In Garo: Honoo no Kokuin, Makai Knights and Alchemists, those who are able to keep supernatural enemies at bay, are feared and hated in the kingdom of Valiante. Encouraging this fear is the king’s trusted advisor, Mendoza, who convinces him to launch an all-out purge. Those of Makai blood are hunted and imprisoned or burned at the stake for so-called witchcraft. However, a dark omen is cast over Valiante when the execution of the last “witch” ends in the birth of her child who is saved from the flames by his father, a Makai Knight.
German spirits the baby Leon away from Valiante and raises him as a Makai Knight of the Garo armor. Now, they have been recalled to Valiante by the ever-increasing swarm of Horrors preying on unsuspecting civilians. With no Makai Knights left to defend them, the people are desperate. In answer to this desperation, Valiante’s Prince Alfonso sets out for help. How will these two sides clash? Will Leon and German be able to save their homeland?
If you were one of the people who dropped Garo back in 2014 because the plot seemed a little too aimless, this is a PSA: Y’done goofed. What started off as a slightly clumsy and generally directionless action romp with only a mature tone to differentiate it eventually came into its own and emerged as a visually stunning, well written, memorable action-drama complete with strong characters and an emotionally investing plot. Garo was arguably the best anime that aired this season and it deserves far more attention than it is getting.
Synopsis: In a world full of bloodthirsty creatures known as horrors that terrorize the people, the only ones who can protect them are known as the Makai Knights; a secret organization dedicated to preserving peace throughout the kingdom. However, little do the people know, the king is being manipulated by his advisor into painting the Makai Knights and alchemists as evil witches in order to eradicate them.
Before you even figure out what Garo is about, one thing will stick out: It knows how to have a mature tone. Too often do anime fall into the trap of confusing maturity with gratuitous blood, guts, nudity, and/or death; but not Garo. This show deals with topics of emotional loss, altruism, coming of age, sex, and violence without ever feeling like they are in over their head. This alone is commendable because it opens up a far wider spectrum of potential material to deal with that you won’t be able to see in a typical anime that’s bogged down by fanservice, moe, etc.
The biggest complaint that can be made about Garo is that it seems to lack direction or even a real overarching plot, but this only really applies to the first half of the show. Lots of people lost interest in this anime early on because there wasn’t any specific goal in mind, and that’s understandable. However, what emerges from the initial failures of the show is a touching tale about coming of age. It’s complete with some great drama without ever feeling forced, great pacing, and the perfect mix of dialogue and action. It puts you through a great deal of emotional ups and downs, really making you never want to take your eyes off of the screen. If you can tough it out through those first few episodes, you definitely won’t regret it.
While the plot really manages to come into its own, that phenomenon can largely be attributed to the growth and development of the fantastic cast of characters, who are the highlight of Garo in my opinion. Leon, the protagonist, starts off an insufferable, angsty teen. He complains about everything, is never satisfied, and is all around insufferable. So basically, he’s your average teenager. What makes him such an effective focal point for the show is how he learns and grows from his experiences; Leon is a dynamic character who ends up becoming supremely likable and even sympathizable.
However, Leon is only one of the many interesting, dynamic characters. German, Leon’s “father”, accounts for a lot of the personality in the show. He’s very funny without ever diminishing his important and rather serious role in the plot, which is not an easy balance to achieve. There’s also Emma and Alfonso, who each bring their own intriguing subplots to the equation as well. When it comes to characters, Garo overwhelmingly succeeds at fleshing out their respective backstories and motivations. The characters are the reason I was able to stick with the show through the slow start and the payoff ended up being much amazing than I ever thought it could be.
The last thing I’ll mention is how studio MAPPA, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite studios for having the balls to take on risky projects, deserves a lot of praise for the superb animation in Garo. The Makai armor battles are perhaps one of the greatest examples of CGI done right in anime to date, but even more impressive to me were the detailed landscapes and the fight scenes that didn’t use CGI at all. There is one particular fight in the later half of the anime between two main characters that is easily the fight of the year so far. The amazing choreography took my breath away; I probably watched that scene five times just for the hell of it. Combine the uniquely great animation with a… “interesting” soundtrack (watch the OPs and you’ll know what I mean) and you have an anime that delivers in the aspect of presentation.
