I just finished watching the Garo franchise, so here's a sort of review -
First I have to admit I was not that interested in the franchise after seeing some of the commercials for it. I thought it could be yet another Guyver type series of over done violence which frankly, is not my thing. It wasn't. I originally watched the last series, Garo: Yami wo Terasu Mono, then followed with watching the rest in order of the story, which I've listed this all in. Credit goes to SDSICHero for pointing this franchise out.
This is a Tokusatsu series aimed not for the kids but for the now older teenaged and adults who grew up watching stuff like Kamen Rider, the various Ranger shows and Ultraman. It's got nudity from time to time and has a darkness to it. For a comic book reference, imagine it being a Vertigo title. We get a better over all story, better characters, better concepts, better action and still the stuff that was liked in those other shows.Garo (tv series)
This was the series that started it all and is, if you watched the later productions first, the roughest. Note that is a diamond in the rough that shows it's shine as the 25 episodes go through. Here we get introduced to the main characters Kouga and Kaori. Kouga is a Makai Knight, a secret warrior in a war against demons possessing humans and consuming more human victims. Kaori is a young women trying to follow in her father's footsteps as an artist and also still manage to have a home. She's also the woman that Kouga saves from one of the demons, called Horrors, that would have consumed her. There's a catch, she gets partly bathed in the blood of the Horror as Kouga slays it.
It's Makai law that those bathed in the blood of a Horror, must be cut down at once or suffer a terrible fate after 100 days. Kouga chooses at the last second to spare her. Why? To use her to bait other Horrors as they are attracted to the blood on her. But the story really begins, here we see a growing romance between the two as well as an exploration of just who Kouga is, why he is and what he is as a Makai Knight. We also see how he ultimately must face a worse enemy then any Horror, a fallen Makai Knight. Add to that, another Makai Knight out for revenge.
A great series with a well balanced plot complete with a romance story better handled then in most anime or manga or toku. This is not a kiddie type. Both actors have great chemistry that just helps it through. Add the over all introduction to the concepts of the Makai, the Horrors and their relationship plus some of the best combat scenes you could see. Yes, a tv budget but still impressive more then not. Very satisfying throughout and to the end. It was pretty hard to not move to the next episode after watching one.Kiba Gaiden
This was a video short that served as a side story expanding on the main villain and events within the first series. It's here we see his motivation and his fall from Makai Knight to villain.
Of all the productions this one was the least entertaining as it really did nothing much to improve the character. Add to this a ton of animated sequences left me feeling I was watching a poor man's Ralph Bakshi Lord of The Rings. I found it detracting to the story that was sadly cliche and as said, not changing my feelings about the character. Even the addition of another Makai Knight.. which is barely fleshed out, left this a disappointment for me. More considering the original series.Garo: Beast of the Midnight Sun
This was a film/video that picks up shortly after the events of the first series and returns the original cast. Kouga is sent to Kantai, a core Makai village, to be part of a special ritual to keep a major Horror from being unsealed.
This one was a well paced film, though at times it seemed like a strung together set of additional episodes. Not in the bad way, please note. I liked that the major characters from the first series were returned together for this adventure while adding a few more. While I was not wowed by the newest, it was still a good sign to see the franchise expanding it's cast and using the character to further contrast them all. Like the first series, this has some great action scenes in it.Garo: Red Requiem
This was a film/video that follows after Beast of the Midnight Sun. Here we see a major Horror is on the loose in some city that appears to be Knightless. Kouga is dispatched to deal with it and meets an old friend who's out for revenge.
The story was not as good or paced as the first series or first film, but did introduce a great new character to the mix as well as continue to flesh out Kouga, Makai and of course, Kouga's relationship with Kaori. The action scenes were good, but not up there with the prior ones. Still well worth a watch.Garo: Makai Senki (tv series)
This was the second 25 episode series and takes place some time after Red Requiem. Kouga has now been reassigned to serve the Makai Senate, a high honor for any knight. All the character from the prior productions return as they all face a threat that could end the Makai and humanity as well.
