Today’s selection: Garo – Dragon of the Blue Cries (2013, dir. Keita Amemiya)
Subgenre: Henshin Hero
Available from: Fansub-only
You know how when you get used to drinking diet soda, you sort of forget how flavorful the real thing is, but the minute you take a sip of the original flavor you go “wow”? Well, that’s sort of what this Garo movie is like. I’d gotten used to the limited aesthetic of Garo properties like Whistle of the Phantom Peach and The One Who Shines In Darkness, which, while part of the same world, didn’t exactly feel like Keita Amemiya spewing his imagination into every frame (mostly since he didn’t direct them). Dragon of the Blue Cries, on the other hand, is like a live-action version of Tweeny Witches, constantly making me want to pause and admire the eye candy. In my opinion, Amemiya is a creative heavyweight whose visuals rival Guillermo del Toro, Jim Henson, and the good half of Tim Burton, and this movie is him bringing his A-game in a way not seen for a decade.
Following up on the events of the second Garo TV series, Kouga travels to an alternate realm, seeking a magical object to fulfill a bargain made with a powerful demon. The problem is that in this realm, objects are personified, so Kouga’s sword, coat, and ring promptly come to life, become monsters, and run away from him. He makes some new allies and rivals on a quest to get his stuff back, defeat a witch bent on destroying humanity, and obtain the item (a dragon fang) for the contract.
The visuals are completely captivating, and after I picked my jaw up from the floor after watching, I briefly lamented the position that this movie is in: while it’s gorgeous, it’s also the third movie in a franchise with two TV seasons also in the mix, and practically nobody has expressed any interest in translating Garo commercially. This film could somewhat stand alone, and there have certainly been stranger cases of licensing OVAs or movies based on shows that never got US distribution, but odds of it getting picked up are bleak. This is a shame, since with its Labyrinth-like, psychedelic style, this could have potential for a wider-reaching cult classic.