Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames Ep. 18 & 19: Sad, imperfect creatures

Garo - The Animation - 1801

So Lara’s dead. That’s unfortunate. And there are a lot of reasons why I think it’s unfortunate. First of all, I liked her character. Not that it was well-developed or anything. Not that she was rich, complex, or full of depth or anything. In a story like Garo where it really seems as though everyone will eventually succumb to pain and despair, Lara represented a glint of hope — a hope for happier future away from all the fighting, the bloodshed, the hate, so on and so forth. But unfortunately, this did not come to be. Instead, she seems to be dead for good. Instead, her fate serves as a catalyst for Leon’s reforged purpose in life. And I guess that brings me to the second reason why I’m disappointed that she died.

Luckily, the girl hasn’t been stuffed in a fridge or anything, but once again, Lara follows a long line of women who must suffer some sort of unfortunate demise in order for the hero to get back to what he does best: being a superhero. You never really see a hero juggle both family life and their duties. They almost always must pick one or the other. And often times, the story can only progress if the dear maiden bites the bullet and removes herself from the narrative so that the hero is unencumbered. It’s almost easier this way. It’s hard in that someone close to you have to die, but the decision making becomes easier, and maybe that’s the true appeal here. You can accept your responsibilities without any guilt.

You don’t have to make that hard decision. You don’t have to balance  your life between two worlds. Let’s say she hadn’t died. How would the narrative resolve itself? Would Leon have settled down into an idyllic, bucolic life since Lara’s really just a simple farmer’s daughter? Or would he continue to become the people’s hero, returning home only rarely to see his wife and (presumably) children? Or better yet, he could take her with him! Y’know… even though she can’t fight. Even though she can’t do anything. She’d really be a liability, actually. On second thought, while the fans would’ve delighted to see Lara somehow accompany Leon on his adventures, it just wouldn’t have made much sense. She’s just a farmer’s daughter.

Garo - The Animation - 1802

So we take the easy way out. Why juggle both a family life and being a hero? Let’s just kill the girl, let her tragedy be the fire that forges your ironclad will, and now you’ll be stronger than ever, smarter than ever, more mature than ever… blah blah blah. You’ll even nail that hot, older chick who probably knows her way around sack. No, I’m not criticizing Garo for taking this route. Almost every superhero story takes this route. It seems to be a foregone conclusion in most people’s minds that you simply cannot be a hero and have a family at the same time. They’ll be endangered or something. Being a hero is a solitary life, they say. It’s only something they say, of course. After all, superhero aren’t actually real.

And at the end of the day, there’s something almost poetic about it all. Like I’ve said, Leon emerges from this tragedy with an ironforged will. He goes to his cousin and reclaims his golden armor. He is Garo again, but this time, he really, really wants to protect people. Out of an innocent girl’s death comes ideological purity… in a sense. It’s a common twist of narrative, but a bit morbid when you deconstruct it. There are pretty girls that die only to spur the hero along. Maybe that’s why The Incredibles is a cool movie. ‘Cause in a world of pure make-believe — again, heroes aren’t really real — your father can still come home every night and spend quality time with you. But maybe Garo comes from a culture that doesn’t really reflect that. Someone has to make the sacrifices.

I don’t want to get too much into Ema’s backstory. It really just reinforces the idea that love is transient for these warriors. Makai Priest or not, she’s a pretty strong warrior and so was her husband… until despair destroyed him. So there you go. Even when both people in the relationship are essentially co-workers in the same industry, if you will, it still ends in disaster. Hell, we’ve already seen this with German and Leon’s mother. You will experience true love, but it won’t last long. This is a dangerous life. Ema and Luciano are just another tragic example. So really now, how much better would Lara have fared as, again, a simple farmer’s daughter? Not very, I imagine… If Leon hadn’t gotten heavily injured in battle or something, she might have become a Horror or something!

Garo - The Animation - 1901

But Leon’s the hero! He wouldn’t die! Lara’s completely innocent! She wouldn’t turn into a Horror. Well, it’s nice to be idealistic about the characters that we care about, but after nineteen weeks, it seems quite apparent that the universe of Garo is just a wretched, miserable, brutal place. Witch hunts, villages seized by superstition, an entire region falling into disarray because the count or whatever went mad, Horrors constantly skulking in the dark, wandering doctors who really just want to kill you, so on and so forth. Even though everything seemed so happy with Lara’s family, they were actually in pretty deep debt. Not only that, their lives are completely ruined if they lose their seeds over the winter. That’s how bad it was. Life in this universe fucking sucks.

