Friday, 11 April 2014

First Impressions: Garo: Makai no Hana

Garo Makai no Hana

2014 is undoubtedly the year of Garo. This once small toku production has progressively grown into a full-blown franchise over the past few years, with this year giving us the widest variety of new productions yet. On top of the recently completed Zero spin-off (look forward to a review of that hitting the blog soon), we also still have a The One Who Shines in the Darkness movie to look forward to and even a Garo anime. But before then we have Garo: Makai no Hana ("The Makai Flower"), which sees original creator/writer/director Keita Amemiya return to the fold after a brief absence. And that's not the only exciting thing the show has up its sleeve either.

Makai no Hana follows a brand new golden knight, who goes by the name of Raiga Saejima. And if his surname wasn't enough to give it away, the fact he has his clothes, Gonza and Zaruba suggests he is the son of Kouga and Kaoru Mitsuki. This first episode sees him battle against a horror awakened from an ancient stone, before learning of his new orders to seal the Demon Beast Eyrith. To do so, he'll need the help of a special tool in the possession of a mysterious girl named Mayuri.

Now The One Who Shines in the Darkness was by no means a bad series, but it certainly lacked the flare of the Kouga-era Garo. However it only takes one episode of Makai no Hana to see that Garo is well and truly back. The fashion style, the use of physical armour suits, the general atmosphere, the lengthy scene of Raiga training in a dark empty rooms...all the hallmarks of previous Garo shows. The general tone of the episode also seemed to encompass the best of what has come before, striking a great balance between the darker tones of the original series and the more fantastical elements we saw in Makai Senki and, more recently, Soukoku No Maryu.

Raiga also seems like a great protagonist so far. The show isn't confirming him as the son of Kouga and Kaoru, but with the amount there is to allude to it does it really need saying? Even without the inclusion of Gonza, Zaruba and his father's wonderful wardrobe, Raiga seems to encompass the best of his parents. Stoic and serious like his father, but not afraid to crack a smile and laugh once in a while like his mother. Raiga also exhibits a rather different fighting style to Kouga, with a heavier emphasis on his fists rather than straight sword fighting. It'll be interesting to see in future episodes whether this was intentional or just some first episode flare.

You could argue that The One Who Shines in the Darkness had a stronger introduction just because the mystery behind the setting and the fact that Ryuga was so different to his predecessor, but Makai no Hana doesn't necessarily need to make such an impression. It's a continuation even if its trying to mask its connection to the previous shows, and with Amemiya back at the helm this is classic Garo through and through. For long time fans of the show, it's hard not to get excited about that.

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