The continent of Atlatan once again finds itself devoured by the flames of war after a horrific event known as the Great Hall Tragedy. What was supposed to be a joyful occasion that would establish peace between the Fantasia Union and the Factory Alliance, the marriage of Sir Alexis Douse and Lady Marrine Kreische, was instead a tragedy. As the bride and groom walked down the aisle, the ceremony was suddenly interrupted by a powerful convergence of "Chaos," a dark energy from another dimension that corrupts the land and brings forth monsters and demons into the world. From within that energy appeared the Demon Lord of Diabolos, an evil being who instantly murdered the archdukes of both factions, shattering any hope for peace between them.
Having failed to prevent this disaster, Siluca Meletes, an Alliance mage, is traveling through the Chaos-infested countryside to study under a master magician. When she is intercepted by a group of soldiers working with the Federation, Siluca is rescued by Theo Cornaro, a young warrior carrying a mysterious "Crest," a magical symbol that gives its wielder the ability to banish Chaos. Bearing no allegiance to a specific domain, Theo hopes to attain the rank of Lord so that he can liberate his home town of Sistina from its tyrannical ruler and the Chaos spreading within it. Impressed by his noble goal, Siluca enters into a magical contract with Theo, and the two embark on a journey to restore balance to their war-torn land.
I'm not sure what convinced me to stick with Grancrest Senki until the end, but I'm glad I did because it turned out to be a surprisingly good JRPG inspired action-adventure series.
Record of Grancrest War is, in my opinion, a shining example of how a story can be brought to life remarkably with a talented director. The director Shinichi Omata previously perfected his craft with Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, he’s proven by now that he’s capable at adapting a good source material. Plenty of his visual storytelling quirks are visible in the political drama this series offers. Grancrest is quite different from the drama oriented
Rakugo in that its story is fantastical and its setting revolves around the battlefield.
In adapting this different type of story Omata employs new methods to realize the more battle-focused structure. However, this adaptation would prove to be a much tougher ambition. The light novel Grancrest Senki was adapted from is quite long, which is the cause of pacing issues in the first half. The plot moved quickly at first, but upon rewatching all 24 episodes at once they're not nearly bad enough to ruin the show. After all, this is a fast-moving adrenaline-pumping battle show, moving from one battle to the next prevents it from growing tiresome. However, the fast pacing does make it hard to keep track of all the characters and plot lines when watching it weekly. This is likely the cause of so much hate for the show, I know it turned me off at first, but giving it a second chance was definitely worth it. I highly recommend watching this series all at once to enjoy the story at its best.
The story’s premise is relatively simple, Chaos reigns throughout the world and only lords with the power of Crests can stop it. Rather than focusing their efforts to put a stop to the chaos, the lords choose to fight and take one another's Crests because having the power to purify the chaos means control over everyone in the continent who needs protecting. Enter the mage Silica, the series heroine who despises the lords for their greed, through a chance encounter she meets the compassionate wandering knight Theo, seeking to save his homeland. Together they join forces and in a style not dissimilar to a standard JRPG or Dungeons & Dragons, they assemble their party of lords and gradually grow their army. With the goal of unifying the crests and ending Chaos, so more or less world peace, they’re really easy heroes to root for.
This isn't an original story by any means, but it did manage to engage me in spite of this. Not even the fast pacing of the first half could make it difficult to understand what is occurring, although it does help to watch the show consecutively rather than weekly. Rewatching Grancrest after witnessing how it develops in the second half led me to pick up on many details I had initially ignored. The first time I watched it I was mostly disinterested in the plot until the pacing slowed and allowed the main cast time to develop enough to be likable. After rewatching the first half I noticed how despite the cast being incredibly large, the series always makes an effort to give it’s characters motivations.
