Written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures
I am beginning to get tired of the virtual-MMO trope just because of the sheer number of shows that use this setting. It’s one of the reasons that I have not watched the current run of Re: Zero even though I know that I’ll probably like it. So this is a long way of saying that this will be my last virtual-MMO anime review for a significant length of time. However, my attitudes toward the genre have not dampened my enjoyment of the show that I am reviewing this week. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash turned out to be a highly enjoyable show that had a slightly different take on the genre. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.
Grimgar follows a group of people as they try to adapt and survive in a fantasy world. Scores and scores of people arrive without explanation with none of their memories intact. Most people are recruited to join a defense force which keeps the realm safe by taking on various monsters. It is apparent that these groups of people were originally from a modern world given the slight references tossed in, but the overall mystery is never explained during the series run.
The main party consists of the leftovers basically the losers that were left to their own devices after everyone else partied up. The show focuses on how they deal with their new found situation. At first, these people are utterly hopeless. Despite each member receiving training from the various guilds in town, they can’t even defeat the lowest of monsters, with a very real chance of death for failure. Naturally, the show follows this group as they manage to get better, which takes some time.
That leads me into a discussion about the pacing of the series; it’s a relatively slow burn. The story takes quite a bit of time to reach its zenith. There is a plethora of musical montages and moments of a similar nature that slow the pacing of the story, but I enjoyed this aspect. The story takes time to immerse the viewer in the characters. When the larger events occur, this has more of an emotional impact. Seeing their slow rise along with the constant fear of death, creates a rather tense atmosphere as they venture out. The slowness of the town scenes alleviates this tension and fosters a relationship with the characters. Overall, this is an underdog story with a slow pacing, but the pacing makes the story even better.
A great strength of this show is the interaction between characters. The show does an excellent job at showcasing the inner workings of each member of its main party. I don’t want to get into every member of the main party, but I would like to discuss two of the main characters.
Haruhiro receives the most amount of time and his inner monologue is often heard. He is the character that receives the most amount of change as the series progresses. Initially he starts off relatively shy, but quickly becomes more reliable as his party needs him more. His story arc revolves around him becoming a leader of sorts that the group could turn to in a time of need. This extends to his support role in combat as well. As a thief, he often takes a supplementary role in battle, working in tandem with his party members. It’s also refreshing to see a rather well-adjusted character. He obviously has his own mix of fears, but he manages to not let it bring him down as what is common in other anime.
Manato is the de facto party leader. Despite being a priest, he manages to take a more involved role in combat which echoes his status as the leader. Even though the group manages to be relatively weak, he possesses an innate skill to plan and use his party members’ strengths accordingly. Despite his strong façade, there is a deep level of worry within Manato. He doesn’t show it, but his status as party leader terrifies him at times. He is one of the more interesting characters until Mary is introduced in the latter half of the series. Overall, the interactions between the main characters are a strong highlight of this series, but note that Haruhiro does get most of the spotlight.
It is quite apparent from the first second of this show that it possesses an amazing stylistic choice. All of the backgrounds are in a watercolor motif that makes every frame of animation look like a watercolor painting of some sort. This stylized nature carried throughout the entire run which makes this one of the more visually impressive shows in a purely stylistic sense. As for the proper animation, it is of a good quality. The fight scenes possess an impressive amount of fluidity and are excellently choreographed. I also really enjoy the character design, specifically the outfits worn by the characters. The armor is practical. The roguish characters use a form of leather armor while the tanks use a heavier metal. It’s refreshing to see armor that isn’t there to just look cool or provide fan service. Although, there is some fan service here, but it isn’t solely because of the clothing design. Grimgar possess unique backgrounds and excellent character design which make the animation stand out immensely.
Music plays a large role in this series, especially during the slower moments. Insert songs are used quite frequently to a great effect. My favorite of these being a montage that takes place in the town marketplace. It’s a great moment which highlights the strengths of the slow pacing that I mentioned earlier in this review. As for the voice acting, I really enjoyed the performances. Nothing really stood out to me, but each one reached a certain standard of quality. There are certainly no amazing performances here, but a significant amount of what I would categorize as good performances. Overall, the sound design is the weak link, but it is by no means bad.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash will not blow anyone away. It instead takes a rather subtle approach with a very oversaturated genre. The story and characters drive the show to be something more than just a show with a certain stylistic animation choice. The watercolor motif adds a lot to the viewing of this show though. It creates a sense of wonderment out of the slower paced scenes simply through the art. As for the sound design, there are a lot of insert songs that are enjoyable, but no performances that stand out. I give Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash my Watch rating. It’s well worth the watch. Thanks for checking out this feature and I’ll be back next week for another.