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.