This is going to be an extremely difficult series to really review properly. Not because Ga-Rei Zero sucks, but because it is awesome; and more specifically, because the first episode has one of the greatest moments ever animated, making it one of the most kick-ass opening chapters to anything anywhere... but if I talked about it — or even hinted about it — I would completely ruin the pure joy you'd encounter seeing it for yourself without any knowledge of what was to come. I'll be able to talk fairly openly about the rest of the show (which lives up to the first 24 minutes of "holy shit!" storytelling), but I must warn you not to read any other online reviews about this show: More than likely they will ruin one of the greatest surprises you will ever get to see in your miserable little life. Yes, this jolting revelation happens in the very first episode (the first 1/12th of the story), but that's no reason for other reviewers to be dicks about it for the sole purpose of pretty much saying, what?... "I'm going to spoil the SHIT out of this awesome show to prove that I downloaded it and saw it on fansubs!!!1111! I AM TEH AWESOME!!!!!" No, they just suck, and you don't deserve to be told that "Bruce Willis is dead the whole movie" before experiencing the pure awesomesauce for yourself.
Oh, and don't try to fool yourself, bunky; those other reviewers WILL fuck you over on this, and they won't apologize for it, and (for some goddamn reason) they'll think that they're cool for destroying your virgin experience with shame and regret. Fuck them all up their ears. Don't even read the Wikipedia article on it, because that blatantly fucks the Ga-Rei newbie over too. Fuck YOU, internet!.... But I digress.
Ga-Rei-Zero starts out like you average, everyday, overdone, clichéd Secret Organization Versus Supernatural/Alien Enemy series — what with invisible enemies causing massive death and destruction around town, and only people with special equipment or esper powers capable of seeing them and harming them with "blessed water" and holy texts... And the lead male is a cocky and way too sure of himself man who back-seat rides on motorcycles while standing up and shooting two holy handguns at the invisible demons from hell... And there's also the hot chick who seems to like the lead and who's more than capable of handling the baddies herself; and the young, overly friendly tech girl who helps out in a secure location; the Ikari Gendo-like leader who deals with the rest of the Japanese ministers in order to fund and man his small army; the tough and gruff pilot; and the smart-mouthed back-up comic sidekick character; and, well, that's it, but that pretty much covers all the overdone bases too.
At first I thought it was being completely unoriginal and lame, but then I realized it was simply mocking the shit out of those used-up hackneyed monster-of-the-week experiences. 15 minutes into this first been-there-seen-that, bought-the-hentai-doujinshi episode and I was ready to just write it off as another "why the hell did they even bother" production... But then, it happened. It got so goddamn awesome in such a short amount of time, and then it just kept getting more and more awesome as the minutes jumped by. And then episode 2 actually keeps this awesomeness up too. Very impressive... Episode 3 then takes us back in time in a well constructed flashback (which goes on for a few chapters, but never once gets boring), and by the end of these episodes I had to go back and rewatch the first two again before finishing the whole show up. And when all was said and done, I was spent... This is one of the most physically and emotionally brutal series I've ever seen. It's unrelenting in how it hammers the impassioned shit out of you, making you feel despair and teeth-gritting hatred over the works and deeds of some fictional bad guys on the screen. And I LOVE the hell out of it for it.
Let me back up now and tell you a bit about the plot. It's only fair.
There is an agency in the Japanese Government that deals with supernatural threats to the state... Actually, there are TWO such agencies, but they both have ridiculous names like the "Agency for Supernatural Disaster Prevention at the Ministry of the Environment," and the "Committee to Address Possible Specter Anal Rape in the Japanese Civilian Population as Sponsored by Vaseline Lubrications." All the higher-ups in the military and bureaucratic offices know about these organizations and the threats that the supernatural creatures bring to the country, and the groups aren't a laughing stock in the halls of the Japanese Diet Building (like they are in so many other stories). Anyway, special esper agents who can see specters (the biggest supernatural threat to the land) lead the crusade against the ghostly invaders (who come in many shapes and forms — some looking like two-legged brontosauri, some like demon spiders, and some like jellyfish that attach themselves to human corpses, animating them and making them crave brains), but they're joined on the field by regular joes who use special eye-shields to view the usually invisible paranormal activity and then shoot the shit out of it with cursed bullets.
In the middle of this whole messy war between the spirits of evil and humanity is Yomi and her fiancee Noriyuki; both are strong esper soldiers in the unholy battle with the demons and specters that threaten mankind. Yomi is a high schooler who was adopted into an old family of exorcists, and Noriyuki is a total playboy who doesn't seem to mind his arranged marriage to the fun loving and talented girl. Soon into the mix comes a young girl named Kagura whose father is the greatest exorcist/demon-tamer in all of Japan, but who has no time for her after his spiritually powerful wife dies in battle and he has to make up for humanity's loss himself. Kagura and Yomi quickly become blood sisters in one of the most realistic relationships I've ever seen told on film (in either live action or animated form), but don't let this sugary-sounding synopsis fool you: the sense of foreboding throughout the whole show is so intense and severe that I spent most of my time watching it with wide eyes and a look of "holy shit! They did NOT go there, did they?!?!" on my face. This is a dark show. It will mentally scar some of you. But it's not retardedly in your face with its despair (like shows like Tokyo: Magnitude 8.0 are) — it's reserved to a degree... Well no, it's not "reserved," but it's just not pathetic.
Most of the rest of the series is about how the events in the first two episodes came to be, but we do soon catch up to those chapters and have everything fleshed out before the final closing song. It's all good. I pretty much liked everything that this show had to offer. I loved Yomi and Kagura, the music was fantastic, the Director's wheelchair and its capabilities were sweet and would turn Charles Xavier green with envy, and Michael the swordsmith and his almost nudist ways made me laugh. There were a few tiny things that I didn't like about this show, the chief being that yes, this is "episode Zero" to the Ga-Rei manga that already exists. This story does have an end, but the plot continues apparently, for at least 10 tankoban past the final episode in Zero. What makes me wary though is that I've heard that the manga (to which Ga-Rei-Zero is a prequel, keep up with me, please, dingus) is very light in tone and just another dime-a-dozen semi-goofy demon-hunting story, the likes of which the opening episode of Zero openly mocked. Honestly, I don't want MORE of Ga-Rei unless it's handled by the crew that gave us Zero.
Arrrrrrrrr... I believe that I've seen those scaly, creepy ghostly specters walking around downtown, slurping on people's unknowing brains as they stumbled about oblivious, and acting like they very well owned the place. I thought it was all the rum, but apparently those demons exist! Who knew? I would have called in the cute Japanese high school girl squad to take care of the problem a long time ago. Arrrrrr. Then I would have taken pictures of them running around in their short skirts, long legs, with big, strong, hard swords in their dainty little geisha hands as they swung them around, worked them up and down, and, and..... Arrrrrrrrrrr.... I'll be in me bunk.
Oh. Hells. Yeah! Brutal is the word of the day, you pussies out there! This show is BRUTAL. Oh, it was so beautiful! So deadly! So violent! And the way they fucked with the minds of the girls was just so, well, so fucking BRUTAL! I loved every caring sword slash, every slap, every stab, every emotional homicide. This show is darker than fucking BLACK.