GARO -Vanishing Line- Episode 16
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 16 of
Garo -Vanishing Line- ?
After finishing this episode, I was struck by the thought that “CHANCE MEETING” was the first ever episode of GARO -VANISHING LINE- that didn't feature any Horrors or minions of El Dorado as its central threat. Checking back, I realized that might not be quite true, since I'm not sure if you'd count the apparitions Gina fought in Episode 13 to be Horrors. Still, this is certainly the first episode of -VANISHING LINE- to feature no supernatural elements for the majority of its runtime, and even then, the only glimpses we get of whatever King's cronies are up to come in foreshadowing sequences before and after the credits. There are a couple of shadowy Horrors featured in Sword's flashbacks too, but for the most part, GARO is all about good old-fashioned human conflict this week.From the first scene after the credits, we see that some (mild) trouble is brewing in Team Garo's midst, as Sophie spends their time giving Sword a successive series of stink-eyes, as he committed the unthinkable crime of eating the chocolate she'd been saving to share with everyone. As a veteran of overlong family road-trips, this low-key frustration between our heroes only served to make them feel even more like an adorable little clan of Horror-killers. Sophie has seen some messed-up stuff, but she remains a consistently well-written child, so seeing her snipe at her big-brother figure while clinging to Gina, her figurative big sister/mother, makes perfect sense. Sword's offhand comment about his “baby-sitting job” is also a perfectly relatable screw-up, a momentary lapse that genuinely hurts poor Sophie, sending Gina off to work damage control while Sword is banished to explore the episode's central seaside town by his lonesome.
This kerfuffle mainly serves to give Sword an opportunity to have his own solo adventure while Sophie and Gina have some girl time, which is an opportunity Sword cannot often afford. Sophie's anger and anxieties are quelled rather quickly in a couple of short side-scenes, which gives Sword the center stage for the first time in many episodes. His attempt to buy some makeup chocolates goes awry when his heroic nature leads him to save a young man named Pedro getting beaten up by some local gang members. I was pleased to see the show using the diversity of its American-ish setting to give a supporting role to a Hispanic character. The fact that the setting is littered with mostly comprehensible signs of Spanish-speaking cultures is only further proof that Garo is at least trying to represent American diversity, so I'm more easily able to forgive its occasional missteps in that regard.
Pedro himself is a fairly rote character though, the kind of “young man avenging his dead girlfriend” that we've seen dozens of times in other stories. Pedro's quest to kill Gordon the gangster exists mostly as an opportunity for Sword to reflect on the loss of his own sister, Lizzy. The flashback scenes at the center of the episode don't reveal much about Sword's idealized younger sister that we couldn't have already assumed from context, but seeing the older and wiser Sword try to mentor a young man who has lost all hope provides at least a modicum of backstory and character development for our otherwise enigmatic hero. The Pedro story also leads to the conflict between Sword and Gordon that ends with Sword literally punching a bullet out of midair, which is the kind of zany, over-the-top action beat that GARO hasn't indulged much since embarking on its cross-country trek. This episode was all over the place visually, as most recent episodes have been, but the Bullet Punching Scene helps to justify “CHANCE MEETING”'s existence all by itself.
After everything is wrapped up and Team Garo is running smoothly once more, the episode makes use of the rare after-credits-stinger to help justify its non-sequitur opening, which seems to show a veritable army of Horror goons riding souped-up cars to descend on Team Garo en masse. Given the series' focus on fancy cars and desert shakedowns, I figured some kind of Mad Max-esque vehicular rumble was bound to take place sooner or later. If Studio MAPPA can pick up the slack with the middling animation that's been plaguing the series of late, next week might very well prove to be one of -VANISHING LINE-'s high watermarks. Even if it isn't, outings like this week's adventure have proven that even GARO's lesser stories have enough heart, charm, and goofy fun fueling them to get an episode across the finish line, one way or another.
Garo -Vanishing Line- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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