Garo: Vanishing Line
by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,
I lent my copy of the Tomorrow's Joe movie to a friend months ago, and he still hasn't watched it, let alone returned it. This is fine, however, because watching him confess his crushing guilt on a weekly basis is providing me with more entertainment than the movie itself. Neither a borrower nor a lender be, unless you genuinely don't need the thing you're lending out and you enjoy watching your friends twist in the wind. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Garo: Vanishing Line part 1
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Shelf Life Reviews
The specific plot this time around is that a teenage orphan named Sophie is chasing rumors of a fabled virtual paradise, El Dorado. This gets Horrors coming after her, from which she's saved by Golden Armor's current bearer, a man named Sword. After this, Sophie finds herself smitten with the world of Makai Knights and Alchemists, and insists on tagging along with Sword despite the dangers. What follows is a rollicking adventure about found family bonds, the responsibility that comes with wielding power, and how cool it is to fight giant boob monsters from the back of your talking motorcycle.
Every single aspect of Garo: Vanishing Line has been done already several times over – it's a pretty stock pulp story about a badass manly man who fights evil in between snarfing down diner steaks and ogling titties. What makes the show work so well is that all of this fairly generic material has been executed as sharply as possible, with frequently stunning visuals and likable enough characters amidst deft scenario writing. The cast in particular is a big part of what puts the show above mere truckstop-novel fare. Sword is quite charming for a big dumb “Slab Bulkhead” type of hero. The show also treats women decently in spite of its ultra-macho aesthetic. The story is Sophie's journey more than anyone else's, focusing on her familial bond with Sword and the other warriors who surround him. These include Gina, a Fujiko Mine-esque agent of justice who takes on a maternal role for Sophie in between Horror-hunting heists and jabs at Sword's ego. The other character with a prominent arc is Luke, a surly Makai Alchemist and the heir apparent to the missing Silver Armor. While Sophie's arc is a fairly normal one about growing up and finding a place to belong, Luke's is about overcoming the trauma that prevents him from fully taking on the role of a protector. Together, this is enough to give the show a solid through-line of characterization.
Much of the credit for that has to go to Seong Ho Park's direction. As an animator, he's responsible for some of the most visually stunning sequences in recent memory, like the Yuri!!! on Ice opening, the Zombie Land Saga opening, and the swordfight from Garo: The Animation episode 18. This is his debut as series director, and he immediately establishes himself as a major talent on that front as well. Garo: Vanishing Line is just a joy to watch on a frame-by-frame basis. The fight scenes are easily the highlight, but under Park's auspices, even rote story beats from filler episodes can become compelling. This is a big improvement from Garo: The Animation in particular, which tended to have prominent strings of “dump episodes” in between its standout spectacle. (The second anime, Garo: Crimson Moon, is entirely made out of dump episodes.) Overall, the show looks great for a television anime, maintaining its quality with impressive consistency.
Funimation's release of the show comes with a dub, which is very good. T. Axelrod makes one of his now somewhat rare anime vocal appearances as Sword, while Madeleine Morris plays a convincingly childish Sophie. I'm also grateful that they cast different voices for both adult and child Luke (David Matranga and Erica Mendez respectively), since he appears enough in flashback for a single grown male voice to have been distracting. Otherwise they do a good job talking in fitting Americanisms, with only the occasional overwritten bit of dialogue.
This release only covers the first part of the show, ending around the point when the NYC setting is dropped for the main characters to embark on a road trip to the west coast. The story could go in a few different directions from this point – the villainous King in particular remains a complete mystery – but as it stands, Garo: Vanishing Line has an exceedingly entertaining first cour. If you're a fan of tokusatsu, "manime", or Americana in anime, you could do a lot worse than spending an afternoon with Sword and pals. It might even be fun for the whole family! Just don't mind the boob monsters. It wouldn't be a Garo show without them.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!
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