Ga-Rei Zero: Explosive First Episode. What Then? What do You Mean? It Blew Up!

Yes, that title is way too long. Sue me :)
There will be a certain amount of spoilers.

Ga-Rei Zero had been introduced to me by my friend Andy Kitkowski’s blog. He raved about how crazy the first episode was, so I had to watch.

You know what? It was all that. Heck, it was all that and more! It was spectacular, it was amazing, it was sublime. And it was twenty minutes.

These are NOT the protagonists of the series. Sadly.

These are NOT the protagonists of the series. Sadly.

Ga-Rei Zero is the anime prequel to the manga known as Ga-Rei, the problem is that the manga had not been translated to English, and honestly, most of us have not heard of it. I think this also affected our experience as we’ve known the anime was a prequel, and couldn’t invest ourselves fully, I don’t know for certain, as I did in fact know of the manga’s existence before watching the anime.

The anime’s first episode focuses on a team that kills evil spirits, and then you don’t see them in the rest of the series, which is part of what made that anime so great; they could allow themselves to go all the way, they didn’t have to hold back for the characters’ sake, kind of like George R. R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire series.

The second episode is also cool, we finally get to see the protagonists of the series, and the main villain, and the supporting cast. And they fight, and we find out they used to be friends.

Thus we get to what is the bulk of the series, when we see the characters’ past. Blah blah blah, we loved one another, you were like my big sister, you were like my younger sister, we had to fight monsters together. And perhaps if I came to the series from the manga, already caring for the characters, I’d have loved it. Perhaps if the first episode wasn’t so great (the second was also very good, but compared to the first, it was nothing), I wouldn’t have minded.

These are. The protagonists, that is.

These are. The protagonists, that is.

But the first episode was that great. And I did not care for the characters prior to this anime series, and so I didn’t finish watching the series.
I’ve heard there’s a great paraplegetic fight around the tenth episode, but I didn’t get there.

It’s especially vexing, but I suspect also successful in one regard though, you really want to know about some of the villains, the monsters, butterfly-boy. But for that you’ll probably have to read the manga, so I guess the anime series also was created to draw more readers to the manga.

The art in the series is on the very high end. Character design and technique is very sharp, buildings look good, nature is especially lush and vivid. The monsters look a bit too CGI for me, but I think that may be on purpose.
Kagura, the younger character is especially cute.

The opening song is the same as the ending song, except when it’s played at the end of an episode there’s no art. The art is of good quality, the song has a nice up-beat tempo, and shows you some of the background story which is what most of this anime is (which then leads to the first Yomi-arc of the manga). But, the words matter here, they kinda have in them what this is all about, about betrayal.
Sadly, the YouTube video is like in most cases, lacking translation of the lyrics. The lyrics matter, somewhat.

You know, if the series was actually about the awesome characters in the first episode, I think I’d have liked it more.

Score: First episode: 10/10. Second episode: 8/10. Onward: 6/10? It was ok, but nothing special, and not what I really set out to watch, in the context, maybe even 5/10.
Feel free to watch just the first episode, or the first two, and treat it like an open-ended OVA. Well, the first episode resolves itself, more or less.

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5 comments on “Ga-Rei Zero: Explosive First Episode. What Then? What do You Mean? It Blew Up!

  1. Tier says:

    It’s been a while since I watched an anime that made my guts twist like this one did. Maybe since Evangelion? Probably not, since I didn’t really like most of the characters in that show whereas Yomi and the special forces team in the first episode are awesome.

    I agree that the series has all kinds of problems; the pacing is uneven and there are way too many plotlines to resolve in a twelve episode show. I think it would’ve been better served with a 24-episode format but I suppose the franchise wasn’t popular enough to merit that. I think the show would have also been improved if Yomi had gotten more of the focus, since she’s the one who has to manage her responsibilities to her work, family, and Kagura, whereas Kagura is a bit spineless and isn’t nearly as interesting a character.

    I’ve only watched up through the tenth episode but I like this series a lot, flaws and all. Admittedly, I have a thing for schoolgirls with swords.

    Actually, I think Natsuki and Tooru do show up after the first episode; they walk past Kagura when she and her friends are conversing on a bench in episode 7. Little touches like that and the heavy metal music when Yomi and Nori are facing off in the office over perfume are pretty cool.

  2. Son Gohan says:

    I thought exactly the opposite. I despised the first episode and loved the rest of the series. Why do you think the first episode was that great? Isn’t it because it’s so unusual to see a story where all the main characters die and the bad guy wins?
    If you remove the first episode from the story and start watching from the second episode, you lose nothing. In my book this is an indicator that an episode is not good, or at best filler material.

    • Guy says:

      Yes, in a part.

      I admitted to saying that part of it was that I thought it was great because of them dying. Though them dying was just a symptom, I didn’t need them all to die. The cause of the symptom is that you tell the story you want without worrying about the sanctity of the characters.

      You say “filler”, I say “OVA”. I can enjoy that episode as a 20 minute movie, just like I’ve enjoyed Voices of a Distant Star a lot.

      For your later point, it may be true, that for this anime it was a filler. But that’s another strike against this anime, it goes beyond bait-and-switch, we have a full episode in a 12 episode series that is supposedly useless. Not a good call.

      I think it is there to set up the scene, regarding how bloody and how far Yomi went, which is continued upon in the second episode. Of course, most of the series is still a bait-and-switch, as from bloody-fights we go to a story of growing up and growing apart.
      This is because this anime is a bit flawed from its concept up; it isn’t meant to be an anime on its own, it’s only there to serve as a prequel to a manga. This makes the bait-and-switch somewhat necessary, but fuck, I think I’d have liked it better if they started from memory-lane, and only after that they had shown us what occurs in the second episode.

      I also really liked the characters in the first episode, I’ve liked what was hinted at, I liked the action even before anyone died. Heck, even if no one had died that episode would have got a full 8 or 9 out of 10 from me.

  3. Tommy says:

    Didn’t read the entire post because I’m planning to watch it.

    I didn’t know it was a prequel, but I don’t really care since I don’t do any research on what I’m watching until after I finish the series…should it be THAT interesting. I’ve read about how good Ga-Rei Zero is, but haven’t invested my time in it yet.

    Will add it to my to-watch list. ^^;

    • Guy says:

      Heh, should’ve read the summary. There aren’t many spoilers.

      But the first episode is awesome, the second is very good, and then it changes to a different type of series.

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