That clip will never stop being fun to use.
I’m honestly not comfortable with reviewing something like Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash because it’s one of those shows where every single one of my complaints can be countered with “well that’s what the fans like about the show”. Which is true for a lot of bad anime in general, but Grimgar is one of those shows that’s specifically made to draw “feels” from the viewer without the structured story that ERASED used aka the main the reason why I cared for ERASED’s cliched “feels drama” in the first place. So me saying it doesn’t have a story as the main reason for not liking it is the equivalent of me going on a rant about how much Uchouten Kazoku sucks because…oh wait, I did do that.
Nevertheless, mood pieces just seem to exist in the same dimension as “walking simulators” in that they follow their own set of unique rules that most people would consider good, but I consider to be the equivalent of injecting myself with morphine. Forgive me if I was raised to believe that all stories were supposed to have actual story to them. But whatever, we’ll play it your way for now, fans. Anyways, Grimgar is another “light novel adaptation about a bunch of teenagers being trapped in a video game fantasy world” and comes with the usual baggage that comes with being based on a light novel. The terrible sexist jokes that add nothing to the product and should have been cut out completely. The large amounts of talking that get in the way of actual plot progression. The fact that certain plot turns are telegraphed from miles away. The fact that this is “light watching” in general, and I don’t enjoy light watching.
Similar to Phantom World, Grimgar stands out a bit from the usual by-the-numbers dross that gets tossed our way by having an actually talented director onboard and after a bit of a rough start, it takes itself a lot more seriously. However, unlike KyoAni’s thing, Grimgar is first and foremost a drama with some (bad) comedic moments, which is probably why it got a much better reception since A-1’s heartstring tugging is something that anime fans love to eat up. But more than that, it actually takes its “trapped in a video game world” premise as something with actual stakes and underdog charm, right down to the characters being so bad that they can’t defeat a simple orc and having people actually die, thus causing them grief for a large amount of time. They don’t even explicitly state they’re in a video game, although the fantasy world is so RPG-like it doesn’t matter either way, and the road to forming bonds is a long but well-deserved one indeed – although the fact that the team members getting killed off are guys and the recruits they replace ’em with are girls didn’t exactly miss my eye.
This is all solid stuff to build a compelling narrative around, but Grimgar has about as much drive to do something with its edge as the seventh Harry Potter film, and is just content to let the stuff be the substance. You guys remember the complaint regarding how Deathly Hallows Part I was just a lot of running around without any real destination? Well that’s exactly what Grimgar lacks in regards to all of its elements: a destination. Ignoring the large amounts of time spent on building up its world and characters at the expense of plot, which quite frankly bored me so hard that I went surfing on the net whilst playing the episode in the background, I don’t understand what the end goal of this show is aside from being a more-realistic take on this RPG-genre. Bokurano is a more realistic take on the mecha genre, but it also had a destination for said take to work towards: fifteen kids have to destroy fifteen robots that will invade their world and only by defeating them can they prevent said world from becoming erased.
I mean do these kids even want to go back to the real world, assuming they have a real world to go back to? What’s the specific requirement to do so? Okay, they get strong to survive, but to what end? I’m not watching a sitcom here. I’m not even watching something where romance is the main focus – and incidentally, the romantic chemistry between any of the characters in this show is about as stale as Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up these days. None of the characterization is particularly strong to begin with as most of the characters’ flaws don’t really factor into what actually happens in this show, aside from Mary, who is distant from people because her team was wiped out in a tragic incident that wasn’t even her fault. Grimgar isn’t a character study. It’s some sort of drama I can’t place, and if I can’t find a good way to describe it, it’s kind of hard for me to join in on the feels train unless you guys don’t mind “confusion” on board.
You know that post I wrote a few days ago, questioning how much good execution is allowed to carry a product on its own? Well Grimgar embodies that question more than ERASED – and to a lesser extent, Gate – ever could. I mean aside from the bad jokes, it has a serviceable if not outstanding attitude towards its premise, but is that really enough to carry it for twelve episodes (and probably more when the sequels inevitably get announced)?. I mean I’m sure there’s going to be people who like that upcoming Hardcore Henry film solely for the first-person gimmick, but that’s a two-hour movie. Imagine an entire series based solely on that. And I’m more of an action guy than a feels guy to begin with, so me being worried about enjoying that says a lot.
I know a lot of people already made their position before they even read this review and thus have already dismissed my points out of hand, but…ah I dunno. Maybe I should just avoid mood pieces if what’s supposed to be good about them is completely opposed to my own ideals, but I really don’t think belonging to a certain genre means you shouldn’t at least try to have some sort of end goal in mind. I mean it’s not like this thing was advertised as an atmospheric piece of entertainment – no more so than ERASED at least – and I’m still going to be somewhat positive of ERASED when it did this shit because quite frankly, it did it much better. I would have preferred it to not have put itself in a Catch-22 position in regards to using its plot in order to give the emotional moments weight, but that’s all done with now. And quite frankly, I and everyone else are getting tired of bringing that show up.
So to sum up this review in a nutshell…if you haven’t seen Rakugo, then give it a try right after you close this thing. I’m pretty sure people who like this show’s feels will like the ones in that anime several times better.
- No, being an A-1 Pictures show isn’t an automatic admission of “mood piece” advertisement in of itself.
- I keep trying to give Rakugo another chance given how it’s in top 50 on MAL as of this point, but my goddamn disinterest in the subject matter keeps turning me off.
- God it’s hot outside.