OP: 「Guren no Tsuki ~Kakusareshi Yami Monogatari~」 (紅蓮ノ月～隠されし闇物語～) by JAM Project
New Setting, New Art, Same Concepts:
Garo is back! But if you didn’t watch the first season when it aired this time last year, then fear not – this is a new story, set in a Japan during the Heian Period, with new characters, and a new art style to top it off. Garo fans and newcomers alike are welcome to jump aboard Guren no Tsuki, but if you haven’t seen Garo: Honoo no Kokuin, then I’d recommend you do so. It’s not necessary, though it’s a solidly enjoyable show with its peaks and dips, but main cast were great and it only got better as it went.
That being said, it’s easy to start fresh with this one. Perhaps it could be considered a loose prequel, but the connections are slim with this first episode, so until there are more direct links between the two series, it’s easy enough to enjoy this as a stand-alone set in the same universe. The first thing worth noting is that this is set in a very specific period in Japan, at least 1000 years ago, which reflects in the architecture and character designs – both of which are drawn and animated much differently from the first season. The colours in Honoo no Kokuin were much more vivid and rich, the setting had more a witch-hunting European flavour, and the characters had their sharp chins and pointed noses. Here, the designs look like they could have been produced in 2004. I could definitely see this airing just over ten years ago in 4:3 aspect ratio, which is both a positive and a negative; this style is perhaps more accessible and cleaner, but it’s much less polished than the first season, and the quality of art and animation just isn’t the same. Still, it’s nice to have a change of design for an entirely new story, so I can accept that.
Thankfully, not everything is different. This is Garo after all, so the core story is still the same: Makai Knights and Makai Alchemists against Horrors. It’s your classic good vs evil, light vs darkness (quite literally, in this case). It’s not exactly revolutionary, but if Garo: Guren no Tsuki can make the most of this basic premise, then credit has to be given where it is deserved. Time will tell if this season will deliver the same fun and entertainment of the first one, as well as whether or not it will fall into the same fillerish ‘Monster of the Week’ stories in the middle half.
Seimei is the Star of the Show:
Now let’s get down to the characters. I’m sure all of us Garo fans were disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t see more of Leon or Alfonso this season, especially after the growth they both went through over the two cours. Still, when I learned that Guren no Tsuki would have a female lead, I was excited. You may or may not have picked up from my posts over the past year, but I generally prefer female characters, especially when they are written well and treated like people and not props. So when I heard that this epic action fantasy series would feature a female lead, I was over the moon. But when more details came out, it seemed like MAPPA were going back on their word and instead revealing more information about the new Golden Knight, and not the promised lead from before, which meant that going into this episode my feelings were mixed, riding entirely on who the actual protagonist of Guren no Tsuki would be.
The answer is still not definite, but from this episode all signs seem to point towards Seimei (Park Romi). She got the most screentime, showed off much more of her personality (which I’d describe as silly and serious at the same time), and came across the most interesting. Park Romi does a stellar job at voicing her, giving more life to her character and making her even more fun to watch (and hear) and screen. All the standout scenes of this episode were the ones focused on her: her initial introduction as the sakura petals danced around her, playing her instrument, dressing up in disguise to fool the generic woman-killing villain, and showing off her skills as a Makai Alchemist. All in all, she’s badass, her design is slick and her presence is felt whenever she’s on screen. She’s totally unlike your typical main character for this sort of show, in that she’s an adult woman, she’s not a hack-and-slash type brawler, she’s the teacher to the other characters, and she doesn’t appear to have a damaged past or uncontainable rage. She’s cool as ice, and I hope she remains the focus of the series from here on out.
We also met two of the other four main characters (going by the opening). Raikou (Nakayama Masei), the new (old?) Golden Knight, and his young attendant, Kintoki (Yajima Akiko). Neither really did much this episode, though Raikou did the main fighting in the end. There’s very little to appreciate when it comes to their characters, because dare I say… they’re just not that interesting. Other than his silly hair, Raikou is as run-of-the-mill as they come, which is why my fingers are crossed that he isn’t the destined main character after all. Admittedly, Leon was just your typical moody teenager at the start of last season, but he grew to be a respectable character, so perhaps the same will happen with Raikou.
Overview – First Impressions:
Things are a little different this time around, but I think that may be for the best. For me, the art is still a downgrade from Honoo no Kokuin, but everything else has me intrigued. The Horror this week wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, more just serving as the villain to introduce our characters and the time they live in. However, the apparent big baddie of the whole show popped up at the very end, claiming to be darkness itself. It cut off rather quickly, but I’m definitely going to stick around for this one to see where the story goes, and whether or not Seimei is the actual protagonist of this story, as she damn well should be, because let’s face: she’s awesome.
Note: There are currently no plans to blog Garo: Guren no Tsuki on a weekly basis.
In other news: I posted an Anime Summer 2015 Review on my personal blog. Feel free to check it out and see what I thought of the past season – I even ranked all 24 shows I watched in order from worst to best.
In other, other news: I’ve decided to change my post format slightly. It’s become a tradition for me to change my post layout every six months or so, and I felt like something more clean-cut and simple. How does it look?
ED: 「Kamon」 (花紋) by Sasaki Sayaka with Inaribayashi