Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames Ep. 2: More dead mom baggage

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Man, this show just oozes cool. It’s just so goddamn cool. Even when our father-son duo thinks they’re about to save and thus recruit a fellow ally, Ema is not your average damsel-in-distress. Hell, she’s not a damsel-in-distress at all. German thinks they’ve gotten to her just in the nick of time, but it turns out they’re really just getting in her way. And of course, when the dust settles and the Horror-of-the-week is finally subdued, she rejects them, but why wouldn’t she? It’s obvious that Leon isn’t ready to be her ally. Someone with his baggage? No way. I’m sure he will be ready by the time the series is all said and done, but his character development naturally takes a step back — not in terms of quality, mind you — to show us that Leon is still quite flawed. He’s inherited his mother’s golden armor, but he doesn’t quite deserve to wear it just yet. He isn’t just going to transform into a Golden Knight every episode and kick demon ass left and right without breaking a sweat. If Leon wants to be the people’s protector, he’s going to have to earn it.

And it’s a classic tale, really. Even though Leon was just a newborn when his mother was burned alive, her death continues to haunt him. As a result, he becomes consumed by rage — a rage to reflect his powerlessness at the time of her death. German had to plead with his son to turn away from the fire in his heart. His anger and hatred even manifest as these markings on the left side of his body. It probably isn’t a coincidence that a quick dip in some cleansing water was enough to “wash” said markings away. Anyway, Leon was certainly just a baby at the time his mother was executed, so how can he honestly blame himself? But that’s the easy conclusion that we can come to as an impartial observer. From the kid’s perspective, he now has the burden of becoming the people’s savior, but at the same time, he couldn’t save his own mother. Fair or not — and it’s certainly not fair — that’s the reality of the situation. I can’t help but wonder if there’s perhaps some hesitancy in Leon’s heart about his destiny.

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Meanwhile, Alfonso is clearly set up to be Leon’s foil. Whereas Leon was raised by his father, one can hardly say the prince knows his oft-bedridden father. Whereas Leon had to watch his mother die, Alfonso has the opportunity to save his mother’s life. Whereas Leon had a harsh and difficult childhood, moving from place to place as he and his father tried to avoid Mendoza’s detection, Alfonso got to live the life of luxury. More importantly, whereas Leon looks like he’s about to boil over with rage and anger in every scene, the prince exudes a certain level of calmness that even affects the people around him: “Your majesty. Alfonso has grown to be an upstanding prince. Watching him brings me a feeling of peace.” I don’t think anyone could or would ever say the same about Leon. For the moment, anyway. At one point in the episode, he gets so pissed off at German that the latter sports a shiner the next time we see him. But that’s probably why German is such a carefree playboy.

To a certain extent, I’m sure this is just what German is really like. Leon thus can’t help but wonder how his mother could ever love such a man. Of course, he never really knew his mother. His mother could be more like his father than he thinks. But I also believe German is playing it up a bit. After all, it would do neither of them any good for both of them to be overly serious. German knows that shit is going down. And because shit is going down, he and Leon are on the move. In an ideal world, I don’t think Leon would be thrust into this situation. He needs more time to stew, so to speak. He might be the Golden Knight Garo, but at the same time, he’s not quite ready to be the Golden Knight Garo if you know what I mean. But again, shit is going down, so there’s no helping it. German and Leon have to do something, and in the meantime, German has to be the way that he is to act as a counterbalance to his son.

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That’s why I don’t blame Emma for being rather harsh in her assessment of the two Makai Knights. From her vantage point, shit is going down too. But there are two ways to look at the problem. German sees it as, “We might not be ready, but we gotta do something.” It’s different for Ema, though. She was always ready and prepared to go it alone. Even when it looked as though this week’s Horror had Ema cornered, she really had everything under control. Then while German is busy trying pull his son back from the brink of emotional destruction, Ema goes about her business and defeats the Horror herself. So if anything, the Makai Knights have to prove themselves to her. And clearly, they have not. Oh well. I’m sure there will be opportunities in the future to rectify this problem. In the meantime, I just hope her character gets developed, but I’m actually pretty optimistic about this show. As such, I don’t expect to be disappointed.

Stray notes & observations:

— I’m not familiar with the Garo universe, so I’m not quite sure who German is talking to at the start of the episode. He simply refers to her as “a dog of the Watchdog Center.” What’s the Watchdog Center? The way German can only leave and enter the place through a portal, it thus seems to be a realm that lies somewhere beyond the real world, but that’s just speculation on my part. As for the “dog,” it appears as a young girl, but when she offers to speak to German in her true form, he quickly turns her down. Perhaps it is something monstrous. Perhaps not. In any case, the ensuing conversation seems to imply that individuals like her are supposed to issue orders to the Makai Knights. A series of orders, however, sent a lot of those knights to their deaths. Our “dog” denies responsibility, though. Instead, she claims that those orders had been faked by none other than Mendoza himself. I wonder what his deal is. Time will tell, I guess.

— I like the way German mimics the the girl by mockingly shrugging his shoulder at the end of the scene. It’s a small touch, but nevertheless, the guy has personality.

— Oh yeah, the anime refers to the Makai Priests as Alchemists instead. Shrug.

— German tells his son to lose his virginity in order to get rid of those markings on his body. It’s a joke, but in a way, it’s also true. If Leon can find a girl, maybe he won’t be so hung up on his late mother. This explains why Leon is so pissed off during this scene.

