14 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

2016 Anime Catchup: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

hai-to-gensou-no-grimgar-05-large-13Grimgar feels like the anime staff resented having to adapt yet another anime about teenagers being caught in a fantasy video game RPG and did their darndest to drag the story in a different direction to what the source material felt like. Or alternatively (since I haven’t read that much of the source material so I don’t entirely know) it felt like the author wanted to write a story about loss but the only way he could do it was smuggle the story into a light novel featuring teenagers being irritating idiots. Whatever the cause, the final result is something that doesn’t really work. Not because the inherent idea is bad of taking the trapped in video game world and then turning it into a story about loss. I respect the attempt. It’s just bad at doing so.

Spoiler warning: So I won’t say what happens, but the anime is impossible to talk about without mentioning that someone dies. I won’t say who, but given that they death flag them from pretty much episode 1 it gets incredibly obvious while watching it who will die.

hai-to-gensou-no-grimgar-04-large-04So yeah, our characters get trapped in a world much like that of your typical fantasy RPG. They join guilds, form a party, fight goblins, take loot and sell that in the town for more money. Turns out being an adventurer is hard work and straight up murdering fools is tough and mentally taxing. It’s a very serious approach to the genre for the most part, which is fine. I didn’t find the characters particularly engaging but their situation is interesting enough for me to want to see them progress. The moments of levity though are where it stinks the most because it transports over light-novel-y romcom antics such as commenting on boob sizes and peeking on the girls changing. While these jokes are usually bad even in the silly anime, when something is this serious it makes the perpetrators come off far more as dangerous individuals whom I can’t understand why people would hang around with.

The dark knight asshole is the usual villain in these scenarios yet the characters often like to joke around about how they’re such good friends. Girl, he’s screaming at you in a crowded tavern about how small your tits are, this is not OK. It makes any declaration that these guys share any meaningful friendship seem fake and the idea any bonds could be stretched by any resulting loss feel hollow as I didn’t feel like they shared bonds in the first place. The group becomes a bunch of wet blankets catering to the demands of one complete asshole and I couldn’t stand it after a point. By all means have your conflict within your group and you need the louder personality to make that happen, but I never got the sense that the anime itself treated this arsehole’s crimes as anything more than goofing around gone a little too far. Heck instead we’d usually get a nice scene of one of the ladies rear end afterwards, just to up the feeling of alienation I got between my feeling and the creators interpretation.

hai-to-gensou-no-grimgar-05-large-22As for the parts involving the loss, there were aspects of it I enjoyed. The awkward conversations in the bar afterwards, the depressing act of pumping up money for the funeral. These things worked. But too often the anime strayed into sad violin and piano music over montages of people looking sad. It wanted to wallop us over the head with how emotional everything was and wasn’t even particularly good at doing that walloping. I have a particular issue with the musical choices which felt like a string of sad anime ending music ballads that did a terrible job of conveying the emotion they were supposed to be. It was swinging for the fences when a simple bunt would have done and even when swinging their bat flew out of their hand. It’s weird because they would occasionally do something that did feel genuinely poignant, or got the awkwardness of overcoming loss just right. But they’d usually proceed to fuck it up somehow in the next scene.

As part of my 2016 anime catchup I also watched a few episodes of KonoSuba on the recommendation of many people, another one of those trapped in a video game world, and found that to be a humongous pile of shite. Badly done self-aware humour with terrible character designs and weird boobs. I feel like I got all the “lol it’s like a fantasy video game” humour out of my system from gaming webcomics 10 years ago and even those weren’t particularly good either. So at the very least I appreciate Grimgar did try something different. But it didn’t do a particularly good job with its unique spin on the tired genre and still brought over some of the more irritating aspects of fantasy light novels for the ride anyway.

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  1. DarkEnergy
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Do you think the light-novel-y romcom antics such as commenting on boob sizes and peeking on the girls changing will ever go away?

    I’ve noticed in the past few years that themes of incest and pedophilia have been on the decline. For example, you had 4 posts in 2014 with the “What’s with all the incest Japan?” tag, 9 posts in 2013, 7 posts in 2012, 5 in 2011, 12 in 2010 (mostly from Ore no Imouto), and 1 in 2009. For the “What’s with all the pedophilia Japan?” tag: 3 in 2016, 2 in 2015, 1 in 2014, 6 in 2013, 3 in 2012, and 4 in 2011. Similar analysis can be done for the “BOOOOOOOBS~” tag.

    I know Japan has always had weird sexual customs compared to the rest of the world, but joking about Asian girls having small tits has struck me as particularly odd. As a red-blooded straight American man, I love me some tits and ass. But it’s weird how common and tolerated these behaviors of body judgement are, especially since Japan is well-known for it’s image of purity and honor.

    • Scamp
      Posted November 22, 2016 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      I think that tag thing is more in relation to me remembering the tag existed and using it more often. As for Japan, it’s kind of a sexist place by first world country standards. But in the grand scheme of things it’s not much different from what we see elsewhere in the world, just viewed through a different cultural lens

  2. Shikamaru
    Posted November 21, 2016 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    Anime where people are trapped in a video game or fantasy world usually suck. I try to list them all here or at least all the famous ones.

    Sword Art Online (2012) (2nd Season 2014)
    Grimgar (2016)
    Log Horizon (2013) (2nd Season 2014)
    Igxion Saga DT (2012)
    BTOOOM! (2012)
    KonoSuba (2016)
    DanMachi (2015)
    No Game No Life (2014)
    Overlord (2015)
    Accel World (2012) (Kinda counts)
    .hack//Sign (2002)
    Digimon (1999) (Probably doesn’t count)

    What do all these anime have in common? They all SUCK!

