One Punch Man 2 – 12 (Fin) – A Blow from the Weak

Bang, and then Bomb, and then Bang and Bomb start whaling on an already diminished Garo, and Genos is reasonably confident the old dudes have this in the bag. But he underestimates Garo’s almost bottomless stores of resentment and disdain for the heroes of the world.

As a kid, he was always made out to be the monster while so-called “heroes” beat him up, just because he was weak and unpopular. The monster never got to won. This fuels a fourth or fifth wind for Garo, but the battle is interrupted when he is airlifted out by a big talking bird monster.

I have to say, I’m as pissed off as Garo, Bang, and Genos about this twist. This was supposed to be the Hero Hunter’s final battle; this episode should have brought some kind of closure to his story (and this season), even if it ended with him meeting Saitama’s fist. But that expected period became an ellipsis. Clearly OPM has other plans for our bloody-eyed friend.

As Garo exits the stage prematurely, Centichoro appears in all his very big, evil-looking CGI glory. As skilled as Bang and Bomb are, their gifts just aren’t that effective against an enemy so freakin’ huge, while Genos is similarly hamstrung by a firepower limit that can barely scratch Cent’s carapace. Even Bang and Bomb’s final one-time combo attack only works temporarily; the centipede simply shrugs it off molts.

Genos offers to stay behind, but the old-timers don’t think that’s right. Young’ins need to live on; Genos’ own scientist mentor said as much. But Genos ignores the advice of his elders, because he doesn’t think it’s right to let the old protect him while he sits back and watches.

So he blasts off and starts going at Centichoro, pushing him away from the civilian centers, blasting through one of his teeth, entering his digestive tract, and incinerating him from the inside out. As he’s spat out of the boss’s mouth, all his clothes burned off, it looks like his reckless abandon did the trick…but it just wasn’t enough.

That’s when Bang, Bomb, and Genos finally run into a little luck, as “S-Class” King starts egging on Centichoro with a megaphone, telling him he’s brought his rival, “Blast”. Of course, he’s only serving as bait for Saitama, who arrives just in time to save King from being squashed like a bug.

Saitama steps between King and Centichoro, rushing at him at full speed, and delivers his One Punch special, totally eradicating the monster, just as we all knew he would. It doesn’t matter how much other heroes struggle in vain to defeat a boss; Saitama will always make it happen.

That’s why it seems like a bit of a letdown he wasn’t able to deliver a punch to Orochi, chopping off the head of Monsters, Inc. so the body will die (or alternatively, punching all of the monsters into oblivion, Orochi included). Instead, Genos is yet again inspired by his master’s excellence, and Garo is probably off to be transformed into an actual monster. Those twelve episodes just flew by!

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One Punch Man 2 – 11 – When It Rains Heroes, It Pours

Unlike the other kids (and the kid hiding in the shack), Garo didn’t really care that much about the heroes. He liked the monsters, who were perpetual underdogs and were almost always outnumbered, outmatched, or both.

Death Gatling would seem to have assembled a crack team of Garo-hunters, what with their diverse array of ranges and styles of attack, as well as the motivation to prove to the world that Class S heroes aren’t the only ones who can get the job done.

The thing is, Garo is just too strong and fast for any of their best-laid plans to matter. He isolates and throttles them one by one (often using others as shields against the marksmen), drawing from a second wind.

Even Mr. Stamina, Megane, who was encouraged to keep getting stronger by Saitama himself when all seemed lost, doesn’t last long once he’s one-on-one with even a gravely injured and poisoned Garo. Soon only Death Gatling remains, and once he fires off his special move that expends all his bullets, Garo is relatively unscathed.

Notably, he warned Gatling about the kid in the shack, but Gatling didn’t believe him, so Garo had to shield the shack. Once Gatling is taken out, the kid is so frightened of Garo he runs off screaming. Garo thinks he’s finally earned a rest and a drink of water, but he’s only completed Round One. His next challenger is the new-and-improved Genos.

The difference between Class B, A, and S is pretty clear in the sheer level of fighting Genos is able to maintain with Garo, just as the gap between Genos and Saitama is evident in the fact that dozens of blows and blasts from Genos aren’t enough to knock Garo out, but one even half-hearted punch from Saitama is more than enough.

