Ga-Rei Zero Reviewed
Ga Rei: Zero’s high octane first episode introduces us to a troupe of interesting characters, filled with spirited action, a dark storyline and… death. Within twenty-two minutes, it offers a plot twist to shock the viewer. As a result, the quick pacing is disorienting, foreshadowing a show in love with combat and slacking on story.
Ga Rei: Zero is anything but that. From episode two, the narrative takes a decidedly steady stride after forcing our heads underwater. Letting us come up for air, its easy to take in the world. Set in an alternate version of Japan, the government is engaged in a secret war with the paranormal enlisting the help of exorcists. Being from a family of exorcists herself, Kagura is pulled into the struggle of ‘good vs. evil’. Now in any other anime this set up would be an excuse for large-scale battles between spirits and their hunters. But Ga Rei: Zero uses it as a frame to focus on the associations of its characters.
Centering on the relationship of the dark-haired Yomi and the younger Kagura, the story seems more slice of life than science fiction, as the two grow to love one another as sisters. At times it appears like the plot is having an identity crisis, focusing on the playful exchanges of the pair before shifting gears into a supernatural skirmish. While jarring at first blush, the writers took effort to weave the two strands together, carefully paving the heroine’s path to a momentous climax.
Midnight hues evoke a gloom that haunts over the cast. Colors are appropriately muted during moments of tension. These scenes feel almost like watercolors at moments, fluorescent lighting casting a thin haze over the crisp drawings. Serving as the perfect stage, these set pieces host seamless animation, though the action can seem a bit stiff at times when slow motion is used. The only major detractor is the obtrusive CGI, a blending of cell shading and realistic textures, which feels out of place. A glaring example is the gargantuan Kasha beast in the first episode. Its flames look plastic and the edges of grey skin are jagged from poor aliasing.
The brisk opening "Paradise Lost" by Minori Chihara has a tinge of pessimism while reflecting on the ties of love. It’s pleasant to the ear while tied to the motifs of the Ga Rei: Zero, which is what every OP should do. The ending theme "Yume no Ashioto ga Kikoeru" by Mizuhara Kaoru is filled with melancholy, sober when compared to the Chihara’s offering. Both pieces are excellent and are accompanied by an appropriate soundtrack that has a similar sound. The voice acting is done well, Kagura’s innocence perfectly captured while Yomi’s expressions are handled expertly from teasing to tender. Nothing really stands out from the supporting cast except for Mitogawa, the villain, whose innocent tone is both vacant and eerie.
Ga Rei: Zero offers the typical shounen tango of heroes and baddies as a young heroine comes to term with the assertive grip of ‘destiny’. Kagura questions if it’s acceptable to kill the possessed corpses who still look human. The protagonist’s vacillation is the girl’s tragic flaw that inevitably leads her to the footsteps of the stunning conclusion. Admirably maturing Kagura through the twelve episodes from vulnerability to independence, Ga Rei: Zero executes an effective coming of age tale.
Yomi acts as a foil to Kagura’s growth. As the story progresses, she becomes less and less grounded in reality. It’s disheartening to watch her mentally unravel, her transformation is perversely beautiful as the once a supportive guide becomes the antagonists.
Sadly, the supporting characters are an expendable commodity in this production. The audience is introduced to a whole platoon of faces, from those in the Minstry of Defense, to those in the Agency. The program has no shame, liberally murdering likable persona throughout the installments.
Taking a simple formula of mixing Ghostbusters, Men In Black, and a bit of high school drama, Ga Rei became a wildly popular manga in Japan. Ga Rei: Zero serves as a prequel to the drawn word, focusing on the relationship of Kagura and her adoptive sister Yomi. Narratives of this nature raise a few questions: Is it accessible to those who are not familiar with franchise? If so, does the program offer anything to those foreign to the series?
The answer to both is an emphatic yes. Ga Rei: Zero serves a powerful story, wrought with impact, memorable characters and excellent production value. Not only does it reinforce the happenings of the main storyline, it seduces you into the dark embrace of Kagura’s world, imploring that you give the manga at least a passing glance.