In conclusion, Garo is a well-written drama with a mature tone and a focus on action that is definitely worth watching. The meandering plot eventually finds its way home and delivers a lovely narrative that you will remember for a long time. I highly recommend Garo to anyone who has a little bit of patience. Here’s to season two!read more
(This is a spoiler-free review adapted for this site)
[Synopsis]: Under the influence of his trusted adviser Mendosa (Hashi, Takaya), the king of Valiante initiates a massive witch hunt in order to exterminate both the Makai Knights and the Makai Alchemists after the king’s health was threatened by the curse of a witch. As she was burned at the stake, the witch in question gave birth to a son, Leon Luis (Namikawa, Daisuke) who was then spirited away by his father and Makai Knight Luis Herman. Many years later Leon returns with his father to exact his revenge on those responsible for his mother’s death and a young, escaped prince, Alfonso Variante (Nomura, Katsuhito), seeks to take back his kingdom from Mendosa’s twisted influence.
I think that Garo had a perfectly sized cast for the story it set out to tell. It concerned itself most with the two protagonists Leon and Alfonso however a good deal of screen time is also given to Herman and a Makai Alchemist named Emma Guzman. The other members of the cast vary a decent amount however a good many are citizens of Valiante and help to reinforce the themes of the show in different ways without needing extensive character investigations themselves.
Leon is a pretty decent character overall and has considerable and overt development over the course of the show. He occupies a fairly static attitude and mindset for the first half of the show however the latter half spends a great deal of time nurturing his development and he ultimately becomes a better character because of it. While he is bent on revenge, he doesn’t quite embody the trait to the degree some other protagonists have and while his revenge may consume him from time to time, it does not define him as it does some characters from other shows.
Alfonso brings with him the usual traits of the crown prince of a kingdom – he is righteous, courageous, and a skilled swordsman and so in this way he is a little typical while being appealing for the same reasons. He isn’t as complex as Leon nor does he have the same level of development because of how his character starts off however he is not unpleasant and his straightforwardness alongside Leon helps contrast the two characters quite well. He improves a decent amount for me once he takes on a mentor and his active pursuit in saving his kingdom makes the character quite endearing.
Herman, Leon’s father, is mostly a comedic character because of his relaxed attitude and his frequent visits to town brothels however he has a few serious moments throughout the show and possesses agency within the plot. I didn’t care for him very much because he had more screen time than I thought his antics deserved, much of it taking place during a slight lull in the show’s pacing where I think it would have been much better for the show to have focused on Leon or perhaps Alfonso.
Lastly, Mendoza, like Alfonso, strikes me as a pretty typical character – this is not the first time we’ve seen a twisted, needlessly evil, adviser to the king and his ambitions and goals are nothing to write home about either. While he is pretty simplistically evil, his backstory is interesting enough and makes the character more acceptable in my eyes however it too is not great work of fiction. Someone I want to make special note of is Mendoza’s attendant Octavia who also serves as a maid to the king. She has nearly no presence in the first half of the show however in the second half she shows surprising innovation and intelligence in her actions. Because of these traits, I found her to be one of the more compelling characters around at that time despite her infrequent appearances and her light presence in the earlier half of the show. Her worship of Mendoza and her reasons for doing so are well-founded and sincere and made her quite an enjoyable character after she starts receiving some attention.
The first thing to talk about when it comes to the animation in Garo is most definitely the suits of Makai armor donned by the main characters – Garo, Zoro, Gaia (to name a few). While they look fantastic by themselves, their CG depiction by is both hard to initially swallow and contrasts heavily with the show’s environments and sometimes enemies. I wish I could say it gets easier to watch as the show progresses and that you get used to the over-the-top, brilliantly shining, metal suits however I never really felt at home with them and ultimately found them a bit distracting – somewhat damaging the otherwise well executed action sequences. The show also uses CG for the Horrors, the often present enemies of the Makai Knights, and so when both the heroes and enemies are done in CG it makes the whole scene a tad more acceptable as they are no longer clashing however this is not always the case and it still doesn’t fix the stark difference between the armors and their animated environments.
