Ga-Rei: Zero’s beginning works like an exhilarating kick in the nuts. It comes out of nowhere, knocks our breath out, and then leave us just as suddenly to gather our whirling thoughts. In it, a team of special armed forces are trying to contain an outbreak of supernatural beings in the city. As their members fall one by one, they soon realise someone they once thought a friend has turned against them. It’s worth elaborating on how fantastic that opening is and how skilfully it introduces us to a complex concept of demons and demon hunters while neatly covering the main characters, because that is as sophisticated as the show gets. Two episodes later, the story doubles back to describe a tepid tale of friendship betrayed by circumstance that never quite measures up.
In the style of Berserk and Gungrave, Ga-Rei: Zero concerns a spiralling tragedy of two individuals who form a profound friendship that sadly cannot last, and how one of them becomes the enemy. Unlike Berserk and Gungrave, it attempts to depict this in half their running time, which has some important consequences for the plot. Primarily, the show manages only fifty percent of the intensity. In such revenge plots, the build-up to the unlikely enmity is what makes the rest matter. Not only must we care deeply about both characters, but we must feel convinced that their eventual antagonism is as natural as their initial friendship. Ga-Rei: Zero either has not got the required time to get us that involved or the creators did not have the talent to think up something interesting for the middle.
The show essentially exploits clichés to hammer home the fact that the protagonists, Kagura Tsuchimiya and Yomi Isayama, are TOTALLY BEST FRIENDS, LOOK THEY EVEN KISS LIKE LESBIANS, THAT IS HOW BESTEST FRIENDS THEY ARE! Much of the vital setting up of the friendship features them sharing baths, teasing each other during work, and even an entire episode of Kagura trying to set Yomi up with a lover. A lot of this, rather than proving insightful glimmers of joy in their staid existence as demon hunters, actually feels more like filler. We get mixed in with that the straightforward tale of a powerful family of demon hunters who hate the adopted Yomi and wish to stop her inheriting the position of head of the house. Finally, when the reason for Kogura’s and Yomi’s split becomes apparent, it turns out to hinge as much on silly, avoidable misunderstandings and some supernatural mumbo-jumbo as misfortune. Of course, there are Yomi’s evil relatives weaving nefarious plots, but some of the characters’ lack of common sense constitutes half the problem.
As for the backdrop of demon infestations and demon hunting, it feels superfluous. The mythology behind the demons’ existence never becomes a significant part of the story. The reason for that is that Ga-Rei: Zero is a prequel to the manga, Ga-Rei, and as such assumes the audience knows all the relevant details. For anyone unfamiliar with the manga, like myself, the omission will be understandable but nevertheless detracting.
Ga-Rei: Zero uses its budget to exciting effect during action sequences, although the memorable ones occur at too low a frequency to elevate this to the top echelons of animated works. Otherwise, the animation will largely fail to leap out and shriek demands of admiration at the audience. For a show aiming at constant ominousness, I find the milieu surprisingly tame. Splashes of blood here, a contorted demonic face there, and plenty of dark spaces which have little to do with well-placed shadow and more to do with the gloomy colour palette.
We get cinematic orchestral compositions for tense sequences and softer, nondescript ditties for personal pauses. Generic j-pop songs bookend the episodes. Anyone who remembers Ga-Rei: Zero’s token soundtrack by the end most likely paid no attention to the other, more interesting things on offer.
There are one or two noteworthy facets to the protagonists: I like Kagura’s contrasting shyness and super-powerful abilities while Yomi tries to smile through all adversity, leaving us to wonder what churns beneath her facade. Beyond that, they’re wholly unremarkable.
The problem is that the show has little room to develop them beyond the obvious using scenes that feel decidedly perfunctory. Setting aside that their friendship develops in leaps of cliché, their personalities leave no lasting imprint in our hearts. Consider the intense feelings the ingenious Griffith (Berserk) or brutally ambitious Harry McDowel (Gungrave) evoke - Yomi’s tormented teen performance, in anticlimactic contrast, evokes only pity and a vague frustration as she hurtles from one bad, emotional decision to another.
Ga-Rei: Zero also leaves its secondary cast in limbo. Some have moments of sheer irrationality not befitting their profession and life-long training as demon hunters, mainly so the plot has a reason to deliver a tragedy. But most don’t even get that.
