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Garo: Crimson Moon Part 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

garo-crimson-moon-collection-1-dvd-bd-coverThe Horrors infect a different period of time.

What They Say:
In the capital city of an elegant, feudal society, a powerful spiritual barrier protects people from demonic monsters known as ”horrors”-at least, those lucky enough to live in the northern part of the city. For the commoners who live to the south, it’s a completely different story. As soon as night falls, the horrors begin their dark hunt, feasting on the souls of any humans who cross their path. Against unbeatable odds, the fate of the city will fall to a small group of warriors dedicated to protecting the citizens and fighting through the night.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets the 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that works a decent balance of action and dialogue pieces so they both work out well. It’s not the most dynamic show out there in either regard but the encoding brings the mix to life well enough for them. The action sequences have a decent bit of impact here they should, notably with some extra bass in the English adaptation, but both of them work well with the forward soundstage placement and depth. Dialogue is straightforward with nothing much to really deal with out of the ordinary as it all comes through clean and clear without distortions or dropouts during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which is also where the extras are. Animated by MAPPA, the encoding here captures the low-rent and unappealing look of the show well as it has the right kind of flat and lifeless feeling about it. Color design is fairly basic so there’s not a lot to work with here and really fluidly animated sequences are few and far between, making it even easier. It’s not the greatest looking show in the world but the encoding captures the look of the source material without any problems such as noise or macroblocking.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case to hold the four discs from both formats on hinges. The o-card replicates the case artwork as it uses a really cheap looking illustration piece of the main cast of characters with a lot of detail but nowhere near enough the polish it needs to look good. The rough background works in its favor, though, as it gives it a more mature look. The back cover works with just a bland background piece overall with no additional artwork here, letting the few small shots from the show along the bottom bring the color and life to it. The summary of the premise is pretty extensive and we get a good breakdown of the extras included in the release. The technical grid captures all the right details about how the series was put together for both formats in a clean and easy to read way. And, in a really rare move, there isn’t anything on the reverse side of the cover.

Menu:
The menus for this release keep to the simple approach that we’ve seen so far as we get the cover artwork repurposed here with the same background. This spreads a lot of blank space overall but it works in giving the character artwork more chances to pop and look good as it’s placed along the right. The left keeps to just the series name and logo in simple font without taking up a lot of space. The navigation along the bottom is spaced out a lot for how little there is but it’s all functional and clean, making it a solid released overall in this regard for both the main menu and pop-up menu.

Extras:
The extras for this release are kept a bit simple but there are some good things to be had here. The traditional extras are here with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and we also get an English language commentary track. The bigger extra here that’s a good bit of fun is the “special episode” that was produced to deal with production delays as it showcases pieces from the first nine episodes and has some fun live-action bits with the main characters enjoying a meal together and talking about the work.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a very solid and popular two-cour run with Garo: THe Animation in 2014, a second season was also in the works with Garo: Crimson Moon. Working with a different staff of writers and directors but within studio MAPPA, the property shifted gears from a Spanish style setting to something in Japan during the Heian period where it reworked familiar historical characters into a new fashion. I had thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Garo when I marathoned it but I knew going into this one that it was looking to do something different. The whole “Garo” world is designed around that but it’s something that goes against how a lot of anime fans want things as most want to continue what they know rather than do something different like this.

And while I often argue in favor of going the different route, Garo: Crimson Moon is one of those instances where it doesn’t work. The focus for this run is on a young man named Raikou, the current Makai Knight that’s dealing with the Horrors that are widespread over the countryside. He’s a bit restricted in his ability when it comes to drawing upon the armor and that means he needs help from a Makai Alchemist known as Seimei, which means they get to have a pretty good journey relationship going on here. One made just a touch more complicated by the addition of a kid named Kintoki that wants to be just like Raikou one day. Suffice to say, you can see a lot of the basic character dynamics from there and the show doesn’t really break free of them, instead thinking playing to expectations in this regard is breaking new ground. The relationships between all of them are just things that make you feel numb as it goes on because none of it feels like it means anything.

What Raikou is slowly discovering over the course of this first half of the two-cour season is that things are being orchestrated by a man named Douman, someone that definitely falls into the camp of being evil and most assuredly looking evil with all the scars on his face. He’s drawing Horrors out for his own reasons, being a failed Makai Alchemist himself, and looking to wreck vengeance upon the world. Douman isn’t really given much to work with and he’s not a regular every episode either, which is both good and bad. The problem is that even as we do add more things to the cast, such as another Makai Knight along the way in the form of Zanga, this is really just a very episodic first half of the run designed to introduce us to the core concepts and the larger fight at hand.

The worst part of everything here is two-fold. First, it’s just plain dull. While the first season was intriguing in the characters that it introduced us to, the humor that was used, and the settings themselves as it got underway here, there’s not much here that’s engaging with any of the characters and certainly not the villains. It’s so bland that you’re definitely glad that it was written and directed by a different team than the first as you’d question everything you liked about the first. The other problem is that it just looks terrible. While the armored sequences are solid and basically carry over from the first, the rest of the show is almost painful to look at sometimes. I couldn’t get past how Raikou looks with his hair alone as that was nearly a deal breaker in moving forward. The show employs basic character design ideas, minimal high-end animation sequences, and nothing exciting or intriguing when it comes to the backgrounds and settings, which in turn just makes the visual design fairly unmemorable and uninteresting.

In Summary:
The opening half of this season was a real chore to get through. It, like most series, has some potential to it both in setting and characters, but it doesn’t move beyond the simple expectations to become its own thing, instead being interchangeable with any number of shows we’ve seen over the years that focus on this period and these known characters. A lot of what we get is the standard kind of setup material to get things underway, spending time on the journey for everyone to get to know each other and deal with some struggles, but very little of it is compelling and that just turns everything into a slog. Which is really hard to say after the first series was so top notch.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Special Episode: KYOKUEN, Textless Opening and Closing Songs, Trailers.

Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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