Ga-Rei -Zero-: my favorite anime of 2008 so far

For most of the year, I have not watched much anime. I have said this before. However, in the final quarter of the year (the fall season, that is), I decided to pick up as many series as possible: I wanted to catch up, and so I decided to follow a significant amount of anime. I still have much faith in Toradora, but as it stands it remains unfinished: there is a good chance of its undoing in the later episodes. Ga-Rei Zero, however, has already finished. As it stands, at least for me, Ga-Rei Zero is the best anime of 2008. Not only did it surprise me with a totally out-of-left-field first episode (unless killing all the primary characters wasn’t): it was also good until the very end.

A face of beauty, and a face of tragedy

A face of beauty, and a face of tragedy

For me, the experience of watching Ga-Rei Zero was akin to watching from a safe place a tsunami about to strike a helpless island. I’m certain that other people would call the series a trainwreck; the catastrophe, was, however, unavoidable in this scene and seemed totally natural. It wasn’t due to bad writing or bad conception: it was simply a tragedy from its very inception. The tsunami, when looked upon at a safe distance, is a beautiful juggernaut. One knows that the island will be struck and will forever change because of it, but one can’t help appreciating its beauty and its occurrence, especially from a perspective of a viewer. Even as early as the third episode everyone has a faint or strong conception of what will happen with the ending; to some extent, people have already a distinct guess in their mind as to what will happen, and yet they cannot peel their eyes away. The subtitle even suggests the ending to a good extent.

Why do we watch?

We watch because we want to know the little details, the simple, often overlooked facts that paint the historical picture of our theoretical tsunami: even if we know or seem to know what will happen, we want to know the reasons why, and its ultimate repercussions. We also want to know what happens after, and how it affects the people faced with such a catastrophe. This was the reason why people kept watch on those tsunami victims even after the disaster happened; this is the reason why we have kept on watching Ga-Rei Zero.

The buildup is just as important as the climax, and it is most evident with this masterful series. It also helps a lot that the emotions feel real; Kagura is hesitant because she’s basically a just a teenager thrown into a disastrous situation that she must cope with quickly. Her hesitation, even if it cost the lives of others, or Yomi’s anger and sadness could all be appreciated, felt, and empathized with.

Finally, Ga-Rei Zero is good because it does not result to blatant fanservice (it does, but only jokingly) or superfluities (at least from what I saw): it just wonderfully paints a tragedy that is inexorable, inescapable, bitter and sad. Like war, no one escaped unscathed; yet those who lived possess still a responsibility toward those dead, and life must go on.

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12 Responses to “Ga-Rei -Zero-: my favorite anime of 2008 so far”

  1. Baka-Raptor Says:

    Finally, a show we can fanboy about together!

    So we know there’s a sad ending. Boo hoo hoo. People read Julius Caesar even though they know exactly how it’ll turn out. We care about the journey just as much as the destination (if not more).

    Is Ga-Rei Zero awesome?

    Tap.

    The tapping scene was incredible by the way.

  2. Michael Says:

    Baka-Raptor has great taste. True story.

  3. TheBigN Says:

    “We care about the journey just as much as the destination (if not more).”

    Exactly, and they did a good job of it. Too bad the Ga-Rei manga isn’t wowing me as much as the anime though as a continuation from where things left off. 🙁

  4. Lehq Says:

    One thing I like about Ga-Rei is the fact that they know how to get the best of the diff mediums. Ultimately, the manga was more of the “typical shounen” if, when made into anime just based on the manga, it’ll just be yet another long-running series. But decided to go for a prequel.

    And yes, another thing about the prequel being a good adaptation is that, like you guys mentioned, people watch it precisely becoz they knew how it ended – like how Star Wars III’s selling point was to see Anakin become Vader. 😀

  5. Michael Says:

    TheBigN:

    The manga didn’t amaze me as much as well. It was significantly lighter and less well-plotted fare, but it was still quite entertaining.

    Lehq:

    The prequel was primarily awesome because it didn’t degrade itself into mere shounen fare, and instead told a beautiful tragedy.

  6. Precious Roy Says:

    The first episode reminded me a great deal of Soukou no Strain, which I enjoyed for the same reason – when you’re outclassed in real life you tend to get the ever loving snot kicked out of you, where in fiction too often the hero/ines rise to the challenge and overcome all obstacles etc. etc. I was initially disappointed by the abrupt change in tone and pace, but like watching a coming storm, the anticipation and foreknowledge of the outcome make it more exciting every episode. Therefore, kudos.

    And since I cannot tell a lie, the Natsuki clone did make me a little warm inside. Someone over there has good taste.

  7. Michael Says:

    Precious Roy:

    Exactly. I also loved the Natsuki clone. Haha.

  8. Ryan A Says:

    YOMI!!!! The tragedy was her life, so sad.

  9. Rankao Says:

    I read your article. Decided to take a look into this series. I’m so glad I did without knowing the manga. I was actually quite shocked at the end of the first episode and even more in shock at the end of the 2nd episode. I didn’t truly appreciate it until I poked my nose into the manga right after finishing Ga-Rei -Zero-

  10. Michael Says:

    It’s a great anime, at the very least. I absolutely loved it. I’m glad you did, too.

    Ryan:

    Oh man, I was devastated when I was watching that series.

  11. jenova Says:

    I was looking around for Ga Rei Zero’s reviews to see what other ppl thought about it (just finished watching the whole series recently), and your tsunami metaphor fits perfectly with the theme. Thank you for doing justice in reviewing this amazing series! Yomi’s story is a true tragedy and it left a deep impression on me even after the anime ended. Decided to have a look at the manga, and it’s pale in comparison with the anime *ugh* although apparently there’s been a few surprises on recent chapters. Anyhoo, it’s been a pleasure reading such a well thought out review! 🙂

  12. kosze swiateczne Says:

    Realy good work cheers mate!

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