Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia / New Zealand) | Funimation Entertainment (North America)
Based on: Manga Series under the title Ga-Rei by Hajime Segawa
Genre: Action, Supernatural, School-Life
Audio: English and Japanese Dubs
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition
Runtime: 300 minutes
Cost: $59.95 (Blu-ray Version)
Classification: This title is rated MA15+ for Strong Animated Violence
Blurb: A prequel to a manga series that has not at this moment been released in English. Following two girls – Kagura and Yomi, they are shown to be part of families that can summon beast spirits and can wield swords with a high degree of ease. Whilst showing off some of the better stories about “Sisterly Love”, this remains an action series so fights are frequent, blood is spilled and what one day may be a friend – might just be a foe. This review was based off the Blu-ray version and the design quality was brilliant. With a nice music track and a strong opening cinematic – this is a top notch anime in my books.
Special Thanks: Special thanks goes to the Madman Entertainment PR Team for providing me with a review sample of this title.
It seems that every time I am uncertain about getting into a certain anime series and then try it, it ends up being a brilliant series. For example, originally I was not keen to try Eden of the East however after checking it out it proved to be an immersible series that I couldn’t stop watching. This is a hard series to get into I won’t deny, especially with a first episode that does not delve into the details important to the storyline – however from there it proved to be interesting. This is a prequel series based off the original manga series, so you might not end up with the storyline you are expecting when you see the description and the cover art, however it is worthwhile sticking around until the end. Curious? Read to to find out more in my review of Ga-Rei-Zero.
Kagura and Yomi may look like ordinary school girls as they walk the streets of Tokyo clad in short skirts and knee-high socks, but they’re the heroes you scream for when monsters creep out of the darkness. These sword-toting sisters are part of an elite counterattack unit that specializes in suppressing outbreaks of supernatural activity. They train together, live together, eat together and spend their nights disemboweling demons with sacred blades together.
Tragedy strikes when Yomi is possessed by a dark spirit and Kagura must choose between raising her weapon against hte eerily familiar face of ultimate evil or watching her flash and blood slaughter innocent citizens. In a life-or-death battle that pits sister against sister, survival may be the greatest agony of all.
This series is a prequel anime to a manga series, therefore whilst delivering something new to those who have read the manga series before, doesn’t require any background knowledge to enjoy the actual story as…. it wouldn’t be a sufficient prequel if the characters knew what was going on right? The first two episodes are a bit different from what you would expect in most anime series. The first episode follows a group of soldiers from the Paranormal Disaster Countermeasure Headquarters 4th Division , who are a group of unique characters and they do introduce the primary concepts effectively but leave a lot unexplained, most probably in an attempt to hook the viewer into watching more from the snippets shown. The kicker is…. and sorry for spoiling this (I have it set as white text) but every character that took part in the action in Episode 1 is brutally massacred by a mysterious katana-wielding woman. That being said, it is a nice chance to see what the series has to offer in terms of over the top combat, which was an excitable watch.
The next episode takes another interesting turn. We are plunged into the start of the ending chapter where the main “villian” of the series is already revealed to us – characters are implied to have been killed, nameless main characters take charge and the relationship between the two girls at that point in time are revealed without any backstory. This episode does end on a cliff-hanger… but it isn’t one of those “After the ad-break” type of cliff-hangers…. Between this episode and that same point there is around 7-8 episodes of back story to go through featuring the two main female leads – Yomi and Kagura. Backstory is usually boring right? It is very rare for almost an entire series to be based around it – and considering that the director’s project prior was Girls Bravo…. was almost devoid of fanservice and showed that you can have a heart warming and emotional series whilst having it action packed with all the trimmings – Zombies, Spirits, Humans controlled by alien pods and a gem that can cause someone to change their personality entirely.
Now lets go back a few years. School student by day and member of the Paranormal Disarster Countermeasure Headquarters by night, Yomi is one of the most promising members of the team and wields a katana that can summon a gigantic (imba) spirit monster upon unsheathing it. She and her father decide to take in Kagura – a girl who is much younger then Yomi, due to her father taking on the role as controller of Byakuei – a spirit monster of unimaginable power. For the first few episodes, the storyline is generally the sisterly love storyline as we watch their friendship blossom – but after that, Kagura gets older and then begins the true storyline – where they fight against spirits more frequently and the overall question posed in the opening sequence holds true:
Will you kill someone you love, because of love?
I will avoid speaking any more about the specifics of the storyline as I do not want to spoil anything in this series. It is interesting however, that they have planned out the storyline by having the viewers knowing the outcome of their turmoil but with many of the details originally withheld, keeping the viewers attention in their persuit to find out what actually happened and if there will be a happy or sad ending. Whilst the underlying storyline is interesting, the combat is where the storyline shines. Not including the first two episodes, you progressively build up in the quantity of violence as more and more occurrences threaten the city. The most common plot device I see in action anime’s is that a character will inevitably be in a twist and due to some previously unknown power – can defeat the enemy after an episode has passed…. they don’t use this in the series. The combat is about the combat primarily, but also doesn’t conform to any generic plot twists to have the battle drag on or end suddenly. The weapons are primarily swords and ranged weapons, but they did include some creative ideas for new ones in the later episodes. Several times however, they were asked the question above, and allowed further character development as they struggle with this concept that friends can turn bad.
