12 Days of Anime #2: Garo

I have already written one 12 Day post on Garo, but the second half of Garo, which aired this year, had some amazing moments too!

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Bernardo dies

Note: This actually happened in 2014, but I forgot to cover it in my post then, so, I figured I’d quickly mention it.

Bernardo was Germán’s old friend. The two were rivals who grew up together and fought together. Deep down, Bernardo held an almost dangerous desire to actually fight Germán for real (with their armor), but it was nothing more than a rival’s ill-faited wish. When Bernardo fell, Mendoza took advantage of that and corrupted him and turned him into an evil knight, bent on beating Germán in a fight.

The two do fight and it is an emotional clash between two old friends who once fought the same enemy and were once willing to lay their lives down for one another (Bernardo did sacrifice himself for León’s mother and Germán). And then the fight is over and Bernardo is defeated. As he dies, Bernardo regains some of his reason and begs his friend to pass on his armor. The Makai Knights pass on their armor to their sons or other worthy candidates and it is this cycle of inheritance that lets gives them the strength to continue fighting Horrors. For a Makai Knight, passing their armor is not an honor, but a duty. It is all they really live for, so of course Bernardo wants at least that much. Germán promises to pass on Bernardo’s armor and the fallen knight disappears…but so does the armor. Bernardo had died long ago. His armor was no longer capable of being passed on.

The scene was so very sad. This is how it works in the Garo universe. Sometimes nice things happen and people find redemption, but fall far enough, and there is no going back. I guess you could even contrast this with León , who fell, but somehow pulled himself back thanks to Lara and Alfonso. Maybe if Bernardo had not been alone at the end, he too, might not have fallen past redemption.

Sex

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Anime’s relationship to sex is kind of weird. In many series, we have trashy scenes like “woops, accidentally fell on the girl”, but these series will almost never transition into actual sex. Or, if they do go into that territory, it will almost turn into a very lewd version of it (e.g. Maou Testament, Valkyrie Drive Mermaid).

Garo is interesting in that it often shows sex, but never in a fetishistic manner. Like, this is just the way the world is. Germán sleeps around with a lot of women, but there is hardly ever any actual fanservice. Even León and Ema sleep together and again, it is shown to be not much of a big deal (well, other than the fact that that ship even sailed!). I found this to be rather memorable and there are a few other anime that do this, but you normally expect stuff like this from well made Western shows. This is just one more reason, why I consider Garo to be a stand out anime in how it chose to establish its setting and universe.

Octavia is real crazy

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Octavia is presented as a dedicated second in evil command right from the get go. She poisons the king. She does whatever Mendoza asks of her. She obviously loves Mendoza a crazy amount, so much so that she is okay with not being loved back (it is kind of sad how Mendoza no longer wants to love anyone after he lost his wife). It is always clear that Octavia is kind of mad over Mendoza, but then she goes and summons a demon only to have it bite off her leg in order to mislead the good guys. What a crazy ass move that was.

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Then, you know, she turns herself into a complete monster and orgasmically absorbs her master’s arm just to be that much closer to him. Yup, crazy lady. Very well developed character, but not someone I’d want to be in the same room with or the same city for that matter.

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Ema’s pain

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We have two people in Garo who lost their spouses. Germán lost Anna 17 years ago when she was cruelly burned at the stake and Ema lost Luciano to a Horror. Germán was able to move on because he had León and a mission (to train León in the use of the Golden armor and maybe to pass on Zoro to someone as well). Ema had no such convenient mission. No, all she could do was promise revenge against the Horror that took her husband. Her struggle and pain at having to kill her husband was brutal and real.

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And you couldn’t help but empathize with her hatred of Makai Knights. Had they treated me like the treated her, I’d hate them too.

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I really liked how Leon helped her out. He was very respectable and basically told her “I want to help you, but I won’t go against what you want. Still, if the town is in danger, I will intervene”. Good job Leon! This episode was also amazing because it was Garo at its atmospheric and dark best. The episode was very interesting visually.