So you take your happiness wherever you can get it. It’s funny; I got a peculiar question about the ending of the very latest episode. Apparently, people are raging because of what Leon did to Ema…? Wait, what? What did he even do to her? She kissed him first, then he followed up by pinning her down to the bed. Oh, is it because it looks kind of rapey? No, it doesn’t. Holy shit, have you people never had sex? I’m sorry, but you don’t expect Leon to ask politely, “May I gently guide you down to the bed, guiding your wrists along the way?” Chill. It’s your love life. Again, Ema made the first move. She’s a grown ass woman. She’s injured and shit, but you can bet your ass she wouldn’t hesitate to kick the boy’s balls if he did anything she didn’t want.

Maybe we’re just unhappy to see them make love because Lara’s still fresh in our memories. On some emotional level, it almost feels like infidelity. And of course, Ema had just killed her husband, and as much as she hated what he had become, you gotta believe she’s still hung up on him a little bit… hung up on what he used to be. So you have two individuals who have just lost two people very close to them… actually, that’s not even quite fair. Leon and Ema basically lost the loves of their lives. And in their pain and despair, they take comfort in each other. It doesn’t mean anything, really. It doesn’t mean that they’ll become a couple. It doesn’t mean that they even care for each other.

Garo - The Animation - 1902

Leon and Ema are mutually using each other, and it’s because life in Garo fucking sucks. It’s like how alcohol is really shitty. It’s bitter, burns your throat, fucks your brain up, and a pure waste of money. But goddamn, after twelve hours at work, you just want to smash some brain cells in with some hard liquor. And that’s really all this is. Life sucks for both these characters, and they really shouldn’t do whatever they’re doing, but for this brief moment, fuck it. Long story short, you really shouldn’t expect perfect characters in such an imperfect world. I don’t think Leon and Ema are good for each other, but I’m not going to condemn them for turning to each other at their lowest.


16 Replies to “Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames Ep. 18 & 19: Sad, imperfect creatures”

  1. “On some emotional level, it almost feels like infidelity”
    I think that’s exactly why so many people have a problem, though I didn’t imagine people being angry about it. While I was surprised when it did happen I thought it was great really. You got to do what you have to do to get by and i mean they may wake up and regret it or more likely just not mention it, cause you know it was just an in the moment thing, and well shit happens. It’s important that they have these sort of moments too, they are people too and they aren’t perfect I’m just wondering why no one seemed to have a problem with German sleeping around with so many different women when his wife died. People have to move on.

    1. I’m just wondering why no one seemed to have a problem with German sleeping around with so many different women when his wife died.

      To be fair, we don’t really know anything about his wife. We haven’t and can’t form any sort of emotional attachment to her.

  2. I somehow though this was going to happen eventually. I somehow felt when Ema asked leon if he was still a virgin and then later on offered her body to track down her ex-husband pretty solid hints on how the two were going to at least have some good old sexy time. But enough about that, this two episodes were pretty damn good, specially how Leon had to deal with those inner thoughts of him while burying lara, leon vs Alfonso was awesome, I like the new garo armor with the red eyes and the ema vs her horror husband was very nice as well.

  3. Fantastic write-up, mate. Very honest, solemn and rather bitter without being “bitter”.

    Anyway, you bring up a fun point regarding superheroes and the love in their lives. They indeed don’t exist and nearly always they are forced away from their families or their lovers are murdered. However in reality it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m not even talking about a DBZ-like approach to relationships, I mean real life. Police officers, fire-fighters, and any position we can think of on the battlefield: all of these intense and dangerous positions are filled with people who have families, with rays of light they can come back to (if they’re fortunate enough to). I just find it strange how lonely and solemn the life of a hero/warrior is in most fiction, yet in our reality it doesn’t need to be that way.

    But as you said, Garo’s world isn’t like our reality. It’s arguably worse, if at least in an immediate sense. It does fucking suck, which is why it hurt so much to see that ray of light get snuffed out.

    If this had been another setting I may have argued against the decision for a number of reasons, but really it does fit perfectly with the world of Garo. I just hope this doesn’t become a prophecy for how this show will end.

    1. regarding superheroes/warriors never having love or have it lost is something I dislike since usually the reasons for this are pretty juvenile. Writers feel that if the hero gets the girl and marries her, he will lose a connection with the male audience since it would mean that they have to grow up, because apparently marriage makes characters dull and closes off potential storylines. There are a lot of good married heroes like one of my DC’s favorites animal man (now that’s an example of a family man), so instead of trying to keep the power fantasy going by keeping the hero from finding some happiness, this should be considered as a challenge since like you mentioned, real life heroes like police officers, firemen and soldiers do have their families, It’s a new way to tell stories of how they have to deal with both lives.