Overall, as this is a series which doesn’t follow a linear path (More a circular path), it is hard to go into many specifics however I will say that after watching the 12 episodes, I felt satisfied with how they put the storyline across as a school-life x action series that doesn’t fall into all the standard plot twists. The character development primarily surrounds the two main female character plus a third character in the later episodes – Noriyuki who himself has a bit of an interesting backstory. Besides the fact that they killed off what seemed to be an interesting cast of characters in the first episode,(Once again, Episode One Spoilers <—–), the characters were a varied bunch and each had a specific role in the series. In the end, I would highly recommend this to anyone.
In terms of design, I am basing my review solely off the Blu-ray edition Quality, but I consider it to have similar styling to Durarara!! with that quality similar to what was presented in Eden of the East. The environment was brilliantly designed, with a sense of being respective of a real city which stood out the moment I began to watch. Character designs are varied and of an overall good quality, however you may find that characters clothing may get a tad repetitive – that at a point even seeing some of the characters in swimsuits proved to be a noticeable change of pace instead of Kagura’s almost consistent wearing of her school uniform or the team wearing the exact same business like outfits they wore in the third or fourth episode. Of course, I am just being overly critical here. Character expressions are key here, especially when there is a distinction of a characters state of mind later in the series, where all emotions are shown brilliantly. Fanservice was not noticeable in this series – with the most being a harmless everyday life scene or for a bit of extra dramatic effect in a battle. The one tiny flaw was with the spirit monster designs – whilst the primary ones were creative, the monsters that feature in one or two episodes were not designed as well as everything else in the series.
Paradise Lost by Minori Chihara
For the first few episodes there is no standard opening cinematic, seemingly to stop any spoilers of the actual characters being shown. However, after it started to be shown, I found myself highly enjoying this song, with both slower paced beats and some very faster paced tunes. The animation included was all unique to this sequence and showed off both the sisterly love elements of the show and the action packed.
Yume no Ashioto ga Kikoeru by Kaoru Mizuhara
After such a brilliant Opening Sequence you would think some of the brilliance would come of on the Ending Sequence right? Nope, bland animation and bland song.
In terms of the music quality, I thought whilst it wasn’t perhaps the best I have heard, it definitely went along well with the unfolding plotline, with a variety of themes used. More interesting is the voice acting, which I thought was very strong with some of the characters. Leah Clark has provided some well performed voices over several series I have watched however I felt that for a lead character she could have put across a bit more even if she was above average. Alexis Tipton plays the role of Yomi and puts across a brilliant performance, especially in the later episodes where she has to put across both a more angry tone of voice, but also have to put across a tone of sorrow, both of which she did well at. Jason Liebrecht’s voice as Noriyuki stole the show however, and whilst having a rather basic role in comparison to the other two, managed to put across the many personalities required well. For the other characters, the quality was perhaps a bit lacking for those who didn’t have much of a role (Looking at a cast-list now it is quite long), but the important characters had the quality they required.
In terms of the packaging included – a standard blu-ray case is included with some brilliant cover art as pictured above. The back cover follows the theme of fire with artwork of Noriyuki and another secondary character whose name I cannot remember on it – alongside the normal blurb, screenshots and so forth. The one issue I did have is that their blurb (That I included above) perhaps could have been worded a bit differently to not spoil the ending storyline – even if it is shown at the start. The blu-ray package comes with two discs whilst whilst being simple in design do look rather effective (You will notice when watching this that in things like menus, the ending sequence and so forth that this series does like to use white – and they use it really effectively with black and the other occasional colour). There is a back cover featuring some of the minor characters – however with the blue case, it is hard to see without intentionally looking for it.
In terms of extra content on the disc, it was so-so. The second disc comes equipped with:
- Promotional videos for the series premiere, First Episode and the DVD release.
- Location Specials 1-6 – Nothing all that special but it is enjoyable to see the team travel around looking for locale ideas.
- Textless Opening and Ending Sequences
- Trailers for Black Butler, Soul Eater Blu-ray, FMA Brotherhood, Rideback, Phantom -Requiem for the Phantom-, Gunslinger Girl, Excel Saga and GANTZ.
Personally I was very happy with this series. It is however a shame that there is currently no adaptation of the manga series, which on my last check was never released over here. Anyway, I would highly recommend this series to anyone who wants a semi-intense action anime that deviates to a more happy storyline at times…. even if only to toy at your emotions.
Storyline/Character Development: A
OP/ED Sequences: B+
Music/Voice Acting: B+
Personal Opinion: A
Overall Score: A-