Heian-kyou, capital and the center of elegant, aristocratic culture, is heavily guarded by a spiritual force field -- or so it seems. In reality, onmyouji (court magi who create the spiritual force field) can only defend the palace located in the northern part of the city; in downtown, monsters known as "horror" that feast upon human souls roam after sunset. There are, however, a group of heroes protecting commoners from "horrors" in darkness.
This was really a disgrace, I honestly do not want to make a review for this but considering the previous version of Garo made my top 10 anime the season it aired I felt the excessive need to write a review on this horrible alternate version of Garo. This will honestly be a slight comparison of how this anime failed to compared to it's previous version.
Garo: Honoo no Kokuin is the first story told, Garo: Guren no Tsuki is an alternate universe with completely different characters with the only similarities being the casual villains and the means of defeating them.
Story - 1
is similar to that of the previous Garo an old medieval fantasy type setting where there are monsters called Horrors that manifest from the darkness in a humans heart. There are Makai Knights and Makai Alchemists who have the power to defeat these horros and are heavily relied upon to protect humans from this threat.
Our Protagonist is one of the many Makai Knights but the armor he wears is a legendary armor that has been passed down for generations, the Golden Knight Garo. The story follows our lead Raikou, his assistant, and his mentor as they protect the city from various threats.
Although the setting and idea of the show is great and almost identically matches the setting of the previous version, this series didn't have a plot until the very last episodes. Over half of the series is focused on "The Horror of the Week" having the Protagonist defeat them time and time again with no real progression. Near the end the anime made a decent attempt at creating a likable story but ruined it completely with asspulls to save characters with no reason. Not only did this not help the show at all but it severely brings the show lower than it was prior.
Art - 2
The character designs were actually good, nothing too fancy but there were times in the show when I couldn't see a thing due to the overwhelming darkness. They would attempt to have fights in the dark and you couldn't see a thing other than the subtitles that were provided. If I can't see anything at night how can I enjoy the art let alone the characters or story.
Sound - 5
Nothing special, the ED was pretty good to get you pumped up. Too bad the show wasn't just as satisfying
Character - 1
Just as painful as the Story the characters have no development. The Protagonist suddenly and randomly gains the ability to control his power but there is no change in how he fights, it felt like it was forced in there to try and show that this character has changed but he doesn't. To nobody's surprise this Protagonist doesn't have a strong personality at all, if everyone wasn't always looking to him to save them he wouldn't even be a worthy side character to mention.
Our female lead is the mentor of the Protagonist but as the story progresses she ends up being reduced to a damsel in distress. Everybody knows that this is probably the worst thing you can do to a strong female lead.
Only decent character is another Makai Knight who is out for revenge due to the one who killed his brother. Unfortunately he is shoved aside to make room for the horrible main characters and eventually loses his motivation to get revenge.
Overall - 1
This show really hurt me man, I only respected it and watched all 24 episodes out of love for its previous version. This anime was a pain to watch and I wish it was never made. They should have took the time to refine the upcoming movie that is a sequel to the previous Garo. Please do not watch this show and if you do, make sure you watch the Previous Garo prior.
You guys remember those Marvel anime from a while back? You don't? Well that's because with maybe the exception of the Wolverine anime, they were so half-assed on the production side of things that nobody could drum up any interest for seeing anime's version of Tony Stark shoot people, and this new iteration of the Garo franchise is pretty much Mappa recreating that dark period back when they were still Madhouse because "anniversary anime" I guess. What exactly is an anniversary anime you may ask? Well it's basically when more of a franchise is created specifically to fulfill an obligatory lifetime achievement rather than because
the creators genuinely believed there was more of the story they wanted to tell. And generally, they seem to agree with me that such things are ultimately pointless. From those godawful Tenchi Muyo shorts to the soulless Sailor Moon Crystal to those snore-worthy Digimon Adventure Tri films to the new Lupin…okay that one actually looks fine even if the writing was kinda meh…it feels like the writers decided "hey, people like this right? Well let's give them more and then collect our checks".
