「常闇の森」 (Tokoyami no Mori)
“Forest of Eternal Darkness”

This episode begins with an argument between a vampire, a werewolf, and a black witch. Prior to this episode, we hadn’t heard anything about these factions—or if we had, it was apparently so scant that I can’t remember it. That’s a huge issue, and let’s discuss why.

The problem with the writers introducing these factions (plus the white witches) and hurling us into the middle of a conflict between them is that they were trying to do too much at once. During the same time we’re saying to ourselves, “Wait, there are vampires in this world?”, they’re introducing individual characters with unique worldviews and a small sub-conflict, and expecting us to absorb it all. Or care. Neither are great bets. Humans are generally pretty lazy, so it’s better to do one thing at a time. Tell us about these factions, and then bring us into the specific conflict. Works much better.

The galling thing is that this is so easy to fix. Normally I don’t like to throw that much shade at a fellow storyteller, but this one really is easy. Take Nanatsu no Taizai. Know those little pre-OP narration bits that play early in each episode? They lay out the facts of the world (five clans, ancient war between ’em, round two ramping up, there’s these badasses called the Seven Deadly Sins), and we instantly know the score. They do it every episode, but even once at the beginning of each season would have been fine. Or take Pacific Rim, which I just recently watched for the first time (post coming on my personal blog about that soon). It did the same thing: start out by narrating everything that an in-universe character would know, but that we (the audience) do not. Simple, clean, and efficient, and then we can get on with the story. Grancrest Senki never did that, so even baseline terms we need to know (Artist, Black Witches) aren’t explained very well, or we have to infer from context clues. The problem is much worse with entire factions and ongoing conflicts.

All that said, the actual episode was decent enough. Rushed, as is becoming this series’ MO, but otherwise the beats were there. They quickly established that the Werewolf Queen is the good one, the Vampire King stands on ceremony, and the Black Witch is nuts. That set up the climax, where the Vampire King manipulated Yana into facing Theo, Siluca, and the werewolves alone, which led to them taking over the Forest of Eternal Darkness—which was more than a little convenient, since it screamed, “This show isn’t going to be good if the main characters are under Villar’s thumb the whole time!” We also knew the girls were going end up on the team due to OP spoilers, so no surprise there.

What most drew my attention was the discussion over dinner, of ambition. Theo is portrayed, by their esteemed guest, as someone without worth due to his lack of ambition. I can see both sides of this argument. Ambition is useful, it can lead a person to accomplish remarkable things, though it comes at the risk of encouraging them to overextend (it’s a tool, and most tools are both useful and dangerous). Theo eschews it, or at least is content with a more humble ambition (much like Lassic himself), and the prince sees this as folly. I’m not so sure. Not setting out to save the world means Theo is apt to have a much more successful and contented life, filled with less self-loathing and self-sabotage as he avoids beating himself up for not achieving his grand designs, since he doesn’t have them. It’s a potential weakness for a main character in epic fantasy, though, because it’s hard to save the world if you don’t try. How the Theo needle will be threaded is one of the more enduring questions about Grancrest Senki. Much depends on him, both in their world and for our viewing experience.

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  1. I knew we didn’t know much about this world, but I didn’t know we knew nothing! There’s actually a Netherworld in play? If all werewolves pass on like the queen, then are they Chaos? If so, then not all Chaos is bad? We need info, damnit!!

    On ambition, it isn’t like Theo has none. He wants to save his home, and to do that he needs a fair bit of influence to drive out the human problem, and since his home is apparently all of a sudden right next to a bad part of town similar to their new Gothic homestead he’s also gotta beef up a lot. That’s plenty of room to get into all kinds of trouble. Like Siluca said, who knows what they’ll find just in that forest. Just cause Theo isn’t swinging his literal or metaphorical sword all over the place while boasting is a pretty shallow reason for a foreigner, of all people, to just dismiss him. I got a good laugh when the prince started to praise Lassic, since it showed that he really doesn’t know anything about anyone he’s talking about.

