Despite the recent victory, Horrors are an ever-present threat to the Kingdom of Valiante, and Prince Alfonso is struggling to balance his duties both as the next king and as a Makai Knight. León has gone missing and the question of whether he’s even alive is on everyone’s lips, yet all they can do is trust that he is okay. And despite it all, León’s father, Germán, remains on the lookout for a woman who will provide him another heir to inherit his Makai armour. For the most part, the kingdom is at peace. However, something nefarious lurks in the shadows of Valiante, and it’s only a matter of time before catastrophe befalls the land once again.
After the cliffhanger of the century, albeit one that was resolved immediately in the episode preview, the second half of Garo easily makes up for what the first lacks in story and character development. While the first twelve episodes do a good job of establishing most plot devices and character traits in the show, it leaves a little to be desired in terms of actual progression. Due in part to this, the rest of the season does not disappoint. There are a few instances where something seemingly important is either forgotten or simply glossed over, but for the most part everything wraps up nicely. Once the foundations are laid, Garo The Animation does a fantastic job of utilising what has been introduced.
Initially I expected the second half to lack direction in the beginning and become predictable towards the end. Thankfully this is not the case. With the relative peace achieved after the climax of the first half, Garo begins to explore a little more into the every day lives of the ordinary people of Valiante. This new perspective of the world adds much needed context for the characters’ motives, and helps to create a more personal story. In this genre, and especially in this setting, world building is very underappreciated. Sure, context isn’t necessary to create an action filled show, but it adds so much more charm to an otherwise two-dimensional idea. Having some form of attachment to the world and characters accentuates the dark tones and serious aspects of an anime such as this.
In the same vein as world building, appropriate characterisation can also help to differentiate a good show from a great one. Again, while not required when action is the focus, Garo takes that extra step anyway and provides meaningful backstory and developmental opportunities for its characters. It is an anime that can be enjoyed for its fight scenes as well as the reasoning behind them. Even the antagonists’ motives are easy to empathise with. After being presented with their backstory, their actions take on an almost admirable light. Having the chance to understand the viewpoint of each character helps to generate a completely different understanding of certain situations. As such, the length at which all parties involved are willing to go can be both outrageous yet oddly believable.
Once again, the effort made to demonstrate each character’s thoughts at various points throughout the show is refreshing. In one example, León fails to come to terms with his duty as a Makai Knight and hurtles into a spiral of depression. His disposition completely diverts from how he was originally depicted, and it was at this point that the show became so much more than action for the sake of action. León’s experience amongst the ordinary people of Valiante shapes him in an engaging way, leading the initial perception of him to be completely forgone as he finds new meaning in his role as a Makai Knight. Without taking the time to explore his development here, his switch in motivation for what he fights for would be superficial.
Even with everything that this show has done right, Garo The Animation has its fair share of flaws. In partciular, while the story wraps up rather nicely, when all is said and done there are a number of unused plot devices. Of course, it’s possible that they are planned to be revisited in the movie or later seasons, but it’s disappointing to see something introduced only to be cast aside almost immediately. In particular, the first part established how a demon ring that León wears will incapacitate him once every new moon, yet this mechanic of the ring is never brought up again. There are a few occurrences like this, but for the most part the majority of plot devices that are set up are used effectively.
Although I wasn’t fully convinced after the first part, part two of Garo The Animation solidifies itself as a well-written and entertaining show. What it does right it does exceptionally, especially in terms of character development. It’s so easy leave out interesting characterisation in favour of flashier battles, but when the creators have taken the time to delve into the motives of an inconsequential character whose sole purpose is to get in the way of the protagonists, it becomes much easier to appreciate the plot. That isn’t to say that Garo is a perfect product of its genre, but it is a show that is worth investing your time into.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.