With all these new anime coming and going, this show has been constantly on my mind ever since then. Despite only ranking #2 in its seasonal roundup, it’s definitely the one to have a really lasting impression on me with its writing, execution, its everything. Probably, it’s proof that I can be rather short-term with my seasonal roundups, but that’s not the topic of discussion at hand. The thing is, I haven’t paid this anime the honor it deserves, and to that purpose I will now review it to explain why it’s so fucking awesome.
The visuals in GARO: The Animation are really variable. Most of the animation is done in a really tight budget, and it shows it often. Sometimes, the animation makes Studio DEEN look like ufotable in comparison. Hell, I remembered when a lady falling over resembled something from Inferno Cop, and while Inferno Cop is fucking amazing, nothing outside Inferno Cop should visually resemble it.
Where the animation really shines is during the battles. As is GARO tradition, the battles is where 90% of the budget obviously went, and it was well spent. Battles are beautifully coreographed and awesomely over the top, and at one point it even managed to out-Gurren Lagann Gurren Lagann.
The CG work is some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen in an anime. Adept fans of MAPPA know that their 3DCG is amazing, and it’s quite obvious the bulk of the tiny budget of this show went to it The models are masterfully detailed and fluidly animated. There’s no effort to integrate it, but it actually works since it makes the armors look otherworldly.
Oh hell YES. The soundtrack is composed by none other than MONACA, best known for the extremely acclaimed NieR soundtrack. As is it now expected of them, the soundtrack is a masterful combination of genres. I mean, just hear that embedded song! That electric guitar riff! That violin! Those timpani! That acoustic guitar! Everything in that soundtrack is absolutely amazing and fits the tone of the show perfectly, from the intimidating choirs of Mendoza’s leitmotif to the silly calm piano of Germán’s.
[Spoilers, of course]
Of all the things in GARO, I admit that the overarching story isn’t exactly the hottest shit there is. It can be summed up as: there are Makai Knights, who are Power Rangers on steroids and are badass as shit. One dude eliminated all of them and now our heroes must defeat him. The End.
This is simplistic, yes, but it’s much better written than it sounds. The story is thematically a coming-of-age story (disguised as a dark fantasy tale) about dealing with grief and loss. All the characters are, in one way or form, shaped by those two elements; León turned into an edgy antihero, Mendoza turned into a machiavellian mastermind bent on exterminating everything, The Black Knight went batshit loco and Germán turned into an absolute pimp.
Those themes set up a particularly good character arc for León, as he learns what it means to truly lose someone and what it means to be a Makai Knight, and his experiences make him gradually shift from an edgy antihero bent on revenge to a slightly less edgy antihero determined to protect humanity (with a nifty white trenchcoat).
Ultimately, though, the story prides itself more in its execution rather than its substance. It’s somewhat typical and cliché, but the larger plot is largely irrevelant compared to the smaller scale character interactions.
But GARO’s real strength, like anything written by Kobayashi, lies in its cast. This show boast a cast full of colorful characters and entertaining interactions. We have León Luis, the dark edgy antihero who I initially hated, Germán Luis, resident best guy badass and womaniser, the more calm and collected Alfonso, and the charming femme fatale Ema Guzmán. Together, they have awesome character interactions.
Best guy is definitely Germán Luis. Whenever he’s around you can 100% bet that the scene will be incredibly entertaining and/or cool.
The villains are somewhat generic, yes, but it effectively humanizes them beyond being one-dimensional cardboard cutouts. In particular, one villain was effectively humanized in the same episode he was introduced, and even Mendoza, the monstrous mastermind behind the entire plot, is given a proper backstory.
Above all else, however, GARO: The Animation is cool. There is stuff like gigantic hearses made out of skeletons and the souls of the dead. One Horror has a shoulder-mounted industrial anvil to make impromptu swords out of pillars. There are fights in gigantic armored horses across the rooftop of a castle. The whole thing more often than not looks like a series of heavy metal album covers, and it keeps one wondering how metal things can get. And trust me, it starts metal as fuck and gets more metal than a fucking steel mill.
GARO: The Animation is a throughly enjoyable ride filled with memorable characters and a strong thematic setup, adorned with excellent fight scenes and gorgeous visuals by MAPPA. Admittedly, it has a slow start (albeit far from boring) and it has that confusing werewolf episode, but it ultimately rests upon its characterization to deliver a spectacular second cour that ends in a satisfying high-tension explosive finale of epic proportions. If you are a creature capable of breathing oxygen, you’ll be able to appreaciate GARO: The Animation‘s sheer cool.