  2. Perhaps, as this pacing are about, this Anime is more an omake to see their Manga in motion with Music an all, for the Manga Fans. But new Blood or Anime only fans are not their true destination

    Yes.. what next Episode, suddenly our hero conquered the entire continent and declare himself the King?

  3. So, Stilts. Since the BD release for the Prisma movie and subs for it are out, can we look foward to a review of it? I’d certainly like to read your opinion of the movie.

    1. I think I’m supposed to chide you for talking about another anime in the comments, but instead I’m going to go with this: Ooooo, thanks! I had forgotten that was coming out now. I’ll acquire it and see if I can put together a post sometime soon.

  4. Dunno, I quite like the show and how it builds the world. It’s generic as hell, but the characters are really enjoyable. You get to know a bit about Theo without being encumbered with all the minutia of the setting and then details fall in place one after another.

    The only thing I find weird about this episode is how the Vamp king just upped and left and our team seems to feel like they have the run of the place now. He didn’t even say “take care of the yard while I go on vacation”…

  5. I don’t like to criticize other writers, either, but I really have to agree with you: a little extra work, and the werewolf queen’s fate would have been a ton more powerful. Imagine how much more interesting it’d’ve been if even some minor character just mentioned werewolves and vampires as part of the lore — with bonus point for rumors of conflict between them now!

    I had a slightly different impression of dinner: I don’t think Theo has no ambition. I think his ambition just takes a different form. It could be he’s falling for Siluca, but I think it’s as much he sees that she can help him better than any other individual, so he wants to stick with her. Of course, I can understand their guest misinterpreting that.

    1. I agree with you on Theo’s ambition. I said as much in the post. His ambition is more modest, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t there. I totally agree that I can see why their guest misinterpreted him. That’s already something of an ongoing thing w/ Theo, and something I expect to continue to see going forward.

      1. I have had several similar discussions with me throughout my ROTC years and Army National Guard years because of the US Army’s “promote or perish” paradox. You are expected to be a competent officer, but you are also expected to always desperately want that next ladder rung in rank. As a Signal Officer (radio) in various “front-line” units like Artillery and Tank, I have had several other officers give me the same sneering talk, because I was usually content at my present rank of Lieutenant or Captain, especially once my command-time was complete. The other officers couldn’t imagine staying at the same rank more than 2 years unless due to brain injury. The fact that such officers couldn’t do their job half the time, and most of the soldiers under their leadership despised them, never entered their minds as a reason to “go slow” instead of being first in their peer group every year.

        The first true psychopath I ever met was a 38-year-old Lieutenant Colonel (i.e., very young in his rank) trying to become an active Battalion Commander in Afghanistan after 9/11, and didn’t care who he had to betray, burn, or bury in order to get it. The other officers under him found a way to deny him his “glory”, rather than go to war with the idiot.

        So ambition can be a killer, either by having too much or too little.

  6. they could have brought the little exposition by Siluca in the library into front of the episode and THEN moved on to vampire lord’s castle and situation there
    anyway chyckled when Theo added 2 werewolf maids to his harem entourage…

  7. They are using a very questionable strategy for this series. I was hoping they’d slow down a wee bit. It looks like they really needed to show this arc, but didn’t really have time to spare.

    It does look like everyone in the opening has shown up already. Except maybe that guy with Marrine. Though that might be Siluca’s father.

    As a side note, when I rewatched the previous episode to check out Marrine’s name, I noticed something. One of the attackers in Villar’s troops was actually a werewolf. The transformation was so quick, that it didn’t really register to me when I first watched it. If they got the timing of that right, I don’t think I’d go in this episode thinking: “Vampires? Werewolves? Am I watching the right anime?”

    1. Ohhh yeah, I forgot about that one Villar soldier! Yeah, that could have been the moment—even just one of Marrine’s guard screaming, “Werewolf!”—where they slipped in something so some of this wasn’t so much of a surprise. I just assumed that was a magic spell at the time (Shapechange), rather than a different people. (Still could be, tbh.)

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