Garo first learns of “Master Saitama” from Genos, but when we cut to Saitama, he doesn’t sneeze from being talked about, because he’s too busy losing eighty-one matches in a row to King, who then gets a Class S alert. Saitama hasn’t seen Genos for a day or so, and is a bit worried about him, so he prepares to head out and look for him.

While it’s a stretch to say he’s in any danger against such a heavily-wounded and fatigued opponent, Genos is certainly having a rough time knocking Garo out, or even tying him down. Then Garo gets unwanted help from a band of monsters who come out of the ground following orders to escort Garo to the Monster Association.

Of course, Garo isn’t going anywhere, and Genos liquifies half of the monsters in the blink of an eye, then prepares to incinerate Garo once and for all. Round Two is then ended in a draw when Silverfang swoops in and delivers a devastating kick to Garo, who had just died his hair with his own blood.

Bang’s “big bro” ices the remaining monsters while he focuses on Garo, remembering the day he arrived at the dojo exhausted and starving. It would seem Round Three will be a cakewalk for the geezer, but as we saw throughout this episode, Garo is not one to be underestimated or counted out.

If Bang and Genos can’t put him down, the “Ultimate Hero” Saitama may have to intervene after all. I just hope if and when he does, it’s with his usual nonchalance.

One Punch Man 2 – 10 – Stating the Obvious

Saitama may be bored with a life of beating everyone with one punch and never losing, but thanks to King he’s able to forget about that for a little while, as he is beaten over and over again in a Street Fighter-esque combat game, to his unending frustration. “THIS GAME IS SHIT!” is his only defense. Reminds me of me when I play video games!

As for the Monster Association infiltrating the executive board room, the eyeball that serves as a conduit through which King Orochi’s adjutant, Gyoro-Gyoro, can mess with the humans by offering an olive branch than shooting the first taker. Thankfully for the other suits, resident Class-S hero Superalloy Blackluster—basically Luke Cage—has no trouble dispatching the baddies.

Still, shots have been fired, and the Monster Association officially declares war on the Hero Association. It’s in all the papers and on all the news channels. Over at MA HQ, the amassed monsters aren’t impressed with Gyoro-Gyoro’s motivational speech, but actions speak louder than words, as Orochi demonstrates when he eats Cockroach for losing.

Speaking of losing, a badly-wounded Garo wakes up, assuming it was King who knocked him out, while Genos gets a shiny new upgraded metal body from Dr. Kuseno, who only asks that win or lose, Genos is careful enough to live on and fight another day.

As the top heroes debate the merits of the HA’s plan to storm MA HQ , the news spreads to independent monsters, who pour out of City Z full of piss and vinegar, eager to join up with the MA. Unfortunately, they’re all obliterated by Saitama while he’s taking out the trash.

Garo ends up healing up in a shack that happens to be used by the brat with the hero guide he’s encountered in the park. That brat is the runt of his circle of friends, so he has to go in to see who’s in their secret hideout. Garo offers some obvious advice—the kid should become stronger, duh—but before sending him on his way, the shack is surrounded by eight Class A and B heroes led by Death Gatling, who tracked him there.

Even having unknowingly been recently pummeled by Saitama, Garo could probably take on, say, four of these heroes, but not eight, and certainly not all at once. Thanks to the brat’s guide, he at least gets some intel on all of them, and learns that they possess quite the diverse and complementary skill set.

The heroes marvel at his ability to dodge their attacks, but as he gets tired cracks in his defense start to form. Worse, the guy he worried about the least, Megane, is actually a hand-to-hand specialist with a lot more stamina and endurance than he currently has. Gatling demands he surrender and let them take him alive. How’s he going to get out of this one? Does the brat have a role to play in rescuing him from a bad end?

One Punch Man 2 – 09 – Not Strong Enough to Defeat Boredom

Watching Saitama obliterate foes with one punch is only half the fun of his fights. The other half is how he reacts to blows against him, or otherwise absorbs them. In this case, taking Monster Bakuzan’s first and second kicks do nothing but send him sliding off to the side; he’s otherwise unharmed.

Bakuzan assumes he’s lost his mind from the fear of facing him, but Saitama is only still and lost in thought because he’s trying to remember who this guy is. He can’t, so he ends it…by halving Bakuzan.

After learning this guy’s real name is Saitama, and he mostly joined the martial arts competition because he was bored and wanted a taste of what he might be up against with the hero hunter, Suiryu still tries to stop him from going after Goketsu, convinced he’s walking towards certain death.

