GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 06

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Santa Bard: where Leon was conceived in the flames that burned his mother to death. Where it all began. And also, where Mendoza is building a Demon Army with which to hold onto power. Leon and Herman arrive here far earlier than I would have thought, especially if this is just a 12 or 13-episode show..

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This week, we get a parallel father-son story, though one that ends unhappily, as the city’s foremost swordssmith learns of his son Sergi’s death when his sword is returned to him. Only the sword isn’t just a sword, but a vessel for his dead son’s soul, no doubt twisted into horrordom by his experiences in the shadowy Knighthood of the Black.

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Herman wants to get the lay of the land — preferably by getting laid — and it doesn’t even take long for the comely Leon to get surrounded by ladies, one of them Emma, who is still following them. Considering those ladies may have been trying to roll him, her presence was beneficial, and she gives the quick-to-anger Leon some free advice: quick getting all bent out of shape by every little thing and grow up.

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He does just that by paying for the food a young urchin stole from a merchant, catching the attention of Julio, who was once an urchin himself, and was saved by his adoptive father and boss: the swordsmith with the demon possession problem.

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The two father-son duos enjoy a meal together, which turns out to be a perfect opportunity for Herman and Leon to pick up on the fact that something is very wrong with Julio’s dad.

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Of nights, he takes a terrifying Horror form and goes after Santa Bard soldiers who won’t tell him where his son is. His possession by Sergi’s sword was, in a way, a result of him not being able to let go of Sergi and let him move on. Although, from the image up top, it’s not as if the guy had a lot of choice in the matter.

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Herman dons his Zoro armor and does his thing, father v. father, Herman’s killing of the Horor means Julio is an orphan again, but he’s an orphan in the city’s top smithy and still has a decent support system. He’s in a place where he can determine his future with his own hands, which is basically a more literal version of Leon’s situation.

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But the smith-horror was just a glorified side-quest, considering what the Knighthood is up to, which Herman and Emma confer about. Mendoza is also aware of their presence, and one of his loyal associates vows to deal with them (though Mendoza doesn’t seem to care either way).

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 05

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On the day of the New Moon, as promised, Zaruba takes Leon’s life…but only for the day. In this regard, he’s kind of like a werewolf, only during the opposite moon phase, he doesn’t turn into a wolf, but just sleeps all day, as most teenagers do.

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Anyway, Leon being out of action is a perfect opportunity to turn our attention to Prince Alfonso and his new savior, who turns out to be Sir Rafael Banderas, a Makai Knight and a friend of the Old Golden Knight Garo. We learn that Alfonso’s mother was Leon’s mother’s younger sister, making them cousins. That makes Leon’s aunt Queen Esmeralda, who was adopted by aristocrats and eventually became Queen.

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Super-Evil Dude and General Dickhead Mendoza suspected the Makai bloodline ran in Esmeralda and her son, and so acted quickly to eliminate them, as any Makai knights or alchemists pose a threat to his plan to dominate the land using Horrors as his army. But Leon got away safely, thanks to Rafael, while the queen remembers nothing of her past, but is kept alive as a potential bargaining chip. In this, Mendoza shows remarkable restraint. Meanwhile, Octavia continues to keep the king weak and bedridden, but is instructed to keep him alive…for now.

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After Rafael tells him the tale of his lineage, Leon is eager to be trained, but as good as he is with a sword against humans, he’s no match for horrors yet. This is illustrated simply when Rafael hands Leon his horror-slaying sword, which is actually thinner than his own broadsword, but so much heavier it drives itself into the stone ground, and Leon can’t budge it. It really puts into perspective the weight the knights bear; if the sword is that heavy, the armor must be like wearing a tank!

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For a taste of the life of a knight and the struggle against horrors, Rafael takes Alfonso to Valdona, a formerly bustling wine-producing land now ruined and scorched, and whose inhabitants flee in terror from Alfonso’s horse. The Count is a horrifying caterpillar-like horror (it kinda reminded me of Captain Kurotsuchi’s Ashisogi Jizo). A mother, infant child, and harpist have somehow managed to avoid getting killed when Rafael and Alfonso arrive.

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The harpist gets eaten, but Alfonso lashes at the horror ineffectually until Rafael arrives and dons his “Gaia” armor, focusing on defense. One supercharged blow to the horror’s soft spot and it’s taken care of. I’m liking the purple garb of Rafael, though you’d think the more flamboyant Herman would don such a hue. The transformation is also very cool: with a portal of light opening and basically dropping the armor on him piece by piece, again weighing down the ground he stands on.

