OP: 「Honō no Kokuin -DIVINE FLAME-」 (炎ノ刻印－DIVINE FLAME－) by (JAM Project)
For a series that is flying under everyone’s radar, Garo: Honoo no Kokuin really proved itself with an stellar opening episode on all accounts. If you’re looking for a medieval fantasy with witches, knights, demons and darkness all melded together, then this will deliver.
This was one of the shows this season where very little has been given away, meaning that going into it I didn’t really have any tangible expectations, although I knew the art style was right up my alley and from the PV it seemed like a fun watch, but damn this episode delivered.
Beginning with the burning of the witch as the the ill king and his royal family look on, the tone is immediately set; the music is kicking in, the crowd is cheering for vengeance, and a certain priest seems to be behind all of this – or at least he has some plan in this witch hunt. But not long into the burning we see an armoured knight appear (in CG that is actually pretty damn awesome!) to rescue the baby that the witch gives birth to at the stake and flee from the scene before he can be caught.
It turns out that baby is Leon Lewis, our main character, even though we don’t see that much of him episode. Instead the main focus is on the knight that rescued him as a while, Herman Lewis, who is enjoying himself in a brothel, telling a story that I imagine he has told to many women before – about the rescue of the boy, about the truth of the witches and the lies of the priests, and how the Horrors of the world are what need to be dealt with. Now, maybe it’s because I’m used to Game of Thrones, but this Sexposition was actually pretty well done and I wasn’t bothered by it that much at all. It never felt like meaningless fanservice (whether it be of the women or of the many shots of Herman’s hairy, well-toned body), and so it really paid off. Also, when Lewis came to see his father it served for a nice comedic moment as well.
There’s certainly a plot brewing here and for the most part we are left out of it. All the details are misty as of right now, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it worked better that way; it saves us from getting a massive exposition dump. Either way, Leon Lewis is most certainly at the centre of this – he’s the son of the witch, the authorities are still after him 17 years on, and there is mystery brewing from within the royal family as well. I can foresee Queen Esmeralda and Alfonso Saint-Variante playing a part in all this, whether they be foes or allies.
I should also touch upon the art of the Garo, since that is what originally caught my eye. Personally, I love it, from the sharp-featured character designs, to the CG armour, to the sketchy OP. It works for me, though I can imagine it may not for others. If this premiere proved anything though, it shows that Garo takes the best of style and substance, not sacrificing one for the other. It’s story was delivered well, the cinematography was absolutely on-point, the fight choreography was dynamic and impactful, and the directing was impressive from start to finish.
Clearly, there is a massive story ahead here. I’m expecting a great back-and-forth between Leon and Herman, more awesome fights, and plenty of political intrigue. And I can’t wait!
ED: 「CHIASTOLITE」by (Sayaka Sasaki)