— If Alfonso doesn’t agree with ancient traditions like whippings, then why not just pardon the poor worker? Surely, as a prince, he can do that much, can’t he? Even if he can’t, I’m sure he didn’t have to start destroying a stone emblem just to prove a point.

— There’s some nice, understated humor in this series. German’s face during this part cracked me up.

— I thought this week’s episode did a better job with the 3-D knights. They didn’t stick out as much to me. And as always, the action is pretty slick. The Horrors kind of remind me a bit of the Shadows from the Shin Megami Tensei series, but these encounters are on a more epic scale. I wonder what the city planners will think when they wake up to find a huge chunk missing from one of their walkways.

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16 thoughts on “Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames Ep. 2: More dead mom baggage”

  1. Actually, that was Funimation’s translation of Makai Priest to Makai Alchemist. Also you should check out the live-action version.

  2. “If Alfonso doesn’t agree with ancient traditions like whippings, then why not just pardon the poor worker? Surely, as a prince, he can do that much, can’t he? Even if he can’t, I’m sure he didn’t have to start destroying a stone emblem just to prove a point.”

    I thought the same thing, but after giving it a little more thought I think I can see why:

    Sure, Alfonso could simply demand the acquittal of the worker. But wouldn’t that be a command that clearly resembles the same spirit as the tradition? At the end of the day it’s an order that comes from a prince, a member of an institution who only god knows how old is (Well, maybe so do the historians). Alfonso was not content with merely saving his subject because he also sees an opportunity to declare himself belligerent against something that he believes outdated and unnecessary. And Alfonso is far more emphatic with this gesture: there are many people who would have verbally intervened in the same situation, but how many would actually take an effective action? With this act the prince is not only showing pity or mercy but also equity… Or at least that’s my take on this, maybe I’m trying too hard.

    I also thought this frame was very intriguing: http://i.imgur.com/sLwGj3V.jpg. I think is pretty obvious that one is Mendoza holding what it looks like fire or some sort of light and I suppose the other is Alfonso blowing a horn. It looks like there’s also a serpent between them, an animal that represents duality. I can think of a couple of ideas but nothing has convinced me yet.

    What do you think?

      1. By destroying shit, he proves a point better – that u can’t whip a prince even when he wreck’d the thing in front of ya. But whatever.

        Would be cool if Herman did the queen so Alf is his kid. Probably not but hey.

  3. As someone who’s familiar with the live-action, I’ll comment that your observations on the Watchdog are pretty spot on. I won’t say too much on them save for that you should keep on an eye on them as they will be pretty important later.

    I like where Garo is going so far–definitely the dark horse anime of this season.

  4. So far, the anime has been able to run with what seems to be a classic storyline without making it seem formulaic. I’m very intrigued by Herman and Leon’s father and son relationship and how the mother is a central element to how the two interact. Based on my experience with the live action series, parent-child relationships and inheriting responsibilities is a running theme in the franchise.

    “We might not be ready, but we gotta do something.”
    – This certainly seems to be the case. Leon is too young and emotionally unstable to be a Makai Knight. Compare it to how Alphonso received the emblem on his 20th birthday. From what I remember in the live action, most of the Makai Knights are around 20 or older. The armors are psycho reactive and feed on the kind of angst Leon has right now so it’s easy for him to be consumed. Age isn’t necessarily a certain indication for maturity but I think your post makes it clear that Leon isn’t ready to be Garo just yet but he has to. As to why, I suppose that’s something the show will touch on sooner or later.

  5. This series just keeps getting better. I’ve heard that live-action Garo fans aren’t too happy about this anime, can anyone tell me why?

    1. Re: toku fans feelings on the anime: what I’ve seen is partly that it’s reminding people a little too much of Berserk, which is a understandable comparison if you’ve seen both. Also, this is a very foreign setting for GARO, so that takes getting used to – I know I’m still wrapping my head around it, since it is definitely tied to the main franchise. And then some fans just don’t like non-Saejima GAROs – some aspects of Leon remind me of Ryuuga in Yami wo Terasu Mono (especially with both being relatively inexperienced), and that show isn’t as well liked. On my part, my problems with the anime are mostly with the opening and ending animations – they really don’t feel like a GARO opening/ending (side note: do we know how many episodes we’re getting of the GARO anime? I will admit that getting a JAM Project opening theme right off the bat is making me wonder, since usually we get that in the second half of a live action series. (g)), plus problems with the official translation.

      Seriously, Priest does not equal Alchemist. Makai Priests are artificers and magic users. Alchemist really doesn’t fit that. Considering FUNi subbed FMA (and that Emma’s seiyuu is Ed Elric (g)), I’m WTFing about that, especially since (Buddhist) Priest is the translation of “Houshi”. I’m really hoping that FUNi was ordered to translate it that way for some reason by the Japanese side, because otherwise that’s a serious error, IMHO (and will probably also lead to more toku fan rage (g)).

      Oh, and regarding the Watchdogs, the above observations are spot on, and I was wondering how folks who only have seen the anime would think about that scene. In regards to THAT Watchdog, she’s actually older than she looks, hence the comment about her true form. Anything else is spoilers for the original series (and are why I was wondering how anime only viewers would interpret it). (g)

  6. I found it strange that German would talk to Leon about the armor they have right next to a woman.

    Is it that easy to do stuff like that without getting some second glances?

    1. I think people are familiar enough with the Makai Knights in this universe to not pay too much notice to a random conversation about said armor.

  7. So far, very good. I won’t call it outstanding, but they are proving that clichés or familiar storylines aren’t a bad thing.

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