Always good to see Saitama’s doubters thoroughly rebuked. Goketsu is so easy, we don’t even have to watch it—and the sappy piano just keeps playing through the “fight”—but we do hear it. I also enjoyed Saitama laughing off Suiryu’s request to be his disciple. Dude’s got standards, man! Beat Genos and we’ll talk.

After a brief check-in with Puri-Puri Prisoner fighting buck naked and hugging his spiky opponent to death then pulling a flip phone out of his ass, we find Saitama wandering the streets until he encounters King, and the two have a long conversation about Saitama’s long-standing ennui caused by his power plateau (King rather hilariously assumes at first that Saitama is depressed because of his baldness).

King promises him he’s only being arrogant about having no challenges left. He’s a hero who cares more about having fun fighting than the heroic ideals he should be living by; that’s room for improvement, for a start.

King supplements their lovely talk by lifting cool manga monologues, impressing Saitama with his eloquence, when suddenly Garo shows up, pissed off from his defeat to Watchdog Man and looking for another hero to hunt. His eyes focus on King, assuming his casual appearance is merely a facade and calculating all of his possible first moves.

But King doesn’t move; he just stands there like a big dumb idiot. It’s Saitama who saves him by kicking Garo through a wall, just as he’s talking about his hope the hero hunter will be something resembling a challenge. Sorry, Saitama…no such luck. There’s another hallmark of good OPM: Saitama is either completely out of the loop or at least four or five steps behind what’s going on in the world of heroes and monsters. In this case, that obliviousness is sparing him more bitter disappointment.

Speaking of wannabe Saitama rivals, Speed-o’-Sound Sonic is accosted by two equally quick and powerful members of the “Golden 37” who have converted to Monsters and offer Sonic a cell, demanding he join them. Sonic mulls over the consequences of losing his humanity, but he considers himself as good as dead anyway after his first (of many) losses to Saitama.

Thankfully, Sonic’s general disgust with the cell leads him to cooking it up before eating it, which not only gives him a bad case of the runs, but likely nullified the cell’s ability to transform him into a monster. Not like becoming a monster makes it any less likely you’ll be able to defeat Saitama…or even lay a scratch on him.

In other news, Genos is on his way to be repaired after being ambushed, the Gorilla monster meets an actual, sentient Gorilla who is just going about his business, very Saitama-like; and the Hero Association board prepares to exercise caution lest their main patron’s son get killed and led to their funding getting cut, followed by the infiltration of the room by a functionary-turned-monster.

One Punch Man 2 – 08 – Call of the Heroes

Even if Suiryu thought he deserved the tournament win (he doesn’t), he wouldn’t have had more than a few moments to savor it, as Goketsu, escorted by three monstrous crows, crashes the award ceremony. Once a martial arts champion and believed killed by monsters, he was actually given the choice to join them, which he did.

He extends that same choice to the assembled fighters: eat the monster cells and become like him, or die. Some, like Choze, are eager to see how much stronger they can get. Others, like Suiryu himself, aren’t interested in becoming ugly brutes. Instead, he asks a pretty girl if she’ll go on a date with him if he takes care of the monsters.

While Suiryu holds his own and dispatches Monster-Choze, he’s absolutely no match against Goketsu. As Garou picks a fight with Watchdog Man in City Q, Goketsu treats Suiryu like a ragdoll, easily absorbing his strongest attacks and breaking his arm.

To Suiryu’s surprise, Snek and Lightning Max, who had been flicked away by Goketsu earlier, are back for round two, standing their ground like the professional Heroes they are. They made sure to grab effects crucial to their success: Snek’s suit and Max’s shoes.

Ultimately, they’re no more a match for Goketsu as Suiryu. Meanwhile, Bakuzan, who ate a bunch of cells, transforms into a Threat Level-Dragon monster, although still not one that can push Goketsu around. For his part, Goketsu is ordered back to the Monster Association base on the outskirts of City Z, an urges Bakuzan to follow.

But before he does, Bakuzan takes his time wailing on the already battered Suiryu, taking great pleasure in beating down someone much weaker. It’s then when Suiryu, so independent and fun-loving thanks to his good looks and tremendous strength and fighting ability, is brought so low he has no choice but to call out to someone, anyone to help.

And who should answer that call but Saitama, whose absence this entire episode can be chalked up to him either running home or to the locker room to put on his superhero costume. The same man whose punch Suiryu estimated would have ended him had it not been held back; the same opponent who only lost because he was wearing a wig—he’s Suiryu’s only hope. Thankfully, it’s a good bet Saitama’s got this.

