In Japan, there exists a government agency known as the Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division (SDCD), whose duty is to protect the citizens from creatures unseen. They are able to dispatch these monsters swiftly and without alerting the general public. But currently, they face a different challenge: the betrayal of one of their own.
After the death of her mother several years ago, Kagura Tsuchimiya has been fostered by the Isayama family and forms a close sister-like bond with their daughter Yomi. The two become inseparable, and together they work for the SDCD as highly skilled exorcists. However, as the stress and consequences of their sacred duty weigh on them both, and family politics come into play, Kagura and Yomi begin to slowly drift apart. One of them grows earnestly into her role as an exorcist, and the other heads down a dark path from which there may be no redemption...
*Powerful opening episode plus a strong ending makes Ga-Rei Zero a definite must see for action fans.*
“Will you kill someone you love because of love?”
Those who have already seen Ga-Rei Zero (GRZ) are probably sick of reading the quote above, but it is nonetheless an effective quote to advertise for GRZ. I still remember what initially caught my interest in GRZ, it was the amazing trailer. Boy, how misleading it was …
Don’t get me wrong, Ga-Rei Zero is quite fabulous indeed. The synopsis may sound generic, but the technique used to present the story that will eventually lead into Ga-Rei (manga) is what makes
this gem a success in this recessional era. The excitement level of GRZ can be described by a simple parabolic function (think of the letter “U”), though the initial point stands out a lot more than the ending. This is analogous to say you drop a ball from great height and watch it fall down and slowly climb back up. But no matter how hard it tries, in the end it cannot go back to the initial height.
The plot of GRZ is extremely well thought out and well executed to say the least. Given the length of the series it is a very enthralling little show. Demon hunting may be the first thing come to mind after reading the simple summary of the anime. But what lies beneath that outer layer is the fragile little thing known as friendship and what happens to it when that treasure betrays oneself; that is the true moral of the story. Please keep in mind that GRZ is simply the prequel to the actual story in Ga-Rei (manga) thus you may find some unsatisfactory conclusion with regards to certain people or certain things.
Giant CG rolling dinosaurs on fire seem unnecessary but they served their purpose. The way some of the dramatic scenes were animated could have used a little more work. For instance it is possible to create a more nauseating scene by using a more unique camera angle/position rather than attempting to semi censor the scene with dull lifeless angles. On a more positive note, the animation quality is pretty consistent throughout the series and the characters themselves look great, especially when compared to the drawings in the manga. The battle animations are perhaps the most notable positive feature to the show. Fluid dynamic animation plus smooth scene to scene transitions also helped make GRZ one of the better animated shows of the season. It is evident that a lot of effort has been put into the show by the animation crew, even the backgrounds in each scene is very detailed.
As should be expected from an action oriented anime, the music is very outstanding. From the OP to battle BGM to ED, they all suit their theme well. The OP was nominated by fans as one of the top ten 2008 anime OP. Voicing-wise, Minori Chinhara was great playing as Kagura, and the unrecognizable voice change for the OP just makes it all the better. While there are not many superstar level seiyu (ie. award winners), it seems all characters received a suitable voice for themselves thus you will unlikely to have to clean your ears after watching each episode.
Unlike most single season anime, GRZ is not one where you should marathon through in a day. It is as if Ei Aoki (director of GRZ) just had an uncontrollable diarrhea. He literally dumps all the nasty stuff at you right from the start. You are bound to be confused after the first two episodes. Take it easy, we have all been through that stage. It will be tempting to keep on watching, but take my advice if you want to retain some sanity; stop there and think about what happened so far as things will go downhill from here.
If you don’t quite enjoy watching flying limbs or spurting blood, I suggest you stick to the TV release as they censored the “ugly” stuff in most cases. I also don’t recommend fans of Natsuki Kuga from Mai-HiME (or Natsuki Kruger in Mai Otome) to watch this as there is a certain someone here by the name of Natsuki Kasuga who also happens to be a motorbike chick with strong connection to dual wielding pistols. Though the difference here is how minor a role she plays and the cruel fate that awaits her.
