(This post is the second in a series called “12 Days of Anime”, a blogging tradition that encourages anibloggers–both novices and veterans alike–to look back on the past year and discuss 12 anime moments. There’s no registration process involved–just start writing daily posts about your memorable anime moments this year on December 14th and keep going until Christmas Day.)
Winter can be just as cruel as it is kind. A field of pure white snow can be a dazzling place to frolic…or a silent tomb.
“Next year? You weren’t even able to see today. You’ll never see it because I failed to protect you. Without power, I can’t protect anything!” -León Luis
The world of Garo is an inevitably unhappy one. While the Makai knights keep the light and hope of humanity alive in their eternal war against the Horrors, monsters who prey on the darkness of humans, they struggle to keep the very same light from going out within themselves. León, especially, seems to get an extra heaping of misery and despair when every person he cares about gets taken away from him. Just when he’s on the cusp of recovering from his trauma from his loss to the nefarious Mendoza, fate cruelly snatches his light and hope away before his very eyes. In such a fragile state, in the dark without Lara’s light to guide his way, we wonder if León will, once again, allow his anger overtake him.
“Leon, will you let your thirst for revenge consume you once more? Have you forgotten the fires that burned down Valiante?” -Prince Alfonso
Despite the darkness of its twist and turns, Garo, much like the armor donned by its titular character, is a story about light, the light that brings balance to a world seeped in evil. As Alfonso and León face each other, they embrace their archetypes as white and dark knights respectively, with Alfonso echoing his words of caution to his darker cousin, encouraging him to let go of his hatred and become a warrior of justice.
“The power I want isn’t the power for revenge…I want the power to protect someone. If only just one person, to let them see tomorrow. I want to fight as a protector as well!”
The essence of León’s character is embodied in the very ruins that they fight in. Having suffered and been broken, his spirit battered to pieces by the tribulations of life, León may gaze wistfully upon the ruins of his past, but with the knowledge that he can never return to the happy days of yesterday. But with conviction, his broken state, his ruin, becomes a new vessel to contain his reforged spirit.
“Lara, I promise you. The flowers and the light that you weren’t able to see…I will definitely protect them! I will never look at the flames within myself again!”
Unlike his zealous cousin Alfonso, Leon doesn’t necessarily fight for the sake of the collective, but for the individual. What move him to don his armor are not the abstract concepts of good and evil, or light and darkness–but the tears of children, of the people before his very eyes. We see heroes oftentimes as bright, shining whole people, but few heroes are. Real heroes are scarcely untouched by tragedy, and it is the rare hero that does not confront darkness without breaking a little, without becoming tarnished. Indeed, it is the very pain and suffering of the innocent that invites heroes to become heroic.
Hearing the little girl who cries out in fear, León shifts his gaze from inward to outwards in empathy. Receptive to the personal pain of others, León has learned to see a bit of Lara in every person, and that gives him the strength to keep on fighting. By protecting others, León keeps Lara–his light–alive.