Ga-Rei: Zero shares a setup and cluster of themes with shows like Berserk and Gungrave but executes them to a less successful degree. What it lacks are complex characters to suck us into its emotional storm. Kagura and Yomi are too predictable to deliver the wavering friendship dynamic required to anchor this kind of plot, and portrayals of their relationship often resort to superficialities. Nevertheless, with commendable visuals providing one or two highlights, and an easy-to-digest narrative, this is an effective marketing ploy for the manga. Those who like what they see here may just check out the literary version.
Ga Rei: Zero’s high octane first episode introduces us to a troupe of interesting characters, filled with spirited action, a dark storyline and… death. Within twenty-two minutes, it offers a plot twist to shock the viewer. As a result, the quick pacing is disorienting, foreshadowing a show in love with combat and slacking on story.
Ga Rei: Zero is anything but that. From episode two, the narrative takes a decidedly steady stride after forcing our heads underwater. Letting us come up for air, its easy to take in the world. Set in an alternate version of Japan, the government is engaged in a secret war with the paranormal enlisting the help of exorcists. Being from a family of exorcists herself, Kagura is pulled into the struggle of ‘good vs. evil’. Now in any other anime this set up would be an excuse for large-scale battles between spirits and their hunters. But Ga Rei: Zero uses it as a frame to focus on the associations of its characters.
Centering on the relationship of the dark-haired Yomi and the younger Kagura, the story seems more slice of life than science fiction, as the two grow to love one another as sisters. At times it appears like the plot is having an identity crisis, focusing on the playful exchanges of the pair before shifting gears into a supernatural skirmish. While jarring at first blush, the writers took effort to weave the two strands together, carefully paving the heroine’s path to a momentous climax.
Midnight hues evoke a gloom that haunts over the cast. Colors are appropriately muted during moments of tension. These scenes feel almost like watercolors at moments, fluorescent lighting casting a thin haze over the crisp drawings. Serving as the perfect stage, these set pieces host seamless animation, though the action can seem a bit stiff at times when slow motion is used. The only major detractor is the obtrusive CGI, a blending of cell shading and realistic textures, which feels out of place. A glaring example is the gargantuan Kasha beast in the first episode. Its flames look plastic and the edges of grey skin are jagged from poor aliasing.
The brisk opening "Paradise Lost" by Minori Chihara has a tinge of pessimism while reflecting on the ties of love. It’s pleasant to the ear while tied to the motifs of the Ga Rei: Zero, which is what every OP should do. The ending theme "Yume no Ashioto ga Kikoeru" by Mizuhara Kaoru is filled with melancholy, sober when compared to the Chihara’s offering. Both pieces are excellent and are accompanied by an appropriate soundtrack that has a similar sound. The voice acting is done well, Kagura’s innocence perfectly captured while Yomi’s expressions are handled expertly from teasing to tender. Nothing really stands out from the supporting cast except for Mitogawa, the villain, whose innocent tone is both vacant and eerie.
Ga Rei: Zero offers the typical shounen tango of heroes and baddies as a young heroine comes to term with the assertive grip of ‘destiny’. Kagura questions if it’s acceptable to kill the possessed corpses who still look human. The protagonist’s vacillation is the girl’s tragic flaw that inevitably leads her to the footsteps of the stunning conclusion. Admirably maturing Kagura through the twelve episodes from vulnerability to independence, Ga Rei: Zero executes an effective coming of age tale.
Yomi acts as a foil to Kagura’s growth. As the story progresses, she becomes less and less grounded in reality. It’s disheartening to watch her mentally unravel, her transformation is perversely beautiful as the once a supportive guide becomes the antagonists.
Sadly, the supporting characters are an expendable commodity in this production. The audience is introduced to a whole platoon of faces, from those in the Minstry of Defense, to those in the Agency. The program has no shame, liberally murdering likable persona throughout the installments.
Taking a simple formula of mixing Ghostbusters, Men In Black, and a bit of high school drama, Ga Rei became a wildly popular manga in Japan. Ga Rei: Zero serves as a prequel to the drawn word, focusing on the relationship of Kagura and her adoptive sister Yomi. Narratives of this nature raise a few questions: Is it accessible to those who are not familiar with franchise? If so, does the program offer anything to those foreign to the series?
The answer to both is an emphatic yes. Ga Rei: Zero serves a powerful story, wrought with impact, memorable characters and excellent production value. Not only does it reinforce the happenings of the main storyline, it seduces you into the dark embrace of Kagura’s world, imploring that you give the manga at least a passing glance.
I'm going to buy this anime when it comes out on DVD. It plays out almost like a classic Greek tragedy, delivering one hell of a compelling story. The unique style of foreshadowing set the tone for this show that kept me wondering as I watched. And the relationships carried the story. Really solid character work going on here. Definitely one of the best supernatural dramas I've seen in a while.
Ga-Rei Zero was a surprise I never heard of it, it wasn't written about and touted as anything special. Iit is one of the best anime’s I have watched in a very long time, even among those I think are great this stands out. From the very first episode I was shocked and gripped I couldn't stop watching. The animation is very good high quality in fact no distractions here not sloppy at all. This is no unnecessarily happy rejoiceful anime nor is it wrist slitting depressing like some. It is honest to the bone. This is what really pulled me in the plot and the manner in which the story is told. They were surprising and refreshing. I'm a big fan of main stream popular anime like Bleach and Naruto but if you want something different more realistic this show really stands out. The beginning and the end were really stand outs and the middle explains and sets everything up. It's a well balanced story that is just ambiguous enough to make you curious, what else is going on outside of the main story and what will happen next. I'm purposely vague even this I feel may reveal too much. My only real critique is that it's only 12 episodes long but it's high quality and very satisfying.
As far as my review scores go I never thought of the sound the animation as I say was top notch I'm not big into the opening and ending animations but these didn't give away much of the plot like I have noticed some can. The characters all weren't fleshed out but you learned what you needed and I liked them they managed to make you care for them and I hated some but still they managed to may you sympathetic to them. I really hope there is more of this anime or manga.
Ga-Rei -Zero- starts with a very loud, deafening bang. (Okay, not literally.) The first episode starts with a captivating premise, an interesting approach and a very real conflict; it does nothing short of taking breath in the most awesome way possible. Smooth animation provides for an intense feeling of the conflict, the stacked odds these characters go against. Fortunately, this is a pretty hard opinion to refute; the anime has a ridiculously strong start and it draws up a whole lot of potential for a great premise and a great anime.
Unfortunately, only after it raises our hopes high does it show its hand-- a mediocre mockery after playing a full house, it presents-- at best-- a two-of-a-kind from this point onward.
I should say I really want to like this anime. The premise, the world, the characters-- it's all really set-up. But its execution falls flat-- say a chef is given all the most exquisite ingredients to bake a cake. That's the great set-up. Then he up and overcooks it. That's the execution. It's not unwatchably bad, but it's... well, lacking.
A retrospective of the intertwined lives of young girls Kagura Tsuchimiya and Yomi Isayama; they are 'Vanquishers,' who fight demons that terrorize alternate-reality Japan. The focus is largely on the bond the two share, and how the plot begins to affect that...
...except in the first two episodes, they blow that out of the water, showing their full hand right away, revealing exactly what happens at the end of proceeding events. It could've been a good way to catch breath, except the build-up is practically non-existent, the events feel very mish-mashed into the last few episodes, and the characterization does a poor job of giving the events the gravity they should have. The old 'torn bonds of friendship' is a tried and true way to get a good dramatic effect, so long as the characters are there to back it up.
There are, however, awesome fight scenes. They have a creative approach to wheeled vehicles.
Kagura and Yomi are the best of friends. Bound by similar tragic pasts and similar stoic futures, they endure life day to day together; Kagura is shy, gentle of heart and demeanor, who would extend a helping hand to any and feels remorse for her soulless enemies. Yomi is the outgoing, forward girl who silently endures her pain and resolves herself to her duty no matter what she might be going through. Together, as part of the group known as Vanquishers, they thrash demons and look pretty good while doing it. Interestingly, the show begins with its crux; that Yomi and Kagura, though best of friends, will be pitted against each other by some means or another.
There are some other underlying story elements; Yomi is adoptive in her family and nobody wants her to inherit its name, and there are demons terrorizing everything and some... thing is manipulating them somehow and just generally making everyone's life bad. I can promise you that of these, Yomi's little arc receives the most exploration and even that is horrifically minor and doesn't really feel justified. It's just a flat approach with no depth.
Ultimately, the problem with the story is that it crutches on characters who cannot support it while shirking the elements that would otherwise make it somewhat compelling. Whether this is because it is twelve episodes long or because the writers just had the wrong grasp of this, I do not know; they had everything laid out quite well and just flopped when it came time to build upon it. A 5/10 adequately describes the utter mediocrity that the story thus becomes as a result of its mismatched direction.
Edit: I guess this really is just a direct prequel to the manga. I still don't excuse the weakness of its story, as this does not make the very dry, boring and filler-fueled conflicts any more enjoyable. They should have decided whether they wanted a tragedy focused on characters, or a drama focused on story.
