GARO -Vanishing Line- Episode 10
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Garo -Vanishing Line- ?
Luke has had a couple episodes this season to share glimpses into his character and backstory, but with Sophie and Sword out on the road, this is the first time he's had to carry an entire episode on his own. I'll admit, I was more than a little trepidatious going into this episode, because Luke isn't exactly GARO -VANISHING LINE-'s MVP. Over the course of almost a dozen episodes, he has yet to ever break out of his “surly lone wolf” archetype. With last week being such a satisfying emotional journey for our other heroes though, I was willing to push my dislike of Luke aside and see where “REBIRTH” was willing to take GARO's least compelling protagonist. This episode's title is fitting as it turns out, using Luke's tragic backstory and his muted personality to tell a quietly compelling story. I'm shocked to report that not only is Luke's first solo outing good, it's one of GARO's best episodes yet.
One thing I haven't given GARO enough credit for this season is the diversity of its setting and populace; despite being a silly, fantastical hodgepodge of any number of Western metropolises, Russel City still manages to evoke a tangible sense of American culture, which really works to give -VANISHING LINE- its own identity. As Luke wanders the tattered cityscape, the imagery of police officers and firefighters sifting through the rubble for survivors very specifically evokes the events of September 11th 2001, and as an American writer, I couldn't help but be impressed that this anime handled the emotional weight of that tragedy with more tact than most American blockbusters have managed to do in past years. It's also refreshing to see how much of the show's ancillary cast is composed of characters from different cultural backgrounds like Meifang, and non-Japanese people of color like Sophie's friend from the orphanage or the courageous chief of the fire brigade that spurs his men on in the wake of overwhelming destruction. It's unfortunate that so many of these characters end up dying or getting sidelined, but GARO should still be commended for representing a diverse world and (mostly) avoiding stereotypical signifiers and characterization in the process.
Speaking of which, Luke's family flashback sheds some more light on his mother Adelaide who, in addition to contributing another name to the growing roster of GARO's badass female characters, seems to be Native American. That would make her the first non-joke Native American character I've seen in an anime in I don't even know how long. Sure, her generic anime facial features and the liberal choices made with her costume design don't exactly scream cultural representation, but even if the show isn't willing to explicitly give Adelaide a specific tribe or other cultural details, just having Luke's insanely cool mother be Native American at all is cool to see. This also means that Luke himself is half Native American, so any show that adds to the tragically short list of Native leading characters in any media is doing good work as far as I'm concerned.
Outside of strongly highlighting GARO's diverse and memorable setting and cast, this episode just tells a great story, one that doesn't have to rely much on words to get its point across. The flashbacks that detail Adeliade's death at the hands of Knight certainly employ their share of exposition, but Luke's present-day story simply sees him reflecting on his failure in a quietly powerful way. The titular rebirth of the episode doesn't involve Luke gaining a bunch of power levels or coming to some grand epiphany about his destiny; he simply looks at the selfless heroism of people like his mother or the fallen first responders, and he realizes that he has to make a fundamental shift in how he sees the world. He starts to understand that he should not judge his strength by his ability to avenge his mother's death, but by how much he can follow her example and put his life on the line for the sake of others. It's a great message, and making Luke the one to learn it makes his likability and capacity for growth as a main character shoot up exponentially over the span of just one episode.
What's more, this episode doesn't feature the visual hangups that brought down last week's otherwise stellar entry. The dramatic moments got to deliver all the weight and tension they deserved, and small bursts of action such as Adelaide and Knight's hunt in the woods received the fluid animation they needed to make an impact. Even smaller moments like Meifang's encouraging punch to Luke's face contained the grace notes of charm that this series handles so well.
So yeah, this one episode managed to entertain me, move me, and make me reconsider Luke entirely as a character, pushing him from the bottom of my personal rankings up to near the top, just under Sophie and Gina. Not only is GARO -VANISHING LINE- starting to ramp up the intensity of its plot and action as it enters its second half, it's also proving to be remarkably adept at raising the emotional stakes for its characters. This is a show at its most finely tuned, pushing its pedal to the metal to speed off in new and exciting directions, and I'm more than happy to be along for the ride.
Garo -Vanishing Line- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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