CG aside, the character designs in Garo have an interesting style to them. They are vibrant designs which go together with the over-the-top nature of the show however at times I felt things started to look and feel a bit ridiculous. The characters are extremely simplistic in their design points however also outlandish enough with their hair and body proportions to be called vibrant. The Horrors are not always humanoid and are often more bestial in design; I would even go as far to say they are somewhat abstract at times which makes them feel a bit odd given their large range of depictions and as an antagonistic presence within the show it was hard to pin them down and even take them seriously at times. The character designs would occasionally falter in quality but not too noticeably and not enough to continuously distract the viewer. The action sequences had good animation, somewhat attributed to their use of CG, however there were a few notable fights of importance that I would even call excellent in their execution.
The story was not the area where Garo most excelled as the show primarily felt like a vehicle for glossy, stylistic, CG action sequences with some added backstories, character interests, and plot points to frame them. This is not to dismiss the attempt that Garo made to build a narrative framework for its action scenes and it doesn’t do an abhorrent job of it as the overarching story is not all that bad however it lacks complexity in an extreme way. Where the plot of the show really suffers in my opinion is in the episodes that feel a bit episodic and self-contained.
There is a clear story being told between Leon wanting revenge for the death of his mother, Alfonso wanting to take back his kingdom and restore it to glory, and Mendoza wanting to… commit atrocities – however every few episodes (and sometimes more frequently) we are given a story about a local demon that needs to be dealt with and we watch how the characters cope with it. The horrors don’t have any direct relevance to the greater plot however their extermination falls under the tasks issued to the Makai Knights and so it feels like we are doing necessary work when we watch our heroes confront them despite the fact that they have no explicit ties to a greater enemy. This combined with the lull in pacing around the midsection of the show can make the greater narrative feel a bit distant at times however when it shows up it is not displeasing and the short stories are by no means unwatchable (at least the majority of them). I will submit that the slow pacing in the middle gives birth to some of the better scenes in the show when all is said and done and that once things pick back up that the show gets progressively better and finishes in good form.
One problem I did have was with the way the show laid out its concepts. It does a decent enough job of establishing what the Makai Knights are and even Makai Alchemists however beyond that the Makai Rings, Leon’s markings, and the Watch Dogs are all a bit under-explained and a little hard to make sense of when they are introduced. The rings especially confused me because as Zaruba, Leon’s ring, is introduced, it seems like it is supposed to manage his emotional state however the other Makai Knights also have them and Zaruba’s own purpose within the show seems to alter drastically in the second half where he receives far more dialogue and can actively aid his wearer in combat.
The music was pretty decent all throughout and was probably what one would expect given the nature of the show. The music is often played up during the action scenes (appropriately so) but also did well during the more dramatic and somber scenes. In short I would say that the soundtrack felt at home within the action of the show and avoided falling short or feeling out of place when the show was focused elsewhere. A success coming from MONACA and a strong point for the show.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
I think Garo was a fun show despite its often dark tones and tragic circumstances. While it was a little hamfisted in the way it explored it’s themes, they meshed well with the characters and provided at least something of interest that ran throughout the framework of the narrative. At the end of the day I can’t help but feel like the show was more or less an action showcase however I find myself somewhat surprised by how well it did in other areas while still not quite impressing me to the point of the show being ‘good’.
I gave Garo a 6 because of its fun and over-the-top action scenes, it’s sometimes dark subject matter, and because of a few infrequent triumphs within the plot. What held it back was its sometimes poor pacing, its lackluster characters outside of the main duo and the occasional side character, and because of its rather jarring implementation of CG. It was a fun show and I don’t regret watching it however it lacks both a solid presentation and other areas of interest in order to make it out.
As long as they aren’t turned off by the overt use of CG to accomplish the task, I would recommend Garo to any fans of the action genre because the fights are both frequent and fun. Fans of fantasy and magic would not do wrong to pick up the show however there wasn’t as much magic as I myself was hoping for – the show opting to mainly focus on the armored Makai Knights rather than flame-throwing magicians. The drama is by no means bad and a few of the more memorable moments of the show exist in this area and so I feel confident in recommending it for this reason although it is intermittently present in the show and not the ultimate focus.read more
Garo, has turned into one of my favorite anime at the moment. The story follows a young Makai Knight named Leon, and his father German who is also a Makai Knight. Makai Knights have a job to play and that is to kill the "Horrors", which are people who have been possessed by dark spirits, that threaten the every day lives of humans. Leon, the Main Character of the series, is a Makai Knight who still hasn't fully matured. He is learning what it means to truly be a Makai knight, with his father as his teacher.
