Garo: Crimson Moon
Episode 12

by Gabriella Ekens,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Garo: Crimson Moon ?

After a two week hiatus, we return to face Garo: Crimson Moon's first major cliffhanger. After revealing himself as the Makai Knight Zanga, Yasusuke refuses to become Raikou's comrade. Instead, he recommits to his Robin Hood ways, using his newfound powers to fight both Horrors and social inequality. In spite of this, we soon see him in a meeting with the head bourgeois himself, Michinaga no Fujiwara. Michinaga, probably excited to have found a Makai Knight in his own bloodline, tries to recruit Yasusuke as the palace's (and thus Michinaga's own) guard. However, Yasusuke refuses, citing the futility of working within the system.

Meanwhile, Ashiya Douman is up to his usual antics. Despite new security measures, nobody's managed to prevent the evil apprentice from entering the palace pretty much whenever he wants. This time, he speaks to Seimei's other grandpa (who confusingly looks a lot like the first one). Ashiya turns this guy into a Horror by reminding him of his diminishing status within the imperial bureaucracy. His Horror form looks like the 10th Angel from Neon Genesis Evangelion, a big flat thing that wrecks stuff by falling from the sky. This Horror is too much for our heroes – Seimei is soon caught in a situation where she has to choose between saving Raikou or some bystanders. She saves Raikou against his wishes, and he confronts her afterwards. He's angry at her for making what he perceives to be the wrong decision, so he abandons her. As Seimei collapses in despair, Doumon Sr. slinks out of the shadows to reveal that this was his plan all along. Separated from Seimei, Raikou is unable to access his Makai Armor.

This episode is preoccupied with the cast's various worldviews and how they play into the ultimate disastrous conclusion. Unlike GARO: THE ANIMATION's León, whose flaw was the potential to fall to the dark side due to his desire for revenge, Garo: Crimson Moon's Raikou is too intractably pure. This makes him reject Seimei the first time she makes a difficult - but not unjustified - moral decision. Raikou doesn't place any value on his own life, so Garo's version of the trolley problem doesn't trouble him – he'd just sacrifice himself in a heartbeat. At the same time, he's also blind to how his absence would affect other people. First of all, he's still needed alive to protect other people as a Makai Knight. Secondly, he doesn't realize that he's Seimei's moral anchor. She's a complicated person who looks to Raikou as her motivation to serve on the side of justice. Otherwise, she could easily become a member of Douman's posse or worse.

The series conclusion will probably revolve around Raikou and Seimei recognizing their feelings for one another (hopefully not in a romantic sense). Seimei needs Raikou to keep her on the straight and narrow, while Raikou needs Seimei's help to extricate the stick up his butt. Seimei's flaw is that she isn't honest with Raikou. She coerces him to stay with her rather than giving him the knowledge and freedom to make his own choices. This all probably stems from some deep-seated fear of abandonment, which most likely originated from her parents' deaths. Ultimately, Raikou will need to accept the impossibility of moral perfection, while Seimei will need to loosen her maternal leash. Kintoki will just keeping hanging around, I guess.

If only all this characterization were given more focus in the preceding episodes. I mean, it's nice that it's here now, but it doesn't mean squat if most of the show was just an uninspired supernatural procedural prior to this. Garo: Crimson Moon keeps hinting at interesting dilemmas (Yasusuke's storyline) before wasting time on another stock episodic plot. This episode marks a point where the show could get more challenging and interesting, but I just doubt it will happen at this point. Yasusuke does raise a salient question. Why don't Makai Knights use their powers for more than just fighting Horrors? Why don't they combat social inequality, for example? They're sworn to protect people, and more people seem to suffer from poverty than big scary monsters. I can predict the answer (because Horrors are an absolute danger that need to be fought and embroiling the Makai Order in more morally subjective conflicts could compromise their powers), but it'd still make for a better storyline than Raikou's Shrinking Adventure. This would be an especially interesting direction to take a tokusatsu show, since they seem to frequently rely on simple conflicts between good heroes and evil villains. Shou Aikawa has made much of his career out of unpacking the moral assumptions that go into popular genres, but so far, Garo: Crimson Moon has just been squandering its potential.

Maybe this is all unfair? I can't force Garo: Crimson Moon into becoming Concrete Revolutio, even if it asks some of the same basic questions. (And Aikawa wrote both.) This series is both broaching more complicated material than GARO: THE ANIMATION (which didn't touch stuff like class-based oppression), while being significantly less competent than that show on every front. Still, this cliffhanger might be the show's opportunity to surprise me, so I'll consider it an improvement. Your move, Garo.

Grade: B

Garo: Crimson Moon is currently streaming on Funimation.

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.

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