Following the several years I’ve been out of the loop with anime, my recent return started with watching some of the more prominent shows. Chief among these was the infamous Goblin Slayer which, despite all its undeserved negative press, turned out to be a fantastic balance of drama, parody, and action set in an ostensibly “MMO-style” world. To that point, in the wake of Goblin Slayer I’ve been noticing the “MMO-turned-anime” genre seems to have exploded in popularity, and the once-unique premise of the .Hack series from so many years ago is now plastered about the scene. This creates a challenge for each show in this newly-founded genre to try to establish itself as unique in some way.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash attempts to parallel a story arc much in the vein of Goblin Slayer, but ostensibly lacks a genuine direction in which it wants to go. The first episode tries to do quite a bit of world building and character introduction, splashing an enormous amount of lore and content for an initial 20-minute run. Where many series would focus on the successful heroes, however, Grimgar focuses instead on the rejects, and sets a fairly strong hook in the viewer with the promise of an interesting story to come. What ends up following, though, is disappointment after disappointment as the show spirals off into a spastic back-and-forth between drama, ecchi humor, action flick, and romance. Ultimately it fails to be competent at delivering any of these things, and the only thing that manages to keep the show afloat is that the characters themselves (with a few minor exceptions) are well-written and interact cogently together on-screen.
The world of Grimgar is just too generic and bland to jump the hurdle of mediocrity. By episode four, the entire arc of the story is essentially explained, and it becomes clear that much of the mystique and intrigue behind the characters’ past and the world’s history are little more than plot devices to move a series of obvious story points forward. This creates the rather pointed issue of the watching the show to devolve into the act of “going through the motions”, as once the viewer is presented exactly what will happen the anticipation of character growth just loses its luster. Once the appeal of the characters begins to dim, the show as a whole rapidly falls apart, and the end result is a decidedly average anime that tries desperately to be something more.
Stylistically, Grimgar has a very unique aesthetic. Much of its backdrops are done with a painted-watercolor tone which, while unique, ends up feeling very stagnant for most of the show. The animation budget seems haphazardly thrown together; for example, there’s a snowfall episode toward the middle of the series that’s absolutely gorgeous, but in the middle of it is a very awkward panning CGI scene which harkens me back to the early 2000s. The fluctuation of animation versus stills adds to an overall tacky feeling, and the emphasis of “new skill of the episode” fight scene animations seems to have soaked most of the graphical resources. All in all, it’s unique but definitively average.
Both music and voice acting were apt, but generally unremarkable. Ranta’s seiyuu, however, was quite annoying, and the constant shouting and bluster become like nails on a chalkboard after a while. Still, I felt like the music salvaged as much of the dramatic mood as it possibly could, and Haruhiro’s monologues were solid and balanced the right amount of emotion with stoicism that defined his character so well.
The characters are, hands down, what gives Grimgar all its initial appeal. The show opens with twelve young people, who seem to range in age from mid-teens to late twenties, teleported to a strange world with fragmented memories. Almost immediately, the characters are forced into a mercenary-style lifestyle of hunting monsters for survival, and everyone in the world but them seems in on the charade that many people are summoned and only a few survive. Right off the bat, the group of twelve splits into two groups of six, with the first group parsed off by many of the older and more competent kids under the leadership of an archetypical heroic type named Renji. This leaves the remaining six to form together as a rag-tag band under a charismatic-but-uncertain priest by the name of Manato. It sets the stage for an interesting rivalry which rears its head prominently in the first episode but will then never again be touched.
Of the misfits, Haruhiro and Yume are the stars of the show, acting as surprisingly-mature and well-developed leads who react to the circumstances of the show in a believable and genuine fashion. Manato and the rest of the gang supplement them well, and indeed there’s a certain appeal watching the band of rejects work their way from incompetent buffoons to average monster hunters. There’s a lot of splashed character development in the soup of drama, boob jokes, tragedy, and clown-like shouting that follows these two, especially when it seems Haruhiro and Yume start to form a closer bond while trying to deal with the fact that Grimgar isn’t a world of all fun-and-games smashing goblins upside the head. Yet, while the show tries to take itself seriously at times, it constantly throws Ranta, the resident over-the-top class clown, in the middle of the duo to make a flat-chest joke at Yume or create random drama with Haruhiro.
