Garo Honoo no Kokuin (The Carved Seal of Flames) Review & Characters – I Am The Golden Knight, Garo


garo wallpaper

I Am The Golden Knight, Garo

  • Episodes : 24
  • Genre :Action, Adventure, Horror, Fantasy, Coming of Age
  • Airing Date : October 2014 – March 2015
  • Producers : MAPPA

Garo Honoo no Kokuin Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

Serving as an animated spin off to the hit tokusatsu franchise (though the original “Garo” series’ takes place in both modern day and future Japan), “Honoo no Kokuin’s” setting is around the late dark ages/early renaissance. For nearly 20 years, Mendoza, the advisor to the king, has been systematically executing members of the Makai Order consisting of knights and priests under false accusations that they practice witchcraft. However, the true purpose of the Makai Order is to protect mankind from monsters called horrors that are born from “Inga,” or negative human karma. And the strongest of all Makai Knights wear the golden armor called Garo.

Our main character and the current golden knight of this timeline is 17-year-old Leon Luis. His father, German, a Makai Knight known as Zoro, trained him from childhood to become the greatest of all Makai Knights. Unfortunately, Leon’s mother, a Makai Priestess, was a victim to Mendoza’s persecutions. Prior to her burning, Anna gave birth to Leon and now the flames of her execution have fused with him and a burning hatred.

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Who does Garo Honoo no Kokuin cater to?

Naturally, fans of the original tokusatsu series are going to be interested. Fans will probably want to see something familiar and yet distinct. As for those that have no prior exposure to the original series, is not at all necessary. Amemiya Keita, the original creator (who also has done a lot of artistic work for the “Kamen Rider” franchise) who had no involvement in this anime actually encouraged the anime staff to make it as different as possible. So if you love high-octane action with a balance of quality character and relationship exploration, this is for you.

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

To those that have no exposure to the live action installments, I say it tells a great story that is fresh to all viewers and re-introduces its world but with a fresher setting that is appropriate to Western European culture. Even though some of the themes have been told in the other installments about protecting the innocent, this anime shows the themes. It also is about fighting for the right reasons and finding a reason to live. “Garo” shows the consequences of making the wrong decisions despite one’s intentions, and also gives the audience a tragic story about redemption.

The music is produced by the JAM Project who also does the music for the live action series. The members of JAM Project consist of Kageyama Hironobu (who sang both themes to “Dragon Ball Z”), Endou Masaaki (who did the theme song to “B’T X”), Kitadani Hiroshi (“We Are” from “One Piece”) and other famous anime theme song artists. So when you listen to JAM project, you’re getting the best quality in music. Though the live action series theme songs tends to use compositions more dramatic and cultural with taiko drums and Buddhist inspired chorals, the first theme song felt psychedelic while the second opening song felt more jazzy. The ending themes were pretty rad, too. The background music works with the settings of using old style acoustics and can be very chilling. Last, the action scenes have some excellently orchestrated tracks that go with some heavy pounding guitar licks (which you can hear in the trailer).

Garoo Honoo no Kokuin Trailer

Garo Honoo no Kokuin Main Characters List

Leon Luis

garo leon

Voice Actor :Daisuke Namikawa/Chisa Horii

The main character and the bearer of the Golden Armor (inherited from his maternal grandfather), born from a burning mother, Leon’s personal quest is to avenge her death but it interferes with his true duties as a Makai Knight. Since childhood, he was raised and trained to be a Makai Knight by his father, German. Together, they fight the horrors to protect the innocent. He demonstrates excellent fighting abilities, a mature and yet quiet demeanor, and carries various wounds from his training and battles.

Compared to other main characters from “Garo” like Kouga and Raiga, they usually don’t get any character development due to tabla rasa, but Leon being 17, is still haunted by his mother’s execution.

