Shelf Life
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

On Shelves This Week

Absolute Duo - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: At an academy where students learn to use weapons manifested from their souls, a boy who can only summon a shield is paired up with a mysterious female student.

Extra: This series didn't fare particularly well in the Preview Guide, and it didn't do much better in our review of a previous release. It's available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Appleseed OVA DVD
Discotek - 65 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $24.95
Currently cheapest at: $16.22 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The members of a special police force must protect the future city of Olympus from a terrorist group bent on destroying the supercomputer that runs the city.

Extra: This set contains the oldest of the various adaptations of the Appleseed manga, and it also happens to be one of the few versions we don't have a formal review for. Our user ratings for it have an average of 6.2 out of 10.

Barakamon - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $21.72 Amazon

Synopsis: After a tense confrontation with a famous critic, calligraphy prodigy Sei Handa travels to a rural island community in search of a fresh perspective.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, along with a full review of an older release. You can stream it on Funimation.

Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! - Complete Collection BD
Discotek - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $39.95
Currently cheapest at: $24.99 Amazon

Synopsis: At a high school where enrollment has dropped off significantly due to the declining population, new student council president Manami Amamiya sets out to re-energize her fellow students.

Extra: We don't have any formal reviews for this series, but our user ratings seem decent enough with an average of 7.4 out of 10.

Gatchaman - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 2880 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $149.98
Currently cheapest at: $97.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: The elite members of the Science Ninja Team must take on the nefarious forces of Galactor in order to protect the planet.

Extra: We have a review of a couple of older DVD volumes of this series, and the franchise as a whole was covered in The Mike Toole Show. The series is available streaming on HIDIVE.

Hakyu Hoshin Engi - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 575 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $79.98
Currently cheapest at: $59.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Taikobo and his eclectic crew of allies join forces to defeat the dastardly immortals of the Hoshin List, led by the powerful Dakki.

Extra: This series wasn't particularly well-received in the Preview Guide, which might explain why it didn't make the cut for episode reviews. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

High School DxD Hero - Season 4 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$63.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After an unexpected encounter with a fox spirit, Issei and friends must take on the Chaos Brigade in order to rescue a kidnapped goddess.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this most recent season of the fanservice action series, and it's available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

The Konodan Collection - Part 1 BD
Kuma Telefilms - 60 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.99
Currently cheapest at: $26.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Two boys, one who works as a wizard and another whose body turns to crystals whenever he becomes depressed, both embark on new romantic journeys.

Extra: This set contains two OVAs from the same director: This Boy Suffers from Crystallization and This Boy is a Professional Wizard. We don't have formal reviews for either at the moment.

Kyo Kara Maoh! - Season 1 BD
Discotek - 840 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.95
Currently cheapest at: $41.38 Amazon

Synopsis: After being transported to another world, high school Yuri Shibuya ends up being crowned king of his new home and must learn to survive as the new leader of the Demon World.

Extra: We have a bunch of reviews from old single-disc volumes of this series, and you'll find the first two of those here and here.

Lupin III: Part 4 - Complete Collection BD
Discotek - 600 min - Sub - MSRP $49.95
Currently cheapest at: $31.82 Amazon

Synopsis: Lupin and his fellow thieves embark on a journey across Europe, pulling off a series of daring heists along the way.

Extra: This series was released in a dub-only version last year, so I guess now we're getting a subtitled-only version. You'll find our episode reviews here, and the series is available streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Mitsuboshi Colors - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Best friends Yui, Sat-chan, and Kotoha team up to form Colors, a team dedicated to protecting the peace of their hometown by solving problems that the grownups seem to ignore.

Extra: I reviewed this set a few weeks ago, and we also have episode reviews for the series. You can stream it on HIDIVE.

The Rolling Girls - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: With Japan divided up into warring prefectures, four girls travel around the country on motorcycles to help mediate conflicts between the different factions.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, along with a review of a previous release. It's available streaming on Funimation.

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 week on Shelf Life, it's time for our return rendezvous with Garo Vanishing Line. Regular readers may recall that I reviewed the first half of this show back in March, when I declared it a hidden gem within the glut of seasonal releases. Featuring consistently high production values, fun characters, and a propulsive story, Vanishing Line looked like it could set a high-water mark for animated entries in the Garo franchise, which had previously been rather hit or miss. So in the face of these high expectations, did Vanishing Line cross the finishing line, or did the production suffer a breakdown?

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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