Wednesday 13 April 2016

First Impressions: Garo: Makai Tales

Garo Makai Retsudan

While Garo may still seem like a newcomer when compared alongside other main player tokusatsu franchises like Ultraman, Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, what once felt like a highly-acclaimed oddity has actually been a fully fledged franchise for over 10 years - with new instalments starting up as soon as the previous one has run its course. Naturally in that space of time Garo has managed to build up a pretty sizeable backstory, featuring a wide variety of Makai Knights and Makai Priests in a universe that's branched out into numerous different timelines and stories. While many of these characters have battled alongside the titular Golden Knight, they all also have their own stories to tell. That's exactly what the latest series, entitled Garo: Makai Retsuden (or Makai Tales) looks like it's set out to do - featuring a variety of stories from across the Garo universe.

Makai Tales kicks off with Gonza, the Saejima's faithful butler, reacquainting the viewer with the world of Garo and reminding us that defending humanity from Horrors is only part of the reason why Makai Knights and Priests alike have become known as 'guardians'. The story then moves onto to this first episode's chosen character, the Makai Priest Rekka - who first appeared in the movie Red Requiem, was then seen in Makai Senki and most recently appeared in The Tougen Flute. Here, Rekka helps find a missing girl after Horror activity leads to the souls of fallen Makai Knights being awoken from their slumber.

Ignoring the content of the episode itself for a second, it's worth talking about why I think a series of one-shot episodes like Makai Tales is a brilliant idea for a franchise that's become as vast as Garo. Undoubtedly Garo's biggest draw has always been it's visuals, but reflecting on previous series' it's tended to shine the brightest during the one-shot episodes that feature a specific Horror of the Week. Meanwhile the ongoing plots that run over the course of an entire series (or in some cases, seem like they do but are actually crammed into the final few episodes) don't prove anywhere near as engaging. Take Makai no Hana for example - while it's ongoing storyline left a lot to be desired, one-shot episodes such as the horror fan and mangaka ones can easily be counted among some of the best in the entire franchise. If done properly, Makai Tales is the opportunity to get a flow of episodes of that calibre, not bogged down by an ongoing plot to tie them all together. It's also a chance to revisit the side characters in greater detail, creating engaging stories without the need of a Garo to come in and save the day. One week you could be watching a Rekka episode, the next a Takeru one, and then the week after maybe even a Tsubasa one. There are so many possibilities on offer, and the fact the show seems to be keeping everything so close to its chest (even the next episode preview doesn't reveal who the star will be) makes it all the more exciting.

Moving back to the episode itself...well, perhaps Rekka wasn't the best character to start this series off with. While there's nothing wrong with the episode in itself, Rekka has always come across as the weakest of the three most prominent Makai Priests (the other two of course being Jabi and Rian) and this episode didn't do her any favours in breaking away from that title. The general idea behind the story was sound and setting it against a forest backdrop did it a lot of favours visually, but the lack of any truly notable fight scenes or intricate costumes meant the episode often felt like a bit of a slog to get through. If anything, this was more of a mid-series kind of episode rather than an opener.

Garo: Makai Tales may have gotten off to a weaker-than-hoped start thanks to its first choice of character focus, but the end result was still an enjoyable episode nonetheless and confirmation of the the format still bodes exciting things for this series. If the writers manage to latch on to the right characters, this is a series with the potential to provide some really strong stories as well as experiment with the concept in a way that a more lineal series perhaps couldn't. While the argument that too much Garo isn't necessarily a good thing in terms of overall franchise quality is still a valid one, this is one avenue definitely worth exploring.

1 comment:

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