      1. “Writers feel that if the hero gets the girl and marries her, he will lose a connection with the male audience since it would mean that they have to grow up…”
        Very true, and while many cite cases like Spider-Man as a perfect example of this juvenile misconception of audience immersion (which he is), other examples can even come from stories like Berserk. Maybe not Berserk specifically since, like Garo, the world setting is not one where such a concept can really be explored without it being raped, but stories where the cynical/angry/misanthropic protagonist is trapped in a state of arrested development.
        __They can never GROW (i.e. develop) because doing so would be to conquer their inner demons. This change usually comes at the end of a story because writers think that big changes in characters shouldn’t happen until the climax, or because they can’t think of a way to continue the story with a more mature and developed protagonist. And make no mistake, including any relationship into a story, especially marriage, requires a level of maturity from the protagonist.

        Of course, looking even to DBZ or likely to the hero you mentioned, we see that you don’t need to utterly alter characters’ personalities, which is the fear of most writers. All you need to do is develop them, and having a lover and/or child is a great way to do that (if you’re not a hack).

        “It’s a new way to tell stories of how they have to deal with both lives.”
        Precisely, mate! It is indeed a challenge to incorporate such a drastic aspect into the story and character development, but good writers approach and grow from those challenges rather than veering down the typical roads. I suppose that’s the foremost reason why there’s much fewer stories involving fulfilling relationships to any extent (DBZ, that one DC comic hero you mentioned, etc.) in comparison to the towering wealth of material involving or devoted to characters who lost their love and are stuck burdened with the lonely heroic path.

        1. tl;dr The sacrifice of love for the sake of plot or character development (or “woman in the fridge”) is far, far more complex than just some issue of perceived sexism, and its overuse is indicative of the real fault behind the overall lack of heroes who are married/parents/both:
          A general fear from most writers that they are incapable of continuing a story with such aspects and that their characters will develop to somehow lose the role of “power fantasy”
          __Or to make it simpler: Literary cowardice

    2. I think the hard truth is that writers just can’t write from experience when it comes to these matters, and the people who do know the truth don’t really want to talk about it. Someone else has to often do the work, and the result is often greatly embellished or distorted (like American Sniper).

  4. And a brief unrelated note:
    “Oh, is it because it looks kind of rapey? No, it doesn’t. Holy shit, have you people never had sex? I’m sorry, but you don’t expect Leon to ask politely, “May I gently guide you down to the bed, guiding your wrists along the way?” Chill. It’s your love life.”
    You know, it’s the amorphous liberal distortion of “sexual assault” that has bred that kind of misconception about consent and sex amongst most people today (especially those between the ages of 20-30). If you run into people who object to natural acts of desire and intimacy due to it seeming “rapey”, it’s likely not entirely due to them not having had sex (though I get what you did there and it cracked me up) but rather due to their adoption of the current sociopolitical doctrine that demands there be a verbal contract of consent that is repeated before every move during sex.
    And when it comes to legal cases, the “verbal contract” better be recorded. On video. Haha!

    Anyway, I just wanted to add that. I’m sure you already figured that anyway, mate, but I just felt like putting it out there since it’s not the first time I’ve heard of people getting uppity over natural actions they smelled to be “rapey”.

  5. WTF people really thought that intimate moment was rapey? hahahaha, if anything it was just “clumsy sex”, understandable since Leon doesn’t have any experience in that front, people sure like to overreact.
    To me that last part was a little awkward, because I thought of Ema as a mother figure for Leon… but then again, it kinda makes sense in a way, he’s a grown boy now, he doesn’t need a mother “anymore”, but like you said, they’re just using each other to ease their suffering, at least for now.
    BTW excellent your breakdown about women who must suffer for the hero’s comeback, it’s really fucked up.

    1. I don’t even know if it’s clumsy. It depends on the crowd. For some people, Leon’s actions are just playing right into their kinks.

  6. One personal problem I had with the latest episode is that Ema’s story felt like it could have been a two-parter. Coulda thrown away that episode with those citizens fighting the bear in order to devote more time to her inner demons.

    1. Do I really need to know more about Ema, though? If she had been developed right from the get-go, and her story actually sheds some profound light on the themes and message of the story, I’d agree with you. But she’s honestly a rather minor character, and her story here is just like a da capo. It’s more thematic than something that requires rich character depth. Frankly, I don’t think I’d really care all that much more if her story got a two-parter.

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