It's sort of the same thing that's been happening with the Assassin's Creed series as of late. To those who pay attention to the franchise, you notice how all the marketing just highlights superficial things like what time period it's in or whether you'll be playing as two characters this time without actually talking about the story or any legitimate changes to the gameplay? Well when Crimson Moon was announced, the creators said it'd have a female protagonist and was going to be set in the Heian period. Oh, and it'd have a completely different team, with the director making one anime no one remembers at this point. Wasn't really much to get hyped for was it? Admittedly, even when they're being bad, Mappa's anime tend to be interesting so I was hoping to get some mileage out of that. But considering almost none of you finished this show, you can guess how that panned out.
But let's talk about the actual anime, shall we? Like the advertisements said, it takes place in the Heian period and focuses on a Makai Knight named Raikou and a Makai Alchemist named Seimei as they interact with fictionalized versions of famous historical figures from that period and deal with the antics of a fallen Makai Alchemist named Ashiya Douman. Because the Japanese still somehow think this goddamn storytelling device is really fucking clever, it starts off in medias res when the characters are already familiar with each other and we don't learn who they are later or what the story even is until long after the audience stopped caring. Instead, the show goes for an episodic "monster-of-the-week/darkness-in-humanity" approach to its storytelling, which I don't always prefer, but Mappa's Ushio & Tora did a tolerable (and only tolerable, mind you) job of it by populating those stories with characters who have semi-complicated struggles with their own internal selfishness whilst fleshing out the main characters in-between. Unfortunately, Crimson Moon's episodic characters are worse than the leads, and the leads themselves are kinda lame.
Raikou in particular is pretty much a Mary-Sue plot device who's only around so he can put on the armor and carve up monsters with one hit to the point that you might as well as call his Garo uniform "Deus Ex". He does have the problem that Seimei has to control whether or not he puts it on, but that's just an arbitrary restriction and other than that he has about as much charisma as my own unwashed socks if they were worn by an Australian prime minister. Seimei is a little more interesting due to being a runaway from her rich heritage, but characters only shine when their story actually matters to the overarching story, and most of her screen time is just being funny (which in anime terms, means it's not funny) with her purse/sex appeal and favoring Raikou over others. That did actually have potential when she ends up sacrificing a bunch of innocents in order to save him, but the next episode has the dude forgiving her, so so much for that. There's also a thief who dons another Garo outfit because there's always another Garo-wielder isn't there, but he's as important as the kid character who I can't be assed to dwell on, so why should I dwell on him? And I'm not even going to dwell on Douman, because I'm not putting any more effort into looking into his character than the creators did, so you can imagine how I feel for the supporting cast if they're worse than these guys.
I'm sure the story looked solid on paper, but solid stuff soaked in sewage water and fed to a threshing machine is just going to be unreadable - and in anime's case, unwatchable. Far from ripping off much better Garo iterations like Makai no Hana or Zero: Black Blood, Crimson Moon rips off from every dark fantasy/historical fiction story ever and tries to do too much at once to the point that it's just bland across the board from its take on humanity's darkness to the Kaguya tale. Which is ironic, because the show is way too fucking long to the point that the creators themselves realized their mistake halfway through production. There's way too much blatant exposition to pad out the runtime and there were several weeks when an episode didn't air at all for no good reason. In fact, the planned 26-episode count was cut down to 23 (24 if you count that one episode of the production team self-congratulating themselves over their work) and the only reason I knew this was the case was because the bad guy died, the characters became all happy with each other, and there was no episode the next two weeks. It didn't even feel like an ending. Raikou took one swing at the guy, he died, the characters mourn over him, and that's pretty much it. Yeah, I wanted it to end there too, but when you don't even realize an anime had finished without looking at the official sites, you know something has gone horribly wrong.
And of course, there's the elephant in the room that for a fucking Mappa anime, Crimson Moon's visuals look like absolute ass. I guess some of the background stuff is okay, but the animation looks like it was made by the unemployed siblings of the studio's janitor unit. Even by the standards of that one Ushio & Tora episode with the mongooses that had like two seconds of actual movement, Crimson Moon looks like ass. The character designs are severely outdated, the CG is even more horrendous than Mappa's first go at the franchise, and I don't think the characters even swing their swords when they fight. They just jump at each other followed by a sound effect and suddenly someone's dead. I don't understand how anyone there can possibly think this would be suitable for broadcasting, because the equivalent of this would be a KyoAni anime where the visuals looked like the original version of Kanon and the characters just talked like they're reading a bad middle-school play occasionally broken up by token fights for the entire runtime...oh wait, Munto exists, doesn't it?
