over the course of its run used the importance of sex and passing down your lineage as the backdrop behind the morality of its character.   This episode jumps into the religion aspect of 17th century Spain with a flashback, Octavia’s in particular.  Being raised in a poor household her parents chose to be persecuted by the notion that God would save them from the hardships that they have endured.  Garo actually represents itself here with similarities to Yuri Kuma Arashi—  the persecution of women and sexual identity.  As a woman, Octavia discards God in favor of a new one–  Mendoza and this is where we see how her decision to be at his side unfolds.  With the foot in the door as a maid within the King’s most unlikely servants illustrates her personality really well–  she’s deceitful when she has to be.

As for this episode, I think the character that steals the spotlight here is Laura.  She represents every human character in this show that is naive about the evils of the world in a cute way.  She’s funny because she’s clumsy and its her smitten personality towards Prince Alfonso that makes even Leon’s relationship with Lisa that much stronger.  Not to mention how her death has placed a dutiful impact on him as Garo.  Ema isn’t in the dark about what’s been going on with the Horrors and I like how she doesn’t let go the fact that Mendoza being alive sends a message that could ruin humanity in the future.  To sum it up everyone in the Order is aware of Mendoza’s plans it seems.  Garm should play an interesting role in the later episode.

The string Ema uses represents this fact greatly and with Octavia being caught up by the Knights and Alchemist it still manages to surprise me even right to the very end with what happens to Laura.  It really is a shame this episode couldn’t have been placed much earlier on simply because we haven’t seen much of Octavia and it feels like the creators were running out of material to use at this point in the series.  Her devotion is ruthless and very frightening–  tossing Horrors out without a sense of regret [until a bit later] ripping Laura in half is one way to develop her character.  The first time we see Mendoza is quite the shock–  he’s aged and its interesting to see how creator Amemiya will handle this turn of events.  If there is a part of this episode I didn’t like its how quickly German turns into somewhat of a villain to Leon.  Good cliffhanger but abruptly developed considering we haven’t seen German and how he works with Mendoza at all.

Octavia’s disillusionment with God and Laura’s simple-mindedness about the ways of the world [which ends up getting her killed] is what marks this one of my favorite episodes of Garo yet!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 19

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I’m not a fan of recaps but as I’ve mentioned before they can work out pretty well without being too distracting by taking up too much runtime.  This is nice because we are finally returning to Ema Guzman and her reasons for searching for Luciano from the very beginning of this series.

Romi Park is incredible–  she’s known for being very versatile ranging between male and female roles that focus on characters putting up a tough act personality.  I must admit this is one my favorite roles she’s ever done:  reminds me a lot of Hamyuts Meseta from Tatakau Shisho.  Stubborn, courageous and strong-willed.

After Lara died I figured especially with an episode focusing on Ema that she would be the main love interest for Leon without any progression towards it.  However this episode manages to dismantle what we’ve previously known about her as a Makai Alchemist in order to discover her convictions with Luciano.  This story dives into her marriage with Luciano and develops her relationship with a matured and newly resolved Leon.  The animation designs on every bit of these characters are extremely detailedin just about every scene!  Absolutely amazing!

This is the first time we’ve had an aerial battle with a modern style!  It was strange at first but came off very smoothly depicting the passion Ema and Luciano share as lovers that end up fighting to the death.  What also helps this come across wonderfully is the Horror’s strong influence changes Luciano from a man yearning to save people from becoming the very thing that he evolves into:  a Horror.  I like how this comes full circle here.  Luicano’s time as a Makai Alchemist he was unable to save people from becoming Horrors.  He turns into one and when he fights Ema she saves him by recollecting his human memories of her which ends up saving her from getting stabbed.

Leon is a great addition here–  if this had been the old Leon I’m certain that Ema would have died at the hands of Luciano.  He would have been a distraction just as he was when they first encountered the priest Horror in the second episode.  Since he chooses what fights he involves himself in he courageously stands back in order for Ema to absolve herself.  Not being able to save the man she loved only to kill him at the end here.  Leon sure has matured after losing Lara and I like how this episode while it focuses on Ema doesn’t forget that here–  they end up sleeping together because they want to ease the pain of everything they’ve lost recently.  Fantastic way to not only channel these two characters into stronger protagonists in coming episodes but also to add in more romance for these two that have faced so many tragedies in the past in an entirely different way.

