GARO -Vanishing Line- Episode 11
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Garo -Vanishing Line- ?
Seeing as GARO -VANISHING LINE- is only just now approaching its halfway point, it makes sense that the show is still finding the time to indulge in more standalone monster-of-the-week episodes. While I have expressed some concerns over just how much time it's taken to explicitly flesh out the El Dorado storyline, the change of scenery brought about by the cast's road trip, along with the introduction of some new antagonists, has helped keep things interesting and fun in between all the Big Plot Developments. This week, Sword and Sophie stumble into their newest adventure when they stop off in a small village out in the boondocks that might as well have been ripped from the set of an old American western. Seeing as the episode is titled “KIDNAP”, you can imagine things don't go well for the pair, but their misfortune is the audience's gain, because this is a fun and entertaining entry in the -VANISHING LINE- saga overall.
From the minute we're introduced to the sheriff and the bartender in this episode's cold open, it's pretty clear that this will be the kind of episodic one-offs that GARO does so well, where they take the weekly threat and the new setting as an opportunity to play around with some genre tropes and imagery that might not be possible to incorporate on a regular basis. Here we have Garo's take on the Western, with San Dell Dios standing in for every anonymous frontier town ever put to celluloid. Never mind how anachronistic it feels given the series' otherwise modern trappings; that just adds to the charm. Every western has to have a one-horse town, and Sophie and Sword are the heroes just passing through looking for a bite to eat, when the servants of El Dorado put their more sinister plans into motion.
The finer points of the story are admittedly more than a little ridiculous. Apparently, the new sheriff of San Dell Dios, Alfil, is a covert horror who has taken it upon himself to instill the small town with a sense of vigilante justice regarding their crime problem, to the point where literally every person in town is armed to the teeth with all manner of oversized weaponry (even the old granny greets our heroes with a gatling gun hidden in a bassinet stroller). It's absurd, but in an appreciable way, so it only makes sense that the whole town would turn their guns onto Sword when Alfil paints him as a kidnapping child murderer. The resulting chase scene is played up for maximum comic affect, with poor Sword having to outrun machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades to avoid killing any of the townsfolk. The animation in the episode is merely passable (with one particularly sloppy cut of Sword hopping across rooftops), but the pacing of the script and direction is so brisk that it isn't too distracting. Plus, Gina shows up to lend Sword a hand, and any episode that brings Gina back into the fold automatically earns some bonus points.
Sophie's half of the story plays out less comically. The well-meaning bartender Natalia has her pinned down in the back of Alfil's car, and the episode plays up Sophie's precarious position without completely turning her into a powerless damsel. While Sword and Gina race to keep her out of harm's way, Sophie manages to wrestle a gun from Natalia, crash the car so she can break free, and aim her weapon back on her captors. What's more, she even dares to point the gun at herself, threatening to kill herself and deny El Dorado rather than be taken by them. It's an incredibly dark moment that the episode doesn't linger on when Sword and Gina do arrive, but it still speaks enormously to Sophie's character. This poor child has been through the wringer, has been exposed to the darkest and most twisted monster hiding in the corners of a world she only thought she knew, forced into a place where taking her own life might be preferable to the horrors she might face at the hands of her enemies.
It's heavy stuff, and thankfully the episode ends on a positive, reassuring note in order to balance things out. Sword takes out the transformed Alfil with predictable ease, and though the team's encounter with the conniving Rook ends with San Dell Dios being destroyed, Gina made sure to keep the citizens safe so they can at least rebuild. What I enjoyed the most was how, outside of the requisite wrapping up loose story threads, the final sequence of the episode really worked to establish Sword and Gina as Sophie's surrogate family unit. Sword offers genuine comfort to Sophie when the ordeal is through, and Gina seems both flattered and taken aback with the amount of respect and admiration the young girl gives her. (Even Zaruba has some nice things to say!) As the team rides off into the sunset, I found myself impressed with just how much I've come to care for all these characters. Even in an episode as ostensibly lightweight as this one, GARO proves more and more that it's becoming an adventure worth sticking with for the long haul.
Garo -Vanishing Line- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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