The source material is probably more in-depth with backstories and more extensive dialogue, but somehow this adaptation is able to compensate for what it’s missing with fantastic directing. One of the best and most frequent examples of this is during important discussions, the director loves to clue you in on how one of the major characters is reacting. He uses very purposefully uses close-ups to consolidate a subtle emotional reaction at the perfect moment. It’s like how you could praise a joke for being well timed, the close-ups are timed right when a key phrase is said invoking a small but important reaction. Perhaps using close-ups like this is sort of a shortcut in writing, but when you have so many characters to juggle with so little time it’s a very helpful way to keep the audience engaged with the cast.
The cast themselves are a fairly standard JRPG party with Theo Cornaro as their leader. Theo is your typical nice guy protagonist, except he actually uses the power he gains to make the world better throughout the show. He’s sort of misguided at first; one of his best lines representing this being “Why can’t we get rid of taxes?” and as usual Silica gently implies that he’s kind of an idiot in the same way a kindhearted little kid is. Even without having the most complex personality, he proves consistently that he is a compassionate person by always putting others ahead of him. Regardless of how high his status rises throughout the series, he doesn’t let himself forget even his foot soldiers.
Frankly, Theo’s simplicity isn’t an obstacle for enjoying the show because he doesn't dominate center stage, he shares it with his partner and eventual love interest Silica, who is a considerably more compelling character. Thankfully Silica is given plenty of agency in the story, she strategizes Theo’s wars with and sometimes for him while he riles up his army with niceness. I hate seeing the love interest character shuffled off into the corner with no pull in the narrative, so Silica’s defiance and individuality are quite refreshing. Their burgeoning romance throughout the series feels incredibly organic, they don’t fall in love because Theo is the guy with the power but out of mutual respect for one another and passion for the same goal. He wants to unite the crests so they can be used to protect everyone and she expresses disdain for the lord's misuse of the crests; they’re a dynamic duo and they have genuine chemistry together in and out of the battles.
And the battles, so many battles. I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much fighting would be in Grancrest Senki, but I suppose it does live up to its English title Record of Grancrest War. The battles are how the series progresses its story, similar to the JRPGs that inspired it. If you want an ally, fight them and prove you’re worthy. If you have a disagreement, fight them and prove who’s right. Thankfully, the action is passionately animated. Action scenes are dynamically directed with many different fighting styles used, with different animators hired throughout the series to keep this approach to telling the story refreshing. Even the guy who animated the breathtaking sakuga in Fate/Apocrypha returned to do a few episodes here, and dare I say they fit Grancrest even better thanks to its strong emotional core. There were, however, a few times where the visuals weren’t up to snuff and it was clear they were saving the budget for a grand climax. Other than those low points, it’s visually quite solid.
The various art styles and animation techniques used to great effect make Grancrest Senki feel more experimental rather than the standard look you’d expect from A-1 pictures. Director Shinichi Omata reminds us of his penchant for well realized dramatic moments with great editing on and off the battlefield. Notably, some of the storyboards used for one of the show's cruelest antagonists Milza are suitably moody with alienating points of view constantly hiding him in shadows. Another great way the villain is portrayed is through the striking thicker lines and his character design being engulfed in darkness aside from his eye and weapon, perfectly conveying the intimidation meant to be felt by the heroes. The visuals superbly define the tone at many points throughout the show; whether it be sweeping establishing shots of lush castles, the dark abstract style to show the presence of chaos, and especially the hopeful horizons illuminated by the setting sun to convey levity after a war. Also, the use of its thrilling orchestral pieces and occasionally uplifting ones do wonders for ensuring emotional beats are on point.
The most impactful beat in the story comes at the very end with the most satisfying and rewarding finale the series could have possibly had. It perfectly encapsulates the show's themes while also working as the ideal end game to complement its JRPG roots. While plot's direction is fairly predictable to anyone who's played a game of its type, the is what matters execution. This isn't some kind of mystery story, although there are plenty of twists and even a couple of shocking betrayals sprinkled in, the story's main success lies in how it's stellar story-telling. I can't say more without spoiling it, but just know that it truly does feel like a reward for completing the series, that is itself a thrilling ride regardless.