One Punch Man 2 – 05 – Reverse Seeded

How long do we have to wait to get the martial arts tournament started so Saitama can start plowing through the brackets? Apparently another half-episode, as we focus on a growing preponderance of monsters and demons throughout the lettered cities.

As for Metal Bat, he seems to get more “pumped up”, and his attacks faster and stronger, the more Garo beats him up, but ultimately the fight is called on account of Bat’s brave, protective little sister Zenko. Garo may claim to be a monster, but he’s not about to hit a kid.

Shortly after taking his leave, Garo is approached by three monsters hoping to recruit him into the “Monster Association,” but he’s having none of it. Class S Rank 6 Metal Knight comes in to take care of the giant centipede, but even he just can’t summon enough firepower to dent the thing, making the battle a draw.

The jellyfish, phoenix and rhino-themed baddies make off with the rich kid, while other monsters start fighting—and beating—heroes they’ve chosen specifically because their heroic attributes favor them, the monsters. The Hero Association (still pitting their hopes that King will be a factor) are starting to panic.

Meanwhile, yes, Super Fight 22 finally commences, with the eighteen challengers being introduced; and they’re all quite the colorful characters, with equally colorful-sounding martial arts schools.

Zakkos is Saitama’s first opponent, but there’s a match before theirs. Sourface reveals he’s twenty—younger than Saitama—which explains both his pre-match nerves and his thin skin when Zakkos rips into Bang’s dojo.

Saitama, older and wiser, simply lets Zakkos say what he wants; he’s here to fight, not argue. Oh, and Saitama apparently doesn’t have to hide his face, as Sourface seems content that he is indeed Charanko and not some impostor.

When a particularly sexy monster, Super S, starts whipping heroes and making them her love slaves, it’s up to Hellish Blizzard and her crew to sort things out. As for Saitama’s first “match”, it’s a laugher; Zakkos was all talk and is in fact incredibly weak; so weak that the person he was to propose to didn’t even bother showing up to watch him. Bummer!

As for one of the higher-seeded martial artists in the fresh-faced Suiryu, he recognizes that Zakkos had some okay moves, but his opponent “Charanko” was just too strong. He looks forward to seeing him in the final.

While it’s always fun when someone comes around who can either absorb Saitama’s punch or deliver a blow that actually bothers him—wait…has that ever even happened?—I doubt he’ll meet his match here, especially considering how easily he dispatched Garo. Still, watching him effortlessly wail on guys is never not fun.

One Punch Man 2 – 04 – Dammit, I’m Busy!

As Saitama registers for the tournament posing as Charanko, Garo’s assault of an HA director leads to the HA orders all other executives to have a Class S hero escort. This means Metal Bat is forced to guard on such super-rich exec and his piss-ant son (who won’t stop putting dishes back on the conveyor) instead of going shopping with his sister. When danger strikes, it’s not Garo at all, but a pair of unrelated monsters.

As Mumen Rider assures Charanko that since he’s a hero, Saitama would never enter a tournament under a false name, Saitama meets Sourface, Charanko’s senpai who warns him about…entering the tournament under a false name and wearing a disguise, for which he could get arrested. Saitama snaps back, telling Sourface he has no right to pretend he’s better than Charanko, who went one-on-one against Garo.

Speaking of senpais, once Metal Bat easily deals with the two monsters, their much bigger, much tougher senpais show up, and give Metal Bat a beatdown. He manages to pump himself up by hitting himself in the head with his own bat, and then dispatches them both with one devastating swing each…though probably due to his head injury he forgot to ask the monsters what their motivation was.

The fight escalates in intensity once more when the senpai of the senpais appears, a dragon-class centipede monster that triggers an evacuation of City S. Metal Bat is already fired up, but this time his foe is so big and his skin so tough it’s hard to make a dent. Things get worse for Metal Bat when Garo shows up and challenges him to a fight. Talk about rude; wait your turn dude!

While I was disappointed we didn’t jump straight to Saitama kicking ass and taking names in the tournament (assuming they let him fight), it’s fairly par for the course for him to basically sit out an entire episode so it can showcase a different hero or heroes-ones far weaker than he.

I have no doubt Saitama could dispatch that giant purple centipede with…one punch. The only problem is he’s stuck in a green room, hoping to get some martial arts experience and experience a “real fight.” I don’t think he’ll find one there.

One Punch Man 2 – 03 – Icarus

The buildup to the inevitable clash with Saitama continues as Garo bags his first S-Class Hero, Tank Top Master. Tank gets a few choice shots in, but is stopped from finishing Garo when Mumen Rider intervenes on the grounds Garo is “merely” a human. Neither he nor Tank are apparently aware that this is the guy officially classified as a Monster by the HA.

Tank gets some licks in, but can’t deal with Garo’s martial arts tecnique. We also learn Garo is a former student of Bang, AKA Silverfang, through another student, Charanko.

Bang, who is going to deal with Garo himself (with help from his big bro) beat Charanko up in order to get him out of the line of fire, but Charanko ends up another one of Garo’s victims.

Who should visit all three in the hospital (with complementary bananas!) but Saitama, who is primarily there for Mumen, but ends up meeting Tank and Charanko as well. He wants to learn more about martial arts in order to take Garo on, and Charanko gives him a ticket to an upcoming tournament in which he can no longer participate due to injury.

Garo’s reign of terror continues as he borrows a unibrowed kid’s Hero Guide to learn not only who the local heroes are, but their styles and trump cards. When he challenges the slingshot-wielding Golden Ball to an alley brawl, Ball is initially confident, like Tank was, but he has to be bailed out by another Hero, the saber-wielding Spring Mustache, who gets a knuckle sandwich for his trouble.

When Ball tells Garo he “can’t keep this up forever,” as he’ll eventually encounter a hero he can’t beat, Garo scoffs. He’ll believe it when he sees it; meanwhile, he’ll continue doing what he wants—wasting heroes—until the day comes when someone can stop him.

That day comes far sooner than he expected, as after beating up a horny HA official, Garo has a chance encounter with our One Punch Man. Saitama says “I’ve been looking all over for you,” and Garo assumes he’s addressing him, and takes the first shot, a devastating chop to the shoulder that…does nothing at all to Saitama.

Saitama merely delivers the same blow to Garo, dropping him to the pavement, before continuing with what he was doing: seeking out a wig to buy so he can impersonate Charanko in the martial arts tournament.  And so, Garo ends up flying too close to the sun and gets burnt, big time. Thankfully for him, Saitama doesn’t know who he is, and lets him go free.

One Punch Man 2 – 02 – This Isn’t Normal

When the ruffians get predictably rowdy, Sitch sics his heroes on a couple of them, leading the werewolf-like Garo to step to and waste everyone; only Sitch is spared as a witness; Garo promises to be back “in six months.” Hey, even human monsters have to manage expectations!

Meanwhile, both Hellish Blizzard and Sound-o’-Speed Sonic are headed to Saitama’s house. The former is flanked by two goons, while the latter is first detected by Geno’s cybor-sense. Saitama, meanwhile, is just having fun playing with King’s PSP, which he stole and accidentally erased King’s data.

Saitama would much rather spend his afternoon playing games than dealing with anyone, but as usual he doesn’t get his way. Blizzard arrives first, asking Saitama to join her faction, and threatening reprisal if he declines. Naturally, Saitama refuses, and flings her so-called goons off the damn balcony.

Even though he’s just met her, Saitama can tell that Blizzard isn’t hero material as long as she uses weaker people to prop herself up while bullying others into joining her. Saitama doesn’t care about rankings (nor should he, considering how under-ranked he is), and proves Blizzard can’t make him do anything by easily weathering her esper attacks.

In the middle of their spat, Genos and Sonic show up, and Saitama and Blizzard are witnesses to their street brawl. Blizzard is astonished that someone like Genos is calling Saitama his “master”, while she considers Sonic to be another S-Class monster far beyond her abilities.

Genos and Sonic proceed to show her just how powerful they are, with increasingly fast and devastating attacks, but it leads to nothing but a big ol’ stalemate. When Genos loses his temper and prepares to blast the whole damn area to smite Sonic, Saitama intervenes…because he doesn’t want his area blasted.

Sonic thus gets what he wants: another one-on-one round with his “rival.” But again, Sonic is put in his place all too quickly and easily, thanks to a “side-stepping” attack by Saitama that multiplies Sonic’s ten afterimages exponentially. Defeated, Sonic retreats, but promises this isn’t over, because of course he does.

Back at Saitama’s place, Blizzard explains why she’s so obsessed with keeping the top B spot and gathering followers: she’s never been anything but second-best in a family that also contains Terrible Tornado, her older sister. She’s then overwhelmed again when King arrives…only to ask Saitama for his game back.

It’s clear to Blizzard that not only is Saitama no normal Class B hero, but has a preternatural ability to draw the strongest monsters into his orbit, where he can then demonstrate how much stronger he is than those comers. And that’s his appeal: overwhelming power, minimal ego and ambition. He’s a hero for fun. Why do people have to keep making it not fun?

Speaking of which, Garo comes across a Class A hero by chance and ends him without breaking a sweat. No doubt Garo will soon find himself another one of Saitama’s satellites…perhaps they can make each other break a sweat for once.

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 24 (Fin)

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Well now, Anima certainly didn’t hang around long! But it was for the best, as Mendoza rips out his own ribcage and consumes the horror, gaining a shiny new body.

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Leon can slice the body up all he wants (including, hilariously, slicing Mendoza’s face off to shut him up for at least a few moments), but he always comes back together, and always has a rejoinder such as “it is useless” at the ready.

Leon is missing something in this battle, because, in the beginning, he’s fighting alone. That ain’t gonna work against ol’ Mendoza; he of the giant light fists.

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No; he’ll need to draw from the strength Mendoza denies himself, the true immortality humans are capable of achieving, even if it isn’t in the form of a literal everlasting corporeal form. Kinship, love, family, and cooperation will always prevail over Mendoza’s selfish designs. When he blithely discarded his only remaining family, Octavia, leaving himself alone in the world, he did himself no favors.

On the other hand, Leon is able to combine Garo and Zoro into a very cool hybrid suit of armor, imbued with the love and strength of his father, and placed in his hands by the teamwork of Alfie and Ema. Now Leon is no longer alone, so he won’t lose.

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Mendoza also miscalculate’s Leon’s commitment to banishing him from the world, even he’ll be dragged down into Makai with him forever. Ema foils Leon’s suicidal plan by holding the portal open, and Mendoza tries to use this as proof that allies are worthless, since they’ll always have times when their opinions clash. Ema and Alfie would rather Leon not die.

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Their desire for Leon to live on is shared by his own mother Anna, who is revealed as the source of the flames that have always burned within him. They were never a curse or a manifestation of his revenge, but a means of protecting him until he could stand on his own two feet as a knight and a good man. Now Anna’s flames will continually burn Mendoza for eternity, which is an apropos punishment for the man who would be immortal, and took so many lives and souls to achieve it.

Clearly, Mendoza didn’t consider all the angles of this immortality thing. His shiny new body was a dead end; flawed and unnatural. But the love, protection, and duty passed from generation to generation, from mother and father to son, between siblings, friends, or lovers, is both more righteous and more durable.

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With that, mother and son part ways, and as Zoro’s horse bears Leon back home, a semi-spectral Herman rides alongside to tell him he’s a good son…aaand also to look out for that nice young lady Ximena. It’s a great cathartic moment when he emerges from the portal to the elation of Alfie and Ema.

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As the re-reconstruction of Santa Bard commences, we see that Prince Alfie is gonna be just fine. When the rebuilding is complete and he’s further along on being groomed for the throne, he’ll one day take a wife, and his son or daughter will inherit Gaia from him, along with the duty to protect.

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What about Leon and Ema, found and comforted and supported each other in the shadow of the loss of their past true loves? Well, it’s kind of a Princess Mononoke end, in which they say not “goodbye” but “see you around” as they return to their respective lives, which feels right.

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As for Ximena, she’s going to have a baby—gender to be determined, but let’s call it a girl, shall we?—and Leon’s duty now is to protect her and his incoming new sibling, who will inherit Garo and Zoro. Thanks to everything the child’s forbears have done for her sake, she won’t be born while her mother burns at the stake!

GARO was a very fun and entertaining show. A bit inconsistent at times, but it marched to the beat of its own drummer, took bold risks, and wasn’t afraid to fail. I can forgive when it did because it made such powerful impacts when it struck true. Its finale was one of those times. It looks like there will be a second season of GARO. I’ll definitely be tuning in.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 23

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The penultimate GARO is almost non-stop action, but action informed by some very nice character texturing on both sides. Mendoza vs. The World isn’t that interesting on its surface, but it’s made more interesting by the people fighting for and against him, along with those on the outside looking in.

