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Ga-Rei -Zero-
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 06/05/2009

Review:
A prequel to The Enchained Spiritual Beast Ga-Rei manga, Ga-Rei Zero is a lead-up story that shows us how Kagura Tsuchimiya, the main character of both incarnations, developed into the woman she is through the events of her past.  The story revolves around a government agency that’s tasked with the protection of Japan from those pesky paranormal demons.  Known as the Ministry of the Environment’s Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division, they recruit those who have the ability to fight against these supernatural beings.  Such as Yomi and Kagura, both of whom are members of ancient warrior clans and have been trained since they were little to fight against the forces of evil.  But when a Category A, the most influential and powerful of the demons, starts to run amuck across the city, things go downhill fast.  Will these young girls be able to keep themselves free from his corrupting influence, or will they fall pray and destroy all hope of stopping the coming storm?

Ga-Rei Zero is one of those anime series that loves to throw you for a loop with an insane episode structure that leaves you itching to find out what happens after being thoroughly baffled by it all.  Much like Berserk and Gungrave in structure, Ga-Rei Zero starts out at a much later point in the series and then goes into flashback mode, showing us all the events that lead up to what we first saw.  Episode one leaves you in utter confusion as you’re thrown right into the thick of a citywide battle as a group of characters we know nothing about battle against huge, otherworldly monsters.  That won’t so much leave you scratching your head as when every single one of them is summarily killed at the end will.  The second episode, continuing the tradition of keeping you off your guard, continues where the first left off focusing on an entirely new cast of characters as they also battle against the same monsters ravaging the city.  There’s more emotion between these characters along with more allusion to past events, especially towards the end which leaves you staring at a cliffhanger right as the episode ends and jumps back in time.  Thanks a lot you bastard, now I have to watch the rest of the series before finding out what the heck’s going on!     

Thus, for all intents and purposes, episode three is actually the beginning of the series.  You could almost start there and not miss a beat because, as luck would have it, episodes ten and eleven are in effect replays of episodes one and two, just with extra bits of information thrown in and some other character perspectives we didn’t get to see the first time around.  It can be argued either way which is the better way to view the series, whether knowing nothing about the end as the series goes along or knowing where it’s going to end up and watching for how it comes about is the better route.  I usually err on the side of the creators, suspecting there must be a reason why they set it up in a jumbled way, hoping it’s not just a gimmick.  In Ga-Rei Zero’s case, I can’t say I would have been that interested in watching if I didn’t know that things were going to get crazy towards the end, which they most certainly do.

After the jump back in time, the focus of Ga-Rei Zero is primarily on two characters, Kagura Tsuchimiya and Yomi Isayama, who’re our two femme fatales.  They’re both daughters and heirs to their respective families, ancient warrior clans who’ve been fighting against supernatural creatures for centuries.  The story begins when Kagura tragically loses her mother which forces her to move in with Yomi, given that her father is always away fighting against one thing or another.  This is the start of the bond between Yomi, the older of the two, and Kagura as they start living together and school life ensues.  Yomi is already a member of the Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division, fighting against crazy CG beasts invisible to normal humans.  After living and training together for a little while, Kagura finally gets into the game, hacking away at monsters and demons alike with Yomi at her side.  But that’s only half the story and the sweet half at that.      

The rest is filled with internal conflicts involving just about every major character we’ve got.  Though to be fair, with all these women around what would you expect?  Kagura doesn’t believe in herself and doesn’t like killing demons that were once human.  Yumi, while the legal heir to her family, is not related by blood which is a sticking point for many of the other branches and causes quite the stir when things start to go awry.  Then there are the inevitable conflicts that arise between Yomi and Kagura, the jealousy that steams from Yomi knowing that, as time passes, she can never hope to be as skilled as Kagura who truly has the blood of her family and will inherit the strongest of the spiritual beasts which her father currently controls.  This is just a taste of the conflicts and drama that creep up as things come to a head and the series progresses.

Effectively, the success of the drama in allowing the audience to connect with and care about the characters is what gives the end the emotional impact it has, and otherwise wouldn’t have had if not for the endless tears and self-doubt.  Even if those tears do get rather annoying at times.  Of course, there are a couple other aspects to the series that add to the enjoyment.  Some slight yuri themes between Yomi and Kagura are really something, especially with a pocky stick gone Lady and the Tramp style that lasts for an eerily long time.  Add to that bathing and sleeping together and I don’t even know what you’re left with but it’s hot.  Of course you also have the interesting cast of side characters that mostly appear when action is to be had, giving us some variety and a clashing of personalities.  Between the sword fights, magical beasts, energy blasts and all manner of other weapons used (an iron filled with holy water anyone?); there’s no lack of carnage or how it’s brought about.  This keeps the action scenes fresh and interesting, with all manner of techniques and styles being brought out to fight against these fiends. 

For the most part, the animation is about as high as one could hope for from a twelve episode series, especially one that’s just a prequel to a not all that popular manga series.  The same goes for the consistency of the backgrounds and character designs, especially with regards to the beautiful Yomi with her long dark hair, even though there are a couple instances of deteriorated quality.  My main complaint with the technical aspects of the series has to do with the awful 3D animation they use for a number of the monsters.  From the first episode on they stick out like a sore thumb, completely contrasting with all the other characters and backgrounds present throughout the series.  While you do get used to them after a while, they never look any better.  The blending of 2D and 3D has to be done right to not clash with one another and they really failed in that department.  I can’t say much for the soundtrack either, which really threw me for a loop in the first episode with all the singing and never really made much of an impression on me after that.  No complaints about the Japanese dub though, especially since it’s all we’ve got with Ga-Rei Zero not having been licensed in the US yet.    It’s a relatively new series having been released at the end of 2008 though, so there’s still a high probability for it to be licensed at some point.

Ga-Rei Zero may not be the happiest series you will ever watch, but that’s just one of the things that really make it stand out amongst the crowd.  The relationship between Yomi and Kagura, and its eventual demise, is something which will keep you watching from one episode to the next, just so you can find out what happens to these two adorable girls to make them fight against one another.  There’s a little something for everyone here as long as you’re willing to go the distance.

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Ga-Rei -Zero-
Ga-Rei -Zero-
Ga-Rei -Zero-
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Review Title:
Ga-Rei -Zero-
Alternative Titles:
Ga Rei Zero, Ga-Rei-Zero, Garei
Type:
TV
Episodes:
12
Duration:
300 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2008
Suitable For:
Young Adults
Genres:
Action, Drama, Horror,
Supernatural
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