As the show drags on, Ranta takes more and more a prominent role and, as the worst character in the show, sets Grimgar on a voyage destined for failure. The show climaxes with a whirlwind of deus-ex-machina tropes that end up dumbing down all the previous character growth while placing Ranta center stage, which creates a strong souring experience that makes the viewer just glad to be done with the show.
While not the worst series I’ve ever watched, Grimgar is formulaic and bland with just enough character to make the viewer not want to drop it outright. It’s worth a once-through if you like the genre and are willing to be unimpressed with a story that fails to live up to its potential, but it’s an average show through-and-through.
Only writting this review on account of all the hate it seems to be getting.
Yes of course this story has been done into the ground but I have to say from watching the first couple episodes this one sets out to be diffrent
I'm not sure if it was just me but it makes a lot more sense to me that kids from another world would be scared to fight creatures knowing very well they can die. Also having no expereince in combat makes a lot more sense compared to others that make the MC op becasue he can use a keyboard well.
I think the thing that stood out to me the most was when they began to consider the life of the gobling. The scene where they trap him and he desperatly tries to survive and the chaacters take note was really intersting.
Honestly its not some super fast paced hack and slash liek most of the the other anime in this genre and if it continues like this i think it will be great
In a beautiful RPG fantasy world ... nice art ... full of goblins, adventures, brave heroes ... Who are conveniently pulled out of our world with amnesia... prepare for many long slice-of-life scenes. Like preparing fire, cooking, eating, shopping, making tea, watching the sunset, talking with your party buddies about your feelings and stuff. Then jump right into the action as bunch of six supposedly trained adventures stumble, miss at point blank range, get scared of single goblin, stand and watch as their buddy is getting murdered. Instead of watching those other six, who are much more skilled or it is said so.
Why those wimps don't find for themselves other job. It's not like everyone in the city is soldier.
Ok, now here is the longer version with explanation for those who did not understand my "Honest trailer" style review. I have also bumped up score, because the show was not so horrible in the end and overall was much better than usual 3/10 anime.
The first problem I had with this anime that it has tendency to be very dull. When you start time-skipping on the first watch surely something is rotten in the state of Denmark. There is action, but it is overshadowed by seemingly endless slice-of-life. The characters are bland. They have no past. They are too average. Watching them to interact is most of the time tedious.
The story has almost zero world building and the writer didn't even bother to give an excuse why humans are fighting the goblins and other creatures. That is why Spoiler: [I had no sympathy for protagonists who died].
After all they were walking around, attacking and killing goblins for no reason. This is most clear in the episode, where they kill goblins in their sleep. There is also no explanation why they have to be adventurers in the first place. There is lot of people in the city who are not adventurers. For example It's established that the big guy in the party likes to cook and he is quite good at it. Why he does not tries to find a job in some pub/restaurant in the city to make some money? That is how the realistic aproach to this situation would work.
Luckily the group will gradually get somewhat better in fighting. Info-dumping of the new skills also did not help either. I liked interaction between the main protagonist, the guy internally monologuing all the way through the story, and the girls. There were few good moments. However that is very little to cover glaring holes in the story.
What the story really was about then? It was mostly about copping with hardship, grief and loss (death). Resolution conveniently supported by the dead changing into zombies. It provides an average approach to the mentioned "morale message of the story" and as such it deserves an average score at best.
Another crap anime ... With ultra weak and stupid character, the guy wich have the more balls of all the team is called a coward by the others. (Hypocrisy is everywhere, even in animes !!)
With those shity character, we got :
- The useless crying big tits slut that will always cry for nothing.
- The little Tsundere piece of shit who punch every guy of the team, only because they seen her in her bath (By accident, fuckin stupid otaku gimik) <== STOP THIS, OK ?!
- The guy who think he's the best of all time, even if he sucks ballz (But in this anime, it's REALLY the strongest character of the team ...)
- The shity main character that have no personnality, he's just as stupid as the others.
- The dumb big guy that chose warrior to be stupid, big muscles, but no head.
Really, i love animes like this !! Why we can't see some good character and main character ? Like Ichigo ? Just a sample character like Ichigo would be good !!
It's just a Slice of Life, with boobs and perverted situations, but they added some RPG things to make you think : "Hey, look !! It's a new design !!"
