Welcome back to the Ga-Rei Zero rewatch! This week, as we dive into episode 3, we actually start getting some background on the characters. Which is kind of the magical thing about Ga-Rei Zero, really, that they tell the story the way they do.
Allow me to take a moment to explain. The first two episodes, you see, are actually part of the last three of the series. What we’ve seen so far are the events leading up to the final episode. The dialogue I mentioned last week, how it was perfect, and felt as if everyone really knew each other well, is because they did.
This is another risky thing the writers do with this show, that could have collapsed the entire thing like a house of cards. By beginning at the end, we meet Yomi as a villain, a monster, slaughtering everything in her path without a single regard. This is done intentionally, though, as the story really wouldn’t have worked any other way.
All of which I’ll get to later. For now, let’s have a look at what happens, not next, but in the beginning.
As a reminder of how things ended last week, we are shown Yomi preparing to kill Kagura, while Kagura pleads with her, trying to remind her of who she is. That Yomi is her big sister. As the final blow comes, we are taken back, to the day they first met.
A cold, rainy day. The day of Kagura’s mothers funeral. Three years ago.
As Kagura is lost in her grief, Yomi is helping her father out of a car. Almost as if by fate, the two are drawn together, their first meeting one without words, as they simply look at each other. Ragged, Kagura is almost expressionless, and kind, Yomi offers her a soft smile.
Yes, kind. Yomi was not always the monster we met. This is the real plot of the show, you see. Ga-Rei Zero is a tragedy that would make the Greeks weep, for it is the story of how Yomi fell to darkness.
We cut to Yomi fighting some kind of monster, the same sword we saw her with before when she killed Section Four and countless members of the Suit Division being used to defend. Remembering she is not fighting alone, she races to her ally, Master Tsuchimiya, but is too late. As she watches, his wife falls in battle, while unseen, a blue butterfly flits away.
We move again, now to the man we saw Yomi helping out of the car, Naraku Isayama, her adopted father, as he speaks before a gathering of clan members. As Vanquishers, their family has long battled the forces of the supernatural, way before the government got involved, though now, they do cooperate with them.
Sitting behind him, looking annoyed, is his brother, Yuu. Next to Yuu sits his daughter, Mei, who just looks bored with the whole thing. Naraku explains to the gathering that Garaku Tsuchimiya’s wife fell fighting the specters, and that he is now taking possession of her spirit beast, a creature called Byakuei, that we only see as a phantom being.
Due to this, Garaku must step down as the leader of the clans, with Naraku taking his place. As he’s explaining all of this, Yomi finds Kagura sitting outside, lost in mourning. She tries a bit of small talk, but Kagura isn’t in the mood for it.
At least, until Yomi tells her that, due to her father’s new responsibilities, everyone feels it best if Kagura go to live with Yomi and Naraku. She perks up slightly at that, for reasons that get explored later.
Back home, Naraku tries to be warm and friendly, though it’s obvious dealing with kids isn’t his strong suit. Yomi jumps in, somewhat embarrassing him as she sings her adopted father’s praises. He seems to take that a bit more in stride, obviously use to Yomi’s outgoing personality.
Yomi shows Kagura to the room she’ll be staying in, even offering to help her collect her things the next day. Kagura shrugs this off rather stoically, assuring Yomi she needs nothing from her home. Yomi finds that hard to believe, until Kagura sets down the only bag she carries, producing a framed picture of her mother, declaring it the only thing she needs.
Saddened by this, Yomi takes Kagura to her room and makes them some snacks. After a bit of fumbling, Yomi learns that Kagura doesn’t play video games, or do anything at all, except train. As her parents were powerful and respected Vanquishers, Kagura had a lot to live up to, and does nothing but train when she isn’t in school.
Going to the training room behind Yomi’s home, she watches as Kagura does exactly that, and is rather impressed with her talent, especially considering she is so young. Kagura takes her compliments with more stoicism. Yomi decides to offer sparing with her, telling her to give it her all.
Despite her training, Yomi outclasses her easily. Regardless, she offers compliments on her style, which Kagura ignores, citing her fathers training and being ashamed of her failure to do well against Yomi. For on the battlefield, failure is death, not just for you, but those around you.
Yomi blows this off in a major way, calling her father a pig headed crank. In training, she asserts, when someone compliments you, you shouldn’t be ashamed of failing, but thank them for seeing and encouraging your talent and skill. Kagura looks utterly lost by this kind of thinking.
Next, Yomi drags her back inside to play video games and have some girl talk. Asking what food she hates, Yomi learns Kagura was taught to appreciate that she had anything to eat at all. Frustrated, she finds out this is more of her father’s teachings, finally digging out what Kagura really doesn’t like to eat. Satisfied, she tells Kagura that if she loses the video game, she’ll have to eat that food.
