GARO THE ANIMATION
by Gabriella Ekens,
GARO THE ANIMATION's ending was both very conventional and satisfying. It went through all of the motions of an epic fantasy finale. Mendoza combined with Anima to achieve his invincible final form, León joined the Garo and Zoro armors to reach his own, and our heroes defeat Mendoza by trapping him in the depths of Makai. Everyone almost dies, the main character beats up the bad guy in an aerial dogfight, and it all ends with a return to normalcy.
Looks like Germán is dead for real. León's inheritance of the Zoro armor clinches this, as does Sex Dad guiding his son as a spirit throughout the final battle. Fortunately, he impregnated Ximena before leaving, so the Silver Armor will still have its own, unique owner. Ema goes off on another journey, suggesting that she'll return when León has grown up a bit. Alfonso continues to serve as Valiante's compassionate and enterprising ruler. León vows to maintain his parents' legacies by serving as mankind's protector. That's the end… for now.
I'm not convinced that the characters are entirely wrapped up yet. There's still the question of the second season. People have been guessing at what that'll be for months. It's not going to be an entirely new story, although I doubt they'll keep going with the Mendoza quest. My guess is that there'll be a timeskip to a point when Ximena's child is no longer a fetus - he'll probably be León's trainee by then, already in possession of the Silver Armor. While León's parental baggage has mostly been dealt with, I don't think that he's entirely at terms with Lara's death. I'm glad that they didn't compromise Ema's character to force her into some sort of romantic culmination with León at this point. Although they clearly care about each other (she did nearly kill herself to drag him out of hell), León is still too immature to be a real romantic prospect for her. Maybe in a couple of years? At this point, their physical relationship consisted of two people using each other. Overall, Ema remains one of the better female characters I've seen in a male-led show. She doesn't fit into one of the roles slotted for women playing against men, and the show never compromises her identity.
Speaking of women, Anna makes her long-awaited reappearance as the force that clinches León's victory. It happens as a reversal of what Mendoza subjected León to during the mid-season conclusion. There, the Makai Alchemist drove León berserk with a hideous caricature of his mother. León spent much of the series' latter half atoning for his actions while in this state. Here, Anna emerges from León to confine Mendoza as a force of love. It turns out that the spell she cast on León at birth wasn't based on vengeance but rather protection. She manifests as a fire to sear at Mendoza's immortal flesh for all eternity, paralyzing him. It's a clever way to get rid of an invincible foe – they don't cop out and make the Garo/Zoro armor somehow capable of nullifying his regenerative powers. Mendoza's final form is pretty cool. I like how achieving immortality makes him really tranquil, almost lackadaisical about destroying the world. León keeps slicing him up like a tomato.
Overall, GARO THE ANIMATION's biggest issue was its unevenness. It's never a bad show, it's just that its low points are mediocre while its high points are truly great. There's also not much of a middle ground between these two poles. It ranges in quality from the confusing werewolf episode to the excellent Ema/Luciano confrontation. GARO starts out slow, drags in its teens, and decides to rest on its characterization to have an action-packed finale. At the same time, its highs feature cohesive theming, strong (and even slightly daring) character work, and gorgeous visuals. You can tell that the people behind GARO gave it their all. There's just a lot of artistry and give-a-damn. GARO reminds me most of Gurren Lagann or Kill la Kill – shows where the rote story served as a canvas for a bunch of talented visual artists to express themselves in whichever way pleased them – made into mainstream adult entertainment rather than niche otaku products. (Interestingly, GARO has the same narrative outline as both of this shows.) While it doesn't end up on my list of all-time favorites, GARO is a good time that displays a remarkable amount of artistry and hits far more than it misses.
GARO THE ANIMATION is currently streaming on Funimation.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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