One thing that I didn’t enjoy about GRZ is the sudden appearance of cheesy RPG-like weapons after episode one. Bullet shooting suitcase? Metal drill knuckle? Outrageous combat wheelchair? None of that were in the trailer! And none of those were anywhere near as exciting as the hot motorbike or the dual pistols. Now that I think about it, I feel like I got trolled by the trailer. Anyway, aside from the opening episode I wouldn’t call GRZ particular “groundbreaking”, but it is unquestionably one of the best (if not THE best) action anime for the fall season of 2008.
This review is technically spoiler free, but if the names, Yomi or Kagura, are unfamiliar to you, I would suggest watching the first two episodes before reading any of the reviews.
Admittedly, when I first read the show's description (which purposely reads generic), I didn't think the show was going to be that good. So when I gave it a shot, the first episode certainly drew my attention, but I expected once the shocking cliffhangers wore off it’d be a pretty generic, demon-hunting, hero-coming-of-age shounen.
Man, I was dead wrong. GRZ turned out to be biggest surprise of the fall season, and one of the best
damn shows I’ve seen, hands down.
Story/Characters: GRZ has a simple story at its heart. The whole demon hunting setting is really just a conveniently action/guro-friendly wrapper for the real story: The making and the breakdown of a strong friendship. What makes the show so powerful is the great job the writers did in exploring and developing the relationship between Kagura and Yomi – that’s when the show really starts to become something special.
Unfortunately, the short 12 episode season doesn’t allow them to provide much background on the other characters and also leaves some loose plot ends hanging (which is probably to be expected, since it’s a prequel to the Ga-rei manga).
But all that’s forgivable, because everything is really all just a foil to Kagura and Yomi in the end. The dynamic between the two drives the whole show. The comedy, the action, the drama and ultimately, the tragedy – everything – hinges on how much you come to like their characters and relationship.
Art: The battle scenes were well-animated and ranged from stylistic to quick and brutal, which despite the fantastic setting, made the show feel more realistic. The character designs were streamlined and attractive, with particular attention paid to Kagura and Yomi's cuteness/hotness. The monster designs were pretty generic, but they make up for it by making the mythical creatures, Ranguren and Byakuei, look appropriately fierce and majestic.
Sound: The producers of GRZ took some bold sound design chances - such as forgoing the OP/ED in the initial episode - that helped to amp up the show's atmosphere. The music also stood out throughout the series, especially during the battle scenes: ranging from a rock/techno mix during the exciting, stylistic battles, to the haunting and emotional, vocal-driven arrangement during the final battle. It always seemed to hit the right chord. Voice work was very good with special kudos due to Kaoru Mizuhara (Misao in Lucky Star) and Minori Chihara (Yuki Nagato in TMoHS), as Yomi and Kagura, doing excellent jobs in roles that I wouldn’t have expected from them.
Enjoyment/Overall: If you're looking for a well-written, action-oriented show (admittedly, not for the squeamish) with really strong character development, I highly recommend GRZ.
Hopefully this review was helpful to you. (Positive/negative) feedback is always appreciated. Thanks!
Ga-Rei -Zero- is set as the prequel to Ga-Rei the manga. The manga, itself, is a supernatural action shounen so Ga-Rei -Zero- is set in the same way. While knowing the setting of the manga helps to understand the anime better, it is definitely not required to read the manga beforehand to enjoy Ga-Rei -Zero-. This viewer had never heard of Ga-Rei before the anime, yet was still able to enjoy the Ga-Rei -Zero-.
For those not familiar with the Ga-Rei setting, it is essentially about an agency that hunts rogue spirits using exorcists. A Ga-Rei is a spirit beast that exorcists use in addition to
other exotic weapons and traditional swords to fight supernatural enemies.
