Monday 9 January 2017

First Impressions: Zero: Dragon Blood

Zero: Dragon Blood

Despite last year marking its 10th anniversary, 2016 wasn’t an especially great year for the GARO franchise. The year kicked off with the second half to the woeful Garo: The Crimson Moon anime, and while Garo: Makai Retsuden brought back a wide range of characters (including Kouga himself) the series largely consisted of forgettable side stories with minimal action. However with plenty more confirmed GARO projects still to come, 2017 may prove to be much better. First up for the franchise is Zero: Dragon Blood, a second spin-off starring Rei Suzumura aka Zero the Silver Fanged Knight. Zero previously appeared in the original Garo, Makai Senki and Makai no Hana, as well as his own mini-series Black Blood in 2014.

The general plot of Zero: Dragon Blood was only revealed a few weeks before airing, and if the viewer hasn't already seen it this first episode is pretty tight-lipped about what's coming up as well. This first episode sees photographer Alice Hiromi arrive at a Horror-infested hotel, who is searching for a mysterious egg. When the Horrors prepare to dine on their latest guest, Rei arrives on his usual hunt in the city. While Alice immediately takes an interest in Rei, far away a carriage is transporting a giant egg-shaped coffin.

While not very plot heavy the opening episode to Dragon Blood is a strong one, with a tone and layout very reminiscent to that of both the original series and Makai no Hana. We see Rei introduced to the female lead in coincidental fashion, with only sprinklings of a larger plot involving this unknown “is more than certainly a dragon” egg. The next episode preview also seemed to also imply a mostly standalone story, which suggests that Dragon Blood may take the route of having episodic plots steadily building towards a finale. Judging by previous entries in the franchise how successfully Dragon Blood handles this format can go either way, but at the very least it should hopefully allow for some great one-off episodes much like Makai no Hana did.

Admittedly the setting of a murderous hotel isn’t a particularly original one, but it is one perfect for the wonderfully macabre world of GARO. The episode oozes the urban gothic horror that made the original series so great, as the Horrors prove just as unsettling in their masked human forms as they do in that familiar generic Horror design. Rei/Zero has established himself as a fan favourite character with good reason, so his timely entrance here is one that feels like a reunion with an old friend. Alongside him is Silva, who may not be quite as chatty as Zaruba but makes up for his absence with both advice and snark.

But ultimately it’s the fight scene that instils the hope that this will be a great series, due to the fact it immediately makes reference to the limited time Makai Knight armour can be used for. So many GARO shows have forgotten about this or ignored it altogether, so to see the whole fight going on with the countdown running in the corner is a very welcome sight. The sequence strikes the right balance between CGI and practical suits, but also wins points for just feeling a little different from the usual GARO fare. While there may have been multiple Golden Knights over the years, they all essentially use the same weapon so to have Rei/Zero mixing things up with his twin blades offers something that’s different but still comfortably GARO.

Not giving too much away is pretty par-the-course for a GARO series but even so Zero: Dragon Blood feels like it’s gotten off to a pretty good start. The intrigue is there, the individual episode’s setting is perfect for the GARO universe and as usual it’s a pleasure to see Ray Fujita back in the role again. Zero: Black Blood definitely showed room for improvement, so hopefully Dragon Blood will be able to carry things forward and give the Silver Fanged Knight a truly memorable series.


Anonymous said...

Are you going to review the Bikku movie?

Alex said...

Oops...I knew I'd forgotten to do something!

I've actually watched the Bikuu movie, but completely forgot about doing a review for it. I'll probably need to watch it again to refresh my memory, but if it's something you'd like to see I'll see if I can slip it into my viewing schedule :)