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Monday, 5 October 2015

Garo: Goldstorm (The Film)

Garo: Goldstorm
(The Film).

I'm never certain what to make of Garo films. Despite the fact that the franchise seems custom built for a short form format where there's less of a worry about scorching through a budget (does Garo even have budgets anymore, or does its funding just pour from Keita Amemiya's unending pockets?), it always seems rather uncomfortable with the idea, and invariably it always seems to circle back to re-using the same stable of ideas. 

That's not necessarily unusual for Garo: How many times have we seen 'a magic-user of some description wants to unseal a massive, ancient Horror that eventually ends up devouring them', after all, but while the tropes re-used in the various television series have infinite variations available, there's only so many different ways you can spin 'whoever the current Garo is can't use their armour and must slum it with just their sword while the villain enacts their evil plan'.

If you're keeping track, that last trope has appeared in three Garo films so far. 

Garo: Goldstorm, the prequel to the series of not-quite-the-same-name-although-even-its-own-creators-seem-to-forget-that-sometimes, brings back Ryuga and Rian and sees them arriving in Line City. With Ryuga's armour corrupted and requiring purifying, they hand it over to the local Watchdog, Ryume, just in time for a crisis to strike, as a rogue Madou Tool - in this case an angry battle android - who plans to use the limb of an ancient and powerful Horror to eradicate all life within the city.

Also, there's a giant flesh egg, because why wouldn't there be.

To be honest, I'm a bit stumped as to what to say about it. It's like the cinematic incarnation of 'middling and unremarkable' - there is nearly nothing noteworthy about this film, and I don't have anything good or bad to really say about it. It sits squarely in a kind of null space where I find it almost impossible to form an opinion about it.

Which is to say that it's a watchable, inoffensive, technically sound; but also bland, a bit cynical, and a touch phoned in. Agou might well be one of the least compelling villains in Garo history, because everything about him is, in a way, just a variation on the traits of other, better done villains. He's not very compelling, and the only notable thing about him, really, is that he presents an insurmountable physical threat (indeed, he presents a physical threat that the protagonists never surmount - they just hold him off until he gets eaten by a Horror, because when has someone ever come within fifty paces of using an ancient Horror for evil misdeeds and not been eaten by it).

Similarly, Ryuga and Rian are very much not on top form. One of the strengths of the series this is a prequel to is that they have great chemistry and make a great team, but in this film, they spend more time apart than they do together, and the time they do spend together is mostly wasted on Rian having an odd self-doubt subplot that seems to come out of nothing and never really go anywhere.

In hindsight, this would've made a great title card.

Perhaps the problem is that the film was always intended as set-up for the TV series: Establishing that Ryuga and Rian were working together, establishing supporting cast members like Ryume and the city's two Makai Priests (who apparently run a doner kebab truck, which I didn't pick up in the TV show), and establishing the city itself. It's meant to hype people up for a television series that is infinitely superior to it, and since it's only purpose is to generate that hype, the writers didn't spend much time making it a piece of entertainment that could stand on its own.

(It is so much a hype job for the television series that the end credits are pretty much just a trailer for the show, which is a bit odd to experience a week after you've finished watching that very same show.)

As is always the case with Garo, the action scenes are excellent, but while I have no complaints there, they do kind of pale in comparison with other action scenes from Garo. Everything about them seems less bombastic, less choreographed, a bit more paint-by-numbers, and had the weirdest feeling in a few of them that I had seen the exact same fight choreography before, in other Garo fights. 

Albeit with fewer annoyed pink young women.

Still, it's an enjoyable film if you're looking for a fix of Ryuga and Rian - and let's be fair, we don't know how long it'll be until we get to see more of them. Hopefully not too long, since god knows none of us want to see Raiga again. That guy was boring. Check it out if you have an hour free or so, or if you're a massive Garo fan, but otherwise give this one a miss. There are better Garo products you could be spending your time upon.

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