Episode 8

by Gabriella Ekens,

With this episode, GARO THE ANIMATION proves itself adept at the delicate art of balancing poignancy and dick jokes. It's about Germán, which mandates lots of nudity and sex jokes, and boy does it deliver.

This episode occurs parallel to the previous one and explains what Germán was up to while his son was getting drugged up by an evil wizard. The answer: getting laid, multiple times, and also chased naked through the streets by city guards who finger him as both a Makai Knight (true) and a giant pervert (also true). After a night of carousing with a fair maiden, Germán tries to make his way home only to run into another comely young woman in need of rescuing from a group of gangsters. Of course, the woman turns out to be a thief, making off with German's money and clothes, and leaving him to the mercy of the city's guards. After a number of awkward interactions with locals, Germán reconvenes with Ema, takes down a Horror, and arrives back safe, naked, and broke, to greet his son.

This is easily the most fun GARO's ever been. It's never been a dour show, but this is the first time its comedy chops have been placed front-and-center, and it works. Most of the episode is just a slapstick chase where Germán clambers over walls, evades thugs, and stabs Horrors while completely in the nude. It's not a laugh riot, but it's eminently watchable and a fun return to form after last week's fiasco.

There were also some important backstory revelations. The Dark Knight who defeated León last episode, Bernardo Dión, used to be bros with Germán and León's mother, Anna. (Interestingly, Germán is also called Roberto in this flashback. Perhaps "Germán" is his pseudonym while on the run?) Bernardo always had instincts contrary to the Makai Knight's code of honor, and he seems to have fully turned to the dark side after giving up everything for Roberto and Anna. The situation is sketched out for us, but it's still vague. For one thing, this is our first glimpse of Anna, who appears to be a playful young woman, almost still a girl. There might have been a love triangle between the three. While Bernardo didn't bear any outward enmity over being the third wheel, the glances he gives her are pregnant with meaning. Overall, the flashback raised more questions than answers, which is to be expected at this point, but man, I want to know! What's the situation between Bernardo, Roberto, and Anna? Were they peers? Are Bernardo and Roberto her guardians, or was Bernardo a friendly elder to both Roberto and Anna? I'm having some trouble unraveling the dynamics. At least this flashback has begun Anna's demystification for the audience: a necessary step in resolving León's idealization complex.

I also hope that this series isn't expecting the audience to come in with knowledge about Makai Knight society. That's the biggest comprehension gap right now - who exactly are these people? How do they live? How do you become one? Did they have their own city at some point? All I know is that there are Makai Knights and Makai Alchemists, and that Makai Knights are all-male sentai warriors while Makai Alchemists are an open-to-all-genders support class. By this time, GARO's most similar predecessor, Fullmetal Alchemist, had already dropped significant hints about the workings of alchemical society. However, that show wasn't posited as a sequel to something. Give the GARO newbies a little more of an in, please.

We also need some more examples of León's lust for power distracting him from his duties as a Makai Knight. I believe that León wants to avenge his mother, but he's been far too noble so far for me to believe that this drive could turn him monstrous any time soon. León's a pretty restrained kid overall. He hasn't come close to hurting anybody and has actually succeeded in saving quite a few people. We've had the threat of temptation but no actual temptation, and soon it'll become difficult to take this conflict seriously. It'd be easy to fix - just include a scene that shows him struggling to contain some violent impulses. On second thought, I think that's part of what they were trying to do in last week's bizarre failure of an episode: the one with the werewolf that looked like a Digimon. Oops. (The discussion between Germán and Ema about León's unworthiness to carry on the mantle of the Golden Knight GARO in his current state suggests that it may move onto Alfonso at some point. Unlike León, who is framed as a powerful loose cannon, Alfonso is selfless but physically weak. I can't wait for the two to meet - coming face-to-face with an apparent accomplice to his mother's murder might be what forces León to snap.)

I also appreciate how Germán's overt sexuality doesn't come at the expense of women. This show's depiction of sex workers has been surprisingly respectful; they're just people up for some good fun and work who are sometimes unfairly targeted by the government as witches. For the show's "player" character, Germán's interactions with women have been largely respectful, and he's never been guilty of sexual harassment. In a medium where sexual encounters are often problematic, I appreciate how it's treated here. Overall, it's a fun, important episode that signals a return to GARO's expected levels of competence, but I'm beginning to get impatient with the rate at which information is getting dished out.

Grade: B

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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