German Luis

garo german luis

Voice Actor :Kennyuu Horiuchi

Leon’s “kuso oyaji” archetype of a father with a perverted and easygoing nature that contrasts with his son’s maturity, German cares very deeply about him and realizes where he is still weak. Since the loss of his wife, German has been taking Leon all over the land to train and fight. He is a highly skilled Makai Knight with only his son who comes close as his equal. Since Leon inherited the Garo armor from his maternal grandfather, German tends to sleep with other women in hopes of having another son to pass on his Zoro armor.

Alfonso Saint-Variante

garo alfonso

Voice Actor :Katsuhito Nomura

The prince of the kingdom, some may think he is a spoiled brat but Alfonso cares deeply about the people and treats all as equals. He is a true leader by example when the worst happens and will never cower in fear. After the take over by Mendoza and his horror army, to gain the strength necessary to take back his kingdom, he becomes the apprentice of a Makai Knight named Raphael who was also the best friend of the previous Garo and knows the truth of Alfonos’s connection to him.


Contains Spoilers

Garo Honoo no Kokuin Review

True to the original franchise, people who join the Makai Order tend to train from a very early age as it is demonstrated in this series. Usually the armors are passed from father to son and/or master to disciple. How Leon gets the Garo armor is a new element for the franchise and something that was never addressed in the tokusatsu series, and I am glad the story behind how Leon gets the Garo armor introduces something fresh.

Other characters who join in Leon and his father’s journey from time to time is a Makai Priestess named Emma who uses string-based weapons but has an uneasy partnership with them due to her past issues with Makai Knights. Next we have Alfonso, the prince of the kingdom who then becomes a Makai Knight apprentice to Rafael, the best friend of the previous Garo. Eventually, they will all unite to stop Mendoza and bring peace back to the kingdom.

The structure and pace is very true to the original source material. The first act tends to introduce the characters, setting and elements, the second act tends to slow down with filler episodes, and the third act is an all out climax. Despite the slow pace in the middle, I still think, it is better to binge watch this series. The characters each have their own contribution and development both with themselves and the relationships. Though trendy in some other anime titles where the father and son are both martial artists, Leon and German have that awkward relationship where Leon cannot stand some of his father’s antics, but his father still provides great wisdom and guidance when it counts most.

Garo Curse of the Flames dvd 02

Looking past German’s lecherous nature, when it comes to what he does as a Makai Knight, he is the best and no disciple could ask for a better master and no son could ask for a better father. I really loved how the series finally brings their relationship full circle by the ending. As with Alfonso, the relationship he has with Leon was what surprised me to some degree and his discipline in his role demonstrates what it means to be a Makai Knight. Emma’s presence and contributions bring many distinct twists and turns that you have to see to believe. She is always active and useful, but brings a sense of discomfort to the point you wonder what her agenda is.

My only issue with the series is the lack of use of Zaruba, my second favorite character. A lot of problems the cast faces in the anime could have been solved if Zaruba spoke more considering he has an active role in the tokusatsu series that tends to have the answers.

Mendoza as a villain in conjunction to the rest of the franchise isn’t 100% new but he brings a distinct kind of creativity and is a true test to our heroes.

The armor design is true to the original franchise so I can’t go wrong with that. This time, the animated series gives more facial movements and expressions through the helmet bringing a new atmosphere of emotions. Heck, the armor even cries Kenshiro (main character from “Hokuto no Ken” for those not familiar with classic titles) man tears. The action is also very true to the tokusatsu series by being very fast paced and aerial. It is very technical, strategic, balls to the walls, and edge at your seat. Granted the tokusatsu was more eastern martial arts oriented, the action in this one is more based on European based swordplay though some of Leon’s stances take a lot of influences from iaido, another Japanese sword based martial art. In addition, Leon likes to rub the slab of his blade across his hand and arm like the Garo’s in the tokusatsu do before he fights. As being an animated installment, the series has the advantage to make the action a lot more fluid and smooth while in the tokusatsu series it was more stiff and the quality in the first season was like PS2 graphics.

garo original soundtrack

As for the character design, Leon looks a lot like Locke the Superman but most of the other characters are appropriate in context to the setting of the series with their clothes and even their hair colors and styles. The monster designs have a crazy sense of distinction but they don’t have that feel of Amemiya’s art style from the tokusatsu. The horror/monster designs awork in context to the setting of the anime since the live action series appropriately takes influences from Japanese horror cinema while the anime horror’s feel like something out of Clive Barker’s horror stories of sadomasochism. On a personal note, I would have preferred it if the resolution was a bit more grainy and had more cross-hatching with the shadowing. The high res to me just didn’t feel 100% right and the colors felt a little bland with the setting of the story.

The voice acting is just perfect. Hashin Takaya, who plays Mendoza has this performance that reminds me of Banjo Ginga, most famous as Giren in “Mobile Suit Gundam.”He also plays Skullface in the Japanese version of “Metal Gear Solid V” and I thought their characters shared many similarities o being sick twisted bastards who have no regard for life. Leon is played by long time veteran Namikawa Daisuke and he has sure matured throughout his career. He does a good job playing a a character suffering from a unique sense of teen angst that roots in both his desire for revenge and his discomfort with the playful natures of his father and Emma. And the versatility of German is well portrayed by Horiuchi Kenyuu, who has also played Jameel Neet in “Gundam X” and Raiden in the Japanese version of the “Metal Gear Solid” franchise. He knows when to make you laugh and when to make you think. What I like that they carry over from the live action series is when the knights are in armor, they still have that echo/modulating sound to indicate they are wearing armor and I like it brings a distinct quality that comes across as more intimidating in some aspects. And last, Kageyama Hironobu, Mr. DBZ himself does play Zaruba, and he has this snarky and cheeky voice like Fujiwara Keiji, the voice of Kimura from “Hajime no Ippo,”Reno in “Final Fantasy VII Advent Children,” and Maes Hughes from “Fullmetal Alchemist”

1. Lara’s Death

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This was the first step into giving Leon the development he needed. Until this point, he fought with only for revenge and not to protect the innocent. After losing the Garo armor, Leon goes on his own and stays with a family of farmers and befriends Lara, the daughter. The family is very accepting of him despite his quiet nature and appreciate the help he gives. Their relationship grows to a point where Lara’s family hopes that she and Leon will have a family of their own.

Unfortunately, horrors come into town and ruin all that. Even with his training and experience, Leon cannot stop the horror unless he had a sword for a Makai Knight and not having the tools necessary to finish the horror attack cost him Lara and her family. It was at this moment that Leon realizes that a true duty of a Makai Knight is to protect the innocent and his loss re-motivates him to fight.

2. Leon vs Alfonso

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In order to prove his worthiness to re-claim the golden armor, Leon challenges Alfonso, the prince and his cousin to a friendly duel. Even though it was not a fight to the death, the emotions that Leon and Alfonso beings to this battle gives the audience a sense of excitement with a very creative use of speed and angles accompanied with its intense and poetic soundtrack.

Plus, this was one of those rare extensive fights out of armor for both Alfonso and Leon. It was a ultimately a test to show that Leon is no longer guided by hatred and that he is fighting for the people.

3. Garo vs Mendoza

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The grand finale battle is a non-stop power up fest that always raises the stakes. Leon’s power up for this fight by combing the Garo and Zoro armors was a move I actually didn't see coming and was also fresh to the franchise as a whole. Every moment you would wonder if the world was going to be saved or destroyed. Even with the unfortunate and touching sacrifices that were made for Leon to win, this battle, it also allows him to come full circle as a character and with his core relationships. In addition to bringing out the good of Leon, this battle also shows how low and corrupt of a villain Mendoza truly is with all the powers he gains.


As stated numerous times in this review, those who wish to see this series need little to no familiarity with the tokusatsu series. However for those with familiarity such as myself, I have a major issue over the lack of use of Zaruba while newcomers will be more than willing to look over this. Other than that, I have no other issues with “Garo Honoo no Kokuin.” I am glad a movie and a season 2 are officially confirmed (as well as more live action) so maybe the next animated series will use Zaruba more. Once again, if you want action, comedy, drama, and tragedy, I recommend this series for a great binge watch.

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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