where there is light.
shadows lurk, and fear reigns.
but by the blade of knights….
mankind, was given hope.
When most people think of Tokusatsu in Japan, they think of shows like Super Sentai. They think of shows like Kamen Rider. They think of shows like Ultraman, or even Godzilla. Rarely do people think of GARO, when they think of tokusatsu.
I really hope that changes, because there is a whole new world of more, adult orientated tokusatsu out there. We’re going to dive into it head first, with 2005’s….GARO.
GARO, is not produced by TOEI (much like it’s Super Sentai or Kamen Rider brethren.) While most tokusatsu is very…kid friendly-GARO…is not. Not by any stretch of the imagination. GARO is dark, bloody, violent. The show has partial nudity, and when the fan sub groups put in random swear words-it actually makes sense. Here’s the basic plot synopsis of GARO, which lasted from 2005-2006, and ran for 25 episodes.
Garo focuses on the life of Kouga Saezima, who has assumed the title of Makai Knight to protect humanity against dark demonic manifestations called “Horrors.” In his quest to purge them, he encounters a young girl named Kaoru whom he saves from a Horror, but who is stained with its demonic blood. As a rule, those that have been stained by the blood of a Horror shall be cut down, or else they will die painfully in approximately 100 days. Kouga spares Kaoru and tries to find a way to purify her before her remaining time expires. Thus, the series focuses on Kouga’s developing relationship with Kaoru and his stand in protecting humanity in accordance with the wishes of his father, the previous Garo. In the process, encountering another Makai Knight named Rei Suzumura who eventually becomes his ally, Kouga confronts his father’s former disciple who is also the cause of recent string of Horror attacks in preparation of a more sinister advent of the Horrors’ originator Messiah.
It’s definitely not for kids. Fans of high octane swordplay and martial arts action? Yes. Fans of dark, violent movies? Yes. Fans of bad-asses-in-equally-bad-ass-white-trench-coats-kicking-the-shit-out-of-demons-over-a-hot-japanese-girl-while-kicking-ass-with-an-equally-bad-ass-dude-in-black? HELL YES!
GARO follows Kouga, his enchanted ring, Zaruba, his butler Gonza, the second hero of the series, Rei (aka the Silver Knight Zero) and Miss Kaoru, as they travel the world expelling Horrors from the world.
Kouga starts off as a loner, stoic and unmoved. He only lives to destroy the Horrors that plague humanity. He meets Kaoru, an artist who was attacked by a Horror. She is stained by the Horrors blood, and Kouga decided to keep her alive instead of slaying her-and uses her as bait to attract other Horrors. Pretty good plan actually, considering what happens to people infected by Horrors.
Horrors attract the darkness in the human soul. Now in most toku shows (read: Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, etc)-if a random civilian is affected by the Monster of the Week, the changes put into place are usually automatically reversed when said monster is destroyed. So you’d think the same for the Realm of GARO right? When the Horror is slayed, the human returns to normal…no harm, no fou-OH MY GOD. What do you mean the person dies?
Yep. No compassion. You bond with a horror, you die. That’s pretty much the order of things. It my friends, is awesome.
The show is done with ALOT of CGI, while I prefer the frantic wire-fu that a Koichi Sakamoto brings to shows like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider (which is the sole reason Fourze is AWESOME!), I really like it. The armored battles really aren’t much. Usually they’re when a Horror has fully evolved-Kouga summons his armor, does some fancy ass move-and it blows up. That’s it…
Thats another thing…the henshin sequences in GARO are just so….meh. They throw their sword in the air, cut a magical circle into the [presumably] fabric of reality, and their armor spills out. It just doesn’t seem as heroic as Gentaro slapping on the Fourze Driver, flipping a few switches and yelling “ITS SPACE TIME!!!”….or as stoically badsss as Shotoro plugging the Joker memory into his belt, doing his bad ass pose, and asking a baddy to ‘count up their crimes’…..i guess because its not a kids show out to sell toys-it doesn’t need a flashy henshin sequence….but still…
the REAL action is the unmorphed swordplay between the characters. The closest fairly mainstream show in the US I’ve found to match the level of excitement was Highlander: The Series. The swordplay IS the focus. Hell, there’s an entire episode of “Makai Senki” (the 2011 follow up series…which we’ll discuss at another time) where Rei fights a man named Juuzou (no…not THAT Juuzou….I know, I wished too, the set up were there. Gedoushu are basically Horrors…he was possessed by a sword…), where the whole time they compliment each others swordplay!
But that’s another blog….
Overall, the action is fantastic. The monster designs are CREEPY AS FUCK. SERIOUSLY! I guess since you’re dealing with demons-they’d kinda have to be…but holy wow…some crazy stuff in here.
All in all, GARO is a lot of fun. I’d recommend checking out the “Red Requiem” movie. It doesn’t require any particular knowledge of GARO, but gives you pretty good look into his world. Its what I started with, and I fell in love.
Go check it out…NOW! TVN has it subbed, and I think Over-Time does too…I know I get my Makai Senki (and Fourze…and Gokaiger) subs from Over-Time, and you should too…