GARO or How To Give Brenda Yellow Fever!
There is something really grand about exposing a friend to something you have a love for and by making read, watch or experience it in general, they too become a fan. I’ve recently became friends with a charming young lady named Brenda. Brenda is adorable, she will be the first to tell you so in fact. It isn’t any sort of vanity, she just is a great girl that exudes a certain level of cuteness. Cuteness aside, she has quite the black sense of humor. She is not afraid to toss a Holocaust joke in my general direction, knowing full well that I am more than likely to find the humor in it because I know she isn’t serious and I know she realizes just how serious a thing the Holocaust actually was. For this sense of dark humor I have dubbed Brenda the Black Humor Fairy (“Spreading Uncomfortable Laughter To Children Around The World”).
Brenda is also quite the Anime fan. No wait, that isn’t exactly right. She is more of a Nipponphile, appreciating the popular culture of Japan as opposed to just one facet of it. So one day I was sitting at our mutual friend Eric’s house watching a video for Kamen Rider KABUTO and suddeny Brenda’s interest was piqued. “What is that?” she asked. “Well it is a Kamen Rider video but it isn’t the one I was looking for” I responded. Her eyes lit up and she blurted out “I Love Kamen Rider!”. My own Kamen Rider fandom goes back almost 20 years now, back to when I first got a tape of Kamen Rider BLACK episodes. The Kamen Rider franchise has been running strong since the 70s, save for a period in the 90s when there was no Kamen Rider on Japanese TV. The fact that Brenda knew about Kamen Rider not only impressed me but further endeared her to me.
“Since you actually know Kamen Rider are you familiar with any other Tokusatsu shows?” I asked her. That got me a somewhat confused look. Not everyone knows what Tokusatsu is and its Western fandom isn’t nearly as large Western Anime fandom. I alwys find it odd that many anime fans look down on Tokusatsu, as if adventure shows laden with rubber monstes suits and cheap special effects are beneath them. To me anime and toku are as closely related as I am to my sister. One is simply another facet of the other.
“Ok!” I said, “I’m showing you GARO!” was my response.
Then she said the sentence that is magic to my ears. “What’s GARO?”
The Super-villain in my head began laughing maniacally. “FOOL~!” he chortled, “The lass knows not what she is in for! Soon she will be one of minions! MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA~!”. The super-villain inside my head gets like this sometimes, not realizing that we really aren’t trying to gather any sort of “minions”. What I was trying to do was expose a fresh young mind to one of the best Japanese special effects shows of the last decade. This brigns to the most important question… What is GARO?
GARO was a 26 episode Television series produced in 2005. Series director and creator Kieta Amemiya was already well known to tokusatsu fans for his work on the Super Sentai series Bird Fighting Team Jetman, which is about as close to a live action version of Gatchaman as you will ever get. He worked on several other Sentai shows unti he gave the world the 2 amazing Zeiram movies and the sci-fi samurai period piece Moon Over Tao as well as the one of the few Kamen Rdier projects of the 1990’s in Kamen Rider J. He bounced around from project to project. Some were not so well received (Machine Violator Hakaider) while others got some pretty great fan reactions (Mikazuki). GARO was Amemiya’s first return to TV work after many years of doing theatrical films. It was big budget for TV, it was violent and just a little bit sexy.
What it also had going for it was a fully fleshed out and complex world and mythology. The problem with a lot of Tokusatsu shows these days is that they start strong but by the middle of the series they tend to lose steam because elements are continually added that don’t really make the world or mythology anymore interesting than it already is. Kamen Rider has been having this problem since Kamen Rider HIBIKI, as change in the production staff led to the show changing its overall tone and vibe. GARO didn’t suffer this issue as fro mthe outset it was Amemiya and his people setting the tone and story of the world and its mythology.It aslo didn’t hurt that GARO was made for a more mature audience in mind and was put on during an after midnight timeslot.
What pray tell is that story and mythology?
“Where there is light, shadows lurk and fear reigns. Yet by the blade of knights, mankind was given hope”. See there are 2 worlds, the human world and the of the Horrors. Horrors are always seeking to enter the human realm through a human vessel. This is done when a human’s soul has a sufficient amount of Yin (Darkness) allowing them to be possessed. To counter the threat of horrors, an order comprised of priests and warriors was created known as the Makai Priests and the Makai Knights. GARO tells the story of Saejima Kouga, a Makai Knight who holds the title of GARO (Fanged Wolf) as his father did before him. The TV series tells the tale of Kouga encountering a young woman named Kaoru Mitsuki (Mitsuki Kaoru), a human woman who has a connection to GARO through her dead father but also has unknown role to play in the war between the forces of Makai and Horror.
As usual I’m not going to get into the details of the main story of the show. If you really are interested in watching GARO there several means by which you can watch it, both legel and less than legal,. This isn’t about my love of GARO. This is about how Brenda discovered GARO and became a fan. In response to Brenda’s question of “What’s GARO?” I responded by pulling up the the direct to DVD original movie GARO – Beast of The Midnight Sun (also known as GARO: Beast of The White Knight). Provided, the movie gave some spoilers to the TV series but I didn’t want to make her watch episode 1 of GARO and find out later that she didn’t like it.
What followed next was almost 2 hours of Brenda being awestruck by the world of GARO. She especially loved the costumes. Less than 5 minutes in and her first comment was regarding Kouga’s wardrobe, namely “I want his coat!”. The real treat for Brenda was yet to come though. See Brenda is a sweetheart but she definitely has a case of, how shall I say it… “Yellow Fever”. Yes, I realize that is a terribly racist way of putting Brenda’s attraction to Japanese bishonen , but hell it is the term she herself uses to describe it. GARO is crawling with Japanese pretty boys and Brenda had no problem with that whatsoever. But of all the pretty boys the show has to offer the one thast stood above them all was that of ZERO/Rei.
Rei is the character played by Rei Fujita. Rei is the Silver Fanged Makai Knight named ZERO who spends a good chunk of the series in direct conflict with Kouga/GARO. From the moment Rei/ZERO appeared In the movie Brenda’s reaction was “Hello ZERO!”. This was a line that got repeated quite often during the course of the movie. Despite her new found “love” of ZERO, Brenda was still very attentive as we continued watching. She knew when to ask questions and her questions were never lacking so she could better understand things. When the credits rolled after almost 2 hours of action Brenda looked at me with that innocent smile and asked “James, is there more?”.
So now I have to sit down a rewatch GARO, all of it, so Brenda can get her fix of ZERO. This is a task I do not mind because I really do love GARO. I hope that watching the series sucks Brenda deeper into the world of Makai and Horror. I love recruiting people to “The Cause”. I think now that I’ve got her hooked, Kamen Rider AGITO cannot be far behind!