Story: The storytelling for Ga-Rei was nothing short of amazing. The first two episodes occur chronologically towards the end of the series, but set up a conflict during which the rest of the series tries to explain how events lead up to such a conflict. This leaves the viewer constantly guessing throughout the series, giving enjoyment through suspense. At the same time, the viewer is greeted with several humorous scenes through the show that help lighten the mood and make you enjoy the characters.
Art: The animation for Ga-Rei isn't extraordinary or anything. It gets the job done. The supernatural enemies look disgusting and allow you to develop a hatred for them. The characters are drawn in a way that you develop interest in them. The action looks fluid and is pleasing to watch.
Sound: What really stood out to me in Ga-Rei was the sound. The background music really fit the mood well and after every episode, it left me questioning when the OST would come out. Furthermore, the Ga-Rei anime comes out with an amazing image and insert song CD, many of the songs which are used in fitting moments throughout Ga-Rei. Both the OP and ED fit the anime as well.
Character: Ga-Rei really focuses on developing the two main characters, Kagura and Yomi. While I feel that the other characters weren't developed as much as I would have liked, the story is really focused on Kagura and Yomi and only their development is crucial to the story. The way Kagura and Yomi interact together and towards other characters seems appropriate for their age and their past experiences and because of their interaction with each other, they change and part of the story is watching their growth.
Enjoyment: The combination of a great storyline as well as well-done action sequences put to an outstanding soundtrack makes this anime incredibly enjoyable for me. Once you start the anime, at least for the first couple of episodes, it's almost impossible to stop. The first few episodes demand the viewer to watch them one after another. Combined with the humorous yuri moments and other cute moments, Ga-Rei does its best to tell a story that can both standalone, but at the same time, persuade the viewer to continue the series into the manga.
- This will be my first anime review.
- Might contain spoilers.
Ga-Rei: Zero, is one of those anime that blew my expectations away; truly an anime I wished I discovered sooner. This anime is so underrated, I hope this review does some good.
"Will you kill someone you love, because of love?"
That quote was what got me interested, and I watched to find the answer.
-Story: Basically two girls, Yomi and Kagura, that has experienced deaths of loved ones by demons. They both belong to families that are destined to be exorcists. They do their best to live up to their family names. One day they
met and began to live together as "sisters". They then go and hunt and exorcise demons, which no ordinary human can see, under an agency that specializes in fighting demons.
-Art: I thought the animations were good for an anime that aired in 2008. Byakuei and Ranguren looked awesome. The fighting scenes are well executed. I also really enjoyed the final fight scene. I have to say that the first episode's animation could of been more appealing.
-Sound: I don't pay attention to the sound effects as much, but I said they were good. I really liked the opening song, probably one of the few I don't skip.
-Character: I say this is one of the good aspect of Ga-Rei: Zero. Within the flashbacks, you really get the chance to know more about Yomi and Kagura. You get to find out what their families expect from them, what they been through, and you get to see the change from when they first met to the last scene. Yomi and Kagura were well developed, but supporting characters were not as much. Maybe due to the fact that a bunch of characters got killed in one episode. There was also this white haired kid (forgot his name or wasn't even mentioned) which did some evil stuff and then disappeared 2-3 times. Also got to mention Yomi is my favorite character!
-Enjoyment: I really enjoyed this anime. Enjoyed the fight scenes, the sisters moments, and the family drama. This anime did its job of the demon-exorcist story, but also added overpowered "spiritual beasts" that wrecked stuff up, which was enjoyable.
-Overall: This anime is a without a doubt, a must see anime. You will definitely enjoy this anime if you watch it with an open mind, and don't pay attention on the small things. This anime started from an anime that I missed out on to being one of my all time favorites. What's even better is this is a prequel so it only contains a small amount of the whole story since it continues in the manga. So some things such as character development might be resolved there.