Great visual storytelling is enough to make Grancrest Senki’s standard tale of the underdogs rising to power much more engaging. If you’re looking for a combat-oriented action-adventure, with plenty of in-depth strategizing, and a romance featuring two compelling leads, then chances are you’ll find it as enthralling as I did.
***Caution: This review contains spoilers (the specific spoiler discussions will be clearly marked for you to see) so if you can't predict a cliched anime’s cliches, skip the spoiler sections I've marked. Also, do not read this review if you are a Grancrest diehard because it'll probably trigger you, unless if you're objective. If you're neither of these parties, read on with a free mind!***
Grancrest was the first seasonal I picked up in 2018 (not saying much since it released in Jan 6 anyway) and unfortunately my 2018 mean fell right off the bat. Grancrest stumbled out of the gate and fell flat on its
face for the first few episodes and took a long time to get it's footing right. There are different places where I found the show good or bad, which is why I don't consider this show absolutely trash (surprise surprise, not FranXX anyway). So it's first episode started off very conveniently in such that Theo appears out of nowhere, beats the Lord after coming out of nowhere, and picks a somewhat scantily clad girl after as mentioned (not unlike most other isekai or fantasy anime, but I'm not complaining, nothing wrong with fanservice I say :P), coming out of nowhere. Sounds like a rant so I'll tone down for the next bit.
The show tried introducing it's characters little by little, introducing us to examples like Lassic, Milza among others for the early episodes and introduced others later down the line too. It's always good to see that not all the cast is revealed in its first episode, but unfortunately that didn't help much because we had to make room for our Oh-so-great green haired MC, Theo. Many praised his “badassery” and his “forward-thinking” and him “not being dense and weak” and I was terribly confused since none felt true except for his dense part which was randomly and conveniently revealed in a later episode. That is the problem with the show, it's that it's too convenient. “Oh Theo is gonna die” but something convenient happens and he's saved. “Oh this is gonna happen” but then to benefit Theo’s side it doesn't and the opposite direction is taken. I mean, the show makes Theo out to be like he's the coming of the Messiah or something. He comes, conquers VERY easily, is kind to people (more on that in a bit) and has people serve him in droves. I know it sounds like a rant but to be objective there's nothing wrong with having a righteous MC. It's just that in its current premise I doubt that's what's needed or what makes the most sense. What do I mean? The show is trying to prove that war is dark and to win a war there are sacrifices to be made but Theo goes Yang Wen-Li and wins the war without any well thought out tactics? No thank you. This isn't how you do a war show and definitely not how you make a badass MC. I mean, speaking of Yang, that show excellently shows why war is dark.
Where there is war there is loss on both sides and this MC is the complete opposite of that. Is there anything wrong with never losing? I don't think so, I mean, a guy like Yang Wen-Li has lost at least once and Theo never did? Don't joke with me A-1. If you're making your MC win as well, MAKE IT BELIEVABLE. Speaking of believable we've got the laughable “battle tactics”. Once again, it's a show about war so it should have a proper description of what battle tactics are right? WRONG. There is absolutely no mention or any sense in the “battle tactics” involved and it's just “Charge and win” which I doubt is something that works even 10% of the time, especially when you're constantly outnumbered. A simple “We'll attack from here and there to trap them” isn't how a battle tactic works. Sense? No, definitely not. Oh and speaking of no sense, we go back to our MC, Theo. To be fair, he did have a decent backstory, I definitely have to give credit where it's due and Theo’s backstory is one that deserves a clap. Just a clap. Why? It's because it was seldom explored after that one episode and they just threw in a pre-show romantic interest and let's just say “tried to be edgy” by giving her one heck of a bombed send-off. And bombs is not the word here. The battle tactics used there as well were close to zilch I'm sad to say. How can inexperienced commoners beat an advanced army? I sincerely apologise because I do not know. Neither did the show.
Then we move to the so called “romance subplot”. It was pretty obvious that Theo would be paired up with Blondie and unfortunately as I expected it wasn't done well. Why does Japan have a hard on for ruining blonde love interests in subplots? (Once again, there are exceptions, we have seen some good blonde love interests in other anime romance subplots before but not as often as one might expect). And this isn't about hair colour here. She was underused and overblown at the same time. She had around 2-3 important lines to say in each episode that were of value, no scratch that, 2-3 important lines every 2 episodes (severely averaged for ease of comprehensive analysis). Her only use was to satisfy the fanboys who already love Theo the “Hero" and want a romance subplot with all the kisses and vows. What if you like me don't like Theo? Zannen-deshoka, you won't be satisfied at all.
You might say Siluca herself might be able to stand on her own as a character but unfortunately that's not the case with most of the people in the cast. Why? It's because all the characters are cast as stepping stones for Theo-sama to step on and take this place as the best character and biggest badass in this anime. Result? Let's tone down before I turn this into a rant (“wait, it isn't?” I hear you say :P), disappointing. Convenience and stepping stones was the word here unfortunately. Now that I've spewed enough poison over poison, let's calm our nerves down with the plus points of the anime apart from the sadly less explored Theo backstory, the soundtrack. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I jammed to the second OP each time it played, oh it was so epic. The music selection was needless to say, fantastic, and that's NOTHING to say of the BGM (that's BackGround Music to those who don't know), it was Grancrest's signature achievement. It sent chills down your spine and made you smile in anticipation of what's to come (spoilers: disappointment) and it pumped you up. The visuals thankfully weren't so bad in the OPs and EDs and on a personal note I loved both the EDs. You obviously may not see eye to eye with me but I loved both of them equally and served as an antidepressant for the earlier events of the episode.
Now back to the negatives because I'm out of positives to give, that one scene with Milza and Theo. Since this is a major spoiler so skip approximately 3 lines if you don't want to know about this predictable fight.
***Spoiler begin: The thing is that Milza had given mercy to Theo when Theo didn't ask for it and was about to be killed in the first duel, but in the second and apparently more important one, Theo kills Milza. Nani? Why? What? How? Exactly. I thought they wanted to make Theo look like the next Messiah, what happened here? Well, one could say they wanted to make Theo look badass? I don't even know anymore, needless to say, it was in all literal and figurative sense, a bloody mess. Spoiler end***
Moving back to the stepping stones, the characters. We go with another spoiler section (will not start immediately so hold on), Alexis and Marrine’s “Romeo and Juliet romance”. Pardon me while I vomit. Okay, let's continue, in terms of anime if you've seen my dropped list I've had the Romeo x Juliet anime at a 2/10 so if you like the story of it in anime form, I don't think you'll hate it so much, unless, if you treat Grancrest like it's equivalent. Romeo and Juliet, the Shakespeare play didn't focus on war as much as the romance, because surprise surprise, it's a romance first and foremost, and another important part is that there's tragedy involved. Does Grancrest follow any of these? No. Why is Marrine and Alexis’ romance related to Romeo and Juliet? Blame the fans, but that's not the issue here. It's that this type of romance won't work in a war show.
I've said this many times in different situations above, Grancrest does a lot of non-war things in a war show and it ruins many of the existing things relative to war shows as well. Going back to the Romeo and Juliet part, some say the Great Hall Tragedy shown in the first scene of the anime counts as tragedy but to that I say “read the original play”. In a later episode, in the final arc, the “final battle” which was hyped since the first few episodes that too, went with a POOF. And by POOF I don't mean a bomb. I mean “The anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction." As described by Henry Gibbons. In other words, a kiss. Nani? What? Why? When? What happened to the deaths and sacrifices of all those who fought leading up to this event? Why did they hype this battle if this was how it would end? What sort of timing is this??? Marriage? Kiss? Love? Unity? Nothing wrong with all these, but the question remains. If you HAD to follow it this way, then what was the meaning of those previous 20 episodes? Were they to waste? Did they serve as bait? Couldn't this series start off at like episode 16 or 18 and be an OVA? So many questions, and little to no answers.
