The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Ga-Rei -Zero-

Title: Ga-Rei -Zero-
Genre: Action
Company: AIC Spirits
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 10 Oct 2008 – 21 Dec 2008

Synopsis: After Tsuchimiya Kagura’s mother died in a demon-hunting accident, her father decided that she should be taken in by his old friend Isayama Garaku. Garaku’s adopted daughter Yomi, who is slightly older than Kagura, becomes friends and bonds rather quickly with her as they begin living together. Their friendship gets an added boost when they begin working and training side by side with the Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division, a paramilitary force charged with the task of defending Japan from supernatural threats.

The Highlights
Character relationships: The bond between Yomi and Kagura is particularly endearing.
Side characters: Not fully explored much if at all.
Plot: Isn’t exactly the most original, but it works.
Motorcycle-fu: If you thought this was ridiculous, watch what they do with other vehicles.

With a plot that’s been done to death by series like Blood+, Ga-Rei -Zero- needs some interesting twists and turns and the series achieves this by ending the first episode on an unorthodox note. Though the first episode is composed almost entirely of Hollywood-inspired action utilizing combat techniques that inspires incredulity, it tops it all off with a shocking sequence that piques one’s curiosity and in doing so, generates a buzz to draw people into its story.

But a series can’t depend on gimmicky scenes to keep itself afloat and the true test comes in its ability to weave a compelling story. Its decision to start in medias res works well towards that end. Although doing so removes the uncertainty of the characters’ fate, it gives the viewer a heightened sense of the impending tragedy because the outcome is preordained, which spurs the viewer’s curiosity to find out how it all happens. As such, the pressure is effectively placed upon having sympathetic, well-developed characters in order for the story to have an impact.

Thankfully, Isayama Yomi fits the criteria because the narrative builds her character by establishing that strong sisterly bond with her ward, Tsuchimiya Kagura competently. Her lively, upbeat attitude curries the audience’s sympathy, which makes her ultimate fate and her struggle against it all the more tragic. The remaining cast members are a crapshoot though, and while the series has high moments like the conflict with Isayama Mei, it counters that with Kagura’s naïve, grating personality, which wouldn’t have been so bad if she didn’t feature so prominently in the series.

But then again, this is supposed to be an action show, so one can forgive the lack of compelling characters to some degree. On the whole, Ga-Rei -Zero- boasts crisp animation and the characters’ motions are extremely fluid, which make the fights visually interesting even if it gets a tad bit ridiculous (motorcycle-fu, anyone?) or downright silly (adversaries include CG dinosaurs that move by curling up into a ball like a hedgehog and rolling around). Still, it is entertaining and fun to watch and if nothing else, viewers looking for exciting fight scenes should be able to find quite a few memorable ones.

Its fluid action and above average story should be enough to make this series passable, but unfortunately there are enough disruptive moments that turn Ga-Rei -Zero- into a comedy of errors. An instance of this silliness occurs when Yomi resorts to using an iron that emits superheated holy steam to defeat a zombie army. Somehow, the fact that said weapon was designed by an eccentric, naked weapon smith whose speech and mannerisms mark him as the irritating comic relief character is unsurprising, and even with that in mind, he’s obnoxious all the same. Finally, the scene in which Kagura reconciles with her father near the end is meant to be poignant, except that it’s a source of unintentional hilarity when one takes a step back to look at the bigger picture.

On the whole, Ga-Rei -Zero- tells a decent enough story, but its niggling issues are enough of a distraction to plunge this series into mediocrity. And that’s a shame too because this series managed to build up a rather sympathetic female lead and incorporate some excellent animation and action sequences. By squandering the goodwill it builds up, Ga-Rei -Zero- demonstrates that gimmicks will only get you so far; for a series to be great, the core components of character and plot both need to be strong and work in tandem with the action on screen to provide a fulfilling experience.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: zzeroparticle

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