Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash – Review
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash:
Original Air Dates: Jan 11th, 2016 – March 27th, 2016
Synopsis: A group of young teens awaken in a strange, unknown building. They don’t remember a single thing, beyond their own names. Upon exiting the building they find themselves in a small town, with a nearby forest. With no other options, this group of teens sign up for the Reserve Army, to keep the town safe by battling nearby packs of Goblins and other monsters. The stronger individuals gradually depart, leaving behind only the weak: Manato, Haruhiro, Ranta, Yume, Mogzo and Shihoru. Banding together as their own team the group sets out to gradually become stronger, because there is no place in this world for the weak.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Grimgar is a slow paced show right from the very start. The focus of the story is clearly on the growth of the characters and their bonds with each other. The characters grow into their roles at a slow but steady pace, taking time to develop or display traits that make you like or hate them. Every character starts off restrained, some more so than others, which makes for a realistic set up and interaction when you consider that these people are all strangers to each other and have just awoken in an unfamiliar place.
Tom: Grimgar is indeed slow, really taking its time to flesh out its story and characters, honestly to the point where a lot of viewers are going to become irritated, especially at the near constant use of montages (at a rate of nearly one an episode!) Grimgar is a lot like Sword Art Online, or Log Horizon, in the respect of groups of characters becoming trapped in a fantasy world (most likely a game due to some of Grimgar’s subtle hints). It’s less overt than those other two however, Grimgar choosing to keep the very nature of the world, mostly, a mystery to the audience, but those hints are why it’s been compared. Grimgar doesn’t progress very far within its own overarching story, instead choosing to focus more on the character’s struggles to even survive within this world, something Kirito and Shiroe both overcame quite quickly.
Linny: Grimgar distinguishes itself from SAO and Log Horizon by how it handles its characters reactions to everyday struggles in this new and unknown world. While other shows had their characters quickly adjusting to their surroundings, the kids in Grimgar struggle and stumble almost all the way through. They’re shown to struggle physically, emotionally and financially as they figure out life in a world where they have no knowledge and no money. The show even features the death of a main character early on, adding to the tension in future fights and enemy encounters. Not only that, it handles death and the effects of trauma in a realistic manner. The characters are left grieving and struggling for several episodes which may be another source of annoyance for viewers, but on the other hand, makes the characters feel more real and human.
Tom: I found each member of the team to be well-defined, feeling like a real person struggling to adapt to this violent and backwards way of life. The Grimgar cast certainly feels more real than characters like Kirito or Shiroe, rare genius types that don’t speak to the average viewer nearly as much. Grimgar does hold on tight to the “Worst Team Trope” with our characters starting at the bottom of the barrel compared to everyone else. Thankfully, unlike other shows where casts are the “worst team” in name only, Grimgar is all about their struggle to improve and survive within this world. This isn’t a topic overcome in just a few episodes, but forms the entire point of Grimgar’s twelve episodes.
Linny: That’s the novelty of the series. That its characters are as clueless and inexperienced as the viewer is about its world, and both audience and characters learn together, making it feel like a more personal journey. One thing that does stand against the show is its lack of strong female characters. They start off feeling extremely generic and useless, with one girl being particularly timid and meek, both girls constantly struggling more than the boys in combat, and a male character unabashedly discussing and insulting the breasts of the girls right in front of them. As a female viewer, it felt offensive and frustrating to have girls who added absolutely nothing to the story until the introduction of a new female character later on. When you start off with the only girls in the main cast feeling like eye candy and frustrating stereotypes, its bound to leave a bad taste.
Tom: Yume and Shihoru both do indeed feel quite meek. They’re weaker and clumsier than the men. Thankfully they grow and move away from this disappointing portrayal, coming far and along from simple dead weight for the team.
Linny: Matching Grimgar’s slow, dreamy pace is it’s colour palette and visuals. The colours are muted and pastel and the drawing style is something akin to a watercolour painting. It’s very striking and really helps to sell the fairy tale like fantasy theme. Even the fight scenes look magical and mystical rather than vivid and gritty. And while the characters may look generic, it works in the context of the show. Their generic look makes them feel familiar and ordinary, highlighting that they are but ordinary kids stuck in an unknown world. And even though the montages start to grate on, they nevertheless always look like pretty and extended daydreams.
Tom: The backgrounds are a sort of pastel watercolor that actually looks really pretty and unique. It gives Grimgar a unique visual flare that sets it apart from other shows of its kind. Grimgar’s camera angles can be a bit fanservicey at times, and there’s one costume in particular, worn by Haruhiro’s recurring rogue trainer, that looks like it’s come straight out of some erotic fantasy novel. Otherwise, Grimgar is mostly harmless with its infrequent sexualization of the female cast. Finally, music plays a big part in Grimgar due to the sheer wealth of montages. It’s quite calming, the soundtrack adding to the slow paced nature.
Linny: Grimgar is a fantasy show that is all about the emotions of the characters and their reaction to being thrust into a world that is scary and cold. It moves at a pace that may be daunting and frustrating, but will be rewarding for those who enjoy a slow paced story.
Tom: Grimgar is based off a light novel of the same name, which also has a ongoing Manga, so don’t expect a conclusion any time soon assuming we even get a follow up season. Grimgar has problems, namely the slow pace, but if you’re not someone who needs a rush of action every episode, or wants the plot to catapult forward, Grimgar is a delicious treat for fantasy fans.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is available for streaming via Funimation.com