Remember how, last week, I was talking abut how all classic JRPGs owe their origins to Miyazaki? It turns out, that Granblue Fantasy takes the inspiration almost verbatim. Here we have our protagonist Gran, who dreams of following after his adventurer father, only to have others ridicule his father’s purported discoveries as myth and fancy. But he’ll show them! He’ll show them all! Conveniently, a girl falls from the sky and spurs him on his own journey. Then, flying machines!
The fact that Granblue Fantasy‘s opening act feels rather familiar is not, in itself, necessarily a bad thing. There’s a reason these structures are used so often is because they work. Coming of age stories requires the hero confronting a parent figure. They need something to kickstart their adventure and drive them out of their comfort zone, so we might as well mix in the boy-meets-girl here as well. And, of course, airships are awesome. If you have an excuse to work airships into your story, work airships into your story. And if you don’t, why not design your entire setting around airships? Forget about discovering a floating island, make everything floating islands. Humanity (sample: me) is completely in love with flying, so let’s be flying all the time. I’d never get sick of that.
Beyond establishing the setting and setting the hero on his journey, where will Granblue Fantasy go from here? These first two episodes are basically one single pilot, probably best to be viewed back-to-back as a single introductory chapter. They still leave the question of the overall direction of the series open. I suppose we could take a stab, and say that considering how all the villagers are still so friendly after coming so close to total annihilation, and how everybody comes out of it alive (even Herr Goatee, who I guess is going to get to be a recurring B villain now), Granblue Fantasy leans on the side of idealism, and it’ll exude more of the adventure spirit than anything too grim and cynical.
I actually took a peek at the actual game, to learn more for writing these intros, and from what I could tell, while Granblue Fantasy is rather extensive for a browser game, the main plotline is actually somewhat padded (random encounters, go here, fight that) and doesn’t really go very far very fast. It’s also rather thin, especially when it comes to the lead character (this Gran fellow, if you recall), since in the game he is a silent, first-person protagonist with no personality whatsoever. What I’m hoping this anime can do is trim back the padding and replace the more ‘gamey’ aspects with narrative. Encouragingly, it’s already doing some of that, giving the protagonist a childhood and personal connections, nailing down character motivations, and treating the summoning of the invincible dragon god thing as more than just a game mechanic. By which I mean collateral damage.
So, solid start. Not brilliant, perhaps, but solid, especially if you’re nostalgic for that old-school fantasy, and I know I am. Let’s give Granblue Fantasy the full three episodes to see what it does with itself now that the adventure is well underway. I’m not usually all that optimistic about game adaptations, but I’m open to the idea of Granblue Fantasy actually working out. I’ll be fine with ‘solid’.