GARO -Vanishing Line-
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Garo -Vanishing Line- ?
This week in GARO -VANISHING LINE-, Sword, Sophie, and the audience all finally get to sit down for an honest-to-goodness explanation of what the heck is really going on with King and El Dorado. Surprisingly enough, one of the characters responsible for delivering this long overdue exposition is Sword's younger sister Lizzy, who has been dead for the better part of a decade. This story beat ends up outclassing the predictable revelation of El Dorado's King and Martin Hennes being one and the same; that was a twist many viewers predicted months ago. Lizzy's inclusion isn't exactly groundbreaking material, seeing as innumerable anime have gone all in on the trope of “meeting with the spirit of a dead loved one before the story's final climax”, but her presence does elevate what would otherwise be a low-key infodump episode into something more interesting.
So here's the basics: Lizzy's death was caused by an ancient Horror who was working to research a new method of harvesting human souls, and he eventually ensnared Sophie's brother to develop it. The project in question is the virtual empire that King presides over; the entire system serves as a mollifying pen for human souls that have been extracted from their physical forms, where Horrors can easily keep them and butcher them when necessary like spiritual cattle. While Martin attempts to win his sister over with a vision of paradise and familial tranquility straight out of her dreams, Lizzy informs Sword that their Golden Knight blood protects them from El Dorado's snares. However, unless King is stopped here, the whole world will eventually be consumed by El Dorado's digital apocalypse.
So what we end up with is a mix between traditional Garo demon hunting and The Matrix, and the results are interesting albeit hardly original. As is usually the case with -VANISHING LINE-, the series bolsters its familiar ideas with the strength of its characters. Lizzy has barely had enough screen time to register as a character before this, but you can still see the heroic spirit she shares with her still-living brother, enough to where I hope that we get to see more of her before the season's end. Sophie shines the brightest this week, dealing with all sorts of conflicting emotions in ways both predictable and unexpected. While her attempt to open Martin's eyes to the truth are as futile as you might expect, we've gone through so much with her over the course of the season that her frustration and pain really register with the audience. Even though very little moves forward this week in terms of plot momentum, the emotional context of these final episodes has only gotten richer. While it would have been better if Lizzy had been given as much weight as Martin in the Mysterious Sibling department, I can still appreciate where GARO has landed after so many weeks of buildup.
Also, any pangs of cliché or rushed plotting are at least somewhat mitigated by the shocking violence of the episode's final scene, where Sophie flat out attempts to strangle her brother in an attempt to rescue his soul from the clutches of the El Dorado King. Sophie has always been such a well-meaning and good-natured girl, so seeing her break down under the weight of all her pent-up anger and fear is a stark reminder of just how much she's had to go through since this series began. While I don't believe for a second that this is how Martin will meet his demise, just seeing Sophie's desperate resolve to actually murder her brother is genuinely heartbreaking.
Outside of the slightly off-balance script, the only thing weighing this episode down are the poor production values; several emotional beats between Martin and Sophie are undercut by poor drawings and stiff animation, and the virtual El Dorado was visually flat and surprisingly uninteresting. One neat cut of the trapped souls shredding themselves apart into Horrors was somewhat striking, but there was a definite lack of impact considering how surreal and dreamlike El Dorado is supposed to be. It isn't enough to ruin this entertaining and emotional outing, but it does have me hoping that these conservatively produced episodes are merely signs of good things the crew at MAPPA have in store for us in these final weeks. If there's any show that absolutely needs to go out with a bang this season, it's GARO -VANISHING LINE-.
Garo -Vanishing Line- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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