At the same time there is a prince named Alfonso who has been betrayed by someone within his own castle and forced to leave in to avoid death. The castle is then overtaken and so is the kingdom by a man named Mendoza. Alfonso must then search for the legendary Golden Makai Knight who is destined to save the kingdom, this Knight so happens to be Leon. Thus starts the adventures of Leon and Alfonso in their attempt to retake the kingdom from the hands of Mendoza. This anime is astounding in the pacing it takes to tell the story of these characters. It never moves too slow or too fast it takes its time to tell the story they way they truly want you to experience and to watch the show as it slowly grows into an anime worth watching.
The art in this series is great, I love the approach they take. The characters look rather simple in details, but not simple in a bad way but simple in a pleasant way that makes you admire it for a bit. They also use CG for the armor of the Makai Knights which is great in showing the contrast between humans and Makai Knights, giving them a shine to them and it makes them stand out. The sound was fine, it wasn't unpleasant or overwhelmingly great. It did it's job in creating the perfect atmosphere for the right times.
I believe the characters in the series is what makes this anime so easy to watch for me. You have young, fierce, and naive Leon. The upright and strong Alfonso. The silly and playboy father. The beautiful and independent Ema and many more characters that make this show great. Even minor characters play heavy roles in this anime, some effect characters for the rest of the series and some play towards a role much bigger than you expected. Each character is there for a reason whether they show up one episode and leave, die in the next episode, or stand with the story the entire way. You will enjoy every character in some way.
In terms of enjoyment, this gets an easy 10 in my book. The series started off kind of slow, I wasn't sure if the anime would turn out to be any good but once I got to episodes 7-12 the plot picks up quickly and you see that the first 6 episodes weren't wasted to fill up the time the show has for 24 episodes. This show developed beautifully, over the course of these 24 episodes.
Overall I give the show a 10 (Outstanding/Masterpiece). Garo stayed true to the story they had worked to build over 24 episodes, and they really have you get attached to the Main Character, Leon, seeing what he goes through and his duty in the end. This show doesn't pull any stupid strings to give a happy ending, what happened happened and Leona and his allies have to deal with it. Garo is an idependent story, meaning it didn't come from another source such as Manga/VN/LN, seeing as to how there was a Second Seasons and a Movie planned when this series was at a mere 6 episodes shows that the creator has planned everything well in advance and it looks promising that the second season won't disappoint us at all.
If you're talking about the season's most under-appreciated, you're sure to have mentioned Garo somewhere in your conversation. No one expected an anime series that could hold itself together, much less walk on its own legs. The series does not aspire to be more than what it is nor does it condemn itself to its own confines. That is exactly what Garo does - and it does so beautifully.
Essentially, Garo is a story about good versus evil. There is nothing special nor wholly new about it, but that is where the show keeps it tight. The series takes us to a fantastical but horrific world of plagues and demons and the protectors who fight against them. We follow Leon, a young Makai Knight, struggling to discern between two ethos: a desire for revenge or the duty to protect. Its narrative may be sorely lacking and at times questionable but it does have an ample amount of intrigue and cleverness. All in all, Garo unfolds a pretty decent and solid story - a tale of discovering one's duty and purpose.
One of the more striking things about Garo is that it handles the ideals it holds impressively. While they are thriftily given, the ideals never stray too far. Instead of being pretentious and overzealous, they are humble and, more importantly, relevant to the story, something not all anime series can easily grapple with. In the event of introspection, realization, and declaration, the characters never spew out random, nonsensical lines just to sound cool. They say the just right thing at just the right moment while placing importance in saying with simplicity.
The character development during the most part of the series is focused on Leon. His wasn't a grand, 180 degree turn. It was rather kept simple. The rest have their fair share but it would take only one or two episodes for their development to be completed. At the very least, these characters weren't used for unwarranted fan service. Though archetypal, each of them remain distinct and memorable.
The art in Garo does well in portraying the setting. The Knights are ornate and flashy but not overbearing; the Horrors are terribly grotesque. I would say it's all fitting. The music does a superb job in keeping the scenes exciting. The animation especially in the fight scenes are an outstanding feat. The choreography is neat and elegant, fluid and energetic - something one would not totally expect if they're only seeing Garo at surface level.
To sum it all up, Garo comes as a surprise. It may lack the intricacies and refinement that adorn the bigger anime shows but behind all that it is one daring and remarkable effort.read more