First Look: Garo – Crimson Moon

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Alternative titles: Garo – Guren no Tsuki, Garo – The Animation 2
Tokusatsu Adaptation by MAPPA
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

It’s the Heian period, the noble courts in Japan are thriving and the Garo armour is currently in possession of a dutiful young man named Raikou. Alongside his young sidekick Kintoki and the mysterious onmyouji Seirei, he does what every Makai Knight does best: fighting Horrors.

Aqua’s verdict: Makai Knightmare

The previous Garo anime was the right show at the right time, a sword-and-sorcery epic with splendid characterization and a keen sense of mature idealism amidst the sheer camp factor it carried over from its live-action source material. Yasuko Kobayashi made the pulp that is Garo better than it has any right to be, but despite a change in setting, medium and — arguably — quality, The Carved Seal of Flames still felt like Garo. Crimson Moon, on the other hand, is a superfluous, formulaic slog that clearly doesn’t agree with me on what made the first season so interesting.

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For some obscure reason that I can only hope is because she has another toku project in the pipeline, Crimson Moon has ousted Kobayashi in favour of Shou Aikawa and Toshiki Inoue. The latter is infamous (read: despised) in toku circles for his manufactured drama and incapability to write believable human characters — the exact opposite of Kobayashi, in other words — though luckily, Inoue has thus far kept the drama under lock. What does feature prominently here, however, is his appalling dialogue and groan-worthy sense of humour.

Like Inoue’s previous work, the utterly abysmal Shougeki Gouraigan, Crimson Moon is decidedly unfunny and populated by dull, flat characters bereft of the vices and virtues that made the Luis family in The Carved Seal of Flames such a joy to watch. The enigmatic Seirei is the sole standout in a cast full of unappealing, stone-faced washouts, but even Romi Park’s enthusiastic, sultry performance can do little to justify the spotlight the character is given. In spite of its promising historical setting, Crimson Moon lacks the horror, mystery and grimy atmosphere we’ve come to expect from Garo, and what’s left in its place is a thoroughly derivative shonen action series with all the lousy visuals and infantile scripting you’d expect from the genre.

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The Garo franchise has always been a case of style over substance, with groundbreaking special effects, a distinct gothic look, and especially its trademark bombastic action. For that reason, Crimson Moon could be forgiven for its utterly formulaic plot. There is no intriguing backstories, clever twists or new spins on the franchise’s known mythology, just a generically evil Horror who kidnaps and murders women (because of course) and gets his ass kicked by Raikou at the end of the episode. All of this could be forgiven if, at the very least, it looked phenomenal, right?

It doesn’t, of course. As a final nail in the coffin, the once impeccable MAPPA have thrown their hands up in the air (or, more likely: outsourced production to a bunch of hacks) and robbed Crimson Moon of any and all potential it could still have had. The striking character designs of The Carved Seal of Flames have been ditched in favour of a stiff, faux-Fist of the North Star-esque aesthetic, the CGI has gone from exemplary to substandard and what little action there is in this episode — apparently, Garo now favours masking generic episodic plots with K-On!-esque humour about delicious candies over filling up the gaps with cinematic action — is straight-up unpleasant to watch.

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In the end, Crimson Moon is an even bigger disappointment than I feared it would be, unable to live up to both the legacy of its grandiose predecessor and the theatrical splendour of its mother franchise. It’s a soulless, poorly produced and depressingly unambitious slog that, despite its setting being closer to that of the original live-action series, feels like it has no real clue about what Garo is even supposed to be about. From ‘fixing’ the subversive Kamen Rider Hibiki to steamrolling over the surprisingly mature OOO with his ridiculous script for Movie Wars Core — another Kobayashi work, by the way — Toshiki Inoue seems oddly keen on making sure toku never becomes anything more than the hackneyed dross he envisions it as. The genre is better off without him, however, and your life is better off without this show.

Iro’s verdict: Ga-NO

I am nearly struck silent by how grand of a disappointment Crimson Moon is. It lacks the quality production and plain heart of the previous Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames, ditching likable characters for flat nobodies and just looking plain bad. The CG used for the eponymous Garo armor looks like it’s from an early PS2 game, and is conspicuous in its lack of movement, and Seimei’s creation of a barrier arena is a hilariously unsubtle excuse for the production team to have a generic background they can reuse whenever necessary. I can only hope this trash heap of a second season isn’t indicative of how the allegedly upcoming second season of Rage of Bahamut: Genesis turns out. Please, MAPPA. You can do better than this.

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Zigg’s verdict: Tarnished Gold

This was definitely underwhelming, especially after the unexpected delight that was the previous Garo anime. That bought a sense of fun and a delightfully pulp sensibility to the adventures of the golden knight, and its pseudo-medieval European setting gave us something we don’t see to often in anime. Here, we’re back to feudal Japan and as intriguing as the history and culture of the period is, we’ve just seen it way way too many times before. That and our new cast lack magnetism and instead seem to have slipped into rather perfunctory superhero show archetypes. There’s even a kid sidekick, for goodness sake. The Horrors seen here lack both the disturbing design of the creepy sense of nastiness we’ve come to expect from the franchise, and there’s a surprising lack of bite despite the fact we still see a fair bit of blood on screen. The obvious visual downgrade doesn’t help either. All in all, very disappointing.

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3 thoughts on “First Look: Garo – Crimson Moon

  1. You know guys, it’s only been one episode. I feel like you might be jumping the gun a bit too much by already calling the show outright thrash.

  2. Pretty underwhelming first ep. Second seasons don’t generally live up to the first, right? Anyhow will continue in the hopes they turn it around.

    • In anime, hardly ever. The only examples I can think of of second seasons that live up to the first are Free!, Mushi-shi, Hidamari Sketch and A Certain Scientific Railgun.

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