May 15, 2016
Flawfinder (All reviews)
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.