Garo: Vanishing Line part 2
by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,
I picked up the new Ace Combat game on sale last week, and despite not having played anything in that genre since the previous console generation, I'm actually still decent at flying an imaginary plane. It's nice to know that some skills can stick around in my brain despite not being used for the better part of a decade. I'd prefer to have held on to something with more practical use, but I'll take what I can get. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Garo Vanishing Line part 2
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Shelf Life Reviews
Gabriella gave the first half of Garo Vanishing Line a Shelf Worthy rating when she reviewed it earlier this year. Now it's time to see if the show holds up in its second half.
This cour begins with the show trading in its urban NYC setting to instead focus on a rather different flavor of Americana, the one that takes place in desert, the farmlands, and on deserted frontier highways. Following a narrow victory against the enemy, the Golden Knight Sword (yes, that's what he calls himself, and no, it's not his real name) has gotten a lead on their hideout, the mysterious city of El Dorado. Located somewhere on the USA's west coast, Sword has to drive there to reach it, thus turning a good chunk of this show into a demon-slaying procedural road trip. His companion on this journey is Sophie, the teenaged girl that he's been looking after since the beginning of the series. For whatever reason, El Dorado's mastermind is fixated on her, so she may be the key to undermining whatever ancient Horror conspiracy is rearing its head in the modern day.
Alright so the deal with Garo shows (at least the animated versions, which are the only ones I've seen) is that they're generally a bunch of standalone monster hunting adventures strung into a plot that that moves forward in fits and starts until a culminant set of episodes. This was the case with Garo The Animation (which had some outstanding moments in between quite a lot of disposable filler) and Garo Crimson Moon (which actually forgot to include any standout moments and was just filler the entire way through). What I'm saying is that, even when Garo is good I'm used to it being choppy, and having to sit through parts that are lopsided to reach the shining moments of inspired character writing or dazzling animation. What makes Vanishing Line stand out among its brethren is thus the consistency of its entertainment value. It's just a very well-written and produced piece of action adventure entertainment. It isn't particularly deep in any respect, but it executes a tried-and-true formula just about as well as it could have without any major deviations. The magic demon hunters are cool and sexy as hell while also being loveable goofballs, there are crazy action scenes, and a guy in a metal fursuit cuts down boob monsters with a broadsword from the back of a talking motorcycle. You know, the classic formula?
But seriously, in accordance with its Eagleland setting Garo Vanishing Line feels like a mainstream Hollywood action flick in both its appeal and construction. It'd probably do well on Netflix with the Castlevania audience if it were put up there. This is one of those shows that you could watch with someone who doesn't really “get” anime, but who watches things like the Mission Impossible movies, and they might actually like it. I also appreciate that, for a show coming out of a genre as male-coded as tokusatsu and starring such a manly man protagonist, it's pretty decent in its treatment of gender. It likes showing titties, sure, but there's manservice too, and the women being looked at are generally the ones who've put themselves on display. The main character, Sophie is also a type of young woman character that's distressingly rare in anime - that is, just a teenaged girl who is allowed to act her age, who isn't framed as a sexual object, but is still allowed to be a complex, complete, heroic person. I like Sword for similar reasons. He's basically the embodiment of masculinity reduced to only its positive elements. This is to say, that he's protective without being aggressive, jokey without being insensitive, sexually desirous without being invasive of other people's bodily boundaries. (At least usually.) He's also a nice change of pace from the past few Garo protagonists, who've been teenaged pretty boys with chips on their shoulders and scowls chiseled onto their faces. To fill that slot, the show gives us Luke, its #2 combat guy and resident Vincent Valentine cosplayer. He's the token bishonen who, freed from his duty of also serving as the bratty teenaged protagonist, is finally allowed to be an adult man who doesn't act like a complete baby all of the time. Also, he's wearing a bolo tie under that jacket, so I guess I like those now? Anyways, rounding out the cast is Gina, a Fujiko Mine-alike who's a complete badass and also forms a motherly bond with Sophie.
As with the last review this show looks great for something broadcast on television. Director Seong Ho Park is an immense talent, and the last few episodes in particular stand as one of the best action climaxes that I've seen in a while. His hand really elevates material that could've easily been rendered rote by flat production. As a series director, this is a stunning debut, and I look forward to seeing more by him in the future.
Without spoiling anything, I liked where the plot ended up. It hit on some solid emotional notes while also not providing any major surprises. And sometimes that's alright. There's a lot to love about brash, bighearted, and superbly polished action fare. In terms of extra details, the dub continues to be very solid. It feels like they put an extra bit of oomph into this one, with all of the actors injecting more emotion than I usually hear into their roles.
I'll close this review with a reminder that there isn't any narrative continuity between Garo seasons, so you can start with whichever one most intrigues you. Out of all of them, I recommend this one. Garo The Animation is good too. Just don't watch Crimson Moon. It's hideous and so boring that I had to drop daily streaming reviews of it. I do sometimes wish that Garo would do direct sequels, though. I'd like to see more of Sword, Sophie, Gina, and Luke, although I'm not sure where their story would go past this point. Ah well. Sometimes one-and-done is good too. And I do hope that this sets the standard of quality for the Garo franchise going forwards.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!
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