Garo: Crimson Moon
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Garo: Crimson Moon ?
How would you rate episode 11 of
Garo: Crimson Moon ?
After a week away, there's two episodes to cover in this writeup, and the first one was totally disposable filler. The most important thing that happened was probably the introduction of Seimei's other grandfather, who looks confusingly like the first one. Otherwise, Raikou just fights a Horror that shrinks people in order to eat them. This Horror was a Buddhist priest who resented the faith's diminishing status in court politics. So now he “diminishes” his political opponents and keeps them in a cookie jar for later snacking. Yum. After encountering the Horror, Raikou spends most of the episode reenacting Honey I Shrunk the Kids. He meets a turtle friend, bathes in a teacup, and hitches a ride in Seimei's cleavage. He defeats the Horror during their second encounter by getting eaten and wrecking it from the inside. Our heroes return home having accomplished nothing of real narrative substance.
This whole episode is a play on the legend of Issun-boshi, aka the “One-Inch Boy.” It's kind of like a Japanese gender-bent Thumbelina. A childless old couple wish for a kid and are rewarded with a tiny little baby. Although he never grows taller than a few inches, they raise him with love. Upon growing up, Issun-boshi leaves home to seek his place in the world. On his journey, he uses a soup bowl for a boat, chopsticks for oars, and a needle for a sword. (Garo: Crimson Moon recalls this in particular during the river scene.) Eventually, Issun-boshi befriends a daimyo's daughter. While with her, he encounters an oni, which he defeats by stabbing it from the inside out. The oni drops his magic hammer and runs away. The princess uses the magic hammer to grow Issun-boshi to full size, they get married, and live happily ever after. The End.
It's also somewhat notable that this episode was storyboarded by the legendary Yoshiaki Kawajiri, an old-school animation director who's responsible for storied classics like Ninja Scroll, Wicked City, and Highlander: the Search for Vengeance. There's one decent directorial moment here when Yorinobu encounters the cannibalistic priest – the guy eats someone in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the gore in Ninja Scroll. Otherwise, Kawajiri's hand doesn't show. It's just more phoned-in bad Garo with very little animation. Apparently Kawajiri will occasionally do freelance work? He also did the final episode of Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, a show with similarly atrocious production problems.
More than anything else, this episode made the mistake of introducing a happy turtle friend only to rip it away from me at the last minute. Fun fact: I love turtles. They are beautiful, precious creatures. Tiny Raikou meets a turtle who becomes his ally, hitching a ride on him back home. The addition of a turtle to the cast on a permanent basis would have significantly increased my enjoyment of Garo: Crimson Moon. But instead, after the episode plot is already over and done with, the episode ends on the note that turtle friend has been killed and cooked by Shiki-nyan. That turtle was innocent and kind. All it did was help. Its death is not amusing and lands like an insult. It also ruins Shiki-nyan, who I had trusted. I don't know whether we can recover from this, Garo.
At least something of import happened in the next installment. After ten episodes, Garo: Crimson Moon has finally introduced its second Makai Armor, the silver ZANGA. (GARO: THE ANIMATION had all three way before this point, but you don't really need another reminder of how that show is better.) This armor belongs to Yasusuke Hakamadare, who's still running around with his goth Robin Hood shtick. In an unconventional narrative move, Yasusuke's mentorship by the previous owner, training, and ultimate acquisition of the armor happen almost entirely off screen. All this just makes me remember GARO: THE ANIMATION. That show depicted the relationship between Prince Alfonso and his mentor, Rafael. While their acquaintance was brief and uncomplicated, it served as important character development – we saw how Alfonso was trained as a warrior, shed his naiveté about the outside world, and resolved to protect his people from harm. When Rafael passes on the armor in the midst of a heroic sacrifice, it has impact. But here, Yasusuke just happens to have a relative who pulled the exact same slumming thief thing, finds him somehow, and gets the armor from him. I'm not even sure why Yasusuke wants the armor. To help out in his thievery? He hasn't shown much of an interest in Horrors. I guess the story just finally needed to introduce the second armor. Who knows where the third will come from, or who'll get it. Yorinobu? Basically, I have no idea why they made this terrible narrative choice. Showing Yasusuke's decision, process, and ultimate acquisition of the armor was the simple, solid choice. Oh well. At this point, I've given up on the possibility of great storytelling out of Garo: Crimson Moon. Back to stock procedural plots.
At least the disposable subplot here wasn't that bad. Yorinobu had an old classmate who resented his accomplishments and became a Horror as a result. This one-sided rivalry mostly played out over kemari, a soccer-like sport. This idea mostly works because the monster design is good. Its theme is kemari, and the designer rendered this theme as a bipedal hammerhead shark monster that murders people by kicking its own floating, disembodied eyeballs. The villain is also directed well in human form. His design and facial expressions are unusually evocative for this show. The Silver Knight Zanga also looks damn cool. It's sleek but ornate, with colorful and decorative garnishes reminiscent of Heian-era aesthetics. His weapon is a scimitar. If there's one area where Crimson Moon surpasses GARO: THE ANIMATION, it's in the suit designs. I prefer their sleek, flat surfaces; replacing the metallic texture with a matte sheen made the CGI a lot better. I'm curious about what the third armor will look like.
It's beginning to seem like this GARO is firmly a middling procedural. Yawn. Oh well – let's see if it grows any ambition later on. It's still far from the most boring show I've had to write up week to week. Something different happens every week, and Seimei is still entertaining. It also gives me fun research assignments on Japanese legends. On that note, there's going to be a special on the show's production next week instead of a new episode. Looks like I won't be celebrating a very GARO Christmas this year. Given the way the show has been going, it's the best gift I could have received.
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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