This series was the best over all for pacing and cliffhangers. Not only do we get even more development of Kouga and the Makai, but we get some terrific story for the romance of Kouga and Kaori. Build perfectly in this regard on what was so well founded in the first series and further teased along in the films that followed. Great action scenes and yes.. cornball moments that you will cheer. You liked the Whedon adventure stuff? This is of the same, pacing, character development and interaction. BUT, you really need to watch the earlier stuff as this does not sit alone as well. Far too much needs you to know the characters for the impacts of the story.Garo: Tougen no Fue
This movie/video is a sidebar story happening at the same time Soukoku no Maryu, but concerning only two... well three.. of the cast of Garo characters. A special Makai object is about to be stolen for nefarious reasons. Only our heroes can stop it... although the one may cause it to happen.
Not at all bad and rather enjoyable to see, despite the lack of Kouga. Yup, I've tried not to spoil this over all too much, but this is the girls adventure in the cast and was about time. I thought the story was a bit fly weight and formula, but not too much to distract from getting to see more of these two favorite characters in action. The action scenes were not bad, but not as effective as with the prior productions.
Still, I'd like to see more of this sort of adventures with these characters.Garo: Soukoku no Maryu
This movie/video is the epilogue or sorts to the whole franchise or at the very least, to Makai Senki. Kouga must fulfill a contract made with a major being of power during the events of Makai Senki. He's sent to the Promised Land to retrieve an object.
This was the weird one in a sense for the whole franchise. It was basically Kouga in some variant of Tim Burton's take on Wonderland... but with less budget. It was good and yes, develops Kouga even further which is not as tiresome as you may think. But the real prize in this film is the link up to the end of Makai Senki. Perfect ending. Over all, well paced, nice action scenes and some fun concepts played with.Garo: Yami wo Terasu Mono (tv series)
This was the latest 25 episode series and stands alone from all the other production as it is set several generations after Kouga's adventures with a new cast of character. Ryuga is the new holder of the title, armor and sword of Garo. It is now tarnished heavily with black and no longer shines as brightly. Ryuga is summoned by his old mentor to serve as a Knight in the city Velocity. Along with two other knights and a priestess in training, Ryuga must return the Garo armor to it's full shine and prove also, that he truly is worthy of it. But the city has a terrible world shaking secret and a Horror that must be stopped.
As said at the beginning of this, this was the first of the Garo franchise that I watched. It is good and I thought more highly of it prior to seeing the original. Again, don't get me wrong, this was good but it was a pale continuation compared to the original two series. It lacked the drama and hooks to interest you into liking the characters. There was barely any romance at all involved. It's worth a watch for the action scenes as well as for seeing the one new character that was interesting... Rian the priestess. She was a little different then others and stood out as a result.Garo: The Return Of Zero
This is an upcoming limited series of 6 episodes focused on the one character of the franchise's original cast.
I'm looking forward to it. Like the character and seeing more of the originals is more then welcome to me.
Over all, the franchise worth it to see. Great characters, concepts, styles... this is the sort of thing Hollywood should be looking at for inspiration. I loved the building concepts and expansions on the Makai and all involved. It was like seeing how the Jedi should have been done. I enjoyed how it could almost be considered to have some cosmetic inspirations from Highlander and Blade. The horrors at times were amazing concepts and yes, as a comic book reader I'd say this was a good to great Vertigo comic. It's not for kids, but not too adult either to become weighed down with pessimism as I find with most. Not bright and shiny, but not so dark either. The romance between the two main characters was a big factor in enjoying all of this. It wasn't too deep, but not so shallow either... a well teased one I'd say.
I have to add, I really enjoyed how the characters' relationships were made and built up with in it all. Some of the better worked that I've seen.
Consider the franchise recommended.
Kouga Saejima, is a badass.