Garo is shaping up wonderfully in its second half with tons of surprises in between–  the soldiers mentioning if there were a way revert a human turned into a Horror they would have done it a long time ago.  Is this indication that German will turn into one being under the influence of Mendoza?

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 18

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I hope everyone is enjoying the look of the new site.  As always if anyone has any suggests on how to make this site look better please send me a comment below.

Ok, this is my favorite 2-cour series so far.  I mentioned previously how much this series isn’t getting the praise it deserves but I will tell you that this has been a tremendous fantasy adventure series!  Keita Amemiya knows how to write strong engrossing narratives:  I’d really like to see him do an adaptation of Castlevania—  he would do wonders in bringing the Belmont family to life!  

German pays his respects to Ximena for all she has done for him–  it’s about time these two got together.  Very genuine romance scene and I’m glad this show handles sex with such maturity–  it’s an important aspect of Garo one that even Leon will someday learn of and has been hinted in the first portion of this series with Ema Guzman.

Here though German is about to follow the Order and complete a mission with the once Alchemist turned advisor to the King of Valiante that had been in control of Horrors.  Can’t wait to see how Leon will handle his father with this villain at his side.  That is just the tip of what happens here–  most of this episode focuses on how Leon grapples with Lara’s death and what it feels to succumb to darkness in this case the allure of a Horror.

What a way to develop this by using Lara’s grave and her body as witness to Leon’s wavering feelings of hatred, sadness and pain to distort his reality even further!  So the scars that Mendoza had and Leon has had a struggle with since the very beginning are finally taking form–  does he perhaps have a hidden power of a Horror within him?  The village life he held on to so deeply and seeing it all vanish before his eyes is just the push he needs to either turn into a monster or reunite with Alfonso on equal terms–  a Makai Knight.  What I did not expect here was that they would fight in order to challenge whom would receive the Madou Ring and Garo’s power.

This is intense!  This has got to be the coolest fight scene I’ve seen yet of 2015 and the most well-drawn and animated sequence Garo has shown!  The sword spin, the debris and the background designs are incredibly detailed here considering how Yoichiro Hayashi directs the animation, same illustrator that worked on Redline and the lead director of Garo.  However, it’s this very scene that kept me at the edge of my seat–  I was just waiting for either Leon or Alfonso to get killed here and the the other turn into a Horror.  Personally, I feel what made this such a fantastic episode was the amount of detail put into this fight.  This gives me the impression that this is the crux for Leon’s maturity into the Garo Knight once again.

Takahiro Shikama is an extremely talented artist–  the debris including the sword spin and leg attack Leon lands on Alfonso here is proof that this animator is good at what he does.  STAR DRIVER animator for most of the Cybodies’ battles–  absolutely amazing!  Come to think of it this fight reminds me a lot of how Sword of the Stranger‘s animated fights had been–  was this intentional?  A nod to Yutaka Nakamura’s work on the final fight in that film.  I can clearly see influence written all over this–  both Nakamura and Shikama worked on STAR DRIVER together as animators on various episodes so I can see how this scene in Garo would have come up on the drawing boards.

Moving on, this episode is all about Leon reclaiming what he lost from his past [the Madou Ring] and fighting with Alfonso is just the resolution he needs to purge the flames away from his body and protect people without a selfish sense of pride in the way.  Lara was what he found and lost–  the key figure in his transformation from a wandering boy without understanding of honor to a man filled with a duty to protect people from Horrors.

Ah that second fight is great here–  it’s about time Leon returns to the spotlight as Garo and Alfonso with Fernando’s armor.  The team is back and what motivates this is the very end–  German reveals to them that he will be working with Mendoza!  I have to wonder though what will Ema do when she hears of this and how will Octavia end up once she learns that Mendoza is in fact alive?  The man that she trusted and worked with to bring Horrors throughout the kingdom only to find out he’s aligning himself with the very people he exterminated in the Witch Hunts.

