Thursday 9 October 2014

First Impressions: Garo: The Animation

Garo the Animation

Not content with keeping its ever growing onscreen presence to the realm of live-action tokusatsu, the GARO franchise has made it's first foray into the world of animation with Garo -Honō no Kokuin- (which translates as The Carved Seal of Flames). What's even more surprising is the show has even received licensing in the West, with Funimation picking it for simulcast as part of their subscription service. Simply dubbed Garo: The Animation here, the show will be completely unrelated to previous franchises entries and is written by Yasuko Kobayashi - a tokusatsu regular whose anime works also include the likes of Attack on Titan, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and Casshern Sins.

Set in the fictional Valiante Kingdom in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, a pregnant woman is sentenced to burning at the stake for being a witch. As the flames rise around her, the woman suddenly gives birth and the baby is carried away by a mysterious silver Makai Knight. In the years that follow, the King's advisor launches a full-scale witch hunt that endangers Makai Knights and Priests alike. 17 years later that boy has grown in to León Luis, who has taken the mantle of the Golden Knight Garo. Along with his father Germán (the Silver Knight Zoro), León learns what it means to be a Makai Knight and battles against the evil entities known as Horrors.

I write that with an existing knowledge of the Garo franchise, because other than the word "Horror" a lot of that terminology was missing from this first episode. I expect it will come later since flashbacks of Valiante's 'witch hunt' featured a lot of visual cues from the live-action version, but for now this was probably for the best to bring in newcomers to the franchise without instantly getting bogged down with terms and lore. But within the first five minutes it's immediately clear how distanced this show is from the live-action version, swapping out the modern settings for a more historial, European flavour. With Kobayashi writing the setting for Attack on Titan instantly springs to mind, and some shots of people running across rooftops further solidifies that.

Character-wise this episode tells us absolutely nothing about anyone, other than hand out some names and promptly tell us who the villain is - the King's advisor, Mendoza. A significant portion of the episode is spent with Germán rolling around with a Horror posing as a prostitute, so at the very least we get that he's going to have a bit of personality behind him. León meanwhile speaks barely any lines, mostly letting his actions as Garo do the talking for him. He's a suitably badass fighter and his version of the Garo armour has some nice little additions to it - such as blazing cracks and scarf-like pieces that can take hold of opponents.

Relatively unknown studio MAPPA are handling animation duties (their previous works including Hajime no Ippo Rising and Kids on the Slope), with this first episode not really delivering anything overly special. The character design has the same retro, washed-out look I enjoyed in Casshern Sins, but MAPPA are in no way Tatsunoko so the quality isn't quite on the same level. Although I should have really expected it CGI armour also comes as a bit as a turn off, but from what this episode displayed there's nothing especially wrong with it just yet. The Horrors look like they'll also be a bit more imaginative than the TV versions thanks to the wonders of drawings rather than actual suits, but the ones here gave off more of a "weird and wonderful" impressive rather than a nightmare fuel one.

I'm quite curious to see where things go from here, but Garo the Animation still has a long, long way to go before it can grab me in the same way the live-action version does. Right now there's nothing that truly separates this show from the pile of similar generic anime other than the Garo elements, so it's going to need to pull something special if it wants to win over both Garo fans and anime fans in general.

No comments: