NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
Say ‘hello’ to MVM Entertainment‘s latest supernatural action anime series, Ga-Rei Zero, and it’s a good one! This is a gem of a series and, with only 12 episodes and a follow-on manga if you really enjoyed watching it, would make a nice addition to your DVD shelf. The series had three ‘arcs’ for me; the ‘explosions and slicing and killing’ arc, the ‘sisters doing it for themselves’ arc and the ‘oh no please stop dying’ arc! Marathoning it in one weekend meant I was riding an emotional rollercoaster, and I think that’s quite an achievement given its length.
Kagura is the daughter of the revered Tsuchimiya line, the leader of which controls the powerful beast Byaku-ei from a seal on their back and a long chain connecting their souls together. When her mother tragically dies and her father assumes his role of head of the family, she is sent to live with Isayama Naruku, a close friend of the family, and his adopted daughter Yomi. Yomi, whose own parents died when they possessed by demons, and the timid Kagura seek solace in each other and grow up together and sisters.
Yomi and Kagura become agents of the Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division to help keep the world free of evil ghosts. Yomi wields the prized Isayama heirloom, Shishio, which holds the spiritual beast Ranguren. All the while, the two must maintain their cover as regular schoolgirls and build relationships with others as best as they can.
Sadly, we know from the very beginning of the series that Yomi ultimately betrays Kagura and everything she holds dear. Friendship and love gives way to family feuds and vengeance, bringing the series to its tragic conclusion. The first episode sees Kagura as the villain and the series then goes back in time to when the two sisters first met then works its way back to the first episode again. Ga-Rei Zero is the prequel to the popular Ga Rei manga series, which picks up where the anime left off and later on sees the dramatic reunion of Kagura and Yomi.
If you have read the Ga Rei manga, Ga-Rei Zero fleshes out the characters of the two sisters. If you watch Ga-Rei Zero and move onto the manga because you liked it so much (like me) you have the benefit of chronology.
The range of characters in the show makes Ga-Rei Zero particularly appealing. There’s just enough to make the show complex without distracting from the overall plot. Yomi’s character is the most complex, as we see her evolve from loving older sibling to a vengeful villain who still cares deeply for her sister. Kagura is initially bland and childish but is forced to become an adult and stand on her own two feet. This sisterly relationship is what ultimately drives the plot, before the demons pulling strings and rampaging around the city.
The Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division form the second main body of characters. There’s Izuna Noriyuki, Yomi’s fiancé by design of their families, the Nabuu brothers who talk in perfect unison, manly-gay old man Iwahata Kouji and Kazuki Sakuraba, who wields machine-gun briefcases. Kazuki’s my favourite character for obvious reasons.
Behind the scenes are Yomi’s manipulative relatives, Yuu and Mei Isayama, who seek to disinherit her and assume leadership of the family as blood heirs. They end up becoming unlikely and unwilling participants in the series’ climax. Mix them altogether and you get a load of characters who you get very attached to.
If you’re the sort of person who judges a series by its opening sequence, Ga-Rei Zero won’t disappoint. Minori Chikara performs the opening ‘Paradise Lost’ and Mizuharu Kaoru is responsible for the chilling ending song ‘Yume no Ashioto ga Kikoeru’. I really can’t stop listening to the opening song, so will post it here and let you decide for yourself. If you think ‘ooh, this is good!’ then check out the DVD!
Subs versus dubs
Ahh, the eternal nerd question: ‘subs versus dubs’. Is it better to watch your anime in the original Japanese language (with subtitles, assuming you’re not fluent in Japanese) or can the English dub be just as good? In the case of Ga-Rei Zero, it’s more or less the former. Overall, the voice actor line-up is pretty strong for both the Japanese and English casts. The original Japanese version features the Japanese voice acting god Norio Wakamoto (Oda Nobunaga in Sengoku Basara, among many others) as both Nabuu brothers, which always instantly makes an anime better in my opinion.
In the English dub, Leah Clark (Saki in Higashi no Eden) lends her talents to the voice of the innocent Kagura, as does Jason Liebrecht (Lavi in D.Gray-Man) for Noriyuki. It’s the voice of the ‘villains’ and darker characters who let the episodes down. Yomi and Mei were not convincing in their English language roles – they basically sounded far too ‘nice’ for supposed bad girls. I recommend watching at least one episode in English, if only to get out of your comfort zone, as there are some strong voice actors in there.
The third DVD is full of wonderful extras and goes beyond the standard ‘textless opening and closing’ and ‘trailers’ options. I recommend watching the location specials, which is a set of mini documentaries about the show’s research team exploring various locations in Japan for the setting of the anime. It makes more sense after you have watched the series so you can go ‘oh, I know what happened here!’ Doesn’t ‘anime research team’ sound like the best job in the world? The other extras include promo videos that were used to advertise the show before it aired and trailers for some of MVM Entertainment’s other titles, including Fruits Basket which felt like a blast from the past!
Short, sweet but an emotional roller coaster of a series, Ga-Rei Zero is one to add to your collection! If this all sounds tempting, you can pre-order the series which comes out on 22 April, or you can try your luck at the giveaway currently running on MVM’s website!