When I heard that GARO: The Animation had another season, I jumped at the chance to review it. After how much GARO: The Animation impressed me with its aesthetics, music, and action, I could only assume that GARO: Crimson Moon would follow suit. Along with FUNimation giving it the English dub treatment, it had me excited. But as I began watching I could tell that things were different. Much different. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it certainly felt like GARO: Crimson Moon fell below the standards of its predecessor, which made my viewing experience more disappointing.
*For this review, I decided to combine both part one and part two of FUNimation’s release, considering I received both at the same time.*
For those wondering, this next installment does not follow the adventures of characters we saw in GARO: The Animation. Gone are the days of Leon donning the Golden Knight’s armor, and teaming up with his brother, as well as Makai Alchemist Emma. Much to my chagrin (considering how much I love those characters) we are brought to a new area and time, where everything seemed to have reset. Instead of Leon in a native Spanish area, we are brought to a more traditional Asian land, with our new protagonist Raiko, the new owner of the Golden Armor. Raiko found as a young boy going ballistic in the Golden Armor was saved by Makai Alchemist Seimei and her companion Kintoki. The three stay in an area known as the Light Palace to then defend the people from horrors that creep in the night, despite the corruption at the Light Palace. In this time it’s the wealthy who can expect protection, good living, and rights, while the poor struggle to get a single breadcrumb. This socioeconomic situation leads to a very tumultuous atmosphere, especially toward the end of the series. We watch as Raiko grows from a naive child trying to save everyone (needing help to don the armor), to a capable knight worthy of much praise from his peers and strangers alike. We also learn about how he and Seimei have made many sacrifices to get where they are. Overall, it wasn’t as if anything was terrible in this series (which did feel like a step down from GARO: The Animation), but nothing stood out compared to what I’ve seen before.
I think the first thing that might jump out at fans who have seen the first season is how a lot of the primary voice cast made it back but as different characters. At first, it made me wonder if there was some JoJo nod, where these were descendants of characters like Leon and Emma (and to an extent they are in my mind). It had me excited thinking that these characters could possibly be related. Sadly, it didn’t seem to be the case, leaving me confused and disappointed by the tease that the voice cast gave me. It’s not the worst thing, considering how amazing a lot of the main cast was in GARO: The Animation (Monica Rial, Justin Briner, Ricco Fajardo, David Wald, etc.). But it certainly gave a weird vibe of continuity or non-continuity that I couldn’t shake when watching. In the beginning, it almost became too much of a distraction, in a way that kept me from enjoying the series thoroughly (it did go away over time).
The story wasn’t super compelling either, especially at the start of the adventure. A lot of the episodes felt like each one could stand alone (which to be fair, was also true of the first season at points). During the time I watched it, I felt as if I was watching a show that was made more for Saturday Morning Cartoons, due to the art and simple story. Both the look and feel led me to believe that was what I was in for. Unlike GARO: The Animation, which provided a great story on tragedy and maturing, this felt more childish, like just watching a band of outcasts try to protect a kingdom that is ruled by an evil person. Raiko even feeds into it with how he has to protect everyone, not realizing how impossible that feat is. Even when the story took a dark turn at the end of Part One (episode 12), where Seimei decided to save Raiko instead of a ton of civilians, rocking their relationship, it just didn’t have the big emotional hit like Lara dying in front of Leon.
Regarding the artwork, I was disappointed at how GARO: Crimson Moon looked compared to its predecessor. The outlines were much thicker, giving it a more crude vibe compared to what GARO: The Animation gave off. Both in scenery and characters, things seemed simpler give the show a generic vibe (unlike the vibrant colors and animation we were given before). Even the big fight between Raiko and Yasasuke left little to be desired compared to watching Leon and Alfonso duking it out (which it was trying to emulate). But instead of pulling out the big guns to make this fight more memorable, it just felt like any old battle that occurred in this series. The CG with the Makai Knights armor was the only thing that felt the same as it did in GARO: The Animation. Other than that, the action choreography and artwork just felt bland, something that I did not expect with MAPPA.
Besides Raiko and Seimei, I wasn’t really interested in the characters. I did find learning about Seimei’s past intriguing. She used to be a noblewoman, who decided to follow her desire to learn alchemy, and giving up all of the good things in life to slum it up and be happier. That being said, other characters could have been more engaging to watch. Kintoki took the biggest hit with how meaningless he seemed. He honestly was more like a cheerleader than an integral part of the team. Sure, he could clap his weapons to reveal if there was a horror in disguise, but later on in the series that occurred less and less, rendering him more and more useless. Although the very last episode does show his backstory (more or less), it was too little, too late to make me care. It was nice to have another Makai Knight such as Yasasuke show up, which did help the series be more engaging than it was earlier. But I found his backstory to be boring. He used to be a cop, fell in love with his informant, the informant died and he became a Robin Hood-like character. Very cliched, very played out, and it didn’t do much to enhance the series to me. And that’s all you saw in GARO: Crimson Moon. You can quickly tell how bland the characters were, and I haven’t even mentioned the villains, who did not seem memorable at all (to me they just felt like stronger horrors that took longer to defeat). No character was really fleshed out to the point that made me care besides Raiko and Seimei.
Overall, I’m not sure as to why FUNimation decided to use voice actors that were in GARO: The Animation for this series. If Seimei were related to Emma, then I’d get it more (same with Raiko and Leon). I would have thought that the cast would be much different to give it that feeling that these stories were only related by title. Instead, I had a massive sense of confusion about whether anything was connected. That doesn’t mean the performances were terrible, with Monica Rial stepping up once again in her role as Seimei. And Clifford Chapin did a great job voicing Raiko. The two mainstays from GARO: The Animation (Ricco Fajardo and Justin Briner) did a great job breathing life into their characters (Yasasuke and Yorinobu). Both of them made plenty of appearances throughout the series. However, I didn’t feel the casting of Kintoki worked out quite as everyone had in mind. The gravelly-ness of Mikaela Krantz didn’t work for me. She felt stiff in the performance at the beginning and only felt marginally less stiff as it finished.
As you can tell, I was not as impressed with GARO: Crimson Moon as I was hoping I’d be. With how good GARO: The Animation was, I was sincerely let down by what GARO: Crimson Moon could accomplish. The characters, for the most part, were dull and uninteresting. The artwork and music felt generic and uninspiring. Thankfully the two main characters of Raiko and Seimei were able to keep the boat from sinking for me, and the cast overall did a decent job. I guess I had my hopes too high, and my expectations weren’t met, but I wouldn’t call this series a waste. I’m glad I was able to see the next installment in the GARO franchise, and wouldn’t call it a horrible anime in the slightest. The series did have its little moments of victory, to the point where I’m sure fans will want to watch it. I just wish it either kept its original artwork and setting or brought that same sort of design to the Light Palace. All I can say is that if you were expecting GARO: Crimson Moon to be as impressive as GARO: The Animation, tamper those down or you might be as disappointed as I was.
Pros: Enjoyed watching Raiko and Seimei’s relationship grow; Seimei’s backstory; Battles involving Makai Armor.
Cons: Nearly same voice cast as GARO: The Animation lead to some confusion; Overall art seemed dull compared to GARO: The Animation; Kintoki as a character; Story felt like it was aimed at a younger audience than GARO: The Animation.
C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com and GeekEInc.com. You can follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris