I’m only just getting into this Fall 2014 roll-out, having only reviewed the first episode of Vanadis and my two Summer carryovers. My second premiere packs a punch and has the makings of a rousing quasi-historical magical action romp: Garo: Honoo no Kokuin (The Carved Seal of Flames)
We start the proceedings with what else, a witch execution! Lord Fernando of Valiante is in poor health, and said witch is the scapegoat. When she gives birth to a newborn child while on the stake—protected from the flames by a green barrier—a fellow in an elaborate and particularly bad-ass suit of armor plows through the guards, snatches up the babe, and escapes without a trace.
The grizzled narrator so common in these types of shows keep going, right up until we learn he’s sharing a tale from seventeen years ago in between swigs of wine with a shapely, mildly-interested female companion in a brothel. When his son calls to him from outside, he asks him for money (or “love” as he puts it) for the honor of the lady’s company, and gets a well-thrown stone to the face. That son, who is, by the way, as old as the baby in the story would be.
The son heads home to a small cabin on a hill, and into an ambush arranged by Lord Fernando’s adviser Mendoza (MENDOZAAAA!!). The father, meanwhile, is already in a trap, with the prostitute merely serving as bait for a disgusting monster called a “horror” who has preyed upon many a man before. But Herman Luis is no ordinary man: he’s the Makai Knight Zorro from his tale. He guts the beast in no time; all while buck nakked, mind you, and after having had his sex rudely interrupted.
Meanwhile, the son Leon proves just as capable of defending himself by transforming into the golden (and titular) knight, Garo, combating the horror who led the ambush, and destroying him in grand fashion and more than a few style points. The character design is plain and un-embellished, but that makes the suits of armor that much more striking. Furthermore, the horrors are actually very weird and grotesquely bizarre-looking, mixing human and monster characteristics.
Turns out Pops was chillin’ in the whorehouse to be out of the way for the first big test in Leon’s training to become a sealer of demons like Herman, and he passes with flying colors, no doubt irking Mendoza, who with his assistant Octavia seems to be plotting more mischief behind the backs of Lord Fernando and his son and heir Alfonzo (who witnessed the witch’s execution as a three-year-old.)
From the clever narrative device used by Herman to clue us in on what’s shakin’ in Garo-land, and the episode’s mature treatment of sex, to the impactful bursts of shiny metallic action, Garo: Honoo no Kokuin makes a favorable first impression on your humble reviewer. Looking forward to the next installment.