Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames Ep. 5: Carrying your mother’s legacy

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No wonder Leon and Alfonso are foils. They’re cousins! Luckily, I don’t have to worry about cousin-love rearing its ugly head in this anime. In any case, most of this week’s episode is told from Alfonso’s perspective. Y’see, Leon’s down for the count, because it’s his special time of the month. As you’ll recall, Zaruba demands a life sacrifice from the Golden Knight every new moon, and when this happens, the the latter cannot fight. It’s not really blood, but Zaruba nevertheless draws out some sort of red energy from Leon to fulfill the terms of the contract. As a result, our Golden Knight loses a day of his life every month. In that sense, he may as well have lost his own blood. Yes, Leon symbolically bleeds once a month. You might think I’m being facetious, but y’know, there’s might be something to this. After all, Leon gets mad at German a lot, especially when the latter flirts and sleeps around with other women.

So perhaps Leon does fulfill a certain symbolic role… a symbolic role that his mother might have fulfilled if she was still around. And in fulfilling this role, Leon brings a certain balance to the story. This is, after all, a stereotypically masculine tale. Most of the other characters are stoic; they’re not honest about how they truly feel. German, in particular, puts up a jovial front around his son, but we know he can get serious when he needs to. Therefore, Leon brings balance to the story by being honest with his feelings. But I’m not trying to say, “Women are just emotional!” as if emotions are a bad thing. Since Alfonso is a foil, he, like Leon, is also a character who is honest with his feelings. More importantly, the prince shows how one’s emotions can be used to one’s advantage. The point is, both young men are reflective of their mothers, and as such, they lend a certain femininity to the story.

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Our prince has found himself a mentor: a Makai Knight by the name of Raphael. Raphael reveals to our prince that the latter carries with him the bloodline of the Golden Knight. As such, Alfonso has the potential to become a Makai Knight himself and combat Horrors. But again, because he and Leon are foils, this episode nevertheless manages to develop Leon’s character in an indirect, roundabout sort of way. For example, the two young men’s situations mirror their mothers’ divergent paths in life. It never seemed as though Anna, Leon’s mother, had a choice in the matter. It was her duty to become a Makai Priestess and pass on the golden armor, so she did. Her younger sister Esmeralda, on the other hand, was adopted by aristocrats, so she knew and still knows nothing about her heritage. Likewise, Alfonso knows nothing of his destiny. And likewise, Alfonso has lived a life of luxury up until now.

What’s important, however, is that our prince has a choice in the matter. He can run away from his “destiny,” or he can stay and fight. Naturally, he chooses to stay and fight. On the other hand, it never really seems as though Leon had much of choice. He was born from conflict, and he’s been trained from a young age to prepare for conflict. It is his duty to become the Golden Knight, but has it ever been his decision to become one? For example, when German asked the late Gael to repair the Ring of Zaruba, Leon was just a sleeping child. He was groomed to fulfill his destiny from a young age, and he never had a choice in the matter. As such, you can’t help but wonder if Leon’s anger largely stems from his lack of agency. Leon wasn’t allowed to have a normal upbringing because of what Mendoza had done to his mother. It’s very possible that he’s going after Mendoza not just for his mother, but for himself as well.

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Leon’s motivations are murky, so naturally, his soul is troubled. He knows what his duty is, and he knows what he’s supposed to do. Nevertheless, he’s largely motivated by his anger, and as a result, he isn’t ready to become the a hero of justice. At the end of the day, it matters why you fight, and Leon hasn’t fully sorted out his feelings. German has to keep his own son in check1, because Leon is often in danger of losing control of himself. Nevertheless, the boy is physically ready to fight. No one doubts his strength. On the flip side of the coin, although Alfonso’s motivations are clear, he starts off weak. He can’t kill any of the Horrors. Still, Alfonso chooses to be a hero. He wants to not only save his mother, but protect his people as well. He’s not moved by anger either. Rather, he’s moved by his compassion. And as you will see, this compassion is what gives Alfonso the strength he needs.

At the end of the episode, the prince kneels beside a crying mother and child, and he expresses his remorse: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!” But why is he even sorry? He’s done nothing wrong. In fact, he saved the kid’s life! Well, he’s sorry that he isn’t stronger. He’s sorry that even though he’s a prince, he can’t do more. Whereas Leon’s emotions are disabling, the prince’s emotions are a source of strength. Alfonso therefore reiterates his desire to have Raphael train him. He uses his compassion for his people to strengthen his resolve. No, Leon isn’t so arrogant that he wouldn’t care for a helpless mother and her child. The point is, Leon never had a choice, whereas Alfonso does. The prince could have given up, and run away, but he doesn’t. Like I’ve said, it’s not an accident that our two young men are the only characters to display any range of emotions in the story. They bring their mothers’ femininity with them, for better or for worse.

