GARO -Vanishing Line-
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Garo -Vanishing Line- ?
Boy, is it good to have GARO -VANISHING LINE- back. What started as an appreciable callback to gloriously shlocky '90s OVAs has gradually transformed into a shockingly heartfelt road trip turned fantasy epic. The world of -VANISHING LINE- has become a mishmash of techno-fantasy and the landscapes of the American West, very much in the vein of Final Fantasy XV, and the show is all the better for it. Now that Sophie, Sword, and Gina have settled into their roles as traveling partners and surrogate family for one another, GARO is finally starting to show its hand on the truth behind El Dorado. Gina takes center stage for this week's adventure, and the combination of satisfying action, fun character work, and compelling world-building make this episode a strong opener for -VANISHING LINE-'s second cour.
The focus on Gina is both the strongest and weakest portion of the episode. It's strong because Gina is a badass heroine, and watching her do much of anything usually makes for a good time. The downside is that, for all the attention given to the personal trial she will take with Team Garo in the Land of Guidance, we end the episode having learned very little about Gina. Even Luke's focus episode was kind enough to give us some meaty flashbacks and a strong connection to one of the series' main protagonists; everything we've come to know about Gina has come from a precious few details. She's hyper-competent, driven, and determined to wage her own war against the Horrors. She was apparently also an orphan, but that tie to Sophie's upbringing could go just about anywhere at this point. While I usually appreciate this show's more deliberate pace when it comes to revealing information about its world and characters, I'm disappointed that Gina's only job this week was to take the team to a place where they could finally glean some information on El Dorado and do a little ass-kicking along the way.
Fortunately, all the stuff involving the spectral battle inside the Land of Guidance is excellent, featuring some of the most thrilling and well-directed combat we've seen in -VANISHING LINE-. The animation this week is inconsistent as usual, but the director and crew make the most of their limited resources to give Gina a moment to really let loose, and the results are fluid, dynamic, and generally a hoot to watch. Her victory also earns the team one of GARO's scarcest rewards: exposition. We learn that El Dorado is indeed supposed to be a utopia for those who seek it, though the King who runs it has been possessed by a dark entity, and he's now using a magical ring to control the Horrors plaguing humanity. Overt Lord of the Rings similarities aside, getting this framework of context for the plot is invaluable; factored in with the growing presence of King's knights, GARO -VANISHING LINE- finally has a central conflict worthy of Sword's oversized muscles and Gina's magical prowess.
Sophie's story is also becoming more involved, which is another great development this week. We're reminded of her brother's role in King's game, which is good, seeing as I had almost forgotten that he existed. Gina also gifts her a stone of protection, which I'm sure will be important in the weeks to come. The lovely new OP and ED for this cour place a lot of emphasis on Sophie as the central figure of the show, so I can only hope she gets more to do as we near the climax than just act as the audience surrogate. Next week, Luke's parallel journey continues, which hopefully means he will join up with Team Sword soon to give Gina a hand with keeping Sophie and Sword in line.
Garo -Vanishing Line- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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