You know a show is good, if you’re still thinking about it days after it ended.
The real deal?
At the beginning of the season I wrote my first impressions of the show:
I was unsure about picking this up, because the plot description didn’t sound that interesting. And I have to admit that as I was skimming for impressions, I accidentally spoiled myself about what happens in the first episode. But I watched it anyway and still came away somewhat shocked. It’s a very dark series, that takes itself very seriously, has some great action scenes, and incorporates some heart-pumping music as well as any anime I’ve seen. But the plot doesn’t seem especially unique, so I don’t know if I’ll like this series in the end as much as I do now, but two episodes in, I’ll definitely stick with it.
I wasn’t sure the show was going to be that good. The first episode certainly drew my attention, but I expected once the shocking cliffhangers wore off, it’d be a pretty generic, demon-hunting, hero-coming-of-age shounen. This was fine with me, because not every show needs to be epic, profound or powerful. Sometimes you just want some mindless action.
But I was dead wrong. GRZ turned out to be biggest surprise of the fall season, and one of the best damn shows I’ve seen, hands down.
GRZ has a simple story at its heart. The whole demon hunting setting is really just a conveniently action/guro-friendly wrapper for the real story: The making and the breakdown of a strong friendship. What makes the show so powerful is the great job the writers did in exploring and developing the relationship between Kagura and Yomi – that’s when the show really starts to become something special. Unfortunately, the short 12 episode season doesn’t allow them to provide much background on the other characters, including Noriyuki, who ends up being sort of a third wheel. And they leave some loose plot ends hanging (which is probably to be expected, since it’s a prequel to the Ga-rei manga). But all that’s forgivable, because everything is really all just a foil to Kagura and Yomi in the end. The dynamic between the two drives the whole show. The comedy, the action, the drama and ultimately, the tragedy – everything – hinges on how much you come to like their characters and empathize with their relationship.
The battle scenes were well-animated and ranged from stylistic (highighted during Natsuki’s bike-fu scene) to quick and brutally realistic (most of the battles towards the end, particularly any battle with the Blue Butterfly Boy), and never failed to be exciting or intense. Character designs were streamlined and attractive, which suits my preferences perfectly. Kagura is the perfectly cute, innocent imouto, while Yomi has the more mature, beautiful onee-chan look down to a T. Weapon designs were pretty unique, ranging from awesome (Kagura’s “bullet” sword) to weird (the machine gun briefcase, the iron). The monster designs were pretty generic, but they make up for it by making the mythical creatures, Ranguren and Byakuei, look appropriately fierce and majestic.
The music was standout throughout the series, especially during the battle scenes: ranging from a rock/techno mix during the exciting, stylistic battles, to the haunting and emotional, vocal-driven arrangement during the final battle, it always seemed to hit the right chord and made you feel what the characters felt. Voice work was very good from all involved, although special kudos are due to Kaoru Mizuhara (Misao in Lucky Star) and Minori Chihara (Yuki Nagato in TMoHS), as Yomi and Kagura, doing excellent jobs in roles that I wouldn’t have expected from them.
Like I mentioned earlier, everything about the show hinges on how much you like Yomi and Kagura. And they’re exactly why I loved the show. They were both well-rounded, realistic characters that you could really relate to, and the writers really did a great job building the bonds between the two. Here’s hoping they decide to animate the regular GRZ series. I may actually go ahead and check out the manga as well.