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In the latter half of the episode, Raphael and Alfonso visit Valdona, a land once known for its bountiful grapes and abundance of wheat. Unfortunately, in recent times, the region seems to have fallen into disarray. The ground is now barren and cracked, nary a plant life to be found. Instead, the roads are lined with shriveled, dead trees. The land’s inhabitants have lost all hope. When they see outsiders, they flee in fear as though they’ve been running from death their entire lives. We soon learn that Count Romero has fallen under the influences of a Horror, but not only that, it would appear that he forces his own people to sacrifice their newborn infants to the monster that rules him. When we see Romero, he appears as a blind, old man — his mind long gone for whatever reason. You can thus see the parallels between not just Valdona and Valiante, but Romero and Fernando as well.

If last week’s episode paralleled Leon’s story, then this week’s episode parallels Alfonso’s story. I’m sure Valiante was a prospering kingdom in its heyday, and likewise, Fernando was a great king. But those days now belong to the distant past. Fernando has since fallen under the influence of great evil. Mendoza may not be a Horror himself, but he commands an army of them. More importantly, Fernando is not only bedridden2, but unconscious. In other words, he too has lost his mind. He too has become blind to the state of his own kingdom. And who should pay the prince? His own son. Alfonso came very close to sharing that baby’s fate. In another universe, his mother would have had to reluctantly sacrifice him to Mendoza’s evil because Fernando was too far gone to save him. Luckily, with is mother’s warning, Alfonso was able to save himself. So it’s only fitting that Alfonso also manages to save the baby.

1 Hell, even German and Raphael appear to be polar opposites. German’s flaws and vices are obvious enough. Raphael, on the other hand, seems like a stern, taciturn sort of man. He’s not the sort to goof around.

2 There is a reason we saw Fernando in this week’s episode, and it’s to help us draw comparisons between him and Count Romero.


9 Replies to “Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames Ep. 5: Carrying your mother’s legacy”

  1. Didn’t expect them to be cousins but I guess now it makes even more sense. (And kinda tragic that Esmeralda saw her own sister get burned at the stake without her ever knowing they were related.) I really like this show, it does a lot of neat parallels and the character relationships are built upon.

    I also think this episode was an eye opener for Alfonso. He knew nothing of what was going outside his own kingdom. I think the power of choice plays a huge part into how he is as a character. I’m wondering if he’ll ever team up with Leon so that they can overcome each other’s shortcomings.

    1. I’m wondering if he’ll ever team up with Leon so that they can overcome each other’s shortcomings.

      They probably will. Their paths have to converge, since they both have the same enemy.

  2. That was a solid episode even if it wasn’t quite as good as last week. I really do enjoy all the parallels you bring up, it gives me a lot to think about.

  3. I really like Alfonso and Raphael a lot more than Leon and German. The story feels much more serious when dealing with their side which just drew me in to the series more. I just never feel Leon and German are in any danger which kills my enjoyment somewhat. Actually not just that I do not like Leon much I don’t know if its his character design, voice actor, or his attitude but I just can not get behind him. His anger comes off more as a whiny anger than the burn everything in its path vengeance anger he is filled with. Where as with Leon I can get behind his sense of righteousness. Which is weird because any other series I would like the angry hot head more and hate the character with a strong sense of honor and duty. Except kill la kill Satsuki Kiryuin is one of my favorite fictional characters in general while I don’t really care for Ryuko at all. .

  4. A bit slower after last week’s great episode but still a good one nonetheless.
    I have the impression that Alfonso’s mother wouldn’t sacrifise her child to the Horror even in other circumstances, she appears to be quite strong willed.
    I’ve been wondering where do these Makai Knights and Alchemists get the money for their living expenses and journeys? We can see that Raphael is crafty but most people don’t have his skills.

    1. I have the impression that Alfonso’s mother wouldn’t sacrifise her child to the Horror even in other circumstances, she appears to be quite strong willed.

      I’m not saying she would’ve. I’m just saying that Alfonso finds the situation similar.

  5. The only thing that really irks me about this show is the fact that women don’t seem to be able to become knights. Sure, Emma’s badass and all, but why couldn’t Anna use the Garo armor? It just seems a bit ridiculous that, in a universe that obviously has female warriors in it, women aren’t able to use the armor they inherit.

    1. Yeah, I too always wondered about that. And it’s even more jarring when you consider that men and women alike may become Makai Priests (the priests who got executed in the first episode, Mendooza, Emma etc.)

      on topic: great episode analysis. You really managed to bring the most interesting parallels drawn by the show as well as its numerous philosophical and symbolic elements (the whole deal with Alfonso and Leon bringing their moms’ feminity into the show was pretty clever as well).
      Funny thing is, during this episode I was actually telling myself that even as a “men’s” story, either Leon or Alfonso being girls wouldn’t have felt that out-of-place at all. But I do think it’s even more interesting to have these two boys represent the “feminine” side of things.

  6. One more thing: this show really is underrated. It’s a shame not more people are watching, cause it got both strong entertainment and thematic value.

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