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.
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.