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GARO: Red Requiem - And where does the newborn go from here?
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GARO: Red Requiem
I was a big, big fan of 2005's "Hyper Midnight Action Drama" GARO, combining as it did horror, kung fu, and superheroes into a single, totally sweet package. When the series ran its 25 episodes, they were followed up with a pair of one-hour specials forming a story called Beast of the White Night...and then nothing. For several years. The GARO fanbase, however, remained - and even expanded - in the intervening time, all of us waiting with baited breath for more; something which was exacerbated by the fact that the TV series ended with the promise of further adventures. (And, honestly, by the fact that Beast of the White Night was cool, but felt a little lackluster; I think we didn't want to see something as special as GARO end on a bit of an off note like that.) But we were left with nothing until 2009 and the announcement that 2010 would bring us GARO: Red Requiem, a feature-length theatrical movie - filmed in 3-D, even! - with lead actor Hiroki Konishi reprising his role as Makai Knight Saejima Kouga, and series creator Keita Amemiya directing. Needless to say, I was fucking thrilled.

Garo 1
More of this? YES PLEASE.

I also didn't get to actually see it until last week. Was it worth the wait? Most definitely...but with some qualifications.

Red Requiem picks up at some point after the end of the TV series, and probably also after Beast of the White Knight. Kouga has spent some time now tracking down an "Apostle Horror" called Karma that resides in a cursed mirror, and finally catches up to her when she and her servants, Kurusu and Shion, take up residence in a city where Kouga happens to have a bit of history. At the same time, he encounters a Makai Priestess named Rekka seeking to avenge her father - and whom Kouga believes is too inexperienced to join in the battle against the Horrors. But when the two warriors storm the nightclub Karma and her henchmen have taken over, Kouga's armor ends up trapped inside Karma's mirror, and Kouga himself is injured (in an appropriately badass fashion) while fighthing one of the hench-monsters. With his armor gone, himself hurt, and no one to help him but a group of inexperienced Priests, can Kouga prevail against the Apostle Horror and her minions?

Garo 2
Of course he can. Don't be silly.

Red Requiem has a pretty simple, straightforward plot - but then, so did the series. You can pretty much predict all of the twists (three guesses who's responsible for killing Rekka's father, and the first two don't count), but the movie works well in spite of that. What carries it along is one of the same things that helped carry the series: pure passion. With every frame of this movie, you can tell that Keita Amemiya absolutely loves working with these characters and in this universe, and that he's just glad to be coming back to it. The movie feels like nothing so much as a love letter to GARO's fans, and being a GARO fan, I'm pretty happy with that.

Of course, that's also somewhat indicative of one of the movie's problems: it does absolutely nothing to hold the hand of the new viewer. I don't imagine anyone who's unfamiliar with the property could watch this and know why they should give a shit about Kouga or his war against the Horrors; they wouldn't have any idea what the Makai Priests are, or what purpose they serve when there's already Makai Knights out there doing the same job, but better; or, for that matter, little details like why Kouga's ring can talk. Of course, obsessive dorks like myself are right at home with this stuff - but even for the obsessive dork, there are a few things the movie flat-out doesn't bother to explain. The big one of these is the concept of "Apostle Horrors"; it's an idea introduced for the first time in this movie, and there's never really any attempt made to clarify just what they are. Obviously, they're a bigger, badder type of Horror than the ones encountered every week on the show, but...what, exactly, makes them special? We never really get an indication of that.

Similarly, the movie's climax is still pretty cool, but feels a bit too much like a truncated rehash of the climax to the show - just like in the show's climax, Kouga travels to the underworld and has a big fight with a giant naked albino woman. (Keita Amemiya is a weird guy.) It wasn't until I went to Wikipedia that I discovered somewhat the reason for this: Karma, the movie's big villain, actually transforms into the big villain from the series, Meshia. There is absolutely nothing in the movie that gives the impression of this being what happened; it really looks like it's just Karma taking on a bigger, more monstrous form - like Dracula at the end of every Castlevania game. So a few elements of the movie's storytelling could've been made a bit more clear.

The movie's fight choreography is also a bit disappointing; the guy who did the fights for the series did a great job, but he was busy elsewhere when the time came to work on the movie, so Amemiya had to go with someone else. And unfortunately, you can totally tell - the fights aren't bad at all, but they lack the energy and flow that they had on the series. This is probably not helped by the fact that Red Requiem's Horrors are all computer-generated, as opposed to the suits used for the TV version, and the Garo armor appears to be CG a good deal of the time as well, but...well, I suppose you can't have everything.

All of that said, though, I found GARO: Red Requiem to be a pretty pleasing ninety minutes, and walked away from it perfectly satisfied. It wasn't "Kouga's hardest battle yet!," it didn't redefine the GARO universe, and it didn't really push anything forward...but it also didn't really have to. It was simply another Garo story, and that's all I really needed it to be.

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3 comments or Leave a comment
From: paladine Date: November 28th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't help but wonder if calling the Horrors in this "Apostles" isn't a Berserk reference. Since both series about dark fantasy stories about grim demon slaying badasses (both with ridiculously sized swords and armor that can take them over if they're not careful) who protect women who have become beacons for demons, I wouldn't be surprised if Amemiya wasn't somewhat influenced by it when he came up with GARO.

Or he could have thrown it in for no other reason than it sounded cool, which is the driving motivation behind a lot of stuff Amemiya does.
From: paladine Date: November 28th, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, damn...do I need a DVD release of this series to hit Netflix. STAT.
johnny_kaos From: johnny_kaos Date: November 29th, 2011 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, you might be right about there being some Berserk influence on the show; as you point out, there's the "Apostle" thing, there's the similarity in premise, and do you know what the form that Kouga takes when his armor takes him over is called? "Berserk Garo."

Although I do think it's most likely that it was chosen because it sounds cool; there's rarely any other reason for why English words are used in Japanese stuff.

Regarding DVDs...unfortunately, that's not very likely. It's never been released in the US, even though it's supposedly been licensed. I have a bootleg of the first series and Beast of the White Night, but there are no legit DVDs - though if there were, I'd buy the hell out of them. That said, if you're interested, PM me and I can point you to some fansubs (and they're streamed, so if you have objections like I do to using torrents, it's not a problem).
3 comments or Leave a comment