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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Garo: Goldstorm Sho

Garo: Goldstorm Sho.

It feels like there's no pause for breath between Garo series lately. Goldstorm Sho began not long after Honoo no Kokuin ended, and within a few weeks Crimson Moon will be starting. When you add into that the films (there's a Goldstorm Sho film that I believe isn't out on DVD yet, and a film about Raiga in the works), you have a more or less endless stream of media set in this one universe. Which, to be honest, I'm completely okay with.

Following Ryuga and Rian from Yami wo Terasu Mono, Goldstorm Sho sees the two working as a dynamic Makai Knight and Makai Priestess pair in Line City. When Jinga and Amily, a pair of Horrors who used to be a dynamic Makai pair themselves, show up in town in search of the sealed Horror Radan, Ryuga and Rian are sent to hunt them - a hunt that will bring them into contact with stern older knight Daigo and young, mysterious priest Gald.

I think a lot of people were quite nervous about this series, since Yami wo Terasu Mono was not without its fair share of gaping flaws, such as the incredible laziness of the Horror designs (with most of them looking identical to each other), the often terrible CGI, the relative lack of focus on anybody other than Ryuga, and how the plot just kind of crumbled in on itself towards the end. While I did enjoy it, until Zero: Black Blood and Makai no Hana came along I would have probably called it the worst Garo series of all.

He's just a Horror passing through.

Goldstorm Sho gratifyingly sets itself up to rectify the mistakes of its predecessor right off the bat, giving us physical suits (which always look better than CGI) and unique Horror designs for every monster of the week, and trimming down the cast so that instead of a five-man band of three knights and two priests facing off against a four-man band of villains, we have a laser focus on just Ryuga and Rian as a pair, and a very deliberately parallel pair of Horrors. While the cast expands a little as time goes on, adding another knight and two more priests into the bargain, Ryuga and Rian remain the core of the show, and there's never a sense either that their supporting cast are taking attention away from them or that said supporting cast isn't getting sufficient focus. Gald, Daigo, and Ryume always get to do stuff, and it always makes a difference, even if saving the day ultimately comes down to the Dynamic R Duo.

Our villains are much more compelling this time around too. Jinga and Amily are always very much in evidence - they are active villains who pursue their plans personally, and do not spend a tremendous amount of time sitting around being ominous at each other. Sometimes, especially towards the end, this can feel like a bit too much, like we're getting a bit over-saturated with the two, but it's mitigated by the fact that there feels like there's a genuine back-and-forth between them and the protagonists. The protagonists gain ground, Jinga and Amily counter them with a winning combination of dark magic and good teamwork, and the protagonists have to scramble to regroup and counter them. It's a pleasant change to the often very static villains of the franchise, who have their plan and who by jove are going to stick slavishly to it whatever happens.


The show has an excellent cast, too, with Masahiro Inoue, who is apparently a big Garo fan and whose enthusiasm may be partly responsible for this series existing, taking the cake as Jinga, a role he plays with the maximum amount of ham and cheese possible. Every scene he's in, he's gnawing on the scenery, and it's glorious. Miyavi Matsunoi (who plays Amily), not to be left behind, takes the prize for second most hammy actor on the show, and the two's scenes are wonderful to watch if only for how over-the-top they are.

Wataru Kuriyama and Miki Nanri are as good as they were in Yami wo Terasu Mono, but this time the script actually gives them something decent to work with, and they get their fair share of dramatic, comedic, romantic, and sorrowful scenes, allowing them to stretch their acting muscles a bit and show what they can really do. Their supporting cast tend towards being a lot more one-note - Daigo is angry, Ryume is solemn, Gald has a silly hat - but the acting's fine.

Headwear worthy of a queen of Naboo.

All in all, this is one of the strongest live-action Garo series we've had for a while, and probably a good starting point for anyone wanting to get into the franchise as a whole. The plot may be a bit prosaic (oh, some people want to unseal a powerful Horror to rule or destroy the world? Well, we've definitely not seen that plot in every single Garo series), but it's executed well in a very fun, well put-together series.

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