There’s a saying that goes, “An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.” In this week’s episode, we hear Mendoza’s story. Is it enough to humanize him? After hearing it, there’s certainly no doubt about the fact that he’s an evil man who deserves to be put down. He’s too dangerous to even lock up in some cell deep within the depths of some high-security dungeon. Nevertheless, I feel sorry for him. According to Ema, Mendoza was exiled for stealing “Zirkel’s Circle, a forbidden Madou tool that allows you to control Horrors.” In Mendoza’s own memories, however, he was excommunicated for creating that same tool. Not only that, he was conducting his experiments with human blood. Makai Knights and Priests are duty-bound to protect the people, not hurt them. There is thus no greater crime than what Mendoza had committed. This is an age-old tale, though. It is a tale that reminds us of the angels. Since Makai Knights and Priests are superior to the average Joes out there, Mendoza cannot understand why they must serve and protect the people. As we have seen in previous episodes, being a Makai Knight or Priest is often a thankless job. Even if you help these people, they continue to fear and hate you. A good person can brush aside these petty feelings, but Mendoza grew resentful. His pride and his hubris ultimately led to his downfall, and he was thus branded forever by his own master. So far, so good, right? What is there to feel sorry about?
Well, not only would Mendoza be branded for eternity, but his bloodline as well. In the words of his own master, Mendoza’s blood must never cross again with the blood of others. I guess I just don’t understand the need to punish Mendoza’s bloodline. This is a common thing in many cultures. Lots of children often grow up to learn that they must pay for the sins of their fathers, but I can never personally agree with that stance. Are we not born innocent? According to Mendoza’s master, apparently not. I suppose the fear here is that Mendoza’s evil can be passed down through generations and generations. And since the Council isn’t allowed to execute anyone, they likely wouldn’t be able to castrate Mendoza either. Still, I can’t help but feel sorry for Mendoza’s newborn. He or she never even had a chance. But most of all, branding the former Makai Priest also denies him a path to redemption. Can Mendoza be redeemed? I don’t know. Probably not. But shouldn’t we have mercy in our hearts anyway? Shouldn’t we believe that the goodness in people will ultimately prevail? On the other hand, Garo is set in a far different universe than the one I live in. The Garo universe seems rather harsh and brutish, bleak and cruel. In this universe, perhaps it is only foolish to show even the slightest bit of mercy towards a man like Mendoza.
In the end, I can’t say I know what Mendoza’s master should’ve done. Given what she knew at the time, she probably chose the correct course of action. There’s no way she would’ve known that Mendoza would somehow work his way into the king’s favor, and become the most powerful man in Valiante. There’s no way she would’ve known that he’d become a relentless mass murderer. Still, a small part of me feels sorry for Mendoza. He shouldn’t have experiment with human blood. He shouldn’t look down on the people he had sworn to protect (I assume you make some sort of oath before you can take on the title of a Makai Priest). Nevertheless, the eternal brand seems to harsh to me. It seems too vindictive.
Stray notes & observations:
— Alfonso sings Garo’s praises. Yes, Garo’s praises. Not Leon’s. That’s the crucial difference right there. Leon can wear Garo’s armor, but he doesn’t really deserve to. You get the sense that he knows it too: “My only goal is to eliminate Mendoza and the Horrors! That’s right. That’s all.” That’s because he isn’t brave enough to shoulder that burden. He isn’t brave enough to live up to the people’s expectations. Last but not least, he isn’t brave enough to set aside his personal feelings. Contrast this with Alfonso. Near the end of the episode, Leon suggests that they go and save the prince’s mother first, but the Alfonso quickly rejects this plan: “No, Leon. I did not come back to save my mother. I returned to save Valiante.” This may sound cold to a lot of us, but honestly, the prince is right. In fact, it would easier to save one’s own mother first. Who could honestly blame him if he did? Who amongst us would begrudge a son for putting his mother first and foremost? On the other hand, it actually takes courage for Alfonso to go against the grain, but ultimately, he’s right. He’s brave enough to set aside his personal feelings and fulfill his duty to the ones who need him most. As Leon’s foil, Alfonso embodies what his cousin lacks.
— On the bright side, the two cousins are finally working together. Maybe Leon can learn a thing or two from Alfonso. What can Alfonso learn from Leon? I’m not sure… street smarts, maybe?
— Leon sure does blush around Ema a lot. She’s a bit too old for him, though, so I think he’s just simply embarrassed. As I’ve said before, I still think that the two young heroes bring a sort of femininity to the story — the femininity that they’ve inherited from their mothers.
— As always, German adds just the right amount of levity to the story.
— Ema: “The more you love someone, the harder it is to trust them.” Um, I can’t say I agree with that.
— According to Mendoza, Rafael’s death means that everyone who was present for the former’s excommunication is finally dead. Who was the other Makai Knight, then? Or does his identity not matter?
— Mendoza’s master: “Humans can already obtain eternity by leaving descendants.” Case in point, the legend of Garo will probably never die.
— Octavia is some strange groupie. Having lost faith in a god that never answers her prayers, she turns instead to evil simply because it is palpable. Like Ema, I hope her character gets fleshed out at some point.
— According to German, Anna gave Leon those marks on his body. They are meant to defend him, but at the same time, they can consume him if his emotions run amok. At the moment, I’m not sure if there’s any greater thematic significance to them, so I’ll just hold onto this nugget of information.
— The three Makai Knights — all related, of course — ready themselves to infiltrate the Castle and Santa Bard and eliminate Mendoza once and for all. Unfortunately, Ema refuses to go any further. In my eyes, she still plays too much of a supporting role. Still, this is a longer series than I had anticipated, so I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.
— Y’know, I don’t often say much about an anime’s soundtrack — mostly because it isn’t an area that I feel comfortable talking about — but I really enjoy how well Garo’s music manages to help establish the tone for many of the anime’s emotional moments.
— The noblest sacrifice Esmeralda can make is to give up her own life. She knows that Mendoza intends to use her as a trump card against her own son, so why not deny the evil man this pleasure?
— I enjoyed the alien architecture at the end of the episode. It shows you that Mendoza is tapping into powers that are literally not of this world. I’m not too excited about these monsters, though. They look pretty ordinary, especially after the Horror in last week’s episode.
— Former friends reunite. I wonder, however, if German can still go toe-to-toe with Bernardo, or has evil given the former Makai Knight that much more power.