Garo is back for another war between Knights and Horrors in this season's retro-cool Vanishing Line. This week in anime, Nick and Jacob discuss this reboot's watchability for newbies and compare the new series to its demon-slaying predecessors.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
You can read our weekly coverage of GARO -Vanishing Line- here!
Jake! Jake! I've got amazing news!
SPIT IT OUT MAN
My time machine worked! We're now in the year 1996!
Oh no, Alanis Morissette is EVERYWHERE D:
but at least there's also GARO
Yep, GARO's back baby and it's ready to party like it's 1999.
Leather dusters? Would anyone like a PILE OF LEATHER DUSTERS?
So how many Garos are you familiar with, Nick? I've seen all the anime entries, but that's it.
I'm in the same boat. I've seen scattered episodes of a few of the tokusatsu series, but I've only ever seen GARO THE ANIMATION in full. I also made it halfway through Crimson Moon but uh...no.
Yeah the less said about Crimson Moon the better. But the nice thing about GARO is that every new series is standalone! All you need to know is that there are Makai Knights, who wear ostentatious life-draining metal lion armor. And they fight Horrors, which are demons manifested in human bodies (and sometimes objects or ghosts) through despair or desire for power or other unsavory emotions. And the Knights also get a hand from Makai Alchemists, usually sexy ladies with a buncha magic tricks up their sleeves. Real straightforward!
And since this is based on the rare tokusatsu franchise aimed at adults: EVERYBODY FUCKS.
Yeah GARO has always been filled with a level of violence and sex that recalls an aesthetic closer to the 80s and early 90s in anime than anything modern. But never has that been more true of the franchise than in Vanishing Line, which takes place in pseudo-America and stars a hero literally named Sword who prays to boobs.
Sword knows what he likes. And he likes big, jiggly, meaty...steaks.
Now now, he eats reasonable American-sized portions after a long day of demon-slaying.
Yep. While past series have had their fair share of sex (hi Germán), Vanishing Line goes one step further in emulating a decidedly more old school form of hyper-macho sexuality.
You definitely know what you're getting into from the start. (That shot appears within the first two minutes of the first episode.)
And immediately before that, our hero piledrives a monster made of nipples off the roof of a building and into a car. Vanishing Line can't be accused of burying the lede, at least.
WYSIWYG the Animation
And for the most part I'm digging it. While I can take or leave the boobs, there's something viscerally novel about seeing a show so out of time with the rest of the industry.
The production is heavily driven by the sensibilities of Seong Ho Park, who's done a ton of key animation for other shows in the past (including Garo the Animation), but he hadn't really done any directing until he handled the OP for a little show called Yuri on Ice.
So you could say that made history for him?
>:[ ...Am I gonna have to rub your nose in that?
I know what I did and I'd do it again.
Well naturally, everyone attached to that show is riding a rising star right now, so it makes sense that he'd get his own series to direct not long afterward. And Wow what a debut effort. Straight-up, there is very little dialogue in this show and a lot of animation. While previous GARO series used their simple premises to explore more complex questions about the characters or setting, Vanishing Line takes place in a modern world with no explanation needed, stars big broad obvious Hollywood archetypes, and uses this simplicity to just deliver one killer action setpiece after another instead. You can write the whole story of these three episodes down on a napkin in two minutes, but the direction, pacing, and storyboarding of this paper-thin material has been just phenomenal.
Yeah, the series so far is pretty light on story, but it uses the time to fully dedicate itself to its aesthetic and puts 300% into selling you on it. On top of directing the whole series, Seong Ho Park storyboarded and key animated multiple scenes in the premiere and it is WILD.
And outside of the animation highlights it just has all-around stellar art direction. The color work especially is phenomenal and able to set the mood better than any amount of dialogue or exposition.
Usually even within the early episodes (and oh boy will we see about that fourth one, cuz episode 4 is the most common dipping point ime), a show with a jaw-dropping premiere will need to start holding back, but not Vanishing Line! It's enthralling to watch, but I am concerned that we'll run into problems when the production needs to slow down and we have to rely on the story and characters to carry it cuz uh
Look, Sword is a man of simple tastes.
Yeah, that is a bit of a concern. Like there's only so long you can execute on style without building your principal cast. These early episodes have done a good job introducing the main players and world, but whether or not they can make me like these characters and get invested in their struggles is a big ??? right now. There ARE seeds of ideas I like - the difference between Sword and his partner Luke's approach to dealing with people and horrors, for instance.
Yeah to be fair, the cast balances Sword out well. There's a naive orphan girl searching for the same thing as Sword (the mysterious Codename Eldorado), albeit probably for different reasons. So he'll have to deal with a smarmy kid at some point.
A smarmy kid voiced by Rie Kugimiya! So I already unconditionally love her.
And Sword's foil, who is tragically not named Gun, demonstrates how much worse Sword could be if he did his job remorselessly, without trying to protect and console people the way Sword "selfishly" does.
Also apparently their boss ships them, and who am I to argue with the boss?
And then there's Gina who, well.
Gina doesn't dislike Sword, but she does seem to take understandable umbrage with his habit of praying to bosoms.
I mean come on, dude, you're a grown man, what gives?
It's a well-worn archetype, but Gina is enjoyable as a femme fatale who can knock Sword off his flow by doing things her own way and pressuring him to take the fall. Ye Olde Fujiko Gambit.
It's an engaging enough dynamic so far - Garo (the anime at least) has a history of badass leading ladies and Gina definitely delivers on that front. Though I had to roll my eyes a little at the LITERAL STILETTO HEELS.
I mean doing backflips over security lasers in a catsuit and stealing a guy's DNA by tonguing him...I Have Seen These Things Before. But Vanishing Line really is about the experience so far, so I'm willing to tolerate all those basic cliches as long as they continue to be executed in a tremendously entertaining fashion. I guess the real question is how do you think this compares to Garo the Animation? Obviously Crimson Moon is out of the running wwwww
Hard to say right now. The Animation took a while to really come into its own - early on, I mostly enjoyed it for the novelty of a low fantasy horror show with some strong art direction. But by the end of it, I'd come to really love the cast and thought it had a strongly delivered - if pretty simple - story. Vanishing Line arguably has MORE style than the first series, but it's also got less to chew on outside of the mystery of El Dorado that it doesn't seem to be in any hurry to explore.
So I guess my answer is ask me in 2 months ="D
That's fair! Right now I'm leaning more toward Garo the Animation because its aesthetic was so cohesive and immersive up front. When you have a story about demons tempting humanity, taking it straight to the muck and misery of the middle ages evokes a very specific feeling that works really well before you even get to know the cast better. Right now, Vanishing Line's production is extremely impressive, but its aesthetic and atmosphere are pretty rote. So even if the story remains basic, I guess I'd like to see Vanishing Line acquire a more specific flavor that makes the whole demon-hunting-in-a-modern-world thing stand out as more memorable.
And no, I don't just mean putting demons inside computers.
The Emoji Movie looks great...
But I can definitely agree with that. Much as I like the novelty of '90s-flavored action, it's not like we don't still have those OVAs around. Novelty only lasts so long, and fleshing out a personality for itself would definitely serve Vanishing Line well.
Alternatively, bring back Sex Dad
The Chest Rug is mightier than the Sword.