This anime was a revisit – I decided to bump it to Excellent. Ga-Rei-Zero is primarily a drama with some action portions. This anime is notable for its tragic nature and its distinctly backwards storytelling.
Purpose: Excellent. It’s evident throughout that they had a very clear idea of where they were going and how they were getting there. It would be hard to find any distractions or deviations from what they were doing. In other words, it doesn’t have “fluff.” Portions that seem to take on a slightly frivolous nature are either building the characters or developing the situation and circumstance. To the viewer, the purpose won’t become clear until a ways in, but it never feels like the anime is “lost.” They know where they’re going.
Characters: Very Good. Solid overall with the main characters being particularly strong. Characters had personality quirks, but they were handled in a more realistic manner – it isn’t just some ragtag team of weirdos. They did a good job of taking the time to round out characters and show explanations, motives, and grow bonds. The fact that the characters had personalities meant that their responses to the events happening were varied and unique – there were personal struggles as well as action sequences. The highlight of the anime was the drama involving the main characters, which is good, since that was what the story was about.
World: Very Good. The world had a strong amount of depth to it. However, they only explained what we needed when we needed to know it. There were plenty of things that weren’t explained, but it didn’t really feel as though we absolutely needed to know it to understand what was going on. Part of the strength of the world was that the characters didn’t know everything, either about the world or what’s going on. It added to the characters’ human feel that they had limited information – they may have had some more information that we, the viewer, did, but it wasn’t like the whole cast was keeping secrets. The information, or lack thereof, strongly shaped the events of the plot.
Plot: Very Good. A tragedy. The plot generally was structured in an interesting way. It was focused solely on the main characters – tracking how the characters got to a certain point. It started the viewer at a really important plot point, then built up the viewer’s knowledge of the situation. Each plot point was walking the viewer closer to understanding why certain events happened. Thus, the plot took an almost explanatory feel – showing us what we needed to know for the main event to make sense.
Storytelling: Excellent. This was very, very interesting. By putting one of the main events early, it really acted as a solid hook. Then, by providing the explanation of why we got where we were, it took on a uniquely interesting tone. Since we know basically where we are ending up, all of the earlier events have this tone of suspicion. We are wondering, “if we started here, how in the world did that happen?” Since much of the anime is backstory, it really ends up setting the stage for a powerful kind of tragedy. The decisions the characters made were not insane, nor were they necessarily unreasonable reactions to the situations. The anime does such a good job of the storytelling that everyone’s actions seem understandable, given the situation, even if wrong. Perhaps that’s what makes it more tragic.
Another fascinating decision they made was to delay the introduction of the opening and ending theme and visuals. You only get to see them once it’s clear what the anime is about. This actually prevented some spoilers, but also directed more attention to what’s happening. Once we catch up to “present day,” they do an excellent job of seamlessly filling in the gaps – what we missed. It uses certain events as “landmarks” that give us an idea of the timing of everything. Really, this was the best way to tell the story they did. Had they used some other chronology, it would have taken far too long to see what was happening – the pace would have greatly suffered.
Pace: Very Good. The anime’s pace was well suited to its subject matter. It starts off and ends in a pretty fast pace to suit the action and excitement going on. When it goes into backstory, the pace changes to a slower pace, to give it an everyday feel. What this did was give a really great contrast between everyday life and the action. Even during the slower periods, it wasn’t slow – you definitely had the feel that you were learning things about the characters and the world during that time.