I generally try to stick to live-action series for this column, but when there’s an animated series that’s based on a tokusatsu franchise, it’s only fitting to make an exception.
This week, I’m revisiting Garo: Honoo no Kokuin. Now that the series has ended (although I think I saw something about more coming later), I feel like we have a much better picture of what Yasuko Kobayashi-sensei was trying to do.
Right up front, I of course have to acknowledge how different animation and live-action are. There are things that can be done in one format and not the other, and vice versa. As I mentioned in the “first look”, Honoo no Kokuin started out with a much bigger cast than we’ve typically seen in previous offerings. It did get whittled down as the story progressed, but there’s no denying that it contributed to a lot of the elements that typically show up in Garo falling by the wayside until that happened. Even when they did surface, they weren’t explained very well, as if the audience would already be familiar with how things work. One thing that she did well, though, was the telling of Leon’s arc. Being the title holder of Garo for most of the series, and despite seeing other characters’ threads while they were all walking separate paths, the story truly remained primarily about him.
Secondly, the cinematography was also very different, in this case especially noticeable through the lighting filters. The live-action offerings are far more muted than can really be accomplished through this style of animation. In order to help convey Leon’s journey, they had to show audience a more vibrant environment for him to discover himself and his needs. In this comparison, the fight scenes were really the only elements that aligned with a typical Garo story – even though much of the early fights in the live-action were done with suit actors, they began to animate them on the computer after a while. Oddly, it was as jarring going from animation to animation as it was going from live-action to animation (think of something like Initial D, for a good idea of the distinction). That being said, expecting that leap actually helped bring it back into focus.
All things considered, fans of the main Garo franchise will probably not like this series much, unless they have the patience to sit through the first half. It is far more recognizable after that, but the plot depends on that first half to form a basis of understanding for how it reaches the climactic ending. People coming in to Garo through the anime will hopefully be able to grasp the various live-action series without having much of an explanation as to why things are the way they are in this world. It certainly doesn’t help that it takes place in an alternate universe.
Rating: 3rd Gear
[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]