I could continue listing everything down that failed with me, but the bottom-line is that Crimson Moon was doomed from the moment the creators decided it was going to be a junk food-obligation series rather than something people wanted to make because they had a story to tell. It has its inspired reasonable moments, but that ironically works against it because it just makes the series more middle-of-the-road/forgettable, which is worse than being bad, and it doesn't justify why you shouldn't just watch the other Garo entries instead. At least people are still going to remember Psycho-Pass 2 for having the worst female support character ever along with all the immigrant slaughtering. Crimson Moon should have made the main bad guy a McFarlane-ish racist Asian caricature that is completely out of place in the Heian period if this is the only response its awfulness was going to get.
Ahh, I see there are no reviews for this yet. Yeah, this anime does not have great ratings and it has a pretty low viewership. Well, whatever, I'll pitch in my opinion for what it's worth. Garo: Guren no Tsuki is the sequel to Garo: Honoo no Kokuin except it's not really a direct sequel. It's actually an anthology series, where the characters, plot, setting and everything else are different except for the common mythology revolving around the Makai Knights and Makai Alchemists and most of the seiyuu return for new roles. Watching the first season is not at all necessary to view this one,
but it does give a little more depth on the lore. (It's kind of like the live action tv show, American Horror Story.)
So. Frankly. Having seen Honoo no Kokuin, it's almost impossible for me to not draw comparisons between the two. I'm also sure most of the people who are curious about this season are probably people who've seen the last season and liked it. Instead of doing a traditional review, I'm going to be doing a compare and contrast with the previous season.
Garo: Guren no Tsuki (GnT) is pretty much the polar opposite of Honoo no Kokuin (HnK) to me in many different aspects. I thought HnK's main strong point was its plot - decently written, if a little cliche, but overall well executed. I also liked the CGI integration because it blended in almost seamlessly with the art style, and the action scenes were also pretty damn good. On the other hand, I couldn't bring myself to like the characters with one or two notable exceptions, the art style itself (so pointy) did not look attractive to me, Daisuke Namikawa felt miscast as the main character and finally, the setting (medieval fantasy Europe) was too familiar and boring, but maybe that's just me speaking from a Western perspective.
Comparatively, GnT has lovable characters that I easily got attached to, beautiful art/animation (not just the art style but color palette, shot compositions, etc), interesting setting (medieval Japan this time), and Daisuke Namikawa was /not/ miscast. I only had two complaints, one small and one big. The big one was that the plot was kind of a huge mess. It's not like HnK, which has an overarching plot that never really lets up. In HnK, with the exception of maybe three or four episodes, every episode contributes to the plot.
Contrary to that, GnT is more like a "monster of the week" type show up until the last 1/3rd. The earlier episodes have small bits that set up a plot, but it doesn't come to fruition until episode 16 or so. This may sound weird, but I actually enjoyed the "monster of the week" episodes way more. It wasn't until the actual plot came in that I felt the show got weaker. Yes, look, I really enjoyed spending time with all the characters just bouncing off each other. Their interactions alone and the fantastic fight scenes were enough for this series. But the plot thread just felt... shoehorned in, and more damning than that, it was just not as well written as HnK. It was almost like the writer didn't want there to be a plot, but was pressured to include one as an imitation of HnK's formula. Not to mention, it ends up being pretty similar to the end of HnK's plot but without all the prior set-up.
I think I would've easily given this 7/10 if it didn't even bother with a plot; that's how much I liked those early episodes. Even Douman, the series villain (played rather hamtastically by Tomokazu Seki) being more of a nuisance than an actual threat just ended up amusing me because of how unintentionally hilarious he was.
My other small complaint was that they didn't do the CGI integration as well. Instead of making it blend in as closely as possible to the original art style, they decided to make it stand out with a sort of grainy texture. It still looks great, but I don't like how it stands out from the rest of the animation.
One more thing I wanna bring up is praise for the newbie actor Masei Nakayama who played Raikou, the main character (MY SON). Unlike some other newbie actors (*coughsSatorufromErasedcoughs*), he has shown some incredible potential. I'll be keeping an eye on him from now on. Well, I think that's pretty much all I have to say.
TL:DR; Animation/characters/action = good. Plot = bad. Result = slightly better than average, but quite enjoyable up until the plot kicks in.