Sunday 29 September 2013

Series REVIEW: Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Zen Gai Makai Knights

As many Western Garo fans patiently wait to see the end of Kouga's story in Demon Dragon of the Blue Cries, in the meantime there is a new chapter in the Garo legacy that has begun. Presumably taking the action long after Kouga's time as the golden Makai Knight, Garo: The One Who Shines in the Darkness ("Yami o Terasu Mono") picks up with a brand new knight wearing the armour, a new setting and a brand new threat. 

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Ryuga Dougai
Much like Kouga, Ryuga has good taste in coats

The One Who Shines in the Darkness takes place at the huge Vol City, a thriving metropolis built around a volcano and swarming with the demons known as horror. Ryuga Dougai, the Makai Knight who has inherited the title of Garo, arrives in the city after being summoned to help his former master - Makai Priest Burai, take them down. Joining forces with fellow knights Takeru Jakuzure, Aguri Kusugami and Makai Priest Rian, Ryuga aims to once again make the now-greyed Garo armour shine once again. But the Horror problem in Vol City lies deeper than they originally thought, with the emergence of the more powerful Madō Horrors and a plot to awaken an ancient evil.

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Makai Knights Ryuga Takeru Aguri Rian
Makai badassery

As mentioned earlier as it currently stands this series is almost completely detached from the original two Garo seasons, with the only returning character being the Madou Ring Zaruba...who barely appears in the show either until nearer the end. Instead our new cast consists of the wizened Makai Priest Burai, beautiful badass Rian, the hotheaded Takeru, collected Aguri and of course Ryuga. While Ryuga seems to possess a similar level of fighting prowess to his predecessor, he feels like a very different Garo simply for his slightly more laid back demeanour and ability to crack a smile once in a while. Unfortunately back stories are a little on the light side - Ryuga and Rian get a fair amount (the latter getting her own special prelude episode at the end of the series), but Takeru and Aguri don't get so lucky. Takeru is kind of offset by having his own side-story, but Aguri may as well just be a background guy that fires an arrow every so often.

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Tousei & Sonshi
Smug doesn't even begin to describe

The more urban setting of Vol City allows the Horrors to be explored in a new way, with Madō Horrors placed in certain positions of the city's hierarchy to maintain their scheme.The reveal of the "mastermind" behind the Horrors and the revival of the ancient Horror general Zedom is a excellently crafted moment, simply because of the fact it's not just the last person you expect, but he proves to be such a spineless worm that its hard to believe its him that's behind all of this.

But perhaps one of the show's biggest success stories is Enhou, who just goes to show how unrelentingly twisted and tragic Garo can be at times. Starting off as the captain of Vol City's elite SG1 guard, she goes from being against Kouga to allying with him and befriending Rian to...well, that would spoil it. Her story is very cleverly paced, using visual clues in earlier episodes that won't mean anything until further in. The Horrors themselves may not be as grotesque or weird as they used to be, but you'll see that they really do live up to their name here.

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Enhou
Poor Enhou

Aside from the cast changeover, perhaps the biggest noticeable difference of this new Garo is the absence of physical Makai Knight suits. While the move to completely CGI suits was slowly being implemented during the course of Makai Senki, it's here that we see it fully realised. While the CGI suits for Garo, Zen and Gai (the latter two being Takeru and Aguri's suits respectively) are nicely detailed, anyone familiar with tokusatsu shows will now that Japan's CGI budget's aren't quite what you see in Western productions. However if you can get over this you'll certainly have a blast with the fight sequences, even with their very brief nature. This is because despite the 99.9 seconds rule established in the first Garo series being thrown out of the window by now, the use of the suits still very much feel like a last resort with the majority of the fights being done out of suits. 

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Garo Armour
How awkward would it be if all it needed was a good polish?

While it doesn't quite live up to the standard of the first two Garo series, The One Who Shines in the Darkness is still a worthy follow-on and one of the best series of its kind out there at the moment. The new cast are very likeable even if some of the backstories are vague and/or underutilised. The connections between this and the original series are still very unclear (as is how the Garo armour lost its golden shine) but with plenty more Garo stories yet to come in the future, I'm hopeful that these are still answers yet to come in the future. If Kouga's story must really come to an end, then it's time for Ryuga Dougai to start really shining.


Anonymous said...

You know what I find curious? Here and in other places on the internet I see people saying "poor Enhou". But what about Sonshi? The guy was a Makai Knight! Not only supposedly a good natured person, but someone dedicated to fight against the very thing he was forcibly changed into! Just because we don't get to spend much time with good Sonshi, it doesn't mean he isn't deserving of the same sympathy we have for Enhou. Well, thinking about it, who knows if Rivera wasn't good natured too...

TokufanZ said...

As much as I love Kouga's era, this is my favorite Garo show. In this one the characters are somewhat less stoic, so they act more natural, which I prefer. Ryuga as this free spirited badass who doesn't respect authorities, yet shows a lot of his weaknesses is a superb protagonist. I could say a lot about all the others too. Also the plot is amazing. Big conspiracy, many cool twists, some changes on the status-quo during the course of it, well done drama and violence. I completely forgive the poorer CGI and limited armor time because of these beautiful characters and amazing plot.