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The Soundtrack

This is a bit of a segway, but I feel it is important to note that Garo had a very memorable soundtrack. BLOODY BROTHER is probably the most remembered opening of this year, but even some of the background tracks were incredible.

León & Lara & León’s redemption

I wish I had the time to talk about it, but man, the direction in episode 13 (and lots of Garo) was so good.

I wish I had the time to talk about it, but man, the direction in episode 13 (and lots of Garo) was so good.

Sigh…

León finding peace and a home to love through Lara wasn’t the most original development in Garo, but it was well done! León was left absolutely devastated after he lost his armor and who wouldn’t be? He turned into a monster that wrecked devastation upon the city and subsequently lost what was his only reason for living. When he was picked up by Lara and her family, he finally a place that could be his home. Lara is cute and sweet and was pretty much exactly what Leon needed.

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He had journeyed for so many years, fighting horrors (under the guidance of a terrible dad, mind you!) and now, finally, he found a place where he could rest. I mean, sure he still helped out with the farming, but he was not so fearful for his life nor so caught up in trying to find his purpose. He was contempt. He even told Alfonso as much.

But of course he was wary. León understood all too well that horrors existed and that they could strike at any time. And, in the end, they did. Poor dog. Poor Lara. They didn’t deserve it. Leon didn’t deserve it. But, the world of Garo isn’t fair. Up until now, León’s biggest loss had been sort of conceptual (his reason to live on), but now it was tangible. He had lost people he cared about and through that loss, he understood that not only was it in his fate to fight Horrors, but that there was no one else to do it. He realized that if he didn’t fight them, others would lose their loved ones. That’s when León overcame the evil curse within him and truly became the golden knight.

The outfit alone is enough of a clue that new Leon is awesome.

The outfit alone is enough of a clue that new León is awesome.

The León we see after he regains his armor is remarkably different from the one we had seen till now. This León is confident, not rash and he is emotionally stable. He finds his reason to fight and as corny as it may be, it is a good reason to fight, especially in a world as grim and dark as this one. This growth was amazing to see. I am still a bit bitter about Lara though…SHE WAS IN THE GODDAMN ENDING VISUALS. SHE SHOULD HAVE LIVED TILL THE END OF THE SHOW.

Oh and all of this came neatly to a close at the end when we learned that his mother was trying to protect him with the flames all along. Only when León had found purpose in his existence was his mother free to let him go. It was shoehorned a little, but it was still rather sweet.

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León & Ema

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I don’t hate this ship…it was just so, so unexpected! Seeing Ema and León make out like that and actually become a sort of good couple was definitely one of this year’s strangest, but sorta good moments.

Germán, Germán and more Germán. Also some Ximena.

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Germán is a terrible father. It is not even the fact that he ditches León to go to brothels. No, it was his treatment of León after he lost the golden armor. Like, the only thing León did wrong was not come to terms with why he was fighting, but because of the dumb curse he was born with, he went awol. Germán doesn’t show him any sympathy and instead just tells him to go figure it out for yourself. Like, what the hell, the kid’s suicidal by that point. You could be a little bit more empathetic, no?

...but Lara and her family did help him.

…but Lara and her family did help him.

I will always remember Germán as a terrible dad with misplaced priorities….but, but, Germán really loved León and in the end, Germán was very proud of León. The two have that fight where they are on opposite sides (or well Germán is pretending to be anyway) and it is such a great, emotional clash. I loved it.

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Towards the end, Germán gives up his life holding off foes long enough for León and the others to arrive. Throughout it all, he keeps talking about his son and there is that final bit of León praise he throws at Octavia which is very cool.

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And then, he continues to appear as a ghost like thing through his armor. He keeps fighting even after being defeated. ;__;

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Finally as León is saved by his mother’s weird sacrifice thing, his father appears once more and the two ride out again. That sequence is amazing. It is sweet and oh so characteristically Germán. (I love how he actually turns around to make sure his wife isn’t listening in when he mentions Ximena).

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One of my favourite bits of this show was the interactions between Germán and Ximena. It is unusual, in anime, to see widowers find new relationships, but Germán did! And it was very sweet. I loved seeing him be a naked goof around Ximena and I think it is almost regretful, the two didn’t end up permanently together, but hey, Germán passed on his armor and I guess in the world of Garo, that is all that really matters.

Probably my pick for best girl.

Probably my pick for best girl.

Through Ema and Germán , Garo emphasizes that you can continue to love those deceased and find new love as well. It is a rather beautiful notion and one that you don’t see all too often.

Oh and I love Germán’s goofy high voice. It is amazing.

Alfonso

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Alfonso is presented as a strong contrast to Leon. The two are cousins, but Alfonso is not consumed by range or tamper issues. Alfonso is noble and good right from the get go and he stays that way right till the end. Even when Alfonso’s mother, the Queen, commits suicide to protect him, Alfonso does not give in to his rage. He sticks to what is required of him. When he becomes the sole protector of the city (when Leon is away), he does not shirk away from his duties as a Prince.

He tries to fulfil both his roles as a Golden Knight and as temporary King. It was interesting how that segment basically had him take on two temporary roles of extreme importance. He was pushed to the breaking point, but he never did break. Alfonso held strong on to his core morals and continued to try his best. I do wonder if this is because he had a genuinely admirable teacher in Rafael. That Rafael dude was legit cool and arguably a more caring person than any other adult Knight in the show.

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Alfonso is too pure. Too good.

Alfonso is too pure. Too good.

You might take the above to imply that Alfonso had no character development, but that is not true! Alfonso never underwent the drastic changes Leon did, but his character was not only tested, but strengthened as well. Alfonso’s development was one of the better pieces of character development done by the Garo anime. He is a shining beacon of hope in the dark world of Garo. If the Golden Knight is one that eliminates the strongest of Horrors, then Gaia is one that defends the people (both as a Knight and as a Prince).

Also of great interest was the relationship between Alfonso and Leon. The two were never truly rivals, but they were closer than just fellow Makai Knights. They ended up pushing one another to try harder and by the end, they really did understand one another very well. It was a very cool relationship and probably the most interesting relationship in Garo. The two are definitely this year’s best anime cousins and probably among the better guy relationships we have got.

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So, uhh, yeah. The important thing to take away is that Alfonso is a goofy, cute, golden boy whose smile must always be protected.

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ALFONSO YOU GLORIOUS GOOF. (That girl is really cute. Good Luck Alfonso!)

 

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  1. #1 by Flawfinder on December 15, 2015 - 7:42 pm

    Too bad this new Garo isn’t very good. Hahaha…*goes cry in a corner*

    On a more serious note, I never got the appeal of Lara. She was cute, but I never found her all that interesting except for how she affected Leon. Of course, Twitter going nuts over her death long before I got to seeing the episode didn’t help, but even then all it gets from me is “well that sucks”.

    • #2 by Reiseng on December 15, 2015 - 10:41 pm

      Yeah, Lara is pretty undeveloped. She wasn’t really given much screen time and even what she got was mostly focused on Leon getting better. A cute plot device if you will, I suppose. It is a bit of a shame since everyone else was very interesting.

      As for the new Garo, well, I meant to keep watching it, but stopped after 2 episodes or so. It doesn’t look like it is worth it though…

      • #3 by Flawfinder on December 15, 2015 - 10:43 pm

        It’s not very good. Kinda funny how it has the same writer as my favorite anime this season, but I guess we can’t forget he also wrote Chaos Dragon this year.

  2. #4 by jstorming on December 16, 2015 - 1:43 am

    Well..new Garo has its good moments but they’re marred by the huge swathes of just terribad…I’m hoping the second half will somehow improve inexplicably…so far only Seimei’s presence is the show’s saving grace (and the only reason why I’m still watching it).

    Lara was really more of a plot device than anything else…but she’s also one of the few genuinely “bright” characters in the show. Everyone pretty much exists with a grey morality (even Alfonso)…but Lara is clearly meant to be a “good” person.

    • #5 by Reiseng on December 16, 2015 - 12:04 pm

      Seimei is pretty great (in what I saw anyway).

      As for Lara, yeah, you make a good point. She really is the only character whose history or life isn’t tainted by the darkness around.

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