[Review] GARO -VANISHING LINE- episode 1

  1. In prosperous Russell City, a conspiracy threatens to shake its world has been set in motion. A man named Sword is the first to hear the earliest stirrings of the plot, and throws himself into a shadow war in order to expose it. His only clue is the keyword “El Dorado.” He meets Sophie, a woman searching for her older brother who left her with only a message with the same word: “El Dorado.” With Sword having also lost his younger sister in the past, both are drawn together by the word, and work together to find out its meaning.

Source: Anime News Network

Now readers, a confession: this is my first foray into the Garo franchise. Some preliminary googling tells me the original series aired in 2005, but I was trusting this new installment to introduce me to the world of what looks like muscle men so beefy they would crush any prospective sexual partner to death with their thighs.

The opening shot is of a naked woman submerged in blood and begging for her life. It’s followed by a panning shot of a rooftop full of naked, disposable women.

a bloodred sky over a rooftop and many naked corpses of women
The fact that I can barely see the misogyny on screen is sort of an afterthought.

It is the work of a corpulent flesh monster who is wearing their boobs on its back. It’s an okay design reminiscent of the unsettling fleshiness Urotsukidoji did well—which was the only thing Urotsukidoji did well.

An eyeless, pale monster with stringy hair and any breasts attached to its front and back
No. You will not woo me with your body horror, show. I decline.

“Oh,” I said at 1:10 as the beefy sword-wielder appeared to dispatch the monster (at which point we never learn the fate of the naked woman), “I don’t like this.”

Then, to celebrate his victory, Our Hero meets up with a woman. We are introduced to her short shorts and enormous shiny boobs via a pan-up. Then there is a literal crash-zoom on her bazongas, in case you missed them. Our Hero nearly cries tears of joy.

A blonde woman in a low cut top and large breasts. Subtitle: I was just thinking of going home
Me too, lady.

“Oh,” I said. “I really don’t like this.”

At that point, watching them race down the street on a motorcycle, observing that Sword (Our Hero)’s arm is literally the size of his bike because what is perspective? was so much gravy—gravy that was screaming, sobbing, and begging for release from its agonizing sentience.

A man riding a motorcycle with the blonde woman on his lap. his arm is almost as big as the bike.
When you see it…

But you kind readers are paying for content and I have a deep-seated need for validation, so I continued on.

The focus shifts to a young girl named Sophie. She wears a hoodie and knows self-defense, which immediately ceases to matter after it’s introduced. There’s some nice visual design of her avatar wandering around in a text/chat log, which I also enjoyed very much when Summer Wars and Digimon did the same thing. She goes to this fortune teller, see, because she’s looking for “Eldorado” (punctuated thusly) and he’s supposed to be very accurate at predictions.

a redheaded girl sits, uncomfortable, while a man stands behind her and fondles her hair
Hey, show? I know he’s the bad guy. You didn’t need to exploit your only non-lingerie wearing female character for drama.

Which means she then has to sit there, powerless, while he fondles her hair and talks about how red hair indicates passion and incites people (read: men) to uncontrollable actions. Then he tackles her to the ground.

I guess we’re meant to be comforted by the fact that he’s a monster and only wants to cannibalize her corpse rather than rape her. Considering this comes after watching an honestly real moment of someone having to sit through “friendly” touch because the man you’re talking to has something you want, I am not comforted at all (this is always timely, but feels exceptionally so given the recent news about Harvey Weinstein).

the camera looks from the ground up over the redhead's shoulder as the man leans over her. subtitle: I want to eat you! Let me eat you!
“It’s not sexual assault!” the anime said, framing it exactly like sexual assault.

“Oh,” I said. “Fuck you, show.”

Because I had ascended to the state of “fuck you,” it became very hard to engage with the parts of the episode that came after, when Sword shows up to rescue Sophie and then buys her dinner, the better to have a nice long exposition together. During which Sword ogles the waitress’s (very jiggly) boobs and she threatens to charge him with sexual harassment, a hilarious comedy line because what kind of rotten bitch would actually do such a thing?

A close up of large breasts. The protagonists clasps his hands in the background. subtitle: another eye-pleasing day
Hey, show. You know you can have a horny character without exploiting women, right? ….Right?

Here’s the thing. I very much enjoy the “large meathead protects small child” genre. It’s a throwback I’m totally on board with. And when he’s not being a shit to grown women (you know, the kind Sophie will become in about five to eight years?), Sword and Sophie have a cute dynamic that would be satisfying to watch grow into a bond (if it didn’t turn into her wanting to get old enough to sleep with him; guess how many times I’ve been burned).

The show is pretty good at introducing its concepts to new viewers, and the final fight between Sword and the “horror” is pretty damn good as spectacle goes—MAPPA is once again doing the Yuri On Ice thing where they trade off QUALITY shots for a few concentrated moments that look really impressive—but by the time that happened I’d been so soured by the rampant misogyny that I didn’t want to engage any more.

Oh, and just as I was beginning to warm up to the premiere, the ending credits feature a woman to whom it seems Sophie will have an important connection… and they make sure this woman is wearing lingerie. Of course.

A close up of a talking skull on the motorcycle. subtitle: My seat starts stinking of make-up.
Sigh. Just… just say “pussy,” show. I know you want to.

Throwback series are supposed to maintain the best parts of an old series while updating the parts that have aged poorly, not transplant the genre as-is. If you’re looking for a beefcake throwback with lots of blood and a protagonist what says “fuck,” Netflix’s Castlevania series is a lot more fun and a lot less gross towards women.

 

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  • If you want to get into Garo, choosing the anime is the worst possible way. I’ve tried all of the anime iterations and every single one has fallen flat for me. Instead of watching the anime, I would definitely recommend watching the live action series, which is what the anime series are VERY LOOSELY based on. The women in Garo are some of the strongest written characters in the tokusatsu genre, even if they do suffer due to plot issues, but you won’t meet any of the strong women of the live action series in the anime, which is really unfortunate.

    The closest you can get to a Garo anime that is anywhere similar to the live action series in terms of having well-written plot and women characters with agency and depth, you’ll have to go with the GARO: Crimson Moon. It takes the Garo aesthetic of pseudo-Japanese magic paired with Goth fashion and places it in the Heian period so it doesn’t look as out of place as it is sometimes does in the live action series. Truthfully, though, I’ve learned my lesson and stay far away from the Garo anime. I just stick to watching the live action series so I can see my fave Garo ladies kick butt in style.

    • TheSojourner

      Thanks for the tips.

  • Roman Komarov

    I’ve dropped it after 2:26 and I’m glad that I hadn’t to endure the rest of it. But now I’m sad that you had to.

  • Angela

    As somebody who’s watched most of the Garo franchise, both live action and anime, the first episode of Vanishing Line struck me as just about the worst way to introduce somebody to Garo. It honestly left me confused as to why they had gone the direction they did.

    I rather liked the two Garo live action series with Ryuga and Rian, as it feels a bit more light-hearted than other Garo live action series and I feel Rian is the sassiest of the main women characters in Garo.

  • Robert

    Yup it’s very bad – i can’t say it improves
    however I would like to read your review of episode 3 when they introduce Gina.