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As fans of Japanese Henshin Hero shows, most of our focus inevitably falls upon three franchises: Super Sentai / Power Rangers, Kamen Rider, and Ultraman. But there’s a vast array of other heroes out there. Beyond The Big Three is an occasional series that looks at tokusatsu films and TV series that lie beyond those three franchises. Do they deserve their time in the sun or should they stay in the shadow of the big three? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to check them out!

The Franchise

The subject of this first article is Garo: Kami no Kiba, the latest movie release from the venerable Garo franchise. Garo is a relative newcomer compared to the big three, as the first season only began broadcasting in 2005, and the series traveled a very different path; Airing after midnight in a time slot normally given to infomercials and completely lacking any requirement to push merchandise in the same way as the series airing at more “kid friendly” hours. The series instead flaunted the unique aesthetic developed by it’s creator, Keita Amemiya, a respected veteran of the industry who developed his craft at Toei Company while working on Kamen Rider and Metal Heroes projects in the late 80s and early 90s

In the 13 years since that first series, Amemiya has seen his creation rapidly expand into a world containing five main live action series, four live action theatrical movies, three anime series, and numerous spinoff specials and miniseries. Kami no Kiba is part of the subset of the franchise starring Ryuga Dougai; It follows on from the TV series Garo: Yami o Terasu Mono, the film Garo: Gold Storm and the TV series Garo: Gold Storm Shō. Kami no Kiba reunites Ryuga with characters from all three of these previous projects as well as (presumably) connecting to a similarly named TV series, Kami no Kiba: Jinga, which begins airing in October 2018.

The Premise

Ryuga Dougai (The Golden Knight, Garo) and the Makai Priestess Rian continue their endless journey to protect humanity from the evil Horrors lurking in the darkness. The duo are summoned by Lady Ryūme to aid their old ally Takeru Jakuzure (The Flame Sword Knight, Zen), who has had his Makai Armour stolen by a Makai Priestess known as Banbi, who is acting with the aid of yet another old ally, Aguri Kusugami (The Sky Bow Knight, Gai).

Ryuga, Rian and Takeru head out in search of their fellow knight to determine if he has been consumed by the darkness and become a Horror. In the process, they become engulfed in a plot to find a mystical ark known as the ‘Kami no Kiba’ or “God’s Fang”. But all ships require a pilot, and only the fiercest of fallen Dark Knights can captain such a vessel. As such, it is time for Ryuga to once again cross blades with Jinga Makage!

Suitability for New Viewers

The Garo franchise has a loyal fan base and the staff working on it are likely assuming that most viewers will have seen the previous entries starring Ryuga. Most of the important characters have already appeared in at least one TV series and the rest are, frankly, cannon fodder. As such there’s little in the way of characterization in this film.

However, the film does open with a short explanation as to the nature of the Horrors that the knights fight against, and that should provide a new viewer with just enough information to understand what’s going on here without too much confusion. If you’re not looking for a deep plot or complex character interactions, but instead go in expecting to see leather-clad men wielding swords in battle against 15ft tall CGI monsters, you should be OK.

Overall, I still think new viewers would be better served by going back to the original Garo series if they want to dive deep into this franchise, but if you’re just looking for a popcorn-munching action film with a dash of visual flair then this should do you fine.

*SPOILERS*
For Garo Veterans Only

For me, the big surprise of this movie was the return of ‘Messiah’, the mother of all Horrors, topless personification of original sin, and literal big bad of the first Garo series. Personally, I think this is a positive step. I think the Garo franchise has always had a slight problem where the first season saw the defeat of the most powerful villain, making everything else small fry by comparison. Of course Horrors never really die so her return was always potentially on the cards. Equally, the main villain of this film, Jinga, is probably the most charismatic villain in the entire franchise.

Does this mean we’ll get to see a Horror civil war between the pair, or is it merely foreshadowing for what we may see in the forthcoming Kami no Kiba TV series? Either way, in a time where live action Garo seems to have slowed down a little it’s good to see signs indicating that future stories are on the horizon.

TLDR Is It Any Good?

This movie has a dog that barks bullets! Of course it’s good!

Joking aside, it’s certainly quite representative of the Ryuga-based Garo adventures. It certainly has some of the drawbacks of his previous adventures, such as the extremely limited amount of in-suit action, and I was somewhat disappointed that Masahiro Inoue doesn’t seem to have enough time to wind Jinga up to his scenery-chewing glory as exhibited in the Gold Storm project. But it also hits most of the points that I want from a Garo adventure. There’s big brawls against a mass of Horrors, lots of stylish imagery and distinctive action, and the promise of a future battle against a giantess from hell! It even manages to inject a bit more humor than you’d normally find in a Garo project. As a way of getting back into Garo after a long break before the upcoming series, it’s a great success!

 

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