OP: 「GO」 by BUMP OF CHICKEN
「蒼の少女」 (Ao no Shōjo)
“The Azure Girl”
Somehow, there has never been a Final Fantasy anime. I’m not talking about some promotional prequel thing, or one of those CGI movies that Square-Enix likes to push out once in a while like Advent Children. I mean an honest-to-goodness adaptation. Just take one of the numbered games and turn it into an anime. We’ve turned all sorts of media into anime, videogames included, so why not a burgeoning franchise like Final Fantasy? You can imagine, say, a FF6 anime, and it would be awesome, right? Or perhaps it would be too much awesome to fit into a single series. Even a single cour of anime is a lot of commitment, let alone the several that would be required to contain a full-length JRPG, so maybe nobody ever thought it’d be a profitable proposition. But if the Tales series can manage regular anime series (or at least OVAs), then other JRPG franchises can, too? No?
Well, no proper Final Fantasy anime, but what we do have is Granblue Fantasy, which actually may be close enough. Or at least it looks close enough on first blush; I have never actually played the game—I don’t really play mobile games, in general—so I can’t really tell you what it kind of show an adaptation of it will turn out to be. What I can tell you about, and what you can see for yourself, are airships, evil empires, and dragon summons. Perhaps most importantly, I can tell you that Cygames, the company that developed the Granblue Fantasy game, house a few old Square refugees, so if you’re seeing Final Fantasy DNA throughout this pilot episode (these two are basically super-Celes and Terra-light, right?), you know where it came from.
It’s not simply a matter of Granblue Fantasy being a Final Fantasy derivative, though; all JRPGs, really, share a common heritage. One day I need to write more lengthily about this topic, but for now it’s enough to say that Final Fantasy also had to take its ideas from somewhere, and not only did it borrow from fantasy tropes everywhere, it also borrowed from Japanese media (as is the incestuous nature of Japan’s homogeneous culture). Before airships, steampunk and magitech were popularised in Japan by Final Fantasy, it was popularised by Miyazaki Hayao. And accordingly, you will find that an entire generation of Japanese gaming owes inspiration to Castle in the Sky Laputa, and Granblue Fantasy remembers that. Hence The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, the idealistic rural-boy who jumps at the chance to help her, and wonder twin powers that are powered by, I presume, fancy rocks. Combined with the other fantasy tropes (e.g. every adventure starts in the Shire), it does seem like we’ve seen it all before, right? Almost generic. The damsel in distress, her entourage of white knights, the definite good versus definite evil are so used by now that the characters don’t give the slightest pause to being thrust into those roles. ‘Oh, boy meets girl. Guess I’m helping you now. Oh, those guys look bad. Guess I’ll kill them.’
Of course, one viewer’s ‘generic’ is another’s ‘old school’, and one viewer’s ‘unsophisticated’ is another’s ‘uncomplicated’. And, ultimately, originality is nice to have but is also vastly overrated; more important is good execution. Thankfully, Granblue Fantasy gives a solid showing in this pilot. The art is clean and the character designs are pleasant enough (even though they seem to have only one costume so the main character’s going to have to chop wood in his gear). The action is lively enough, depending on how dazzles you are by blur and effects, even if the mooks didn’t really put up much of a fight. The CGI, while noticeable, is mostly tolerable. If they’re using the original game’s soundtrack they’re set for the score. And I’m anticipating quite a cast for Granblue Fantasy, what with the all-star voice talent they’ve got on board (with apologies to Kugamiya Rie, because mascot characters annoy me).
Not to mention that Granblue Fantasy has kept a few cards close to its chest, to keep things interesting, so let’s not dismiss its story out of hand. There’s a matter of mysterious powers and mad experiments and dragons everywhere (some for slaying, even). There’s potential here, and places Granblue Fantasy can go, and they may make for good watching this season especially if you dig the oldschool JRPGs. All of them start this way. The question is where they take things from there.
Full-length images: ED 04.
ED: 「ソラのパレード」 (Sora no Parēdo) by HARUHI