Garo – Vanishing Line Ep. 9: Faith

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. Thanks to Sword’s “little” duel with the Dark Knight, significant portions of Russell City are in ruins. We’re talking torn-up streets, demolished buildings, displaced families, so on and so forth. I can only guesstimate, but the city has probably incurred billions of dollars worth of damage. What’s oddly absent is the city’s official response. Or even better, where’s the country’s response? Russell City belongs to a country, right? Obviously, someone’s in charge of the clean-up and recovery, sure, but something just doesn’t feel real about this setting. If I wake up one morning to see on the news that a major city like, say, Miami is in ruins, you can bet your ass that the entire United States of America would quickly mobilize. What happened? Why did it happen? What can we do to prevent it?

In Garo, we see shots of concerned policemen and hard-working firemen, but that’s it. Russell City doesn’t really feel like a metropolis. Instead, it feels like an isolated playground that merely looks like a metropolis. You can argue that I’m asking for unimportant details, but I would readily disagree. I think what we have here is an example of how incomplete world-building can actually detract from the narrative. Russell City doesn’t feel organic; it doesn’t feel important. In any case, it can’t suffer another epic bout between the Makai Order and Horror-affiliated warriors, so it’s time for Sword to bring the fight to the Dark Knight. Unfortunately, he has to take Sophie with him.

We know almost nothing about the Makai Order in this universe, but to be fair, it feels as though they know almost nothing too. The best they can conclude is that El Dorado is somewhere to the west. Since the King wants to get his hands on Sophie, you may as well use the girl as bait. What other choice do they have? Besides… y’know, better information gathering. But hey, if that was possible, do you think Russell City would be in its current state right now? And to confirm what we’ve long suspected, the Makai Order seems terribly undermanned. Sword will head west with little time to prepare. At best, he’ll be assisted by two Garo Alchemists when he reaches a place called San Del Dios. Just two! After a short rendezvous, everyone will proceed to a “lawless area that [the Makai Order] cannot keep in check.” Wow, really? Are we talking Ciudad de Juarez or something? That’s assuming there is even a city out there. Even Juarez looks normal on the surface. Who knows what lies out there in the desert wastelands? Even though Sword is naturally reluctant to put Sophie in the line of danger, he also tells Feilong that he can’t go against his master.

Before Sword departs, he pays Luke a visit. The latter is wrapped up in bandages like a mummy, but he can obviously move. Sword wouldn’t leave a container on a counter so far from Luke’s bed if the guy couldn’t move. Our hero might come across as an oaf from time to time, but even he’s not that dumb and insensitive… right? Rather, Luke’s emotional injuries are far greater than his physical ones. He finally found his mother’s killer, but he couldn’t even lay a finger on the Dark Knight. What has Luke been doing this whole time? He thought he was prepared, but he clearly wasn’t. He wasn’t even close! Has it all been for naught? Has he just been wasting his time? Sword doesn’t treat Luke as if the latter is completely helpless, though. Rather, he banters with his partner as if nothing has really changed:

Sword: Jeez! Normal people at least have some water in the fridge!

This is kind of how guys generally bond, I suppose. Neither men are exactly what you call “emotionally open.” At best, Sword can only test Luke’s emotional boundaries. He makes an extremely light-hearted jab to see if he gets an response. Does Luke have a wall up? How far out is this wall? Is he strong enough right now to defend himself or should Sword back off? Luke stays silent, so Sword adjusts accordingly:

Sword: There’s so much construction noise at my place. I can’t even eat a meal in peace.

This is kind of like Sword’s way of telling Luke that he’s there for him. Despite their differences, his taciturn partner’s disposition is at least more palatable than construction noise. Sword could have gone anywhere, but he chose to stay here longer than he needs to. It’s still banter, but even more delicate than before. Of course, Luke continues to stay silent, so Sword decides to shift gears entirely:

Sword: We’ll have to go to him before he comes to us again…. Hurry up and recover.

He doesn’t count Luke out. In fact, Sword expects his partner to eventually join him. He believes in Luke. From a distance, it may as seem as though their masculinity prevents them from empathizing with each other, but there’s a subtle kindness in both Sword’s words and actions. Luke will eventually need someone who he can open up to, but for now, this is the best that Sword can do.

Sophie has it even worse. Not only did she lose her home, she lost someone who was like a second mother to her. Hell, Sister might have been the only mother Sophie ever knew. The worst part is that she doesn’t even get a chance to mourn the nun’s death. Luke can mope in his bed and lick his wounds until he’s ready to fight again. On the other hand, Sophie has to depart on a road trip with nothing but emotional baggage. She can’t run away and stay with her friends, because that would only endanger them. She knows the Dark Knight would eventually return to get her. Maybe Sophie has even concluded that Sword intends to use her as bait. This is no pleasant road trip either. Sure, there are new sights to see. Outside of the city, you can even see the stars in all their naked splendor. But when the girl and Sword aren’t lucky enough to come across some ratty motel in the middle of nowhere, they have to resort to sleeping outside on the dirt. Sword can’t even pack a tent. Maybe one day, we’ll get a Garo series where Zaruba is an RV, but for now, he’s just a cool-looking motorcycle. He can’t exactly shelter a young girl from the elements.