And so, jumping back to the “It's a war” excuse, in a war you have major character deaths right? Where did the major characters die? Apart from a few minor characters who were obviously forgotten after the next 2 episodes when did we see the death of a main character? Once again, to be fair and objective, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not having major deaths in an anime, I agree, but if you are indeed trying to show that Theo’s side was weak, then why didn't you have important deaths? Yes, the deaths in the first half did exist and they definitely served their purpose, so that's a plus point, but we didn't see anything after that… Now, a rebuttal to what people might point fingers at my review at, I'll definitely hear the likes of “Almost all your points against the show are targeting the war aspect of it. You don't know how war shows go. This show isn't about war, it's about blablabla”. Except for that last one which will definitely be used by those who don't even know what the anime is about (please, do not misunderstand, most of you aren't a part of this trope so do not worry), This show is all about war, it's called Grancrest Senki. So it's about war.
Another example of a “war show” would be Gakusen Toshi Asterisk, which according to MAL in English is “The Asterisk War”. My point? Even though their names include the word war (or at least their English counterparts) none of them actually do follow the principles of a war show, less so in Grancrest, since it's whole premise was based on it and that immediately puts it just above Asterisk. So even though Grancrest is about war it rarely sticks to the proper formula of it and no, don't tell me it's a deconstruction, I'll kill you.
Finally, we move on to the last issue of the show which I'll cover, the show’s artstyle. Made by A-1, I expected the show to do okay but it couldn't do that either. Character models looked weak, CGI was used in many scenes (not all), the choreography of the fight scenes themselves were so bad I cringed under my bones and to top it all off, I couldn't find it good at all even at 1080p (yes, I upscaled to 1080p episodes mid-season and still suffered with the artstyle). To go into a little more detail, the character models weren't that eye catchy and to cover for this factor they tried deploying fanservice into the war show to try and make things look attractive (oh fun fact: ever heard of showing your nude body to your army to bolster their morale? Me neither) and I'm not complaining about fanservice (since I love it when used properly) but that it's used in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Perhaps the only “fanservice” that was used at the right time was Siluca’s outfit, which was… attractive :P
Apart from that the fanservice used in the show wasn't done well and A-1 after that episode stopped deploying it and went back to CGI war sequences. Once again to make it clear. I don't have any problem with fanservice, I enjoy Ecchi, it's just that they should be done at the right time, many would say that there's no such specific time for fanservice but I’d say otherwise. If it's not an Ecchi show, don't do random fanservice please thank you. Moving back to the main artstyle, it in simple words wasn't done well for the reasons explained above.
***Spoiler begin: One of the most pathetic and biggest cop outs in the anime was how quickly they changed the villain from Marrine to the Mage Academy. It felt like a ridiculous cop out since the previous episode already ended the whole conflict of the past 20 episodes with a single “I still love you” (oh if only life and war was this easy) and as such this obviously leaves a hugely negative taste in the viewer’s mouth. But wait! There were still 4 more episodes! How ever could they fill them? By adding another villain and acting like “they were the villain all along” sort of crap. So, the whole 20 episodes of what you watched was for nothing bc Marrine suddenly became good and the last 4 episodes are important because the Mage Academy were the villains all along? They never showed up in the show before though? No mention of them was made and nothing was talked about. Yet they suddenly and extremely conveniently make their appearance to quickly put an end to the cries of “What was the point of the past 20 eps???” and from what I can see, that failed spectacularly. They continued with this bullish nature till the end… Spoiler end***
For anyone wondering about it's ending, Grancrest’s ending does bring closure. Although on the cliched Shoujo side. It had it's purpose to play. The first half of the episode was as disappointing as you'd expect from the show. But the second half tried to mend those to little avail. Yeah it was cute I could say but such an ending is the same as what happened with the Marrine vs Alexis war… Not something I'd call amazing but eh, it served it's purpose I guess… I guess they wanted to follow the fairytale? Either way, Grancrest left me unimpressed.
