The animation was the best I’ve seen of this series and the creators managed very well at keeping enough of their budget to push this throughout on such a crucial episode here! Tons of closeup scenes of Leon, Alfonso, Ema, German and Mendoza that captured the emotions of these characters strongly and I hope that we can see more of this in the future! This is not a series for kids as we’ve seen German sleep with women, people getting murdered, frightening Horrors manipulating adults and even children that hits an idea that a lot of heroic series don’t dare tackle– humans can be savages. If there is one thing I have noticed about this series that affects it completely would be that the situations created by the Horrors have had resolutions but when it comes to humans versus humans there hasn’t been an easy answer for them. As we’ve seen in previous episodes with townspeople killing each other off to hide secrets, the blacksmith’s death lingering over the young apprentice to even Anna being burned at the very beginning of this series! Keeping all of this in mind truly allows for the story of Mendoza to become quite spectacular considering that the whole motif of Garo is people wanting to pass on a lineage.
Kenji Mutou started out as an artist assistant for the manga Eyeshield 21 and got his career noticed in the anime world from his directorial debut of OAV Mushiba Tetsudō! This led to some big time episode director positions within a couple of huge series this year for this guy: Zankyou no Terror, Shingeki no Bahamut:Genesis and now Garo. Zankyou‘s episode 9 was one of the best entries into Shinichiro Watanabe’s post 9/11 series that aired earlier this summer. It was by far the best I had ever seen in how well it accelerated the tension of the terrorists Nine and Twelve pitted against Five and the FBI. As well as Shibazaki’s discussion with Aoki and the amount of realism poured into structuring the missing children and a created savant syndrome. Attention to detail is what makes Mutou’s directing stand out. The first episode of Bahamut was highly entertaining and developed a strong note in creating the atmosphere of 17th century Spain, the fourth that he had directed wasn’t as solid as I would have liked it to be as it was running in a few different directions with its plot twists!
However Mutou’s work on this episode of Garo was dark, it was very engaging as well because Mendoza’s past is finally revealed in the whole scheme of things and its really very good. The thing with Mendoza at first is he is the epitome of an arch-villian– breaking his oath with the Makai Order in search of power, and quite possibly having a desire for world domination. However, this entire episode enhanced what we already knew about his Alchemist ways and reversed in a rather twisted manner. Perhaps Kamui of Psycho-Pass this season should learn a thing or two about being a villain as Mendoza has been. He’s not around that often but when he does show up in this you know he’s put plans into motion that can realistically be achieved. He’s more of a strategist than a fighter as from what I can tell, and its paid off quite well– poisoning the King, arresting the Queen on suspicion of murder, exiling Alfonso and stealing the Zirkel’s Circle in order to overrun Valiante with Horrors. The exiled Alchemist ends up killing his wife and child because of the curse that was put onto him for creating the Madou ring using human’s blood such a grim concept here.
This reminded me so much of Amemiya’s other animated work Mahou Shoujotai— witches being at war with wizards and the betrayals between them. Is this the same Madou ring that Leon bears and if so does this correspond to the markings he has with the markings that Mendoza hides all over his body– are they perhaps related by blood? MONACA wrote some solid pieces of music to accompany his scenes here, and it really gives off the fantasy Spanish setting quite well for a Tokusatsu series like this one.
After loosing so much he’s spent years planning out a vendetta towards the Makai Knights and Alchemists that stripped him of his teachings not to mention dignity and pride that all of this works with incredible results. So what does he do? Eliminates everyone that reminds him of the tragic day so that he can forget it all and that was just the beginning of what he’s accomplished here– learning this was pivotal to Mendoza and his connections with Horrors in that these are creatures derived from the negative emotions that humans carry which we’ve seen quite a lot from the minor characters through Leon and German’s travels.
Returning back to the town that Leon left his father, alongside his new-found Makai Knight and Prince Alfonso, Ema shows herself again and is gradually building up to the invasion of the castle of Valiante to stop Mendoza from spreading his Horrors even further. I was fascinated by how well developed the comedy was here in contrast to how the overall tone of this episode was so serious– German sulks over the possibility that Anna betrayed him and that Alfonso could be her secret child from another man. Great how Ema was laughing the entire time in the background throughout this part as she knows full and well that Leon and Alfonso are cousins and German is Alfonso’s uncle and when its revealed to German the look on his face is one that is released from suffering. This pointed out a lot how much he misses Anna and still deeply cares for her even if he’s been sleeping around with other women.
The transition between Mendoza’s past to this and the build up towards German’s fight against Bernardo within the castle was genius writing and a huge cliffhanger! Too bad we couldn’t get dual episodes this week like last week’s Kiseijū!
OVERALL IMPRESSION 10/10