“Whisper, Chant, Prayer, Awaken”
Familiar Formula, Beginner’s Approach:
A lot of people have been calling Grimgar the next Sword Art Online, but this is a premiere that sets the two apart. Admittedly, I’ve only seen snippets of SAO, but from what I do know about the most popular ‘trapped in a fantasy world’ anime, there are already a few differences. For one, Grimgar doesn’t feel like they’ve been sent to an MMO, but rather an alternate world, and the world they have been sent to (aptly named Grimgar) doesn’t have any far-future quirks that most of those other shows have. It may be a typical formula that some are likely to find overdone, but I like to take these sorts of shows as they come. Most recently, I thought Log Horizon started great but the second season failed to capture my interest, while Overlord played around with some villainous protagonists, relying more on dialogue than action.
All things considered, Grimgar appeals the most to me. As an MMO player throughout my high school years, I loved levelling, grinding, trying out different classes, and figuring out the world as I went. From memory, most of these sorts of anime give us the viewpoint of characters that are already at the level cap, have knowledge about their situation, or have signed up for what they’re getting in to. Here, the characters wake up one day to discover that they’ve been transported to another world. They’ve still got distant memories of their previous lives, and know words like “game” and “cellphones” even though they don’t understand what they actually mean. In that sense, this premiere felt like a proper introduction to the world of Grimgar, for both its characters and the audience.
Classic RPG – Classes and Goblins:
Another thing I liked was how this felt like a classic fantasy RPG, even if it doesn’t appear they’re trapped in an MMO. We don’t know the big picture (which I think is for the best), but so far instead of humans vs orcs, we can change that to humans vs goblins. There’s also the various classes to consider, as each of our main cast picks something different, allowing some variety. None of the main party are particularly interesting just yet, but that’s a worthy price to pay considering everything else that was well executed.
The main party in question includes our lazy-eyed lead and thief, Haruhiro (Hosoya Yoshimasa); group leader and priest, Manato (Shimazaki Nobunaga); Ranta (Yoshino Hiroyuki) the death knight with his eyes on the girls; Shihoru, (Terui Haruka), the body conscious mage; Yume (Komatsu Mikako) the outgoing hunter; and the warrior and cook of the group, Mogzo (Ochiai Fukushi). Individually, none of them really stand out – apart from their voices, as some are a little jarring at first – but they work well together… kind of. They each embody a certain archetype that somewhat lends to their class, and their interactions felt honest enough considering they’ve only known each other for thirteen or so days.
As we’re following them from the very beginning, perhaps that may allow us to grow attached to them as they adapt to their new environment and their abilities improve. For the time being, they’re all pretty dire at their roles. There wasn’t much action to go off of in this episode, but from what we did see they have a lot of work to do. But I like that, because that means we’ll be able to witness that development on-screen. I suspect there will be something rewarding in watching a group of noobs learn their way about the world rather that being presented with a well-versed character that’s already the best at what they do.
A Slow Start – Getting to Know the Gorgeous Grimgar:
I haven’t even spoken about how gorgeous this is. Damn, it’s stunning. The painterly backgrounds add a wonderful touch that helps transport you into this world. It feels fantastical, down to the busy market streets and the dimly lit shops. I almost wouldn’t mind waking up in this world after seeing how goddamn pretty it is. Not only that, but the character animation was strong in this episode (and I hear the person in charge is also working on Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, which makes sense as that was also a gorgeous first episode). I appreciated the little details, like Haruhiro’s finger gripping his blade in succession, or when characters trip over or make awkward poses it feels like there’s actual weight to their bodies. It’s a difficult thing to make 2D character feel like they really exist, but they manage to pull it off here.
Another strength to this episode is how the exposition is handled. I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if we opened with a tiring monologue, followed by a brief explanation of the world and the events that have led up to this particular moment. It can work when it’s done well, but more often than not the LN-style info-dumping feels lazy and lacks impact. Thankfully, Grimgar starts with some fighting (even if they’re all terrible at fighting right now), before putting us in the exact same scenarios as its characters. We know nothing more than they do at any given point, and I love that. It gives a sense of discovery to the world, as it’s hinted there is something much larger going on beyond this single scenic town.
What we do come to know is valuable information through important conversations, like learning how money is spent (and earned), the importance of becoming a voluntary fighter when the actual soldiers are out doing the ‘real’ hard work, and that you need to be in a guild before you can do pretty much anything. It’s all simple stuff, but working from the ground up is the best way forward.
Overview – First Impressions:
All in all, there was a lot to like here. That being said, it’s perhaps too slow for some, and not different enough for others, but it hit a sweet spot for me. I would have liked less of the boob and ass shots, but I can at least accept that it’s framed through Haruhiro’s eyes. We often see panning shots as he ogles the various girls he encounters, while Ranta appears more blatant, not shy when voicing his thoughts on big boobs and flat chests. So while I wouldn’t say Grimgar is wildly original, it’s managed to capture my interest in this world and what our newbies are going to get up to. And it sure helps how easy it is on the eyes.
ED: 「Knew Day」 by (K)NoW_NAME