Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is about a group of young boys and girls who suddenly find themselves in a mysterious new world with RPG mechanics, having no memories of their previous lives save for their names. It’s a show full of potential which doesn’t quite reach the mark.
The anime focuses on a small party of six who have little to no fighting skills at first, and shows them growing stronger through sheer hard work and training rather than random power ups. The anime keeps a rather slow pace which aids in showing the growth process of these youngsters–a faster pace might have made things feel a little rushed. The anime shows these kids as they get beat up at first at the hands of the weakest of monsters, and how they progressively get better at this stuff.
This is something very well done by Grimgar; the slow pace is just perfect for this kind of show. There are even big chunks of episodes where the characters do almost nothing with a peaceful song playing in the background. The series tries to show as much of the lives of these kids as possible which really brings out their development and growth. It takes its sweet time showing how these kids go from being totally incompetent to eradicating almost all of the goblins in their vicinity. By the end of the season, they’re still pretty weak, but given how they were when they started off, this much was expected. The growth of these kids is just beautiful.
However, the slow pace has an adverse effect on the story part. Given how many light novel adaptations fail to get sequels, this show suffers the same fate. They went a bit too slow and couldn’t cover much from the source material, which resulted in many things staying incomplete and viewers having to go towards the source material if they wanted the complete story. They didn’t talk about the world after the initial episodes and many of the side characters didn’t get their due development within the course of these 12 episodes.
One thing which most RPG-like anime don’t do is humanizing the monsters. Most depict these creatures as mindless monsters–Grimgar on the other hand tends to show these monsters in a very different way, as our main characters often feel sorry for killing these monsters. The anime shows that these goblins and creatures of the like also have feelings, and at times, they also show some level of intelligence, which results in them occasionally outsmarting humans. They aren’t brainless creatures who only know how to kill; they’re more than that, and Grimgar shows this from time to time.
And through this humanizing of the goblins, they brilliantly show the “kill or be killed” nature of this world. To survive, the humans have to kill the goblins; this works the other way around too. And this leads us to another thing Grimgar depicts: people dealing with the death of a comrade.
The anime shows how people act and cope with the death of someone close to them. The anime manages to successfully show the mourning death part, but it fails to have the emotional impact on the viewers which is usually associated with the death of a character. It fails to make us care enough for the dead characters, and tries to make things sad by adding a song in the background, which ends up not working at times and also tends to feel a bit off.
The reason is that they kill off Manato before the viewer can get to know him well enough. And they make his death so obvious that the element of surprise, which gives a big shock on its own, is absent. If we had gotten to know Manato more then his death would have had more impact, and the emotions would have been delivered better.
They show the mourning in two ways: through Haruhiro and friends, and through Merry.
Haruhiro and friends, after being in denial for some time, eventually come to accept the reality of things. They then go to avenge the death to move on with their lives without forgetting their fallen comrade and leader. They manage to deliver some emotions through how the characters act, but as mentioned above, the death itself didn’t have this impact.
Merry dealt with the death of her friend in a very different way. Instead of finding a shoulder to cry on before standing back uo, she started to distance herself from others. Her reaction was more along the lines of not wanting to lose anyone close to her again–you won’t lose any friends if you don’t have any, after all. It does work, but you’re ultimately left all alone in the world which is a problem on its own.
In the end, she does manage to move on thanks to her interactions with Haruhiro and company. Merry and Haruhiro are the only ones who get their development, and that’s largely due to the deaths they witness. Haruhiro turns into a replacement leader for Manato. He isn’t as good as his dead friend, but the rest of the gang looks up to him to lead them in tight spots and take them out of it. Merry moves on and gets closer to her new comrades which she had refused to do before.
Coming to the artwork, this is an A-1 Pictures production, so the visuals are obviously questionable as a whole. The backgrounds with their water color-like nature are the best thing about the visuals here. The animation starts off as somewhat passable but start to fluctuate in quality a lot. The action sequences are occasionally good, but never anything to write home about. A-1 also tends to use still images a lot which may not feel too bad, but they could have done better than that. The soundtrack is quite good here though – the use of insert songs during the tranquil moments, especially, make them feel more serene and heartwarming. Mostly thanks to this, Grimgar is amazing during its little slice of life moments. The soundtrack also somewhat compensates the animation’s shortcomings during the action sequences.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar has issues here and there, but the idea it had going was quite good and it managed to do something at least respectable with it. It had a lot of potential to become even better, but mainly due to its short runtime, it couldn’t make full use of it and fell short of being something great.
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