Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames put in a strong showing on our list of 2015’s best, but I’m not sure any of us expected the sequel movie to be anything special. These sorts of films tend to follow a tired formula, where a one-off villain stronger than anything in the TV show appears and is yet somehow defeated within two hours with some sort of special, movie-exclusive power-up. While Divine Flame follows this, it does so with such sheer style and panache that I could not help but be either grinning or gleefully laughing at the screen for the entire run-time. Garo has always been about blood, sex, and metal, and this movie is all of that cranked up to 11.
We pick up somewhere around five years after the end of the TV finale, where things in the Kingdom of Valiante seem to have calmed down considerably after its evil vizier was condemned to an eternity of burning in Hell.
Germán’s Cool Dad’s baby boy Roberto is learning how to kick ass with Zoro’s double blades; Alfonso is still a pure-hearted, loveable square; and León is still fucking up Horrors at night while JAM Project’s screaming vocals play. Of course, since Roberto is an adorable toddler, he is kidnapped by the end of the first act to spur our heroes (including Ema, who’s back in town) into action, which is standard enough fare for something like this.
Less standard is Cool Dad coming back from the dead for one last hurrah; while resurrection plots are a very tough line to walk, Divine Flame holds off some exasperation by making it clear that it’s a temporary deal for the movie only, and that Cool Dad is very much still dead. On some level it cheapens his sacrifice from the TV finale, but its worth it to wrap up his plot arc with Ximena and Roberto, and he was such a core element of the show’s run that the movie would be missing something if he wasn’t present.
This all feeds into some of the most incredible, jaw-dropping action scenes in years. We’ve always known MAPPA can bring the heat when they need to, and Garo stokes that fire with plenty of cash money. The CG Makai Knights are considerably improved with a more cel-shaded look – miles beyond anything in Crimson Moon – and the rarely-used magic-armor-horse-things from the show return as Super ATVs or something, with a number of ludicrous jousting battles ranging from the forest to the surface of a lake to just in the fucking sky. Ema swings around like Spider-Man in a sequence that runs about twice as long as you’d think it would, because surely they can’t afford to keep it going any longer, right? Garo powers up to an even more absurd Final Form than the last episode. It’s all totally stupid in the best possible way and I was glued to the screen for every second of it.
It isn’t all nonstop action, though, and we get some decent character stuff for an 80 minute movie. As mentioned Germán finally gets to see his son and his, uh… girlfriend…? It’s a bit of an interesting role reversal to see León having fully embraced his role as protector while Cool Dad now has a single-minded determination to save Roberto at any cost, though I wouldn’t say it really goes anywhere. I imagine they were trying to make the Movie Villain more sympathetic by depicting them as not-so-different, but I don’t think any viewer can equivocate Dario’s creepy, obsessive love for the clearly long-gone Sara with the protective love of a father toward his child.
At any rate, Garo: Divine Flame is a wonderful capstone to The Carved Seal of Flames and a reminder that not all sequel movies are cheap cash-grabs. And, hopefully, it’s also an indicator of what MAPPA can manage with that sweet Cygames money when Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul airs…