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After this incident, Alfonso is only more determined to do whatever it takes to save his mother and protect his kingdom, so Rafael agrees to train him. Unlike the easy-going, drunken Don Juan Herman, Rafael is a much stiffer, sterner man. I’m only speculating, but that could be because Herman has dragged his boy around since he was a baby, and wanted to be a jovial presence in his son’s life (something that’s wearing thin on Leon now that he’s growing into adulthood). On the other hand, this “father figure” thing is brand new. It will be a learning process for both him and adoptive “son.”

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Back in…well, I’m not sure where exactly it is, only that it’s not really a when, but a void where time is unchanging, kinda like where Captain Picard ended up with Q after Nausicaans stabbed him (different show). There, the previous Garo, Leon’s grandfather, tells him to not to fear his flames, and to find “that which he must protect” before giving him a hearty slap of encouragement on the back. Hey, Old Garo is alright by me!

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Makai knights protect by slaying horrors. As Herman said, they do not pass judgment, or even raise an armored hand, to ordinary humans, even if said humans hunt down and murder their fellow knights and alchemists as witches. I wonder if they can make an exception in Mendoza’s case, as he’s far from an “ordinary” human. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the way he is because he’s a vessel for a horror, as Marcelo was.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 04

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I love how this show subverts our expectations…even expectations established as recently as this week by the other Mappa series this Fall, Shingeki no Bahamut. Creepy village full of ugly people? Rumors of disappearances? A gorgeous woman (Herman’s type!) living with her bowl-cut son on the outskirts?

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The logical path of least resistance tells us that if this beautiful creature Aurelia isn’t a witch, or rather a horror in disguise (and let’s be honest, “Aurelia” sounds like a witch’s name), then her son,  he of the intense gaze who talks to his wooden doll, most certainly is. Now that Leon is a full-fledged, under-control Makai Knight, it’s up to him along with Pops to root out Horrors and protect humans…even the thoroughly unpleasant-seeming, highly private inhabitants of this town.

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Well…THIS is certainly very creepy…

When Herman rules out everyone else, including Aurelia, the conventional process of elimination says the Horror is Alois, and Herman tells Leon He’ll Get This One, as it’s not fair to ask his son to kill a child when he’s really still one himself. Leon bristles at this (as he bristles at pretty much everything his dad says): it’s a Horror; the fact that it takes the form of a child is of no consequence.

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I want Herman’s neat little Horror-detecting bell.

Only…Alois isn’t a Horror either, sending the knights back to square one. Having wached Bahamut this past Monday with Hannah, in which innocent little Rita ended up being a necromancer, was pre-conditioned to suspect the kid too. Yes, even with all those hundreds of creepy wooden idols in that abandoned hut.

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Similarly, the overall sketchiness of the townsfolk, and the way in which they dealt with Aurelia, made her story about their seedy occult “ceremonies” make us start to suspect them as at least harboring a Horror or being in it’s thrall, if they weren’t Horrors Herman could detect with his bell for whatever reason. And yup…still wrong!

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No, this week’s Horror is the wooden doll Alois walks around with. He talks to it because it takes the form of another boy who, unlike the rest of the town, wants to be friends with him. It also taps into Alois’ desire for revenge against the town for persecuting and murdering his father, who reported their activities to the church.

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So, this is a Horror facilitating a young, angry boy’s thirst for revenge. Basically, a younger version of Leon, no? Herman is always possessed of many of the show’s best lines, and this week’s no exception:

Revenge will only destroy you. At the very least, be destroyed by women, that way you can go like a man.

Raging sexism aside, this line not only gets us to suspect Aurelia even more early on (be destroyed by women) but also hints at the situation they’re about to face at the town: Alois wants revenge, and the Horror wants to give it to him, but the Knights can’t allow it. They have to save Alois by depriving him of that which he desires most in life, because the Horror won’t stop with the townsfolk.

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This week is notable for its focus, eschewing any Emma or Alfonzo updates, but also for Herman never needing to don his Zoro armor, because this is another lesson for Leon first and foremost. When the Horror’s face morphs into that of Alois, Leon hesitates for the split-second needed for it to escape, but he doesn’t get fooled again, knowing that as seductive as the prospect of revenge can feel, his father’s words in this case are spot-on: it will only destroy you in the end.

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While he and his mother are now safe, he’s still sad he lost his “friend” and any hope at getting his revenge, but the Knights helped keep his soul clean. He’s young, and he’ll get over it. Their job done, Herman and Leon start off to the next town to gather info on their next target, whatever it may be.

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Aurelia and Alois blow town too, because, and this is the interesting part: the town hasn’t stopped the rituals. Furthermore, Herman and Leon aren’t going to do anything to stop them. They’re Makai Knights, charged with eliminating Horrors. They’re not all-purpose heroes, and it’s not their job to judge humans. Had a Horror not been involved in any part of this case, Aurelia and Alois probably would’ve been SOL.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 03

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“Better get used to me, kid!”