And so with a heavy heart I must conclude that Grancrest isn't at all what I'd like to call a “good” show this year. It's plot was excrutiatingly convenient, the characters were made such that they were stepping stones for Theo, Marrine and Alexis’ romance was horribly handled and had a ridiculously lame “resolution” later on, the Artstyle wasn't what I expected, the battle tactics weren't at all present, the “final battle” was a laughable cop out, etc. the show had one or two positive points to it namely the soundtrack that was brilliantly done and Theo’s backstory was somewhat decent. This is all I can say to end on a positive note on this semi-rant and semi-review hybrid, not unlike my Dakara boku wa H ga dekinai review which was done in my old format back when the year started. If you made it till here, thank you for taking the time to read this review and if you do decide to watch Grancrest, please don't expect too much of it because the end result is far lower than that. Most of what you expect from Grancrest can be found elsewhere in shows that are actually good anyway right?
P.S: ***MAJOR SPOILER: Another show where the Hero restores peace to the land eh… how tiring and cliched. Not that the villain should win but this journey was terrible throughout… MAJOR SPOILER END***
Fantasy-genre shows, often times, have the dilemma of getting too caught up in their own facade, resulting in an omission of the basic rules of adequate storytelling (i.e. developing realistic characters and a coherent plot). Grancrest Senki not only fails on the latter account, it also doesn’t concentrate enough effort on the fantasy itself, instead opting for, rushed, battle scenes with insufficient background knowledge to know why certain events are taking place. Needless to say, the viewer is left in a state of confusion, wondering why events seem disjointed from one another, and what the purpose of the show is as a whole.
Despite these glaring oversights, the show attempts to display a sense of grandeur with its use of magical spells and crest powers; however, it feels rudimentary in its approach, failing to distinguish itself from the crowd of analogous shows that came before its time.
It is, in a word: commonplace.
In fact, I would venture to guess that the show’s staff spent more of its time discussing what color a character’s hair, or eyes, should be, rather than determining an interesting way of presenting a strong narrative. Sure, there are numerous, unforeseen plot twists that produce genuine shock, but they don’t meld well with the ongoing story. They are, in essence, empty events, lacking necessary substance for the viewer to latch onto, and become empathetic to what is happening on the screen. To crystallize these claims, look no further than episode nine, a major turning point in the series. In a scene that is oddly reminiscent of episode eleven in Berserk (the 1997 series), Theo and Siluca take shelter in the base of a tree from precipitous rainfall. Siluca, unable to control her emotions, confronts Theo about his thoughts towards her, as he admits that he loves her. Besides being overly-romanticized, their infatuation for one another lacks the appropriate depth to feel authentic. These two hardly know each other, except for the fact that Theo is a “prodigious” wanderer, and Siluca is a mage who get’s infuriated when other’s stare at her scantily clad outfit — for god’s sake, just wear something else you whiny tramp.
Speaking of which, that brings me to the next whore, Marrine Kreische. Being the “clairvoyant” that she is, Marrine decides that she cannot win the war without Mirza (the perpetually angry dude); thus, she passively offers herself to him in a scene that can only be described as inane. I mean, let’s be honest, she just conquered the entire nation of Starck with little-to-no effort, because of the use of miasma. Why, then, is it essential for her to have Mirza to the point of having intercourse with him? Besides being proficient with his sword (hehe), he doesn’t offer much in terms of strategic planning or anything else that requires a modicum of actual thought. Therefore, her decision to do the nasty with him doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s not the content of the scene that I’m enamored with — as far too many fanboy’s are — it’s the execution, and the lack of build up to her eventual fall from grace.
The story, for lack of a better term, is nonsensical, and with each resultant plot twist, the damage becomes significantly worse. Instead of concocting logical battle plans or implementing the use of military tactics, we see an angry Mirza slashing his sword through countless enemies, as his troops, apparently, watch him as he does so. Swords glow, blood spills, magic happens, and new characters/countries are introduced with each passing episode; but, ultimately, it’s all window dressing to conceal the vacuous character’s that plague the viewer’s enjoyment. Investing two minutes of each episode, to chronicle pivotal attributes of each pertinent character would have been time well spent; instead of resorting to cheap fan-service ploys (a-la Queen Eudokia when she “inspired” her troops).
The omission of narrative flow is evident from the outset, as episodes leap from one critical moment to the next, without ample explanation to bridge the narrative gap. Simply put: it is a gallimaufry of perplexing events. The crux of this issue lies with the desire to construct an expansive story with a myriad of nations. Nothing wrong with striving for breadth in an anime series, but when character’s are glossed over, and battles just seem to a happen — as if, from thin air — it becomes frustrating to solve the puzzle that the anime staff was too indolent to solve themselves. Furthermore, there is no historical context as to why the Factory Alliance and the Fantasia Union are at odds with one another in the first place (let alone the intrusive involvement of the Mage Academy). We are given a generic explanation that the various Lords want to collect the crests to increase their influence and power. But, even then, where did the crests come from, and why do they possess such miraculous powers? Can anyone become a mage, or only certain people? Why didn’t we hear about the divine beasts until episode 20, and did they rip that concept off from Zelda: Breath of the Wild — certainly seems like it!
Though, with “inspirational” lines like this, “It’ll all work out somehow,” from Theo Cornaro, the show’s main protagonist. It’s not terribly surprising the show left numerous questions unanswered. In the end, it aimed for everything (mostly through appropriation), yet it was all for naught, as it became the medieval equivalent of an Expendables movie.
War isn’t so bad but it’s what and how it leads to it. It seems in fantasy war stories these days, we rarely encounter a story that isn’t saturated with the most generic tropes possible. Romance, tragedy, revenge, politics. You name it. It’s there. What does that say for a show like Grancrest Senki (Record of the Grancrest War) though?
To be fair, I’ve never read the original light novels before. It’s written by a guy named Ryo Mizuno who created the Record of Lodoss War series. Even as an anime original viewer, it felt like a series that was easy to jump into. The
premise isn’t overly complicated as we learn about how war broke loose in the world of Grancrest Senki. Humanity uses Crests that are capable of utilizing magic to deal with supernatural threats such as demons. The most powerful crests are known as Grancrest. Unfortunately, humans are flawed and war broke loose as people seek to gain the most powerful crests themselves. The series chronicles the story of Siluca Meletes and Theo Corano as the two hopes to end the conflict between humanity themselves and defeat the demons.
Ok. It's not complicated but as an anime viewer, I’m baffled by the storytelling pacing of the show from the very start. It’s lightning fast that by the time I finished the fourth or fifth episode, it felt like the series jumped way over itself. It would be fair game if the show focused on the story with concrete development but instead, we are introduced with many characters early from the start. Besides Siluca and Theo, the show contains lots of characters of nobility. Aristocrats are a common sight and stands at the high tier of society. On the other hand, there are also characters that dedicates themselves to their own devoted duties such as Aishela, Irvin, and Margaret, and Marrine. Unfortunately, most of these characters have flaws like the way humans do. Some of their decisions in the show are very controversial. Marrine is a prime example in one of the later episodes as she makes a choice that will rub people in the wrong way.
I have attempted to forgive the characters’ choices making as it’s not easy for a show like this to make adequate ones. In other words, how should we judge the characters? Let’s talk about our main protagonists, Siluca and Theo. These two come from different backgrounds but are perhaps the least corrupted individuals in their world. Siluca may be an inexperienced mage but she has a heart of gold. While not as skilled as some others, Siluca is a character with a clever mind although can be forceful at times to get her point across. It didn’t surprise to me that she would sometimes take risks to accomplish her goals. On the other hand, Theo is a man who is perhaps one of the most calm characters in the show. Always keeping his cool and in control of his emotions, it feels like the show designates him as an eventual leader. He also has human morals that are often shown through his actions and words. Often choosing a path with the least violence, Theo does engage in fighting if he feels absolutely necessary. While you could say that these two are perfectly suited for the show, they do make mistakes as well. It’s also inevitable that romance would eventually develop between the two as many hints are dropped in throughout the show. However, unlike most couple pairings, it seems these two really are destined to be together with their similar ideals. This is in contrast with some character pairings such as Marrine/Alexis or Villar/Margaret where fate somehow interferes with their love. Still, the show tries its best to maintain a balanced war story. Romance is actually subtle even with some of the background storytelling such as the one between Marrine and Alexis. In a show like this, I have to admit that throwing in many tropes at once doesn’t help it flow better. It’s like an amalgamation of fictional elements all coming together that may leave viewers feel distracted. The political affairs in the show also feels forced on many occasions despite being necessary for the overall story.
With 24 episodes, the show’s pacing somehow still takes a stab in the heart. Some episodes are abruptly resolved while others loves to play around with its tropes. The storytelling itself is also predictable with some events that are inevitable to happen. As I mentioned before, there are too many characters that some are just left in the dust and others hardly developed. Aishela is a crime of this as we barely finds out anything about her at all until near the end of the show. By then, I wonder if viewers even cares. Others such as Priscilla and Mirza suffers from characterization as there are hardly any memorable qualities about them. It feels like the author decided to thrown in all sort of characters in at once to make the show feel credible. This even extends to characters with supernatural origins such as werewolves and vampires. Well, I suppose the creators wanted to take that risk but to me, it wasn’t rewarding in the end. With so many characters, Grancrest Senki felt like a play with an overstacked roster where not everyone got their chance to shine.
To the surprise of no one, A-1 Pictures adapts the show as many of the series have a similar style when it comes to fantasy series. Because this show also involves war and magic, you’ll definitely get a familiarity of what they present each episode. First of all, I would like to say that the animation quality does look sharp especially in early episodes. The action choreography looks smooth and characters are decorated with enough details suitable for this show. However, the character designs themselves leaves little to be desired. Siluca’s ridiculous outfit is a prime example of being distracting to the point that she herself is aware of it. Others such as Marrine and Alexis looks incredibly one dimensional that fits with the nobility stereotype. Oh and of course, fan service exists. There’s skinship in some episodes that leaves little to the imagination while action is shown in brutal uncensored details. To say the least, A-1 did its job but not one that I can confess as impressive overall. The production quality does drop over time in typical A-1 fashion as time passes.
Compared to a few other fantasy war stories I’ve watched, I’d say that Grancrest Senki has a moderate soundtrack. It didn’t set the bar high though as it still sounds very generic even during climatic battle scenes. The theme songs contains the sort of J-Pop style lyrics you probably hear often these days. Character voice mannerisms are moderate at best although I have to admit that certain cast members really sounds motivated. Even Siluca has her own moments that are sometimes worth quoting despite her personality.
Watching Grancrest Senki reminds me of playing a video game where the developer wants you to love what the designed. Truth to be told, I think the show is average at best. It reached its high points in the show on some episodes while making an ill early impression. Quite frankly, there are way too many characters that by the time the show is over, I can only recall a few names. The pacing feel sloppy and really could have improved on many levels. Watch it if you want but be prepare for being underwhelmed.
In these opening weeks of the Spring 2018 anime season, Steins;Gate 0 starts off as the by far highest rated anime, although Megalo Box is the new heavy hitter if we look past sequels. This and more in the opening edition of The Seasonal Quarterly.