This show has gone to great lengths to get where it needs to be with its cast and it’s keeps on getting better and better every week!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 17

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This was highly unexpected.  This episode laid the foundation for Leon’s personality incredibly well and is one of the top episodes so far!  It would only be a matter of time until Leon is swept away from agriculture life–  it took merely 5 episodes to get to this point and what do we receive by the end of it?  A once tarnished Makai Knight stuck in the past between visions of his mother and his own lack of understanding the importance of the Madou Ring.  This new Leon was a sight to behold these past few episodes!  He’s grown accustomed to the stillness Lisa’s family provided and educated him that he will walk away with more sensibility than he had from the premiere of this series!

Adding to this episode is how it establishes Leon at the forefront and deepens his bond with Prince Alfonso.  A Horror shows up and devastates the tranquil town–  killing various families including Lisa’s.  Alfonso knows what it is like to lose a loved one and its the conversation between himself and Leon that focuses a bad omen that wrecks Leon’s rural life to the core and will forever change these two Knights forever.

Alfonso is filled with regret that he couldn’t uphold his noble stature as Prince of Valiante and his duty as the Garo Knight.  On the other hand, Leon is overcome with so many emotions–  regret for not following Lisa and her family to safety, sorrow over his strong subtle romantic relationship with Lisa only to lose her and hatred for the Horrors that continue to make not just his life but other people’s lives feel empty and lost.  Perhaps this show will do the reversal and turn him into a Horror himself?  What an astounding episode and I cannot wait to see more!

This episode screams the level of talent Mototaira Yasushi has when he directs episodes.  The potential I mentioned in a previous post of Ping Pong and now with this episode just emphasizes my point even stronger that he has incredibly strong direction.  I mean this guy wrote one of the best episodes of Ping Pong last year on top of Gin no Saji, and a collection of mishaps in the past but recently he’s been teamed up with tons of talented animators, screenplay writers, and original creators.  Garo didn’t falter one bit here and I’m glad to see that!

Still, there are so many things left that Garo needs to tell.  Mendoza’s mysterious return, Ema Guzman, Garm, the Order’s motives–  what they’re relationship between Makai Knights and Alchemists represents and of course Alfonso’s redemption at giving Valiante the peace that it has needed for so many years without Horrors.  Good thing there is another season announced for this–  probably 50 episodes will be able to get through all this with hopefully some spectacular results just as Yasushi did with this one!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Garo -Honō no Kokuin Episode 16

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I was talking to someone the other day about how good Garo is and that it reminds me a lot of D.Gray-man‘s elements mixed together with the mature story of Mahou Shoujotai.  It’s a shame this series isn’t getting more attention.  This show is getting more and more solid;  one that has built itself up wonderfully!  The large cast of characters, setting, music and just about everything comes together to deliver a strong fantasy series with touches of comedy and drama mixed in that stays on track with the exception of a few episodes.  Garo’s first half was without a doubt the hidden gem of the Fall 2014 season and its definitely gotten my thumbs up for being consistently strong with its unique characters and amazing setting of 17th century Spain!

This episode takes us back to what this show excels at–  horror.  This was a frightening story about Mikel’s desires of being the best doctor in all the lands and what he succumbs to achieving his dreams.  The very illness that plagues Fabian is the root cause of what makes Mikel so intriguing here–  a man bent out of shape with fear from the voice of a Horror that he becomes a master doctor without ever being a student.  Ximena is hilarious in this episode–  she really likes German and that reaction with the other women German has slept brushed up his character quite nicely and the relationship that’s growing between him and Ximena.

I also like how creator Keita Amemiya has finally placed Ximena from a minor role into a key figure that gets this story rolling–  she’s desired by not only German but Mikel’s lust for flavor as a Horror.  Great how it’s his his Horror-like nature of consuming humans meshing together with his obsession of curing diseases that leads to his downfall and a conclusion by and large that ultimately helps German out.

The animation was nicely done here considering how there were a couple of scenes with distorted faces.  Nonetheless Garo doesn’t need polish to have a great story it’s just icing on the cake for its episodes–  the CG is tons better here.

As for the end here–  German has always remained calm when it comes to women and I’m glad he didn’t reveal his relationship with Prince Alfonso or the truth about Dr. Fabian.  Can’t wait to see what happens considering that huge reveal at the very end–  so he is still alive and the Order’s mission keeps this show from losing any interest one bit!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10