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Garo: Vanishing Line Collection 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
A new twist on the Garo franchise.

© 2017 Vanishing Line / Keita Amemiya / Tohokushinsha
A new twist on the Garo franchise.

What They Say:
Hang on to your seats for a gripping story unlike any other Garo adventure! Horrors teem in the shadows of Russel City, where something sinister has just awakened. Seeking to vanquish this darkness is Sword, the legendary knight in golden armor, with simple desires and a reputation for getting the job done. When a headstrong teen named Sophie comes along in search of her missing brother, she and Sword get caught in a twisted fate. Banding together, they chase their only clue—El Dorado.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track along with the English language dub, which gets the 5.1 boost. Both tracks are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec, giving us a solidly clean mix. The show has a strong balance between action and dialogue so that as it moves about there’s a lot to like with it. The action sequences have a good bit of variety thanks to the form the players take and the sound of the metal resonates well. The music enhances it a lot as well with some big and brash scenes that gives it a lot more impact, as does the 5.1 mix with its bass boost. The dialogue works similarly in that the bigger moments carry across the forward soundstage well and we get a lot of good quieter moments and movement around that. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2017 and 2018, 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. Animated by MAPPA, the show once again gives us a very strong look with great detail to the backgrounds and character designs and some very fluid action sequences throughout. I love the physicality that we get from a lot of it, particularly Sword, and the visual design when in their Makai Knight mode definitely stands out well. Colors are rich and vibrant throughout and the details hold up very well with a lot to be seen here. There are a lot of dark sequences in this show as well and that’s an area that holds up wonderfully solid. It’s a good visual experience throughout that definitely comes through wonderfully with this encoding.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly oversized standard Blu-ray case that holds the four discs across the two formats. The set comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork which has the main key visual of the core characters together set against the moonlit city skyline that looks great here – though the o-card is a bit more colorful and vibrant here. The back cover goes for an all-black background that has a large font summary of the premise and a couple of good shots from the show along the right. The extras are clearly listed and the dual-format breakdown of all the technical aspects covers everything accurately and cleanly. No show related inserts are included with this release but we do get artwork on the reverse side with each of the panels featuring a different Makai Knight.

Menu:
The menu design for this release keeps things simple as it works with the main key visual piece expanded with a gorgeous city visual at night that’s full of great colors and details. It really sets a great mood and captures the kind of show well. The foreground to the left has the character designs from the initial main key visual that have looked good from the start while the right just has the logo over the city. The navigation is kept small along the bottom with a black box to hold it instead of a full stripe which lets the motorcycle piece from the key visual come through. Submenus load quickly and easily and with little here beyond the show it’s easy to get around and setup for languages is quick and easy.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Garo series has been a mix bag for me as I really enjoyed the first far more than I expected of the anime side of the franchise while the second left me very cold. This third series ran for twenty-four episodes, the first half of which are in this set, beginning in the fall of 2017 and wrapping up at the end of the winter 2018 season. Directed by Seong Ho Park, it had Kiyoko Yoshimura writing it and MAPPA handling the animation, the production takes us into something resembling the present day while engaging in more Makai Knight action. The fantasy-period material of the original series was highly appealing with its characters and Vanishing Line tries to get back to that a bit more, though it didn’t connect for me as strong with the cast that it does assemble.

The focus for it is in Russell City where we follow Sword, the current Makai Knight. Sword is a large and powerful looking man that carries the physicality well in a way that’s very appealing since we often get waify kind of characters populating these roles. Sword sticks to the basic mission for much of this half of the season in dealing with the Horrors that appear and possess people as he deals with them through elimination. Sword largely operates on his own but has the confidence to handle things well, a decent little setup for himself, and has that “got it together” kind of thing going that’s appealing in a lead. He’s not just wandering from town to town dealing with things or working toward a big goal here. He’s simply dealing with the Horrors as they come up.

What changes things is during one encounter with a Horror brings about the phrase “El Dorado” while dealing with it, giving him hint of something possibly larger going on. Horrors generally are pretty standalone pieces but history has proven when they organize they can get incredibly dangerous. What he ends up coming across is a teenager girl named Sophie who is hunting up Horrors for the same reason because she believes it’s tied to the disappearance of her brother. The opening episode deals with both plots well and thrusts them together easily with Sword being a bit protective and Sophie offering up information he didn’t have. The two make a decent enough team and it launches us into much of what this first half of the series is about in the two dealing – together or apart – with Horrors that are making their own moves in the city. It’s a fairly standard formula in giving us a few more clues while showing off what the Horrors can do, particularly if you haven’t watched the other works.

This makes for a lot of largely standalone episodes while teasing the larger connections as it progresses and it’s a good bit of fun. They’re enjoyable when watched in smaller batches or one at a time because you get something that is largely self-contained and you see some enjoyable variety to the Horrors as well as exploring more of the city and how both Sword and Sophie operate together and fight. We also get the slowly building background story with the Dark Knight operating and exploring things himself, providing for that cool and distant aspect that’s always enjoyable while teasing out more of what’s going on. We also get some decent time with Meifang at times as she runs the place where Sword lives as she has some Makai knowledge herself and is able to help out. She’s fun to watch with him to be sure but also in her interactions with Sophie as she ends up being rather protective of her.

The show does hit the road a bit as well and that provides for some misunderstandings that keeps things from going smoothly for all involved. It also does try to build up to something a bit more but it’s not entirely like a traditional two-cour series in that the end of the first cour has a really big arc. It does build up well enough with some very fun moments but it’s mostly just the action and design aspects that really draw you to it. I like the road trip aspect that the series moves into as it went along and the way the cast interacts with each other. But it was really just an enjoyment of the visuals and action itself. I like the story that we get and have hopes for things to really connect bigger in the second half but this first half delivers a lot of fun stuff. I’ve struggled with the whole Garo franchise as a whole, particularly the live-action material, but it’s been mixed at best with the anime side. Vanishing Line is an interesting addition to it with what it does here but once again it’s the action that really works the best for me.

In Summary:
The struggle continues with Garo overall and while this doesn’t match the original anime series Vanishing Line delivers a lot of the goods needed. It’s got interesting characters, especially with Sword and his physicality for me, an engaging new location to deal with, and a slow build sprawl of a story that introduces the villains and their goals bit by bit. Its primary focus is on our two main leads but it expands a solid cast as it progresses that leaves you wanting more of their stories. I really liked the look of the show and I especially enjoyed the Makai Knight battles as they played out. It’s a solid visual series whose encoding captures everything wonderfully with great colors and a really strong handling of all the darker material. If the Crimson Moon series wasn’t to your liking, this one will take you closer to the original Garo anime in all the right ways.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 20th, 2018
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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