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Garo: Honoo no Kokuin – Fantasy with Style


Look into the flames, and they’ll look back.

The Great Highs:

It’s been a turbulent ride, but we got there in the end. Throughout its run Garo had great highs and strange lows, so I think it’s only fair to highlight what did and didn’t work for me. First off, I always said that Garo had a certain flair to it that many anime lack, and I still hold true to that belief. The first episode made it clear how important the style was in the battle of style vs substance. One without the others will result in a flawed work, and I’ve always felt that Garo stayed closer to the style side than the substance – some many see that as a bad thing, but I don’t. If you tried, you could probably pinpoint any series somewhere on that spectrum, and whilst substance is the more important out of the two, having some individuality to how it presents itself is something I look for in anime. Even when the animation wasn’t at it’s best, it still looked good. And when the animation was slick and the fights were choreographed wonderfully, it was fantastic.

The individual journeys that the main characters went on where another highlight for me. German and Ema less so, but whenever they were involved with the plot, I was thoroughly entertained (whether it be running around in the nude, or exploring Ema’s history). Leon and Alfonso were the stars of the show, and both of their stories were parallel to one another before fusing midway and shaking things up. Shifting the main character after the first cour was daring, but it worked. It allowed Leon to take a break and develop his relationship with Lara – which was, by the way, super sweet and terribly tragic. The time we spent with them in the countryside was refreshing, and only helped build on Leon’s development, becoming more likeable as the series progressed. Alfonso’s journey was grounded more in the horror-fighting and royalty, but I enjoyed that just as much, from losing his mother to adjusting to his new role and powers.

The Strange Lows:

Now, for the bad. I say bad, but nothing was terrible, but rather… weird. Sometimes I was left a bit baffled by the storytelling. One of my major gripes for most the first half and through parts of the second was the filler episodes. Technically, they weren’t filler (like you’d expect from adaptations), since this is anime original, but they felt it. The monster of the week format is hard to pull off, and frankly, Garo was unsuccessful in that regard. For the most part the horrors were fine, and the drama was high, but it always felt like it was there to just fill space. The comedy one-off episodes were a little better, just because the characters are naturally funny. But that mecha-suit episode was borderline awful. I wish I had never watched it.

Outside of the filler episodes, I thought having Mendoza return was a lazy excuse for a second cour. He was already finished off in a pretty satisfactory climax (or so I felt), and I still don’t think he had to return. Octavia showed promise as his assistant, but her high-tech mecha knight gear was just ridiculous. As was the other dimension made of modern-world skyscrapers. I have no idea why that happened – it just ruined the mood and setting in one fell swoop.

The Resolution & Looking Ahead:

The final battle that took place over the last few episodes was underwhelming for the most part, though I may be alone in thinking that. Thankfully, the final episode was a return to form, and tied up the messy Mendoza storyline as best as it could. Seeing Leon hack and slash him to pieces, over and over, was very entertaining. I was fairly happy with the ending, especially now that German has left behind a future child, making Leon a big brother. The story that was told was resolved fairly well, and I’m optimistic for what’s to come – a movie and a second season. Whatever they offer, I’ll be tuning in, hoping for some slick fights, entertaining characters, and hopefully a storyline that leaves a better impression and makes less missteps.

March 28, 2015 at 9:34 am
19 comments »
  • March 28, 2015 at 9:49 ambassgs435

    How would Leon (German’s son) be an uncle to German’s and Ximena’s son? He would be a half-brother
    Also, Í disagree about Mendoza’s return being bad, as I (and many people) thought that him getting eaten by the horror he himself summoned was an anticlimatic end for a villain that was built up as such a big mastermind. Other than that, I agree on the horror of the week parts being the weakest parts of the show. Overall, this was a great ride and I definitely would reccomend the show to any fans of action and/or fantasy shows.

    • March 28, 2015 at 10:07 amSamu

      Doh, you’re right about the uncle thing. I don’t know why I thought that, obviously he’ll be a big brother.

  • March 28, 2015 at 10:08 amKabble

    Don’t see how Mendoza returning was cheap or bad.
    The situation didn’t seem resolved whatsoever in the first half.

    • March 30, 2015 at 5:01 amJeroz

      yeah I agree. He died in such an anti-climatic fashion that I’ll be angry if that’s the last of him. Glad that they brought him back and gave him a more proper exit.

  • March 28, 2015 at 11:21 amzztop

    Preorder numbers for the Garo anime BD/DVDs are very low. However, this is not a problem for the franchise owners, since they are NOT relying on those sales to boost the franchise.

  • March 28, 2015 at 11:26 amzztop

    Is the “horror-of-the-week” approach unique to the anime, or is it the usual plotline for the source tokusatsu?

    • March 29, 2015 at 6:07 pmThermitekitten

      It’s what the toku does, usually with an ongoing mystery or danger. The thing is, the toku is urban fantasy and very dark/inventive, while this was reminiscent of countless fantasy anime.

  • March 28, 2015 at 2:38 pmMgMaster

    I seriously need to pick up this one. I was initially put off by the mecha samurai/knight gear that felt horrible out of place for the setting(I’ve no prior knowledge of anything Garo-related), hence why I didn’t follow it weekly. However, I figure that with an effort, it’s something that you can get used to.

    Monster/battle/horror-of-the-week approach can work just fine if it also help’s with characterization or provides some info on how the world works in this show.

  • March 28, 2015 at 3:50 pmfrubam

    Yeah, def agree with the comments about Mendoza. Pretty much like bassgs435 said, it was so anticlimatic(we didn’t even see his body afterward or anything), that I figured he’d still be alive in some form(although his aging was never explained =02).

    That mecha-Garo suit was indeed the worst episode of the lot by far. The dream sequence episode with Leon in the first half was kinda bad too. But given how great this series is when it hits its stride, I can tolerate that.

    Still, there were so many aspects that defied typical tropes that made me REALLY impressed with the series; Show Spoiler ▼

    Leon actually fighting alongside his biological father instead of a mentor/uncle/guardian, etc. All of those aspects were handled very well and caused me to be intrigued at what direction the series would go.

    I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next season =03. Hopefully, even if Leon’s purpose isn’t clouded by hate/revenge, it’ll still provide a degree of depth that allowed me to become engrossed in the characters(time skip?)

  • March 28, 2015 at 4:01 pmHochmeister

    This season of Garo took pleasure in taking my heart and stomping on it; twice no less! It had its quirks (such as steampunk mecha) but overall I loved it. It was nice how the ending called back to the beginning, Leon facing his mother in the flames, and mirroring his dad by having a new kid brother to raise. I recall rumors of even more seasons, so hopefully we’ll get to see the adventures of German Jr. sometime soon!

  • March 28, 2015 at 4:17 pmMormegil

    Man, that episode with Lara…it killed me on the inside.
    Overall, I thought Garo was a very good show, despite some of those filler episodes. Solid ending, too.

  • March 29, 2015 at 12:57 amBROOKLYN otaku

    I’m about to watch the last ep naow!!……i must say im a convert…earlier i stated that the cheap CGI used in a lot of anime these days really turns me off…but THIS SHOW….this show is so good to me that i can overlook it…and to be totally honest there were some scenes that that didn’t really look half bad “cgi wise” like the battle with the giant doorway twin grim reaper thingy…

    the characters were great
    the action was cool
    and the plot good.
    and most importantly “to me” the animation was TIGHT
    I Enjoyed it……….thanks for suggesting it dude!!!!
    now lemme see how it ends

  • March 29, 2015 at 6:27 amricz

    Well it’s not a bad ending…
    Too bad German died ;v

    Gotta love how Leon thinks about Lara then suddenly switch his attention to Ema…..
    Like father like son lol

  • March 29, 2015 at 8:43 amExperticia

    Garo was my favorite anime along with Akatsuki no Yona, Death Parade, Aldnoah.Zero S2, Diamond no Ace and Kuroko no Basket. I enjoy German adventures and Leon development as Makai Kishi, Alfonso was a charming prince and Ema surprised me with her own Horror story. I regret that I didn´t see German´s death, I was hoping his come back to life. Leon and Alfonso are a great hero combo, I´ll wait for the movie and second season.

  • March 29, 2015 at 11:52 amDrew

    Garo suffered from that incredibly boring stretch after the end of season one. In the big picture, I get the idea of why they did it, but oh my gawd did it just completely destroy the pace and rhythm of the series up until that point.

    Overall, a solid adventure/fantasy anime, which is so rare in the modern era, its almost unfair to simply call it “solid”.

    • March 30, 2015 at 8:24 pmAvalon

      See, I never was really engrossed with the first season. It was definitely one of the lower priority anime I’d been watching. Then the second season started and not counting the strange mech episode, I found myself enjoying it MUCH more than the first half. I liked Leon’s development and his life in the countryside. I thought it worked very well in contrast to the first half where Leon was mainly annoying. It was nice seeing Alphonse step up as well. Then with these much better developed characters, the gave us a much more satisfying finale.

      So what you call an “incredibly boring stretch,” I found to be some of the best the show had to offer after a (I almost want to say boring, imo) unsatisfying first half.

  • March 30, 2015 at 5:07 amJeroz

    If the mecha suit is what I think you are referring to. I like how it displayed a side of humanity that’s worth protecting. A huge theme in this show is how the Horrors aren’t the monster, but the darkness within humans are. We saw so many people just being consumed by the negative emotions and became literally monsters, to the point that Mendoza’s stance is actually kind of believable.

    That episode demonstrated the good side in the citizens. While it’s really quirky, you can’t deny that the group showed great heart and passion to their savior that the human crowd in the show redeemed itself to be worthy to be saved. Run it in parallel with Leon’s path of redemption at that stage of the story, us audience is learning at the same time just what’s worth protecting for. It’s not just a family in the rural village, but those people you can find in the city as well.

  • March 30, 2015 at 10:56 amMi-Chan

    I don’t know why I want German to still be alive! I refuse to accept his death T__T….

    I could easily tell that he might leave a child though. That leaving scene was well done. However, I will not forgive Garm either.

    Garo had ups and downs. I think what I just enjoyed most was the relationship of Alphons and Leon, as cousins and both as those whose the golden knight blood runs in. It is a heartwarming ending. I loved it as much as possible. THough it still hurts nevertheless.

    I think Mendooza is at the top of my most hated charecters in anime.

    Thank you for your review, M.

  • March 31, 2015 at 3:24 amsmokex365

    Pros: Great fights, decent characters and story
    Cons: Slows down in the middle a lot, baddie of the week gets old and the ending is a little meh

    I still enjoyed it. The fights were engaging and the characters where interesting. Hopefully the fix the flaws and come back swinging. It definitely is worth a viewing.