GARO slips right back into high form in its third outing, which starts with the receipt of a cool floating-rune message that “Zaruba is complete.” After crossing paths with Emma Guzman in their inn (by “coincidence”), they waste no time rushing to the secluded home of the Makai Alchemist Gael, who fought alongside Leon’s grandfather, who was the last Garo.

They don't hang about, do they?
They don’t hang about, do they?

We get a short but sweet flashback to when a sixteen-years-younger yet far more world-weary Herman is still on the run with lil’ Leon, and asks Gael to fix the Madou Ring that allows the Golden Knight to contract with Zaruba and lend him his strength. All this plot and terminology could have been a ponderous ordeal to sit through, but it’s all very easy to follow, and it’s delivered with flair, which this show has in spades.

Leon looks a lot like his dad, as demonstrated in this flashback
Leon looks a lot like his dad, as demonstrated in this flashback

Like German, Gael has an apprentice of his own, Marcelo, who is eager but somewhat inept, a fact Gael is quick to remind him of for launching a neat “drum-needle” barrage a the approaching Makai Knights. But in sixteen years of watching Gael work on the ring, the idea took root in Marcelo’s mind that Herman would never return, and that the ring would fall to him. He hides it well, but he’s pissed Herman came back.

Whatever Gael is doing here, you gotta respect the energy! "Ah, FUCK IT, I'M THROWING IN THE LOT!!"
Whatever Gael is doing here, you gotta respect the energy! “Ah, FUCK IT, I’M THROWING IN THE LOT!!”

Marcelo has the sense to make sure Gael has completed the ring before killing him and snatching it as Herman and Leon sleep. When he bumps into Emma in the forest (who’d slapped a tracking device on Leon at the inn), Marcelo even thinks quick on his feet, overpowering her, then maintaining his innocence with Leon, claiming she killed Gael and stole the ring.

You're ah...you're not lookin' so hot there, sport. You okay?
You’re ah…you’re not lookin’ so hot there, sport. You okay?

Marcelo must’ve remembered the helpless boy Herman brought with him sixteen years ago, and even if he didn’t know Leon already inherently distrusted Emma, is able to easily convince him she’s the bad guy. I really love the scene where Emma thinks Leon passed and exhales, only to get into a heated but short fight, which ends with Emma telling Leon he’s been had: Marcelo has become a horror.

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As one would expect, even though he’s probably distraught over Gael’s death, Herman doesn’t swallow Marcelo’s fiction so easily, mostly because Gael was killed by a sword like Marcelo’s; a weapon Emma would never stoop to as long as she had her spool of string. The jig is up, and Marcelo, cornered, finds to his dismay that Zaruba will only contract with the Golden Knight, which he ain’t. Furious, he transforms into his monstrous Horror form.

"This should be good..."
“This should be good…”

Again, Herman leaves the work to the kid, who transforms into Garo and takes it to Marcelo-HORROR like a Final Fantasy protagonist to a major boss. Leon’s little skirmish with Emma was cool-looking enough itself, but once he dons the armor the combat spectacle takes on a whole new level, suitably accompanied by Garo’s sweet battle theme.

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Look around--choose your own ground...
Look around–choose your own ground…

When he finds an opening, he punches through Marcelo to get to the ring, briefly enters a sparse scene that resembles some 70s prog-rock album cover, and meets and contracts with Zaruba, who has a surprisingly personable voice (though not as goofy as say, Excalibur’s, though that would have been cool too.) Zaruba not only strengthens Garo, but calms his flames. Calmly, smoothly, Leon slices and dices the horror into oblivion.

Cue Victory Fanfare; tally EXP. CONGRATULATIONS. (Wait…why the hell is this eight minutes long?):

Now in possession of the restored Madou Ring, Leon can become a full-fledged knight. Afterwards, Emma takes off on her own (though I’m certain they’ll meet again), and the father and son continue on. That would’ve been a fine place to end, but this episode wasn’t done yet, giving us BONUS GARO by checking in on Alfonso, now a fugitive on the streets of his own capital by rights.

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He learns to his horror when defending himself that it isn’t just regular police being sent after him, but DEMON Police (which are, like Marcelo, of a pretty cool-looking design; not bad for grunts), which he simply isn’t equipped to deal with (yet). So it’s a good thing, then, that a Makai Knight was in town to save his life, waste the demons, and then pose stylishly with the moon as a backdrop.

"Hey. Hey Alfonso. Take a snap for my Instagram, yeah?"
“Hey. Hey Alfonso. Take a snap for my Instagram, yeah?”

It’s a thrillingly efficient closing scene that assures us the show hasn’t forgotten about Alfie, that he still has a lot to learn about that thing round his neck, and that he and Leon are sure to cross paths at some point.

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