The Fall 2017 Anime Preview Guide
GARO -VANISHING LINE-
How would you rate episode 1 of
Garo -Vanishing Line- ?
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How was the first episode?
As is tradition with this franchise, Garo -Vanishing Line- is a standalone series focusing on a new setting and a new Makai Knight, so newcomers need not worry about jumping in. The protagonist of this particular iteration is a man named Sword, and this first episode begins, apropos of nothing, with Sword getting into a fistfight with a demonic slug creature that seems to be mostly composed of a writhing mass of female breasts. Later, we see that this man, who looks like what would happen if X-Men's Wolverine was 6'7” and ate steroids for breakfast, literally bows and gives thanks to God whenever he encounters a woman with a voluptuous chest. So, based this overload of Dudebro Macho-ness, you'll probably have already decided whether you love or loathe Garo -Vanishing Line- before the opening credits have even started rolling.
Personally, I think I might kind of love it. This version of Garo is trading in the exact same kind of schlocky filth that Jūni Taisen found so much success with. It's an unabashed love letter to the entertainment of days gone by, an homage to an era of anime where the only thing bigger than the women's breasts were the men's chests, and nighttime skylines and demon infestations reigned supreme; one look at Sword in all of his doofy, hypermuscular glory tells you everything you need to know about this show's inspirations. I don't know what it is about this season's love affair with the old OVAs of the '80s and '90s, but I'm surprised at how much I'm digging it.
It helps that Garo looks pretty good in motion, even with all of its reliance on CG for its extended motorcycle chase sequences. As is the case with Jūni Taisen, Garo opts for a messier style of animation that actually works in the show's favor, lending it an air of grime that only makes its '80s Manly Man aesthetic feel more genuine. That final chase sequence with the serial killer Horror was a pretty intense and exciting affair, though I could have done without the excessive cutting and camera panning (which is the episode's one major visual flaw).
The core duo of Sophie and Sword also feels promising, although their interactions in this first episode are very stock and trade, with Sophie serving as the audience surrogate who gets plunged into the grimdark world of Horrors and magically armored knights. The story in general is simple and easy to follow so far, serving as the same kind of monster-of-the-week setup as every version of Garo before it. Time will tell if the overarching plot will hold up for the entire season, though the episodic action should make for good entertainment either way.
I won't pretend that Garo -Vanishing Line- is a great show at this point. In this episode, Sword stuffs himself full of a veritable mountain of fries and the most comically large steak I've ever seen. Just like that meal, Garo is a heaping amount of savory, all-red-meat junk food that tastes pretty delicious in the moment, but it's also undoubtedly terrible for you. Different interpretations of Garo are always going to have their own flair; this season aims to be Stupid with a capital S, and Fun with a capital F. Given how underwhelmed I've been with so many of this season's other premieres, I'm perfectly alright with that.
SimulDub Preview: Funimation has once again managed to deliver a solid adaptation. Caitlin Glass has been the ADR Director for the entire Garo series up to this point, and her crew seems very comfortable bringing this cheesy and over-the-top-material to life. Outside of Sword, Madeleine Morris and Barry Yandell get the most to do this week as Sophie and Zaruba, and they acquit themselves well; both the inexperienced teen girl and the snarky magic ring sound more or less exactly as I imagined in English. Surprisingly, the weakest link in this first episode might be Sword himself, played by Taliesin Jaffe (going by T. Axelrod for this dub). He doesn't do a bad job by any means, but his take on the character is disappointingly straight-faced, almost to the point of sounding generic. There's a certain doofy charm that's necessary to sell the ludicrous power fantasy Sword represents; Tomokazu Seki nails this in the original Japanese, but I'm not sure Funimation's adaptation captures it as clearly. Nevertheless, this is a show about spectacle, and Sword gets to ride his motorcycle and kick Horror butts no matter the language he's speaking, so anyone wanting to check out Garo -Vanishing Line- in English should still find plenty to enjoy.
Garo -Vanishing Line-'s opening sequence focuses on an impossibly muscular man named Sword, who fights with a monster mostly composed of boobs under a blood-red moon as a helpless naked woman runs for cover. Having dispatched that monster in a giant explosion, he then rides his skull-faced motorcycle to pick up a hot date. Sword then rides off with the date on his bike, her big breasts pressed against his face.
