Making a character go through a lot of pain, angst and suffering, by itself, a good story does not make. You need a lot of wit to pull it off in a comedy because a character suffering is not inherently funny, and it doesn’t make your drama more poignant or deep because it needs meaning for it to carry any gravitas.
Suffering and angst is not an end, it’s a means to an end. It’s way too common for bad comedies and trashy dramas to simply put a character to go through a lot of crap with no ultimate conclusion and say it’s some noveau avant-garde croissant limousine shit and pretend that angst is not something that’s been present in stories older than bum itching.
What I’m saying is, character suffering is like a highway. The point of it is to get people to places, and the point of suffering and angst is to flesh out a character arc. Else, you just pointlessly wasted fuel you could have used on perfectly good endeavors like getting a haircut or contacting your meth dealer and if the characters ultimately go nowhere after going through a lot of shit ultimately all I did was wasting my time.
But this is Yasuko Kobayashi we’re talking about here. She has done both character suffering for both comedy (Kamen Rider Den-O… poor Ryotaro) and drama (poor everybody in Kamen Rider Ryuki) and done excellently, and she doesn’t fail to deliver on GARO: The Animation.
It’s sort of unbelievable how much I warmed up to León as the series has gone on. When he started out, I really couldn’t stand León a whole lot. He was this Broody Angsty Teenager Driven By Revenge™ type that doesn’t really sit well with me. But instead of glorifying it cough
unlike Narutocough, the show went out and showed why that’s a flawed idea. León, as long as he hoped for revenge, could never hope to be as strong as his peers.
The cherry on top is that León was never even sure of his own ideals. He never met his mother. This means he wasn’t even driven by revenge to a concrete person, he was driven by an ideal of a person. Kobayashi didn’t hold back on showing how much this idea of revenge consumed him , and a protector is not one that is driven by blind rage. And that’s kind of the best kind of character suffering: the one that they cast upon themselves by their own character flaws. The loss of GARO was a suitably satisfying twist because of these reasons.
But then León actually finds a reason to live in Lara. She taught him what it’s like to have something, someone to protect. She taught him what it’s like to have someone taken away from you. She taught him how to properly grieve. Now León realizes how wrong he was. He cringes at how blind with rage he was seven weeks ago.
Emphasizing León’s transition is a masterfully animated sequence of symbolism in which León’s former personality, the one of a revenge-driven madman manifests as an ominous being of shadow in a sequence that wouldn’t be too out of place in Ping Pong: The Animation. Maybe Kobayashi and Yuasa have been hanging out?
After the commercial break, we have an epic sword fight which is so far the best non-CG animation there has been on the show so far. Glad to know MAPPA knows how to use well the shit budget provided by Tohokushinsha. What makes this particularly epic, considering how fucking over-the-top battles are in the GARO franchise, is the emotional gravitas behind it rather than the choreography. Also, dat music.
And then León just slashes the shadow guy who was haunting him, symbolizing his renewed purpose in life. Next time we see him, he’s…
Oh my god. Is that…?
YES YES YES. He’s now donning a white coat
which I’m sure didn’t exist in the Dark Ages but whatever typical of GARO protagonists except for Ryuga but we all know Jakuzure was the real protagonist and costume design in that series was awful anyway in a bit of lip service to those of us who watched the original toku made in the ancient year of 2005, back when 4:3 was a thing and 1080p . And not only that…
He got GARO back. Well, now ain’t that awesome. Oh, yeah, Germán was in this episode. Sorry, forgot about best guy being awed by Kobayashi’s masterful handling of León. Let me sum up his role in this episode in two images.
No, he doesn’t even stay the night. Jakuzure would be proud.