Kagura balks, until Yomi tells that if she wins, she’ll fix her favorite food instead. Uncertain, Kagura hesitates, as Yomi starts the game quickly. Kagura fumbles her controller, claiming she wasn’t ready, to which Yomi quotes Garaku at her, saying that on the battlefield, no one asks if you are ready.
Kagura claims it’s unfair, calling her Miss Yomi. Yomi pauses the game, smiles at her, and says, “It’s big sister Yomi. I’m not a miss.” For the first time, Kagura smiles. This was all Yomi was trying to do, help a grief stricken girl smile, because she is kind, considerate, thoughtful and caring.
The total opposite of what we saw the previous two episodes.
Kagura loses the game and has to eat her least favorite food for dinner. Yomi says they can have it again tomorrow night, then laughs at Kagura’s expression, telling her she was joking. With Kagura trying to get use to her sense of humor, Yomi offers to make it up to her by letting Kagura sleep with her that night. She knows Kagura is hurting, and is doing everything she can to comfort her, without making it seem like pity, and man, is she good at it.
However, she doesn’t get to carry through, as her phone rings, delivering a text message about her mother’s state in the hospital. Kagura expresses concern, but Yomi tells her it’s a code for her Vanquisher duties, meant to help her get out of school and other obligations so she can go fight specters.
Yomi apologizes for having to go. Kagura has a flash back to her mother. The last time she saw her alive, her mother had to go fight specters as well, and said goodbye in almost the exact same fashion as Yomi just did. As we know, her mother never came home.
Kagura shrugs it off, assuring her that she understands. Once Yomi is gone, however, Kagura’s smile fades. From the street, standing by a familiar Hummvee, Yomi watches her bedroom light go out.
We turn now to Ayame and Kiri, as Kiri tells her boss that the Disposal Team, AKA the Suit Squad, is on route, and she’s already filed all the necessary paperwork for the exorcism they are on their way to perform. They also discuss a Professor Mitigawa, who was in Vatican City with his family, doing research for the SDCD when his plane went down, killing them all.
Oh, was that a picture of the family? Yes, it was. And who do we see there? Why, it’s the creepy kid with the blue butterflies. As the Mitigawa family is mentioned being experts on Banestones, I’m sure this isn’t foreshadowing at all.
Even worse, however, is that the exorcism that cost Kagura’s mother her life may well not have been successful. Kiri leaves Ayame alone, and she ponders the many tragedies that have befallen the SDCD since her Aunt retired as the head of the branch.
Outside a school, Yomi meets up with Kagura, and the two walk home together, talking about what Kagura learned that day. Kagura explains that school is very important, because she needs to learn all she can during her developmental years. The two pause, both saying, “My father says,” and laughing.
It’s pretty obvious at this point that Garaku Tsuchimiya is a jerk, and a terrible father. However, we see that Kagura is coming out of both the shell she was in after her mother’s death, and the stoicism her father’s heavy handed training forced her into. All of which, by the by, is done under Yomi’s loving hand.
Yomi asks Kagura her favorite food, saying she wants to make it for her. When Yomi learns it’s something hard to make, she groans, but sill promises to do it, just for Kagura. With a smile, Yomi says that it’ll be even easier if Kagura helps her, getting a smile from other girl in return.
Sadly, her phone rings, calling her to Vanquisher duty. Apologizing, she tells Kagura she probably won’t be home until late, far too late to fix her the promised dinner. Kagura makes like it’s no big deal, until Yomi swears she’ll be home soon.
“My mom use to say that, too,” Kagura replies, slowly breaking down in tears. All the grief, all the sorrow, all the loss she’s kept bottled up, so she can live up to her father’s teachings, come cascading out of her. Kagura isn’t a Vanquisher, she’s a child, who has lost her mother, and all of Yomi’s efforts to get her to open up have been for this. To let Kagura grieve.
Yomi runs back to her, holding her, saying she’s sorry, and promising she will never leave Kagura alone. She vows to always be there, to protect her, and to keep that very oath, takes Kagura with her to deal with her Vanquisher duties.
As soon as they slid into the Humvee, Kouji yells at her that’s she’s late, making Kagura cringe. Yomi chastises him for speaking so sharply to a little girl. When he reminds Yomi she can’t bring citizens on SDCD official business, Yomi shuts that down, too, telling Kouji just who Kagura is.
Reluctantly, Kouji simmers down, and introduces Kagura to the Nabuu brothers, Kazuki, and Nori, who tells Kagura that he’s been saying the team needs more pretty girls. This earns him a headlock from Yomi, who retreats quickly after he tells her that he was being friendly, and only has eyes for her.