The latter group is represented by Ximena, who loves Herman and is worried sick, but when she sees her fellow townsfolk coming together to organize an evacuation, she shifts her focus. Ximena may not be a major character, but we know her well enough to know this is exactly what she’d do in such a situation: put others before herself.

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But like I said, she’s on the outside. On the inside, some crazy shit is going down. Mendoza has bestowed Octavia with Majuu armor, which feeds off her body and soul, but as long as she can withstand that feeding, it makes her able to fight on the same level as Makai Knights and Alchemists, giving our heroes a headache.

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I’m glad Herman was wrong and Octavia still has her human body under there, beauty mark, freckles, and wits (such as they are): for her to have transformed into a mindless, faceless automaton would have been a big shame. Instead, she goes out fighting for what she believes in, which is that Mendoza is her god.

The way she cradles Mendoza’s loose forearm, isn’t so much gross as pathetic, but at the same time, you can’t deny her undying loyalty and commitment to someone who did save her more than once.

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I also like how Ema sets things up so Octavia gets tossed out of the inner chamber with her and Alfie, but not before Ema plants a big ol’ smooch on Leon, leaving Mendoza to Leon. The kiss plants Leon in the here and now and calms him, and she urges him not to lose himself…again. Then Ema uses one of Mendoza’s toys to move her and Alfie’s battle with Octavia to that modern-day city, spicing things up quite a bit.

Leon dives down to the bottom of the abyss and confronts Mendoza, who is ready for him with some fresh psychological warfare: the sight of Herman, relieved of limbs and encased in red crystal to join the other souls in the giant dagger intended for Anima.

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But after all the growing and maturing Leon’s gone through, he’s done being manipulated into blind rage by this old fart, which Mendoza can’t help but respond with a half-impressed snort. Whether Leon can keep it together or not doesn’t matter to him; he’s convinced he’s going to have his way with the world.

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Octavia proves a nasty customer by breaking out of Ema’s illusiory city, and the wild aerial battle continues, culminating with her and Alfie balanced on either end of a long wooden plank in midair. GARO doesn’t hold back on the fancypants, acrobatic, gravity-defying combat, and it’s all very slick and fun. Hannah could probably watch this stuff all day, and I’d probably watch it with her.

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The whole elaborate struggle is grounded in the two sides’ contrasting loyalties: Octavia to Mendoza, and Ema and Alfie to the public good, as per their responsibilities both as Makai warriors and in Alfie’s case, as his kingdom’s prince and protector. They’re not worried about Leon or the odds of winning, they’re only focused on getting the job done.

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But so is Octavia; only her job is to dispose of them. After Ema shoots Alfie up to the floating Watchdog center whatsit, she duels with Octavia in the matchup I’d been waiting for. It’s not long or drawn out, but it’s good stuff indeed, with Ema learning Octavia asked to be given the armor knowing full well it would kill her.

Ema can only lament what she sees as the worthlessness of Octavia’s cause. Whatever Mendoza did for her, he isn’t deserving of her fanatical devotion. But he has it all the same, even as Octavia breathes her last and is consumed by the Majuu, which Ema destroys soon after before collapsing herself, having taken a leg shotgun to the chest.

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As for Alfie, he shoves his sword into some kind of field protecting the structure he flew up to, and though his armor and sword crumble to bits in the process, he does manage to break through, and the structure disappears.

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By the episode’s end, all three of our remaining heroes are in desperate need of some Phoenix Down. Hell, a few Phoenix Pinions couldn’t hurt either. They’ve made their stands, handled themselves well, and done everything in their power to oppose Mendoza.

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But despite the fact they’re all sprawled out on the ground, bleeding and absolutely winded, their remaining foe is none other than the ultimate horror, Anima, who as terrifying to behold in all his towering, giant red dagger-impaled, D-cup glory. How in the hell are our exhausted heroes going to deal with this?

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 22

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When Herman’s little talking accessory thingy (his equivalent to Leon’s Zaruba) tells Leon that his father has appeared to side with Mendoza so he can take Mendoza and Anima out, Leon rushes to meet his dad in Mendoza’s lair deep below Santa Bard. Alfie and Ema accompany him. So Herman didn’t turn bad after all, nor was he blindly following Garm’s orders.