    I haven’t seen .hack//Sign, but from what I have heard and read people seem to think that it’s okay. Why didn’t they make more anime like it back then? Because it wasn’t pupular enough? Why didn’t they make any anime like it before .hack//Sign? People (nerds) have always enjoyed the idea of being inside a video game. If there was a heaven I would love it to be like the Pokemon games.

    Why only after SAO they decided to make more of these trapped in a video game anime? There was a ten year gap between .hack and SAO when to my knowledge they didn’t make any anime about people being trapped in a video game. Or if they made there was very few of them. Why did SAO succeed and .hack//Sign didn’t?

    I know that SAO was a huge hit and thats probably why they decided to make more anime like it. They suddenly saw lots of money. Konosuba was pretty popular. Danmachi was pretty popular. Hell, all these anime were at least somewhat popular.

    I tried to watch all those anime that I listed and didn’t like any of them. This genre just doesn’t work for me. I want to be the one that’s inside a video game. It’s kinda seeing other people play video games. That’s not fun. You want to play those video games. Did that make any sense? Yes? No? Whatever.

    FUCK SAO and FUCK this genre! You can still love and enjoy it.

    • BwackNinja
      Posted November 21, 2016 at 2:02 am | Permalink

      .hack//Sign is a lot different than the others on the list. It isn’t so much a show about being trapped in a video game as it is about escapism that happens to be in a virtual world. It doesn’t have any focus on game mechanics or becoming good at the game and the fights aren’t much of a focus, which makes it almost impossible to find someone who likes both it and SAO.

      I rewatched it recently, and it aged well. It is paced methodically (not your fast-paced action show), building its characters through their interactions and revealing why each of them plays without just telling you directly. It also has a clear central conflict so it felt like it got somewhere when it ended rather than having some nice worldbuilding and not knowing what to do with it.

      As for why it didn’t succeed to the extent that SAO did, I’d say that’s because it isn’t as flashy and exciting, while not also being so absorbed in conveying a philosophical position to be a cult classic.

    • Outcast
      Posted November 21, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      “I haven’t seen .hack//Sign, but from what I have heard and read people seem to think that it’s okay. Why didn’t they make more anime like it back then? Because it wasn’t popular enough?” <— Well, considering it only has a 7.1 on MAL, I'd assume that was the case. The show did have sequels, but the very first one was about twincest, so it went downhill pretty fast.

      "People (nerds) have always enjoyed the idea of being inside a video game." <— Yes, but I doubt any of them enjoy having long philosophical conversations in video games, in lieu of actually doing quests. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd infinitely prefer a show like .hack//SIGN over the otaku jerk-off fantasy that is SAO, but it is by no means what I'd consider an ideal "stuck in a video game" anime.

      Also, while No Game No Life was overall pretty bad, the conclusion of the "Materialization Shiritori" game was actually pretty good. I could have forgiven NGNL's flaws if every match was that over-the-top awesome, but most of the other games were won with absolute bullshit.

    • Ibri
      Posted November 21, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Hack sign is one of the few animes I actually bought in physical form, but yeah as tho others said different type of anime. It wasn’t really about leveling, gaining cool abilities and nice loot or beating bosses. To compare the others with literature I would place SAO. log horizon, Accel world overlord and danmachi (ignoring that it isn’t actually a game just something with game elements) in the litrpg category which I read from time to time but is mostly subpar (though they can be entertaining). Take Otherland for comparision a significant part of the four books plays in a virtual world but while the setting has vr mmos the virtual world they are trapped in is not a game world with levels and quests. I forgot where I was going with this but Japan basically choose to pick the least interesting trapped in VR route.

    • Scamp
      Posted November 22, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      Yeah .hack is such a different thing from the rest of these. It barely focuses on the kind of things that happen in video games in the “generic fantasy world” type of thing. It’s weirder to look back on it now and think how differently they took the story

  3. BwackNinja
    Posted November 21, 2016 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    It was a high school show that managed not to be set in high school. They’re the unpopular kids, who don’t give much indication that they ever previously had friends, being forced into a social situation. Having someone to help them survive fighting goblins is the closest thing to friends they ever had.

    I haven’t quite finished it yet, but their limited social interaction outside of their group doesn’t make it seem like they would be any better equipped to handle the world after their experiences.

  4. Ariscottle
    Posted November 21, 2016 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    I actually thought Ranta was the most well-developed character in the show. For the most part, all of the characters were blank slates and had little to no personality. Ranta was at least passable in the character department? Maybe? I don’t know, I thought the show was sub-par in general, but I would argue Ranta was actually the best of the characters… which still isn’t saying a whole lot.

    • Scamp
      Posted November 22, 2016 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      Yah know, I can sorta see where you’re coming from. The other characters were such wet blankets, at least for Ranta you could see what they were trying to do with his character. He’s just so unlikable though and in a way I felt the show itself didn’t acknowledge and that bugged me too much

  5. Outcast
    Posted November 21, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    “As part of my 2016 anime catchup I also watched a few episodes of KonoSuba on the recommendation of many people, another one of those trapped in a video game world, and found that to be a humongous pile of shite. Badly done self-aware humour with terrible character designs and weird boobs.”

    Finally, FINALLY, someone who shares my opinion on this. Thank you, it feels good to finally be validated.

    • Ken
      Posted November 21, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      One persons shite is another persons nugget of gold. I thoroughly enjoyed KonoSuba and I’m eagerly awaiting its sequel.

      • Outcast
        Posted November 22, 2016 at 5:47 am | Permalink

        Well, of course, everyone is free to enjoy what they want :P

  6. Zacsi
    Posted November 22, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Goblin Slayer is better in any way imaginable.
    I hope it gets adapted after enough chapters are out.

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