GARO -Vanishing Line-
Episode 3

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Garo -Vanishing Line- ?

Of all the things I expected this week's episode of Garo to be, a mafia-tinged heist story was not one of them. This kind of digression into such a seemingly incongruent subgenre could have easily been a misfire, but Garo absolutely nails the change-up. Despite doing almost nothing to advance the overarching plot of the series, this standalone adventure delivers enough thrills, violence, and copious amounts of cleavage to satisfy its audience. Its excessive dive into hyper-masculine self-indulgence might risk running the show aground in obnoxiousness, but Garo embraces its ridiculousness and deflects the worst tendencies of its material by hanging everything on the excellent new character who gives this episode its name: Gina.

Now, Gina is not a nuanced character by any means. Decked out exclusively in either tight-fitting leather, gowns with plunging necklines, or the skimpiest of swimsuits, the show makes it clear just how earnestly it intends to ogle Gina when it delivers not one but two tracking shots that zoom right through Gina's thigh gap. She embodies the femme-fatale, badass-in-a-bikini archetype that's been a mainstay in action cinema for decades now. Despite this episode's blatant focus on fanservice though, I was nowhere near as irritated as I could have been because, despite her roots in shamelessly erotic clichés, Gina really is just as sexy, badass, and fun as Garo wants her to be.

This might be because Garo: Vanishing Line is being scripted by Kiyoko Yoshimura, whose female perspective may have given Gina's expression of her own sexuality a flavor that lacks the cynicism and backhanded objectification of lesser efforts. Whether she's bantering with Sword or commanding the attention of an entire rooftop of hedonistic mafiosos, Gina is always framed as the one in control of the situation. She handles the criminals occupying Damien Steward's high-rise with ferocity and finesse, exploiting their assumptions and weaknesses without ever being reduced to Sword's second fiddle. Heck, she's the first woman so far to take our beefy protagonist to task for his own blatant objectification of the women around him, running him down with her absurdly metal muscle car during one of his trademark “booby prayers”. Not only is this immensely satisfying to watch, it also reinforces Sword's behavior as boneheaded but not predatory, which helps keep him likable in spite of his dumber tendencies.

With Gina serving as the episode's literal center of attention, it helps that the Horror-of-the-Week storyline works in tandem with its protagonist. Gina and Sword lampshade how easy it would have been to just make Damian himself the central demon to destroy, but instead the episode pivots to introduce the truly unexpected element of a possessed personal computer, which Damian feeds a diet of human bodies in exchange for information that allows him to enact his bloody rise to the top of Russel City's crime syndicate. This development is bonkers in the best way, made all the more exciting when Sword and Gina have to mount their own two-person heist to break into Damian's penthouse and destroy the thing. With Sword handling the baddie beatdown and Gina flirting her way into Damian's security room, Garo is really homing in on its shlocky devotion to the “ass-ogling and ass-kicking” aesthetic. Thankfully, Yoshimura's script is just the right kind of quick and dirty, and combining it with Seong Ho Park's blisteringly confident direction results in Vanishing Line's strongest outing yet.

My only real complaints with the episode are two minor quibbles. The first is that Sword's use of the Makai Knight armor and his takedown of the Horror was somewhat anticlimactic after the episode's big buildup, though from what I've seen that tends to be an issue with this franchise as a whole. However, more specific to Vanishing Line is the show's fragmenting of the El Dorado narrative; not only is Sophie once again completely absent this week, Sword (and thus the audience) learns absolutely nothing new about this El Dorado MacGuffin. I'm okay with a show playing coy about the nature of its central plot, but I personally appreciate just a little more narrative through-line, even in a Monster of the Week series.

None of that changes the fact that this week's episode of Garo was simple shameless fun, a perfect encapsulation of what the series has done right so far. It takes a heaping helping of sex, demons, and musclebound badassery and wraps it all up in a retro cool package that works in spite of its own ridiculousness. It's a guilty pleasure thrill ride that feels no guilt whatsoever about the kind of pleasure it aims to deliver. It's like drinking hard liquor after a hard week's work; too much is bound to leave you feeling bloated and regretting your life decisions, but in just the right amounts, it can be a refreshing way to kick off the weekend. We're still early in the season, but so far Garo: Vanishing Line is hitting that sweet spot very nicely.

Rating: A-

Garo -Vanishing Line- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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