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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Garo: Makai no Hana.

Garo: Makai no Hana.

My feelings about horror-toku series Garo are becoming increasingly mixed, and I don't know how to deal with that. I started watching the series with Garo: Makai Senki, and I enjoyed it immensely, before moving onto the first series (which was half awful, half really good) and the films, and then watching Garo: Yami wo Terasu Mono, which I started off liking before increasingly finding myself more and more frustrated with it.

But I'll always give new Garo series a chance, even though that keeps being a mistake, so I quite happily started watching Garo: Makai no Hana. Set in the future and following Garo main character Kouga's son, Raiga, the series sees this newer and less experienced defender of the innocent donning the titular shining armour and contending with much the same dark forces as his absentee father, in a city that has apparently not changed in twenty odd years, surrounded by people who haven't aged.

I was excited. After all, from the sounds of it, it had removed what I really hated about the first two series of Garo: The bland main character.

As it turns out, he had just been replaced by a main character with a different shade of blandness. Why is Garo so bad at main characters? It's not characters in general. Its secondary cast, by and large, tend to be just fine. But Kouga was a cookie-cutter Byronic hero, storming around and brooding like a teenager all the time, and Raiga swings the exact opposite way with a kind of middling cheeriness that loses its charm after four or five episodes.

Yeah, same.

So that was count one against the series, with that issue only getting worse with the introduction of a much more interesting Makai Knight in the form of Crow, who then proceeds to get to do almost nothing, because Raiga must always save the day, every single time, without fail. I was left wondering what was even the point of having Crow there except to make up the numbers, as while I liked his character, he never got to do anything, and the plot did not require him in any fashion.

It's also compounded by the fact that Raiga always succeeds at everything, and usually with such ease that by the latter half of the series there's no tension anymore, because you know exactly what will happen and how it will happen: Raiga will don his armour and wave his sword and any problems will be magically resolved. On the rare occasion that Raiga does fail, it's always in a way that makes it not the result of bad decisions or personal weakness. Like Kirito from Sword Art Online, and I bring him up because I've ranted about him before, Raiga's failures are all the result of situations where failure was the only option. 

Ah, well, at least we have Crow. Occasionally.

Count two against the series was that there isn't really any plot. Sorry, that's not true, the concept of a plot is paid the barest quantity of lip service, by having a fetch-quest plot about finding nine pieces of a stone tablet meant to seal demonic flower Eiris. Except that's not a plot: What it is is nine episodes in which deuteragonist Mayuri appears after the action is done and drops a chunk of rock onto her hand, and then one three parter at the very end where Eiris finally materialises. But there's no sense of any build-up to it, and there's no sense of any stakes. Eiris isn't an active villain, nor does it make an effective brooding, unknowable threat looming against the backdrop of the series. Eiris is just a thing that is sometimes mentioned but that nobody seems concerned about, who eventually drops in to be a monster for a few episodes, with very little fanfare and very little excitement. 

Said monster is a glowing nude woman with extra eyes, because
Garo has never done that before.

Count three against the series is that even as an episodic fare covering these characters fighting demons, it fails, because the episodes are so absurdly placed as to give long stretches of no variety. To compare, Garo's first two series had 'low stakes' episodes: Relaxing episodes coming halfway through the series or so where there isn't really a massive threat, and instead the characters are just being developed. Makai no Hana has three of those episodes in a row. That's the kind of series we're talking about here.

I want to say something good about this series, because I want to like Garo as a franchise. Crow is, you know, fine? I liked him? The suit designs are all very pretty? The action and CGI are sometimes quite stunning? Much of what is good about this series is the visuals, which are often excellent, but the actual meat of the series, and even just the bare bones, those basic mechanical concerns that you need to make a series passable – those are all not great.

I recommend most things that come across this blog. I can't recommend this, I just can't. It'll be eight hours of your life that you'll regret using up and won't be able to get back. I don't know if this series is getting a sequel, but anime Garo spin-off Seal of Flames will be hitting our screens soon, and I really hope I like that. 

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