You're really far away from the quality of Log Horizon ... Or No Game No Life, better go back to school to learn how to not make shity characters.
Animation is OK, SOUNDTRACK is crap.
Hey, look at that, another trapped in a videogame show, made by A-1 Pictures which established the trend with Sword Art Online. If there is a studio you can trust for making good anime, that would be this studio, because SAO is very popular and that means it’s good (not). While it was airing, Grimgar had a lot of people who liked it for its more down to earth approach to isekai. This was, unfortunately, counterbalanced by not doing much with them.
1) The slice of life aspect of the show allocates a lot of screentime on the way the characters interact with each other, thus giving you enough time to feel sympathy for them. Even the monsters performed daily activities during calm moments and felt like they had lives outside of looting and killing. At the same time, nothing much happened in the setting, since the plot was left incomplete as a yet another example of an anime made solely for promoting the light novels.
2) As much as you might have liked the characters for not being overpowered special chosen ones, at the same time they were bland archetypes with no name or backdrop or even memories of their past. They popped into existence in that world and thus they never felt like they existed naturally in it. They came off as generic cardboards with generic classes roaming around in a generic fantasy setting, killing generic monsters. And sure, they had a few character gimmicks as an excuse for personality, but that was giving them as much depth as a smurf that has nothing to do outside of repeating its one and only gimmick.
3) There was detailed fighting choreography in every battle since it wasn’t about the characters standing still and spamming epic spells that easily defeat entire armies. At the same time the fights weren’t that elaborate. Despite being a team, when one of them was fighting the rest were standing still. Seriously, it’s as if time froze for the sake of having a duel. Beyond that, having more realism in fights is a very minor thing when there is no investment in the characters that are doing the fighting. Since they were cardboards you never really cared about them, therefore it didn’t matter how much attention to physics the action scenes had and they end up being unmemorable.
4) As pretty as the background art and the slice of life moments may have been, there was close to zero world building or lore, since everything in this world and its inhabitants was a blank sheet of paper. The visuals had nothing to tell you other than this was a forest and that was a city. Nothing had a story to tell. Why were the monsters attacking? Was there some sort of a king? Was there a goal in these conflicts? Without something to distinguish all that from any other fantasy show it was hard to give a damn about anything that was going on, since it didn’t feel like a living, breathing world.
5) The fans of the show got really emotional in the middle when one of the characters died and got replaced by another character of the same class. They made this big fuss about how deeply this event affected the rest of the cast, and how it made them far more relatable since they got character development by the death they experienced. What actually happened was the show trying to make you care about the way a character died instead of the way he lived. I mean, seriously, there was absolutely nothing to talk about that character and the only memorable thing about him was that he died. Also, the person that replaced him was the only character who had a backdrop story, and it was just witnessing others dying as well. The only thing the writer did for making you care and to think these people had a personality, was killing nobodies.
6) The isekai part of the anime was easily its worst aspect since it was badly implemented and didn’t go anywhere. The characters had amnesia and didn’t know they came from our world. And that was it for the isekai part; it didn’t matter in the show. The characters were not trying to return home, nor did they use the knowledge they had from our world to their benefit, because they didn’t remember it. Therefore there was absolutely no point in this show to be an isekai.
7) The amnesia part was also badly implemented, since it was there only as a lazy excuse for the author to leave everything blank. Why bother with lore and character backdrops when you can make them pop into existence with no memories and have them doing whatever they are told without questioning it? Just having them as poor villagers in a fantasy realm, trying to make a living by becoming adventurers would have more depth that this amnesia nonsense. For all I know the author was riding the trapped in a videogame premise just because the otakus prefer that shit over typical fantasy adventures, and then made it an open world type of game where everything is just random missions with no central plot.
8) I also need to point out the fan service. A1-Pictures is notorious for constantly zooming the camera to women’s butts and boobs, and although it wasn’t everpresent like in other anime, it was still fairly tasteless. Are these camera shots supposed to make you care more about the characters? Did these women deserve any respect from you when you were given nothing to remember them for, besides how much horny they made you?
And this was why Grimgar failed to be memorable for many even while it was airing. It was just another crappy isekai in a sea of crappy isekai and was left undeveloped and incomplete since it was made just to promote the novel.