Your reaction to that opening scene will likely be your reaction to the entirety of this first episode. Vanishing Line is tightly paced, dynamically directed, and beautifully animated, but it's also one hundred percent dedicated to an extremely Heavy Metal boy's club fantasy. The girls have big breasts meant to be ogled, the guys have loud motorcycles and weapons for names, and everything ends in fiery explosions. There is no subtlety here, and if macho stuff isn't your bag, there's no other levity or tenderness to temper the tone.
As you might have guessed, this sort of thing is basically everything I dislike in media, but I can't deny that it's a very well-constructed episode. The character designs are detailed and expressive, backgrounds richly constructed, and the animation plentiful. Director Sunghoo Park has leveled up from an excellent animator into a highly talented director, and these action scenes are consistently elevated through dynamic perspective shifts, rapid cuts, and a great eye for visual momentum. The show's preference for quick cuts actually felt a little distracting at times, as did the heavy use of shaky cam, but the combination of active direction and consistently excellent animation makes Vanishing Line one of the most technically accomplished premieres of the season.
On the writing front, the show's overbearing emphasis on machismo somewhat undercut its characterization and dramatic stakes, but things at least moved quickly enough. Sword feels more like a specific ideal than a real person, and his companion Sophie hasn't really had time to develop a personality, but the show moves quickly between dynamic action scenes with just enough narrative threading to keep things coherent. The show is essentially a gleefully excessive action movie, and the writing is in keeping with that style.
Overall, Vanishing Line is an extremely well-executed and tonally cohesive guitar solo. The writing is just okay, but a show like this doesn't necessarily need that to be a strong genre entry. If you're hungry for strong action and either enjoy or don't mind the show's very specific tone, it's absolutely worth a watch.
After the sheer torment that was Garo: Crimson Moon, I was very concerned that Garo -Vanishing Line- would be similarly lackluster. Boy was I ever wrong, and I've never been more pleased to have my preconceptions smashed. While it definitely has some issues with misogyny (really, Zaruba? Women make your seat smell like make-up?), it's also a wild ride with badass characters, and setting the story in a contemporary city eliminates the need to fuss with historical and mythological figures, which was part of Crimson Moon’s downfall.
Also, boobs. This may not be how you thought you were getting your boob show this season, but the introductory moments of the episode has the hero Sword fighting a monster, or horror in the show's parlance, made up almost entirely of breasts. It's a bit reminiscent of Edogawa Ranpo's novella The Blind Beast, where a man builds a room in his basement made up of oversized replicas of women's breasts and buttocks, and it's definitely not in the “sexy” category. It's also indicative of Sword's love of bosoms, as one of his less-desirable traits is to pray to the large breasts of women he encounters. At least he's not grabbing them.
More importantly, the ostensible heroine of the piece, Sophie, seems like an interesting character. While Sword appears to be all about kicking ass and looking at boobs, Sophie seems more complex. She's clearly been on her own for some time, looking for something called “Eldorado,&rdquo, which may or may not be related to the person she's also searching for. This is also a girl who can take care of herself: twice we see her fight off men who try to grab her, first with a drunk on the street who she tosses with a judo move and later with the fortune teller Moon Wizard, who's actually a horror with a thing for redheads. Sophie, in a stunning move of common sense that we rarely see in anime, knees him in the crotch and makes a break for it. She's not strong enough to fully fight him off herself, and she seems to know that – when she's over her head, she relies on Sword, even if it's clear that she's not sure she can trust him. But he also seems to be the most reliable adult she's seen in a while, as well as one of her first clear leads to Eldorado, so it looks as if he's going to be stuck with her for the foreseeable future.
Like all iterations of the Garo franchise, Sword, a Makai Knight, has access to the magic armor that allows him to kill horrors. What's interesting is that he appears to prefer not wearing it unless he absolutely has to – instead, Zaruba takes the form of (or possesses, I'm not sure) a motorcycle, functioning equally as Sword's trusty steed and his weapon. It's an interesting change, and it certainly says a lot about how Sword prefers to do things: with his bare hands and own power unless he needs backup. He and Sophie are alike in that way, and I'm looking forward to seeing their interactions – and whether or not Sophie gets the other suit of armor.
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