April 26, 2018

Family Gekijyo (weeks 3-4)

It's Groundhog Day at Family Gekijyo, where every day is the same, except when it is slightly different.

Garo: Yami o Terasu Mono concluded its run and was followed by Garo: Makai no Hana ("Flowers of Hell"). The latter debuted in 2014, with Masei Nakayama as Raiga Saezima, the son of Kouga Saezima from the first series (he grew up fast).

The fourth series returns to established conventions. I didn't see the point of the alternate universe business in Yami o Terasu Mono and the serial format is only good for bingeing. Makai no Hana is more episodic, making non-linear viewing more tolerable.

This series takes place in present-day Tokyo. Imagine that Buffy lived in Wayne Manor and Giles was Alfred. That's sort of what we have here, and it plays to the inherent strengths of the genre: Spirit World Warriors battling evil in the shadows of the "normal."

Japanese urban fantasy is adept at locating magical mayhem in the midst of the modern world. Being a ghostbuster in Japan will keep you busy.

"Flowers of Hell" doesn't constantly take itself too seriously. Masei Nakayama even manages to smile now and then. The Halloween episode (beginning with an old-fashioned credit scroll in English) has him battling villains from popular Hollywood horror movies.

In another episode, a demonic manga artist attacks him with his literally animated illustrations. And then there's the traditional Japanese house that stomps around like out of Howl's Moving Castle.

The episodes follow a similar set-up and resolution, so the most interesting element is the creature-of-the-week, although the little vignettes that play during the closing credit scroll constitute a show of their own.

Up until episode nine ("Shiiku"), I would have rated the series PG-12. But the producers apparently decided it was time to use up their gratuitous nudity quota. The result is better than I expected—imagine an episode of Criminal Minds, with an unreliable narrator.

Or give it the Silence of the Lambs treatment and you could end up with a first-rate psychological thriller or a fantasy horror flick.

I do have to wonder about the casting call: "You'll be naked and mostly dead while Tokio Emoto hauls your body around." Well, not wonder all that much. The Japanese website tags the three as "AV" actresses. Not all that unusual in Japan.

Tokio Emoto plays the serial killer. He's only 28 but qualifies as a "veteran" character actor, with supporting roles in several NHK series as well.

That episode got skipped during the daytime portion of the rerun loop, which is in accordance with how Japanese commercial television works too (granted, no American over-the-air television station would broadcast anything like "Shiiku" at any time ever).

Family Gekijyo is likely showing the third and fourth series because the first two seasons were licensed for North America by Kraken Releasing (née Sentai Filmworks) and are available on Blu-ray. Several of the animated spin-offs are streaming on Crunchyroll.

As for the rest of the programming, it's the same only—no, for now it's more of the same.

 • Garo: Makai no Hana (2014)

But change is coming! According to the news ticker that occasionally appears at the bottom of the screen, a fresh slate of programs is scheduled to begin May 1.

Related posts

Family Gekijyo
Family Gekijyo (weeks 1-2)
Family Gekijyo (weeks 5-6)

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