More old anime.
Title: 喰霊-零- (Ga-Rei -Zero-)
Studio: AIC Spirits and asread
Director: あおきえい (AOKI Ei)
Original Creator: 瀬川はじめ (HASEGAWA Hajime)
Genre: Seinen (Drama, Supernatural, Action)
Status: Completed, not licensed.
My Rating: 9.3/10
Ga-Rei -Zero- is set in an alternate version of Japan riddled with destructive supernatural spirits which regular people cannot see. In order to protect its citizens, two factions of the government have set up specialized teams dedicated to fighting against these spirits, and the most elite teams employ members which have the natural ability to perceive spirits, fighting against them with unique exorcizing weapons. The series follows the missions of the elite teams and explores the relationships between the members. Ga-Rei -Zero- is the anime-original prequel to the original manga Ga-Rei by HASEGAWA Hajime. -Zero- does not assume any knowledge of the manga on the part of the viewer.
Review: This is a series which the viewer should start watching without knowing anything, as its main appeal, in my opinion, is in its unpredictability and shock factor. The first-time viewer only needs to know that the series is good to incredible and is worth a watch, and should not be given clues as to the series progression. I highly advise against looking at anything related to Ga-Rei -Zero- (besides this post, maybe) if you have not seen it before. Also, try not to read any episode summaries (especially avoid Episode 1 summaries) or look at reviews which detail parts of the plot. Perhaps hold off on reading the manga as well. I also do not recommend marathoning the series in one or two sittings. I did so in a single sitting, and it was not to the best effect. I believe I could have had an even better experience had I paced myself and watched 1-2 episodes at a time to give myself more time to think about all the things that happened.
Because of my firm belief in not disclosing anything relevant about the plot in Ga-Rei -Zero-, I will not mention any character names or specific events which happened in the series. This will be a spoiler-free review about the general elements which I found noteworthy.
I highly recommend this series to anyone mature enough to cope with relatively brutal and graphic violence, and to those looking for a compact but substantial and exciting series. I especially recommend this to those who like unpredictability and like to have their expectations destroyed. As this is a relatively heavy series, I do not recommend it to those looking for quick entertainment or those who are currently in very low spirits.
One of the things I liked most was the slightly scrambled chronology. Instead of having the regular linear timeline (with beginning, middle and end in this order), Ga-Rei -Zero- switched up the sequence a bit. Even though the chronology was not arranged quite as elaborately as series such as Baccano!, which had various timelines going on at once, Ga-Rei -Zero-‘s arrangement proved extremely effective for its own purposes, and was one of the things which made the series that much more thrilling.
Another thing which made Ga-Rei -Zero- quite different was how it seemed to switch between different genres at time, having scenes and even entire episodes which could be easily classified as anything from action to drama to even slice-of-life (whatever this means anymore). Although one may believe that this type of constant change could make the series’ as a whole seem dissonant and incoherent, Ga-Rei -Zero- is able to strike a good balance between these changes and take tight control in a way which lets these variances actually strengthen the ultimate message the series is trying to convey. Despite these regular and sometimes deceptive changes in tone, the viewer will still know that in the end, Ga-Rei -Zero- is without doubt dramatic and tragic journey through and through.
The third notable element would be how Ga-Rei -Zero- places an pretty heavy emphasis on trying to really shock the audience, be it through the use of some brutal and graphic violence, well-placed cliffhangers, or setting up expectations then destroying them with relatively unpredictable twists. Ga-Rei -Zero- is also not at all afraid to perhaps antagonize fans, either, and a lot of the most notable scenes in Ga-Rei -Zero- show how unflinchingly merciless the staff of the show are in sacrificing certain elements present in the series for the sake of not only leaving the viewer in disbelief of what just happened, but also further strengthening the impact of events which happen later on. Some may dislike this emphasis on shocking the viewer with almost whatever means possible, but for me, it was probably the best part since it contributed a lot to the excitement factor.
There were, of course, some faults with the series. One perhaps trivial complaint that first comes to mind is the dismal vocal music, specifically the OP and ED songs. I know that the OP song is extremely popular and is considered to be quite godly, but it did nothing for me at all. The ED theme was even more disappointing, with its weak vocals (despite featuring the voice of my favourite character) and boring arrangement. I will give both songs some credit as they were fitting for their purposes, but they are not songs I would listen to when not watching the series. I did not find the instrumental music to be particularly strong or weak, but it served its purpose well.
The characters are (ideally) an integral part of any series, but in Ga-Rei -Zero-, the focus is only on a select few. I have read some reviews expressing dissatisfaction in how characters who were not the select few seemed minor and even disposable, and I have to agree with this, as the other characters were quite interesting and unique. Although I agree, I also understand that it is difficult to expand on more than a few characters in only one season, and as such, I do not feel that the relative neglect of supportive characters compared to the main characters really significantly brought down the overall series. As well, I was extremely pleased in how the main characters were developed, and for me, the protagonists were developed so well that they almost offset the lack of development in the supporting cast. Especially worth noting is that the main characters are not walking stereotypes at all, and they both have quite a bit of depth, although one, in my opinion, was more multifaceted than the other. Speaking of the characters, the voice work was quite good, but despite the contrary popular opinion, I had quite a hard time consistently tolerating Chihara Minori’s role, as she was voicing a young, shrill-sounding schoolgirl. Both of the seiyuu who were cast in as the main characters expressed emotion very well, though, and as such I was overall quite satisfied with their work.
The animation is really quite good, despite being done by two studios which I do not know too well. Fight scenes are fluidly and fully animated (even if the latter quality sounds like a given, it is not.), the colours are coordinated alright, and production quality overall is incredibly consistent. There is also some use of CGI to render a few of the supernatural spirits. Some have said that the CG is poorly done, but it didn’t really matter to me if the CG was not perfect as it seemed that it served its purpose well. The main type of animation used in the series is regular 2D anyways.
Overall, Ga-Rei -Zero- is one memorable series. Although I could’ve watched it “better” by giving myself more time to process what happened after each episode, it was still extremely entertaining, despite being perhaps slightly depressing and really heavy. It’s a shame that the series does not seem to be as popular as the biggest hits, but perhaps it is better this way in that there will not be spoilers floating around as memes. It would be good if there were more Ga-Rei -Zero- fanart or doujinshi, though, particularly of the schoolgirl with a hime-cut.