Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $64.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
It’s the sisterhood of the traveling blades.
Ga-Rei-Zero is the kind of anime series that I feel I’ve seen before and that’s not such a bad thing, really, but I’ve seen shows like it that fall back on the same clichés and plot twists. Fortunately, The Complete Series of Ga-Rei-Zero walks its own path and walks it well enough that you will find yourself drawn into its world of monsters, phantoms and two girls who are destined to cross blades in an epic battle.
This 12-episode series begins in the most brilliant and original manner before it gets to the familiar main story. We meet Taru and Natsuki, two elite agents working for Section 4 of the Paranormal Disaster Countermeasure Headquarters (or PDCH) who are tasked with eliminating monsters and dangerous phantoms. They are quickly called into action after the impulsive Section 1 unit is wiped out. It’s clear that these Section 4 folk are good at what they do as they not only take care of the mammoth monster but also a type of Phantom called Latchers that take control of the dead Section 1 troops.
Oh, but after celebrating their victory over another Category B monster, they are swiftly attacked by a beautiful young girl in a High school girl uniform wielding a katana. She slaughters the Section 4 members as if they were nothing and finally turns to Taru – the young man haunted by memories of a boy surrounding by glowing blue butterflies – meets his fate as well.
That’s right, after having been introduced to this team and a character we think might have been a main character are murdered right in the first episode. The girl who killed them, we come to know, is a member of the PDCH’s other branch, who goes by the name Yomi Isayama. In comes another team to take Yumi down, this team has a younger girl with a sword by the name of Kagura who knows Yomi well and even calls her “big sister!” Still, this doesn’t stop both girls from locking blades in a fight to the death.
To better understand the relationship between these girls and why they fight despite Kagura’s connection to Yomi, the series jumps back in time to before this whole mess took place. We come to meet a Yomi who is sweet and gentle and not brutal and cold-blooded. She is the heir to the Isayama clan who will soon marry into another family to secure the future of said clan of Vanquishers (those will save the world from Phantoms and monsters). Yomi is so warm and understanding that she is the one that asks her father to accept the cute young Kagura into their household to live with them since Kagura’s mother was killed by a Phantom and her father spends his days looking for the one responsible.
Yomi welcomes Kagura with all the affection of an older sister and despite the younger girl’s awkwardness she does comes to accept Yomi as her “big sister.” The two girls form a close bond that is endearing as they each come to discover many things about each another. Yomi finds out that Kagura has had a strict upbringing thanks to a father who is rarely there for the young girl and has shown her no affection at all. It becomes clear why Kagura becomes so attached to Yomi and her family. It is here that she finds the encouragement and love she always wanted.
Meanwhile, Kagura discovers that Yomi works as a Vanquisher with a team of people just like her and that she is engaged to fellow Vanquisher, Noriyuki Izuna. Seeing as Kagura is to inherit a powerful Spirit Beast herself as well as put herself through sword training, Yomi has Kagura join her in taking on Phantoms as part of the squad.
Unfortunately, the PDCH discovers that the increase in Phantom activity might have something to do with an unknown entity that corrupts a girl named May who feels that she should have been the heir to the clan. It is this same entity that sets in motion the events that eventually transforms the sweet Yomi into a cold-blooded Category A “monster” that will go up against Kagura in a surprising and tragic finale.
There’s a surprising number of action scenes where the blood really flies and limbs will be lost, which is the reason the series is rated TV MA. You can tell right away that the production values are high in this on since the animation is superb and thus making the Blu-ray version of the Blu-ray plus DVD Combo Pack really shine.
Ga-Rei-Zero is a visually striking and thoroughly engaging anime series that might not be any different from shows like it but it still manages to make enough of an impact to hold our attention from start to finish. It’s hard to ignore a series that follows a familiar formula but still manages to shake things up in its own way to make this a series you should definitely not skip out on even if you’ve seen shows like it. That said the Blu-ray version should definitely be the best way to watch it.
BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Supernatural phantoms and monsters plague Japan but the Ministry of Defense has their secret weapon that comes in the form of a squad of Vanquishers. Among them are Yumi and Kagura, two girls who form a close relationship akin to sisters as the younger girl not only comes to live with Yumi but also becomes part of the Vanquisher life … until a mysterious foe changes everything.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
A visually stunning series with spectacular visual effects and outstanding action sequences, this series really does deserve to be seen on Blu-ray rather than DVD. The high-def quality shines through but, just in case you don’t have a Blu-ray player, the DVD version is not bad at all.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice cast does a marvelous job and it’s definitely one of the best ways to view this series but the English dub cast does a good job as well. The score is also magnificent and wonderful cinematic to the point that the confrontation between Yumi and Kagura are even more intense thanks to it. The opening and closing theme songs are both equally awesome.
We so love FUNimation’s recent Blu-ray plus DVD combo packs so both Blu-ray and DVD owners will be happy to have both. The extras come in the form of promotional videos for both the DVD releases and the original TV premiere commercial spot. You can also find the textless opening and closing songs and a few FUNimation trailers.
However, the real treat can be found in the six-part Location Special that chronicles the Director and his staff’s location research for the series as they photograph and film key locations that appear throughout the series and how it ends up in animated form. You won’t believe the level of detail that goes into animating real locations.
The Complete Series of Ga-Rei-Zero might feel like familiar territory but it handles the story in its own way making this a visual feast with a story you can really sink your teeth into from shocking beginning to surprising end. The Blu-ray version is where its at but the DVD version isn’t bad either so you should definitely consider picking this one up.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment