This is a spoiler-free review.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is a rather unique watch. Shows throughout time have had a tendency to force characters from 0 to a 100 in an unrealistic time frame. This often pertains to the widespread demands of instant gratification. Hai to Gensou no Grimgar challenges these demands by emphasising the natural growth of characters: step by step characters are built through every interaction with the plot. Closely observing this and the plot is paramount as to not miss the abundance of implicit detail dedicated to their development and characterisation. Due to this profound nature of the show, reflection is commonplace and as such, the watch is recommended for anyone who enjoys reading pensively into things.
An inherent feature of Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is its large main cast. There’s a greater emphasis on characterising and developing the group as opposed to the individuals; however, it is decently balanced between the group and the individuals such that neither don’t feel completely neglected; the viewers are briefly enlightened on their individual daily lives (roles, recreation, style of living etc.) and personalities. This opportunity to learn about how each character interacts with the group is one of Hai to Gensou no Grimgar best point. Note this orientates Hai to Gensou no Grimgar more towards those who are interested in group development.
The show starts off on a weaker foot but eventually progresses superbly, making it worth the watch if the initial set of annoyances can be endured. Such is also true for the pacing, as it evolves into superbness. Though, it is sometimes deemed ‘slow’, but slow is not bad. It is only when it is incongruously or meaninglessly slow it can be considered such. In this case, the creators have done a superb job at pacing the show such that the story and characters (development and characterisation) are often progressing and the right mood is established. Also, the isn't show is absolutely slow. Explicitly it might seem so but when explored implicitly, there is profoundness behind most interactions and moments (plot-wise and character-wise). Bluntly put, the show might seem slow or idle if one focuses on the explicit details and misses all the implicit detail, which is possibly consequential of not understanding the purpose of the show (detailed later).
Now regardless of the pacing, it is possible for something to be rushed. To rush something is to reach something without having the necessary details or time for the viewers to follow or agree with the outcome. Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is subject to such with the limitation of 12 episodes. This is especially pertinent to an important moment that coalesces some of Hai to Gensou no Grimgar major elements. Whether or not its failure can be pardoned (if it is viewed as such) will ultimately dictate one’s enjoyability of the show. It has been identified and explained it in the spoiler section.
Hai to Grimgar's paramount feature is its realism. The characters will have to manage basic needs, such as food and shelter. The characters will have to face the reality of the world. The dialogue, development, and interactions are all seemingly realistic. One example of such realism is the fact almost nothing major happens at the beginning. Though why should anything extraordinary happen? They lead basic lives and hold little significance. It is abnormal for much to happen outside of their daily struggles. Another excellent feature Hai to Gensou no Grimgar employ is not having over-the-top combat abilities. They were mostly just minor extensions of the human ability, which harmonises well with its realism theme.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is tailored to fans of slice of life. The combination of realism and narrative focus on character lifestyle and relatively slower progression makes it a natural watch for such people. A conspicuously common issue is approaching this show expecting an action, most likely consequential of the initial action scenes and seemingly shounen setup, and receiving a slice of life instead. It is also important to note that while the premise of the show was to toss the average teenager into a fantasy-themed world, it is not a deconstruction of the fantasy genre—the show lacks the focus on and the necessary intricate details characteristic of a deconstruction to be considered such—and is only one of its enjoyment factors. The watch is instead for those who are interested watching the growth of a group, the bonds they develop, the building of the character etc. It is much more of a character oriented show (60–70%) than a plot oriented one (roughly 35%). It is a show where learning about the characters is essentially progression. Understanding this and what a slice of life entails is critical when encountered with such works.
The art was dazzling at most times. The beautiful scenery heavily complemented the story by aiding the development of the desired mood. Most noticeably, the watercolour backgrounds evoked a tranquil slice-of-life feel, similar to that of Mushishi. The backgrounds were also unobtrusive allowing a higher focus on the projected characters, which is excellent because Hai to Grimgar is a character-dominated show. However, this conflicted with the action scenes as the projection of the background with 2D art instead of 3D sometimes lacked stimulation, detracting from its thrill.
My praise for the audio component is similar to that for the art. Furthermore, Hai to Grimgar uniquely features many montages. They aided the conveyance of the mood and story and were fairly enjoyable to watch. There were however two misuses. They have been mentioned almost immediately below as to avoid spoilers.
This section henceforth contains spoilers. This section will offer the main criticism and other comments regarding the show.
Its first use (town settling) was inappropriate. It is only warranted once the characters have truly settled in, which was not the case.
The second use (graveyard location) clashed with the mood. The pacing of the song was too fast inhibiting focus on the melancholy scene. The usage of the scene also felt extremely abrupt as Manato’s time with them was seemingly short.
Shihoru is a frivolous character. She can be removed from the show with slight amendments and little difference. This was most apparent during episodes 1–5. She was, however, vital in combat post-episode 5. They need to rework her such that she serves a purpose (plot-wise) outside of combat.
Due to the limitations of 12 episodes, the development of the bond between Manato and the group is rather lacking. 2 episodes were certainly insufficient for evoking the desired sympathy for the characters grieving Manato’s death. The end of episode 4 is the weakest of the series (somewhat rushed outcome) as it draws heavily on Manato’s bond with the group. Common sense dictates that they were distraught but it is rather limited and superficial. This foundation of knowledge would have also fostered understanding of and sympathy for Haruhiro as he confronted his inner-conflict.
More application of the characters is desired; while Hai to Gensou no Grimgar does build the character, they lacked the time to further display the final product. This was most evident in episodes 11 and 12 where new details were introduced to the character but without application. This plays into the 12-episode limitation.
It was exasperating when Haruhiro uttered ‘It would be nice if you could mend clothes with magic as well.’ and proceeded to blatantly explain it. It seemed as if that line was attributed to him solely to inform the viewers. While it was natural, the interpretation should have been somehow left to the viewers.
Ranta escaping at the end was illogical. He was surrounded and barely knew the mine’s caving system as opposed to the Kobolds, which know the place inside-out. Haruhiro’s skill is essentially the visualization of that.
Experience from fighting enemies will yield knowledge about their weak points and effective engagement. The streams of light that direct Haruhiro can be interpreted as the visualization of that. However, this ‘skill’ should have not appeared or appeared so quickly against the Death Spots at the end. As he lacked combat experience specific to Elder Kobalds, it should have been a challenge not something his ‘skill’ could easily relieve him from. It was an opportunity where the creators could have explicitly and satisfyingly displayed the development Haruhiro’s combat abilities and maturity over the course of the show. However, it was wasted by rushing the fight to a conclusion.
They actually fully (and superbly) developed the concept of the main cast being unnatural inhabitants of the world. The main cast were evidently briefly aware of this fact, but overtime the characters neglected it such that it eventually faded. This suggests of their adaption to the world and prioritisation of their survival in the realization of the triviality of pursuing such an oddity as opposed to meeting to the demands of their daily lives; the corroboration follows. At the utter end, Kikkawa (the drunkard) shouted ‘Australia’ in a carefree manner. They could have chosen any word or omitted it all together, but why did they attribute that specific line to him? They deliberately chose ‘Australia’ to connect it with the real world and had Kikkawa, the most carefree character, utter it in such a manner to hint their accordance with and acceptance of the new world. Also, when heard in the context of the characters, the statement sounds greatly insignificant, as it was randomly blurted out by a drunkard, suggesting the same of their unnatural inhabitation of the world.
In conclusion, Hai to Gensou no Grimgar deserves an 8/10, which accordingly to MAL denotes a ‘very good’ show.