Director: Ei Aoki
Writer (of original manga): Hajime Segawa
Animation Studios: AIC Spirits and Asread
English Localization: Funimation
Version Watched: Dubbed
Endings are a big part of any sort of entertainment medium for me, whether it’s an anime series, a video game or even just a novel. They’re the bit where everything should be tied together, leaving you satisfied yet hopefully still a little sad that it’s all over. They’re also incredibly hard to do right and therefore incredibly easy to criticize. Ga-Rei Zero makes criticizing its ending a little hard though because, well, there just isn’t one. The series is actually a prequel to a completed manga series called Ga-Rei, which means that it can’t really be treated as a stand-alone production. That is, in essence, also the reason I’ve chosen to make this a Mini-Review rather than a full one. While part of me feels that every series should be able to stand on its own, even if it is just acting as a prequel to a story produced in another medium, if I held Ga-Rei Zero to the same standards as other anime I would be unable to give it the score it deserves.
Set in Japan, Ga-Rei Zero tells the story of a group of exorcists whose goal is to protect their city and its surroundings from evil spirits which have nothing better to do that attempt to destroy things. The plot focuses on two particular teenage girls that are descendants of long lines of exorcists and are now starting to fulfill their role as exorcists themselves. The series actually starts near the end, giving you a teaser of what’s to come before returning to the beginning of the story in the third episode. While not a technique that’s used often, Ga-Rei Zero actually pulled it off fairly well, leaving me anticipating the conclusion of the anime from having watched just the first few episodes. The plot is actually pretty interesting, but it’s also the reason Ga-Rei Zero can’t be called a series in its own right. There are just too many loose ends remaining at the end of the 12 episodes that would have been tied off in any other (decent) anime.
One thing you will learn right away is that Ga-Rei Zero is not afraid to kill characters off, and while that’s not something I want in every anime I watch it can be refreshing to see one take that risk. In fact, the only other place I’ve seen that attitude work well is in the Walking Dead comic series. The combat itself is interesting despite being rather short-lived, and even the weapons used are different from the norm. Briefcases containing what can only be grenade launchers/machine guns, spinning drills that extend from bracelets worn on the wrists and even an iron/chain combo that spurts holy steam all serve the keep things fresh, and none of those are even my favourites. While the action it did contain was satisfying, I would have liked to see more of it, as some of the characters just weren’t given enough time to shine (especially the guy with the army of pipe foxes, which I now want for myself). The visuals are nice and I have no complaints about the audio, but I don’t have anything special to say about them either.
Summary – Ga-Rei Zero left me wanting more, which is exactly what it was intended to do, I suppose. But while I would gladly watch a second anime series, I’m not about to go out and purchase the 12 volumes of Ga-Rei manga. It ticks all the boxes except for the plot, which is only lacking in that it leaves much of the explaining to the sequel manga series. Despite the fact that I will probably never know what happens in the future Ga-Rei universe I don’t regret watching the anime, and you probably won’t either.
As a prequel series – 8/10 – Good
As a stand-alone series – 7/10 – Enjoyable