Sophie and Sword eventually stumble across a gas station that is attended by none other than… Chiaki again? Or does she have a twin? Uh…

In the second half of the episode, Sophie spots an injured desert fawn and tells Sword to stop Zaruba. The Garo Knight knows they can’t take a goddamn wild animal with them, but he just can’t find it in him to be mean to the girl. He can’t help but spoil Sophie. When you consider his past, he probably sees a bit of his little sister in her. As for Sophie, she stops to help the fawn because she sees a bit of herself in the animal. They’re both abandoned and they’re both wounded. The fawn has an injured leg, and Sophie has a broken heart. The girl isn’t dumb either. In all likelihood, she knows she can’t take care of the fawn. But maybe for just tonight, the two of them can help each other. As she looks for soft grass to feed the fawn, however, its mother shows up. After a short reunion, the two deer walk off into the horizon and all Sophie can do is watch silently. She’s happy that the fawn has a second chance to be with its mother — a second chance that she won’t ever get:

Sophie: I should have listened better. I should have talked more. I want to be with [Sister] more.

Not only is Sophie an orphan, her only brother disappeared. She’s hunted by some evil organization, and she probably blames herself for Sister’s death. If they never came after her, her guardian wouldn’t have had to die. Can anything ever go right? The girl’s life is nothing but one unending series of pain and sorrow. How does she manage to keep going? Well, after a cathartic session of crying, the girl remembers one of Sister’s important lessons:

Sister: Sophie, what you see now isn’t the whole world. Someday, I’m sure you will see the light of the real stars, too.

The girl just has to keep believing. It’s fitting that these words came from a woman of faith.

On the following morning, Sophie tears off a piece of cloth that Sister used to wear and fashions it into a bracelet of sorts. This way, the late nun will remain with her in heart and spirit.

5 Replies to “Garo – Vanishing Line Ep. 9: Faith”

  1. Another dull episode. I think this anime needs tension to give weight to emotional moments like this episode, thrill to intense moments like the previous episode, and more satisfaction when the heroes made it through.

    As it’s now, the anime feels like a lame duck sitting in a dark corner. I don’t know why asking for more tension or, you know, actual stakes and consequences is somehow the same as asking for this anime to become grimdark or pretentious.

    Sword of the Stranger is pretty much the same thing as this anime. A kid is somehow special and thus, is being hunted down by some evil forces. That kid is then protected by a badass swordsman. But, SotS manages to have tension and thus, the conflicts and battles in that anime are interesting.

    I don’t blame Garo’s episodic nature, though. Full Metal Alchemist is also an episodic anime, but that anime still manages to have a coherent and interesting main story. Of course, one can argue that FMA isn’t a pure episodic anime because it later abandons its episodic nature to focus on its main story, but isn’t this Garo aiming to do the same thing?

    I’ll still watch this anime, but I don’t expect it to impress or surprise me anymore.

    1. “I don’t blame Garo’s episodic nature, though. Full Metal Alchemist is also an episodic anime, but that anime still manages to have a coherent and interesting main story. Of course, one can argue that FMA isn’t a pure episodic anime because it later abandons its episodic nature to focus on its main story, but isn’t this Garo aiming to do the same thing?”

      Did you conveniently forget how many filler episodes FMA has? I’d argue that GVL has better pacing. The Elric duo handled various cases in their search of the clue to Philosopjer’s Stone just like Sword handled cases in his search of El Dorado.

      As for tension, well, Garo is supposed to be the strongest Makai Knight that the organization has. Plus, unlike his young predecessors, Sword is an already “ripe” enough knight. It’s not funny if someone like him can be beaten easily by the horrors and rogue knights. DK already rivals him and that’s good.The tension and live-threatening danger is more on the side characters. It’s like watching Batman movie really. You know that they won’t kill Batman but side characters can still go. As for whether you care about them or not, that depends on you.

    2. I liked the episode. I didn’t like the boring montage accompanied by the terrible song, but I warmed up to the rest of it. The show broke away from its compulsion to squeeze in a boring, throwaway fight all the time. It also addressed the characters emotional states adequately. Last week’s episode had consequences and that’s all I really wanted this Garo series to fully embrace. The characters often move on from conflicts too easily.

  2. No horror of the week? Preposterous!!
    I was shocked that adult fawn doesn’t turned into a Horror on the spot, hahaha, it’s your fault Garo, you’ve conditioned me to think that way.

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