A man called Sword, because Awesome was too on the nose I guess.
What’s the Story?
Grief, heartbreak, jealousy, greed, arrogance, pride, all of these and more can turn a person from a human being into a Horror, a monster that feeds on humans. Fear not though, for there are those that protect us mere mortals from the Horrors, they are known as Makai Knights and it is their job to battle the monsters born of humans. The most powerful Makai Knight currently around is the Golden Knight, a man who goes by the name Sword. He’s a man’s man, good with kids, has a talking bike and, of course, a really big sword. When he meets Sophie, a young orphan girl looking for her lost brother neither of them realises that they’ve stumbled across a plot that could end the world as we know it. Their only clue being two words, ‘El Dorado’. Let the epic road trip begin!
I will admit, when I first started watching this show I was expecting it to be just an action fest. Something for me to switch my brain off, pull out the popcorn and watch and yet somehow I ended up falling in love with this series. It’s not perfect, it isn’t always good and it has its flaws, but there’s a level of talent and thought in this series that raises it above what I was expecting. I love these characters and there have been moments where this show has made me cry and other moments where my jaw has hit the floor in shock and awe.
A lot of the series plays out as a monster of the week show, with each week being a new Horror on the loose and our heroes either having to track them down or figure out how to stop them, while we get the story behind what created this Horror in the first place. It’s a good format and it works well, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had, whether in the whirling action scenes or just in some solid stories. As the series progresses though, the overarching El Dorado plot begins to take over and our heroes leave the city and begin an epic road trip to reach the mysterious city. I will admit that parts of the finale were…disappointing. The conclusion could have packed more punch and resolution for certain characters and some elements of King’s big plan where kind of confusing (how does a phone app suck souls?). Better explanations could have been given.
What makes the stories work though and had me eagerly awaiting each new episode, was that it got its characters. Sure on the surface they look like your stereotypical action heroes from every 80s and 90s film ever. You’ve got Sword, the big damn hero, who’s all muscular and badass with a tragic back-story to boot. Luke is the brooding loner, who’s Swords rival in every way, yet has a grudging respect for the man. Gina is the femme fatale and token female warrior. Then there’s Sophie, the kid, because every story needs a kid right? That’s how we pull in the child audience, despite the fact that there’s blood and dismemberment all over the place. It’s all very stock and just what you’d expect, but the acting and the animation makes you believe that there is more to these people. They have actually emotional reactions to things, emotions that I can believe in.
Sophie is the best example of this that I have, because kid characters are hard to do right, especially in a show like this. They’ll often be annoying, taking up screen time that could be given over to exciting action sequences and are often there just so the hero can show his caring, parental side. Yet I care about Sophie so much. At times she can be frustrating and she does make mistakes, but it’s believable because she is a kid and she acts like that, but hardly ever verges into annoying. Her story is a relatable one and she has some horrible things happen to her, people she cares about die and yet she still finds a way to smile and push forward. Sophie’s arc is really the message of the whole show, that despite the tragedy and the horror that can befall us, we can survive and be stronger for it. By the end of this series, I admire Sophie and I really wish I had more time to spend with her.
With the other characters, we don’t get much development for Sword and Gina, but we do get peeks into different sides of them so they feel a bit more fleshed out. Luke actually gets the next most development as he goes from a heartless loner bent on revenge to a man who will use his strength to protect others. My favourite episode of the whole series is a Luke episode (It’s episode 10 – Rebirth, even if you don’t want to watch the series, just watch this episode, it’s amazing.) It’s the episode after the big battle with the city in ruins and Luke wandering around helping people. It shows exactly what this series is best at, it’s a powerful and emotional story that really gets you in the gut.
On the animation front I’m kind of torn. On the one hand I really like the character animation, the motion is always fluid and energetic and the fights look amazing. The CGI I’m less keen on, it just sticks out a bit too much and the bike and the Golden Knight armour feel just a little too overcomplicated for my tastes. Of course that’s when I can actually see them, most of the action is really good, but there are times when the camera starts spinning round like its stuck on a spin cycle and I have no idea what’s going on. Other times it’s the most awesome action I have ever seen. A bit more consistency would have been nice. Outside of the action though there are some really beautiful shots and bits of directing. This series isn’t all action, it has its quiet moments. It knows when to let its characters just sit and breathe and be characters. Either way this show found a way to please both my older self and the ten year old me, so job well done I’d say.
All in all Garo – Vanishing Line is not a perfect series, but it is really enjoyable. There’s plenty of action and excitement for your inner ten year old and there’s also quieter, more character-driven moments for those looking for more than just action scenes. Where this series excels is in making its characters likable and really hitting you with their emotions. Watching Sophie, Luke and the others grow across the series is a true pleasure and one I will happily sit through again and again.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.