Garo: Crimson Moon
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Garo: Crimson Moon ?
As this episode opens, imperial head honcho Fujiwara no Michinaga discovers that curses have been placed all over the Light Palace just for him. This leads to a witch hunt of unlicensed onmyoujis, including Seimei. (I did make a mistake last week - onmyoudo is the word for the magical spiritualism they practice while onmyouji is the practitioner. This is all a bit esoteric, so please forgive me.) One by one, they're all imprisoned at the palace. This was, perhaps, a terrible idea, since that group also includes Ashiya Doumon. He got himself captured on purpose to access the Light Palace and unleash a bunch of Horrors on its sacred ground. Its up to Seimei and Raikou, who snuck in after her, to save the day. They succeed, but lots of people die, and a young noble named Minamoto no Yorinobu becomes aware that this strange young man possesses the Golden Armor, which by all accounts should belong to his bloodline. Hmmm...
GARO: Crimson Moon is starting to come into its own. I've accepted that it'll never look as nice as the previous season – otherwise I'd just keep panning it forever, and that'd be no fun. Thankfully, this episode doesn't approach the previous week's visual lows, and the narrative continues to build towards something intriguing. There's some serious potential drama between our heroes and the imperial palace. It looks like both Seimei and Raikou are long-lost nobles. While Seimei's estrangement is self-imposed – I doubt palace life jived with her ambitions and freewheeling personality – Raikou (aka Minamoto no Yorimitsu) appears to have been long-presumed dead. Minamoto no Yorinobu, who seems to be Raikou's brother, may play an Alfonso-like role in the future. Maybe he'll be Raikou's rival for the Golden Armor or even obtain his own? I don't want this series to just repeat important elements of GARO: THE ANIMATION wholesale, but they've already put a neat spin on the introverted protagonist's tense relationship with a show-stealing parent by turning Sex Dad into a Sex Mom. I do wonder – as someone who hasn't seen the tokusatsu series, is this dynamic a recurring element? GARO: Crimson Moon changes it just enough to be interesting, but this is an awfully specific recurring thing.
There's also confirmation here that Seimei locked up Raikou's Makai Armor, and that's why he's so directly resentful of her. I assume that Seimei did it in order to keep Raikou from going berserk again, and not just to have a Makai Knight under her power. That seems a bit too malicious for one of the leads. Also, are we going to get any more Makai Knights? At this point in GARO: THE ANIMATION we already had Garo and Zorro, but I don't see any obvious candidates here. Maybe Mr. Not-Yet-Present-in-This-Anime, the blue-haired archer Hakamadare Yasusuke? It took me a while to realize that he and Yorinobu weren't the same person. I guess Yorinobu has lavender hair, while Yasusuke will have teal hair. Yorinobu is also a rich kid while Yasusuke will be a sort of Robin Hood-esque figure. Ah well, that's what I get for speculating based on promotional art. The information broker that Raikou visits for information on Seimei is also a historical figure, the celebrated poet Izumi Shikibu. I'm glad that I came into this series knowing a little bit about the Heian Period, because this show does not help you out on that front.
Ashiya Doumon is a cool villain. His design makes me think of a JoJo's Bizarre Adventure villain, mostly Diavolo from Part Five: Vento Aureo. It's nice to get a solid dose of HAM after Mendoza's more restrained demeanor. In Disney villain terms, we've progressed from Judge Frollo to Ursula. He's apparently not the first Ashiya Doumon – that's the old man who he consults in the swamp hut. That guy is the old rival of Seimei's grandpa. I'm curious to see where they go with him – based on his prominence in the opening, it looks like he might have a more active role than Grand Vizier Mendoza. Meanwhile, Michinaga looks like he'll be taking over slimy politician duties. It turns out that he planted the “curses” himself in order to frame a political rival and have him (and his entire family) executed. Also, the guy is like his nephew or something. The family that preys together slays together, I guess. It was probably a boon that Seimei and Raikou got out of there. This whole plot coming to light doesn't seem to hurt Michinaga at all. I guess he's pretty entrenched in the system. I wonder if we'll ever see the emperor? Also, how exactly is the Makai Order connected to the Imperial Palace? Sure, one of their families possesses the Golden Armor, but it's also apparently strange that Seimei became a Makai Alchemist specifically and not an onmyouji.
For the most part, I can deal with the limited animation, (take a drink every time a single frame is launched across the screen!) but more than anything it seems to hurt facial expressions. There are quite a few instances where a character's vocal performance conveys shock or excitement, but they're absolutely stone-faced. It's especially a problem since Garo: Crimson Moon is a raucous show full of yelling. People are always screaming or laughing or otherwise hamming it up. The stone-face is really discordant. Another big visual downgrade from the first anime are the monster designs. GARO: THE ANIMATION had a bunch of varied, memorable, and genuinely scary baddies, like the giant scythe door, nipple-talon Octavia, or Ema's ex-husband who turned into a demon fighter jet. This time it's mostly an army of the same black skeleton monster. Yawn. Some of the Horrors seem to be based on critters from Japanese folklore (for example, they fought Tengu this episode), and while that's a neat angle, the designs still aren't up to snuff. Yuichiro Hayashi, the director and monster designer from GARO: THE ANIMATION, doesn't seem to be working on this season, so that might be the explanation.
After facing a potential crisis with Garo: Crimson Moon's debut, I've calmed down and begun to accept the show for what it is. It's the same GARO with a cheaper coat of paint. You can see this most in the show's sense of humor. Raikou and Kintoki save Seimei by lighting fire to cow poop in the imperial palace. León and Raikou are both constantly emasculated. Germán and Seimei are allowed to be relentless poon/dong hounds. It's stupid and crude, but I love it. If that keeps up, GARO will always be watchable.
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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