You can tell where the budget went here; the animation is smooth, fluid, and gets the point across. There are a few oddities here and there but ultimately nothing game-breaking. It delivers an enjoyable product with little to complain about. The demons are pretty interestingly done up, and certainly adhere to the 'otherworldly' appearance. 8/10; a great delivery that shows well for its budget.
The music has a flair of its own and has some memorable tunes, but I'm not sure that I can recall much besides the opening and one insert-- Tamakui by Yousei Teikoku. Definitely an awesome song, fitting for its theme, and it makes it all the more powerful. However, the rest of it just doesn't stick out-- maybe that's because it's attached to a rather bland anime to begin with. I feel the 6/10 for the sound might be shortchanging it, but I'm just not sure higher scores are justified over two songs (and one of those being the opening, really).
Probably the nail in the mediocre coffin that seals Ga-Rei -Zero-'s fate is the fact that it crutches very heavily on creating an effect through its main characters, but ultimately fails to adequately build up an attachment to them. They seem very one-dimensional, act predictably and seldom seem to represent any conflicts that are terribly relateable, or at least conflicts that one can empathize with. They're not necessarily poor concepts or created poorly (as I may have said before, heh)-- they're just not pulled off with all the potential they have. There's no feeling of growth until the very, very end and that is debateably 'growth' at any rate. Besides Yomi and Kagura, the secondary cast of characters are more or less relegated to one-trick pony acts, each with their own little quirk but never really going anywhere-- or even coming from anywhere. By the time we arrive to the end of the anime to pity the fallen bond of Kagura and Yomi, the anime should have us crying on the edge of our seats. No, we should say, this is not alright. We should look and think, These two were the best of friends, they endured hardship together, stuck it out through the tough times. Instead of being delivered through scenes trying the strengths of their friendship, they are left to justify their friendship though silly scenes full of suggestive content. Even the anime makes cracks at that (though they never follow up... bah!).
And, see, that's exactly where the anime falls flat. It could have been an astoundingly sad anime with a lot of thematic feeling and quite an impact, but it just doesn't build up pity for the characters. Most of the anime is filler fights against demons that sometimes have vague influences on the characters, most of which are punctuated by scenes depicting Kagura and Yomi as 'best friends' (like eating a stick of pocky together and then kissing...) right off the bat with this sort of implicit three year gap. Had the anime covered those three years, the delicate and young Kagura being cared for by Yomi, who she idolizes as a big sister, then it might have had more of an impact. Had the anime's scene choice followed more closely to the characters than to the conflicts they face as Vanquishers, it may have given a stronger sense of their bond. As it stands, there's just too much it wants to assume we believe or relate to, and as a result the impact of the whole anime takes a huge hit. There's still some effect and some scenes are still well done, but it's not nearly as breathtaking as it wants to be.
5/10. They're fun, and for that fun, the characters will be remembered. But they won't hold fond places or be striking characters that define their archetypes.
Ga-Rei -Zero- loses a lot of effect through poor characterization, which is unfortunate because it crutches very heavily on the characters as I've stated many times. This is only exacerbated by a rushed plot with missing elements and a poor conveyance of the story. Had Ga-Rei -Zero- opted to shoot over 20 episodes, perhaps, or 25, they might have accomplished what the anime set out to do; I have no doubts that if it had been a little less episode-by-episode for conflicts, everything would have felt far more dramatic, and held much more impact. All the implied content and loose ends left untied, presumably followed up by the manga, make the anime a poor standalone performance. Alas, it is a potentially great anime marred and all but ruined by the over-dependency on a pre-existing material of a different media-- where Asura Cryin' does something similar, it's linked to a follow-up anime, and that's of the same medium. Ga-Rei -Zero- places much story value in something that it claims no explicit links to, it just assumes the watcher may have read the manga-- generally a poor assumption to make, and it does a poor job of upselling the manga... which is a pity, since the manga's release precedes it. In fact, with a little more effort drawing viewers into Kagura's conflicts, it might well have paved way for an anime adaptation of Ga-Rei. But I digress...
Ga-Rei -Zero- is thusly an ultimately disappointing experiment in misused potential, and abuses its capacity to rely on the manga. Had it aspired to be a little more standalone, it would have gone much further than it does; as it stands, it's not thoroughly unenjoyable but doesn't exactly roll socks up and down. It settles an uncomfortable medium of having a few grand ups punctuated by many annoying downs.