Grimoire of Zero – Anime Review
Synopsis: When a half-beast mercenary teams up with a witch who is in search of a magical tome that can destroy the world, a grand adventure ensues. Despite his hatred of witches, he enters an agreement that she will make him human once she reaches her goal. (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Grimoire of Zero’s weakest element remains its art, which only drags everything down further in the second half of its season. Action scenes that should be tense feel dull and drab, with characters static and unengaged in the background. It leaves some of the most climatic moments feeling entirely underwhelming.
Linny: The story itself starts off feeling like an odd couple comedy/adventure quest but within a few episodes, it quickly turns into something much more dark and grand. This isn’t particularly surprising as the show starts by setting up just what a dark world the story is set in. But for those who really enjoyed the idea of our leads having lots of goofy adventures and interactions, know that the comedy can be sporadic and hits less often as the show continues. Grimoire of Zero also struggles to pull off its grand main plot. There are plot holes and convenient cop outs galore with characters behaving in unexplained ways and strange events happening all for the sake of pushing the story forward, rather than making any of it convincing.
Tom: Trouble stems from Grimoire’s method of adaptation. We’ve talked before about how the series moves at a much slower pace, choosing to do a more thorough adaptation of its source material than other similar Light Novel adaptations. Rather than squeezing one volume into 3-5 episodes, the entire season is devoted to just the first book. But in allowing the work so much room to breath we discover that only five characters are truly fleshed out with personality and unique traits. The greater cast of characters exist as little more than cardboard cut outs, lacking definition in their personalities and attractive quirks to make them feel appealing and fun. It wasn’t so much a problem in the first half of the season when the story was centered on the Mercenary and Zero, but as the series shifts its focus to a grander story, the weak nature of the characterization is near impossible to ignore. It doesn’t help that additional characters like Thirteen, a sorcerer, and Albus, the boy tagging alongside Zero and Mercenary, just aren’t capable of carrying Grimoire of Zero in the way Zero and the Mercenary did for the first half of the season, yet so much time is devoted to putting these people in the spotlight.
Linny: This failure to expand on most of its cast means that when the show tries to elicit dramatic moments out of those characters, it rarely works. The audience gets so little time and story to know and care for these people. And like Tom mentioned, the side characters barely receive any proper character development. They either just become good of their own volition or they remain close to who and how they were at the start which only weakens the appeal of the show, stunting what it has to offer in regards to character drama and development.
Tom: It’s a big problem as many of the side characters are just plain forgettable. Their lack of appeal wouldn’t be a problem if the grander story didn’t require us to feel for them and understand their plight. But by feeling so dry and uninteresting these characters are near impossible to connect with, leaving the greater struggles of this world feeling distant and unengaging.
Linny: While I started the show really enjoying the chemistry between Mercenary and Zero, they gradually lost their charm. Zero frustrated me with her lack of emotional responses, and how she remained, for the most part, the same carefree, clueless and odd witch she was from the beginning. While her background does help to put her in a better light, it does little to change the audiences’ overall fondness of her. On the other hand, Mercenary is pretty likeable from the start especially thanks to his tragic past but then the show, quite frequently, makes him dumb for the sake of comedy, which makes the jokes feel weak and took away some of his appeal and charm.
Tom: I actually disagree with Linny and maintain that Mercenary and Zero are far and above highlights to this series. Both have fun personalities, great chemistry and are a joy to watch when they’re allowed to be at each other’s side. The trouble, I feel, is the material during the second half of the series. As the story shifts to a grander view the avenues through which these characters shine, character moments, team work, etc. are closed off, utterly damaging their appeal as neither character is given the opportunity to shine again until the final episode and even then what screen time they get is still in service of this all consuming plot.
Linny: Grimoire of Zero started off feeling like one of the more promising shows of the Spring season. It teased and promised hilarious odd couple comedy and the appeal of an adventure filled quest. However, once the story switched to its grand conspiracy, it quickly lost its charm. The problem is that it fails to build up and sell its grand plot while also neglecting to showcase the more enjoyable casual interactions of its cast. It cuts down on what makes the show charming and substitutes it with drama nowhere as appealing. It also doesn’t help that for a show that’s trying to be dark, it has such a chirpy ending that makes the whole thing feel at odds with itself. If you’ve been on the fence about watching Grimoire of Zero, the unfortunate truth is that while it isn’t horrible, it’s certainly no diamond in the rough. There’s something there to entertain but the show stumbles and undoes all that, ending up as a thoroughly mediocre tale.
Tom: Up until the series finale I was still decently positive on it. Sure the back half was littered with faults, but none so damaging as the ending itself. While the ending closes out the story in such a way that the adaptation could continue, though it likely won’t, it also feels like a solid ending point for anyone merely satisfied with this season. But in doing so the ending abandons the darker nature of Grimoire’s world in favor of wrapping everything up in an unbelievably positive fashion that sits entirely at odds with the world presented at the series start. Things are so conclusive that they feel impossibly positive. Couple that with the slew of other issues and I think the negatives balance out against the positives, leaving Grimoire of Zero as a series that, while not awful, is largely forgettable.
Grimoire of Zero is available for streaming via Amazon’s Anime Strike Channel