While those two flirt, Kouji offers Kagura a sword, named Michael 12, telling that it’s a pneumatic Vanquisher sword. If she pulls the trigger when she draws the blade, pressurized air will triple the cutting force, apparently, and while I’m no physicist, I’m certainly not going to argue with anime. It looks very similar to the sword we saw her with in the previous episodes, as well.
They get the call and head to the scene, where Kagura spots the specter in question, while ordinary citizens go wandering right past it, unable to see the creature. Yomi decides to take out the critter, and despite Kagura looking worried about her, explain that this is her duty.
“It is our obligation to rid the world of spirits who defile the natural order.” Remember those words, for they matter greatly.
Yomi takes out her sword, the Shishio, and summons the monster we saw last episode, Rangurren, another spirit beast, that lives inside the blade. Together, they finish off the specter easily, impressing Kagura greatly.
Unimpressed however, is Naraku, who berates her for taking Kagura on a mission. We also learn that Naraku only agreed to take Kagura in because Yomi insisted. Kagura overhears this, and blames herself for Yomi getting in trouble. Yomi blows it off, saying it’s the norm, implying that while Naraku is kind of a hard ass, he rarely ever really gets too angry with Yomi.
The girls head off to take a bath, and before you think that’s weird, communal baths are common in Japan. Kagura asks why Yomi wanted to bring her to live with them, and Yomi makes like it was just because she wanted a little sister. Kagura confesses that she’s never thought of having a sibling, but if she was to, she’d want a sister like Yomi. Satisfied, Yomi declares Kagura her lackey, and when Kagura protests, explains that’s what little sisters are for.
Keeping her previous promise to let Kagura sleep with her, Yomi gives her a token of their new bond, a little bead bracelet that looks kind of like a cell phone charm. Kagura confesses to envying Yomi somewhat, that she has a parent who will yell at her, unable to remember the last time her father even spoke to her, outside of training.
In return, Yomi confesses that her real parents died when she was young. They had been possessed by specters, who ended up killing them. Yomi herself likely would have died, had Naraku not saved her, then adopted her. In fact, he’s even named her his heir, which is what her possession of Shishio proves, that one day, she will take his place as the head of the family, and pass the sword down to her own child.
Total hard ass, that Naraku. Yeah. Excuse me, I have something in my eye.
Yomi is proud to be his daughter, by the way. So proud, in fact, that her entire life revolves around proving to him that she is worthy, not only to wield the Shishio, but to be an Isayami, and a Vanquisher, like him. Though, to be honest, from the way he talks to her, I get the feeling she has nothing to prove, not now, and not ever.
Meanwhile, Garaku has finished taking possession of the spirit beast, Byakuei, now revealed to be a fearsome dragon. Byakuei himself doesn’t look terribly pleased, though Garaku does. Somehow, I get the feeling this is an antagonistic relationship.
We fast forward a few years here, as Kagura, now in high school, receives a text on her phone, which sports the charm Yomi gave her earlier. She tells her teacher that the hospital called and her mom’s condition has changed. Same code Yomi was getting. Hurrying outside, Kagura joins the rest of the Disposal Team, now a full fledged member of the Suit Squad.
Yomi tells her she’s got some drool on her chin from where she fell asleep in class before taking a picture of it with her cellphone, promising it will go in her “Many Faces of Kagura” folder. Kagura wishes she’d delete that, but Yomi makes it up to her with some Pocky. As she chews it, Yomi has one herself, looking pleased, which is when Kagura grabs hold of her and snaps a shot with her own cellphone.
The same shot we saw last episode, that is her phone’s wallpaper.
As much as the previous two episodes constructed Yomi as the monstrous villain, this episode shows her as a hero. Selfless, kind, compassionate, and giving, she moves heaven and earth for a girl she doesn’t even know, becoming Kagura’s closest friend, and yes, her sister.
As I said earlier, Ga-Rei Zero is a tragedy, which is a genre that is rarely used these days. Everybody wants things to end on happy notes, where the good guys come out of everything unscathed. Even the ending of Will Smith’s I Am Legend was changed to be more upbeat, never mind that the title of the book it is based on is founded in the less happy, original ending.
Ga-Rei Zero doesn’t give a crap about all that, though. It’s a tragedy and it’s going to go full bore into that. While we didn’t get much of a chance to know Yomi in the first two episodes, what we did know of her was that she was an unrelenting force of destruction and slaughter. That she savored the killing. How could that girl be so far from the one we meet here, who would do anything to make another person smile?
There, my friends, lies the story that is Ga-Rei Zero.
See you next week, with Episode Four: The Cause Of The Duty.