Garo: Vanishing Line

3 out of 5

Directed by: Seong Ho Park

The Garo series has stretched across multiple formats and iterations – a surprising amount – since the early 00s.  According to my wikipedia skimming, though, jumping in at any of the various starting points – Vanishing Line being the third in the animated series’ offerings of Garo, and my first stab at the world – shouldn’t be a barrier to entry, as the general Good Guy (Garo) versus Bad Guy (demons) is pretty easy to comprehend, especially when, like Vanishing Line, we’re given a whole new set of characters and setting for that premise.  The carryover is the concept, and some incidental connecting pieces, as well as terms like Makai Knights – the league of good guys – and Horrors – the league of bad guys.  And Zaruba, main good guy Sword’s / Garo’s ring which is sassy and lets him know when danger’s afoot.

Garo mostly boils down to a monster-of-the-week format, with epic, zooming battles in the skies, on motorcycles, with lasers and bullets and magics flying and swords clashing, but those tend to blur together (especially as they all take place in wide-open, undetailed spaces); the show ends up being more interesting when it’s just the characters chatting: Sword talking with Sophie, his young tagalong who wants Sword to check out El Dorado, to which her brother has absconded and is likely home of a lot of horrors; Sword snarking with Luke, his Makai Knight pal; Sophie talking with Gina, another Makai-er and her surrogate mom; and then all the amusing banter mixed up ‘tween the lot of ’em.  Vanishing Line also takes a couple of important steps to deepen the backstories for our characters, allowing for some moderately reflective moments that are well-handled for an otherwise over-the-top show, and dances around the – for better or worse – boob obsession of a lot of anime by having Sword react rather hilariously zealously in the presence of any ‘notable’ mammaries, with every other character rolling their eyes at his behavior.  And excepting those cheap backgrounds, the animation is spot on: the main environments all have personality, and the characters are especially rich with life and movement.

Attempts to develop some deeper mythology around the El Dorado business start to feel rather dragged out toward the latter half of the season; yet, there are hints of a more involving plot if Vanishing Line had perhaps been allowed to go longer form.  Still, having such an enjoyable main cast offering up consistently enjoyable or rewarding dialogue is a fine backbone for a series, and definitely makes Garo an action adventure worth watching.

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