Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Garo Season Two: Crimson Moon
BD+DVD - Part Two
As Ashiya Doumon's plan moves forward, Raikou learns the truth about Seimei and why he needs her help in order to summon his Golden Armor. The Horrors are gaining traction in the capital, and the red moon grows ever more crimson – can Ashiya Doumon even be stopped at this point? And what is this bargain that a younger Seimei got herself into in the past – and what will happen when the characters inscribed on her body are activated once and for all?
It is a sad day when a series' explication takes so long that the monsters themselves get tired of listening to it and just attack. While that's not literally true of Garo: Crimson Moon, it still feels like the best explanation we've got for its events, as well as an unfortunate harbinger of the rest of the series. Despite potential in its setting and characters, this story never really manages to get anywhere before horrors attack.
We pick up this second half of the season with the same battle, wherein the Silver Knight has come to help out Raikou and Seimei. But Fujiwara no Yasusuke can simply summon his armor, Raikou is still bound by Seimei's spell, requiring her to complete the job for him. Understandably this has been a burden all along, and the real reason why she has placed him under this restriction isn't much help – Seimei, it is implied, is simply afraid of losing someone she loves. If she makes it so that he can't just summon his armor at will, she thinks that she will be able to protect him from reckless actions, especially since she knows that Raikou follows the magical girl model of heroes and will do whatever he has to in order to save everyone possible – even if that means sacrificing himself.
It's a decent, if not quite good, attempt at giving Seimei some emotional conflict and reminding us that she's got her own past to carry, but it doesn't quite pan out. In part this is because it brings up the question of what, exactly, Raikou and Seimei mean to each other. We know that Seimei has basically raised Raikou since he was removed from the Minamoto family, and also that she doesn't appear to have aged a day since she first picked him up. (Neither has Kintoki, but that gets a much more satisfactory explanation in the form of episode twelve, a stand-alone backstory for him.) So does she love him like a mother? Or is there something more going on? It can definitely be a little uncomfortable if that's not your preferred romance theme, but it's also much more in the background than you might expect.
For really unpleasant romance, turn your eyes to episode fifteen, the story of a man who is a serial rapist. His crimes (which are not really presented as such) make his wife jealous, as she sees them as “dalliances,” and so she takes it upon herself to murder each woman he has assaulted. Since neither of them are Horrors when they commit their crimes, the presumable point of the episode is that humans are just as capable as Horrors of being true monsters; the problem is that only the wife is turned into a Horror and punished. The man is played off as being funny, sticking to his old ways even at the very end, to the quiet disgust of Raikou and Kintoki. That the man is never dealt with while his wife essentially blames his victims is disturbing to say the least; that there are some indications that he's meant to be funny makes it even worse.
The majority of these episodes are simply not interesting, which is a crippling problem. Seimei's and Raikou's questionable relationship makes it difficult to really feel for them when Seimei undergoes her Rudra transformation, and the introduction of yet another pair of long-lost siblings may be intended to serve as a reminder that Raikou and Ashiya are foil figures but simply smacks of reused plot. There are also a few too many mythological and historical references thrown in, the most bizarre of which is Princess Kaguya as an anti-Horror warrior. The folkloric moon princess is essentially walking plot armor for the characters, and while parts of her storyline have potential, she never really develops beyond “additional weapon for Raikou.”
Despite all of this, there's still some effective imagery. When Seimei undergoes her transformation, all three of the Inaris shift around to face front, which is striking in its suddenness. The hatching of the blood moon is also well-done, providing a nice combination of uncanniness and pseudo-mythology as Ashiya and Rudra attempt to start a new, Horror-based world. It's worth mentioning that “Rudra” is often interchangeable with Shiva in post-Vedic lore; on his own, he's a god of the hunt and storm. This explains some of the imagery used for the Horrors and the entrances and exits of the character within the story, and it certainly contrasts nicely with Kaguya's use of bamboo shafts as her protective barrier: bamboo is flexible and is more likely to bend with the storm than to break in it, which, in a better done show, could have been taken as a metaphor for Raikou and his role in the story.
Sadly, Garo: Crimson Moon never really got off the ground before it collapsed. While it presented an interesting collection of folkloric characters (Minamoto no Raikou, Rudra, Princess Kaguya) mixed with historical figures (Izumi Shikibu, Abe no Seimei) and a few Tale of Genji references, it didn't quite know what to do with them, resulting in a story that feels like it's going through the motions all mixed-up. It almost would have been a better story with fewer characters and more focus on the Horrors themselves. As it stands, this latter half is long-winded and overdone, full of unclear character relationships and barely-touched plot points. It has its moments, but on the whole, there are much better ways to get your Abe no Seimei fix.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : C-
+ Good use of the red moon, Kaguya's weapons, and the Inaris
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