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Herman is already there, barely masking his contempt for the fact Mendoza is using hundreds of the souls of knights and alchemists he’s massacred as sacrifices to strengthen Anima (the process resembles Tetris). He eventually hits his limit and decides to reveal his true colors and attack Mendoza right then and there, which considering the stakes seems recklessly hasty.

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Then again, Mendoza is supposed to be super-frail, or at least his withered face would suggest as much. Yet he’s able to survive Herman’s attacks, using a willing Octavia as a shield several times in the process, before Herman slices off Mendoza’s arm and falls back to open the gate for Leon & Co. Now it makes more sense why he gave up the ghost so soon.

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Still, he could have timed it better with the arrival of the others, who have to first get through a gauntlet of barriers and booby traps, including three magic projectors that transport them into a modern-day metropolis, which is a super-WTF moment if ever there was one! All things considered, the trio takes the shock of being in such a strange place pretty well.

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As they work to break the illusion, Herman suddenly has his hands full with a legion of horrors Mendoza has summoned. Mendoza’s arm stops working and the gates start to close again, requiring Herman to hold it open with one of his daggers, greatly reducing his offensive effectiveness. From here on it becomes a battle of endurance.

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Leon, Alfie and Ema destroy the projectors and escape the trap, but they still have another course of barriers to break through, which will take up more time and energy. All the more reason Herman should have held his horses!

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Angry she’s not strong enough to do more, Octavia asks Mendoza to give her that strength. He hands her his staff, she draws a circle in the air, and recieves a torrent of needles. Ouch. Well, I’ve never questioned Octavia’s devotion to Mendoza.

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Those needles transform her into some kind of horror-like anti-Makai knight, who stands over a bruised and beaten Herman after he sabotages (and goes down with) the lift. It looks like it could be the end for him, but we don’t see him die, so it’s probably not quite time for him to bow out.

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He managed to hold the door for the others; now comes the hard part: defeating a Mendoza who won’t go down, protected by a horror-Octavia, and then the small matter of destroying Anima without taking the city with it and them. Plus Garm and the rest of the Watchdogs.

Shit’s certainly gettin’ real, but I really didn’t mind Mendoza being defeated back at the end of the first cour. To be honest, the fact they’re facing the same enemy, only somehow more powerful than before, who is after the same basic villain thing (immortality), is a little disappointing.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 21

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Leon has to duel his shitty dad this week, but he holds his own, as he’s no longer a whiny brat consumed by anger and revenge. He wants to protect people, which is why he just can’t understand why his dad is protecting Mendoza, who has only ever preyed on the weak to increase his own power.

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Herman isn’t saying nothin’, he seems more concerned with whether Leon can actually stay with him in a fight. He tries to push Leon’s buttons, but Leon hangs in there. Their fight moves to the roof of the palace, where Garm in bird form helpfully flutters over them, providing exposition. Basically, the body that governs Makai Knights and Alchemists has decided to let Mendoza release that giant legendary horror after all, since it will eat a great many other horrors, and likely destroy an in-over-his-head Mendoza along with them.

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It’s a sacrifice a few to save many plan, the kind of “tough decisions” Herman says Makai Knights must make. But Leon isn’t having it. He dons his armor and presses his attack (the two wisely travel far from the city to avoid too much collateral damage). He won’t let Garm’s kind sacrifice Santa Bard, a city full of people he and his brother have sworn to protect. He won’t let one person be killed to save another. It’s arguably an even tougher stance than that of his dad, who, at least on the surface, seems to be hiding behind his orders.

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Leon’s frustration with his dad’s position is made clearer in a flashback when the two were traveling from town to town, with Herman taking out local horrors and training Leon, whose present belief that every single person must be protected at the cost of a knights life, was instilled in him by his dad, after Leon tried to save him.

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But his dad also makes it clear that he and Leon are only brief participants in a war that will never end. The swords they drop when they fall will be picked up with others.

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In other words, there’s a long game here, and mortal knights cannot expect to save everyone and everything in their lifetimes. There are hard choices and compromises to be made that might clash with their otherwise rigid ideals, like capitalizing on the opportunity to destroy a vast number of horrors by letting Mendoza do what he wants.

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Leon can’t accept the sacrifice of a few now to save many later. Neither can Alphonso, the leader of the people in the epicenter of Mendoza’s plot. Ema also seems to have the brothers’ backs. But what can they do against the might of every other Makai Knight and Alchemist who has fallen in line? Evacuating the city and killing Mendoza would be a start.

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