Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level. 1 Novel Review: Kind of Like Reading a Cappuccino Really.

Overview:

Haruhiro wakes up with amnesia surrounded by others who also have amnesia and they discover they are in a world called Grimgar and in order to earn money to live they are about to become volunteer soldiers. Too bad Haruhiro and the others left over don’t really have any skills to speak of.

Review (with some spoilers):

Before I get into this I should probably explain the cappuccino reference. This book is pretty light and frothy, more froth than substance to be honest, but there’s some real bitterness once you get into it. Only, the good kind of bitterness that makes you want to go back for more. Okay, I don’t actually drink coffee but that seemed like the best analogy I could come up with for my experience reading this book. And given it was my first experience with a translated light novel, I’m honestly a little stuck as to how to fairly review this given no matter how I look at it the writing is pretty dreadful. Not even just dreadful by translated story standard (and I’ve read a lot of translated books over the years so that isn’t the issue).  Yet, the story is oddly compelling. So rather than belabor this already tiresome intro, I’ll just get into reviewing and let things just kind of happen.

(By the way, though I am going to use images from the anime in this review, I am not going to compare the novel to the anime. There are definitely differences and you could do a comparison if you’d like, but I’m just going to review the book here. If you want the anime review, click here.)

Grimgar

I’m going to start with the negatives of having read this to get them out of the way. There are positives coming but the negatives are definitely an issue.

Firstly, while anime is littered with bathroom sequences, girls comparing breast sizes, and guys who seem to think that insulting a girl involves commenting on the size of her breasts, and while I’m most okay with it in anime (or at least used to ignoring it), reading such sequences is a different story. If I wasn’t adamantly against defacing books I’d probably have torn a page out of this one because it literally consisted of nothing but dialogue that made me wonder if the author had ever had a conversation with a girl ever. I’ve never actually had the experience of reading such a sequence before and to be honest, I’ll pass on going through that experience again. It adds nothing to the story or the characters. It is inane filler dialogue and it went for nearly all of two sides of one page. Which admittedly meant I read it in about half a minute and could have just moved on except that for some reason my brain committed the phrase “Boing, boing, look at them bounce’ to memory – probably because it knew that the review needed an example of this appalling exchange in order to really get the point across that this was painful.

Following on from that, at least 60% of the dialogue in the story could be considered filler. Characters have more or less the same squabbly arguments over and over again. Which would be fine if any of these exchanges were progressing anything, but literally the plot gets put on hold while the characters rehash whether or not Yume has tiny tits or Haruhiro is actually looking like a sleepy cat, etc, etc.

From what I knew of light novels before reading this, I kind of expected some of the above, but the level to which it intruded on my reading was pretty intense. Once I finally sat down and read the book, I finished it over two days in four sessions. I should have finished it in a single sitting, but every now and then I’d come to one of these exchanges and suddenly have a burning desire to be doing anything else other than reading any more of the story. Clearly though, it wasn’t much of a deterrent, because it wasn’t as though I put the book on a shelf and let it sit there for a month before trying again, but still, it definitely broke my reading flow.

Grimgar

The other major negative I would have for this book is just how much happens in it. I said I wouldn’t compare this to the anime, but this first book takes us nearly to the end of the anime and adds additional subplot and events. That’s a lot of content even if the final arc of the anime isn’t in this one. Ultimately it means events don’t get enough time to really be dealt with appropriately. The death of Manato works and is an excellent dramatic turning point for the group and yet is done within the space of a few pages and then we’ve moved on. Yes, we refer back to that death time and again, but the sequence itself was almost instantaneous. There are other events as well where it just feels like we are told what happens and then we’re pushed onward.

All of that would be fine, except that we spend nearly the first fifty or sixty pages of the book on world building. It is great that we’re getting a fleshed out view of the world and I’m sure a lot of those details will be important later, but an info dump  while the characters get their bearings at the start of the story shouldn’t feel like it got more time and attention than a pivotal death scene or climactic fight sequence. And yet it does.

So if I were to just compare this to other novels I’m pretty sure this one would be in the nice try department and I’d be moving on. However, this is where things get tricky. I really, really loved the story and the world. I love the set up, I love all the things the book hints at coming later, I love the many characters that appear and interact with the main group even if I find most of the main group pretty painful. I also love that the story, while seemingly full of these meaningless and light frothy moments, they contrast beautifully with some of the darker and quite depressing events that occur.

While I don’t like how the world building was handled, the world of Grimgar is really quite fascinating as even by the end of the book you aren’t certain if they are in another world or in a game or simulation. There are possibilities both ways and the final pages of this book certainly push you into mulling these possibilities over without yet tipping its hand. Okay, it is sequel baiting and it is doing it well because I really want to know the secrets of the this world.

There are also some great character moments. When the group manage to work together or even when they are falling apart, some of the exchanges between the characters feel very real and revealing about their forgotten selves (though admittedly these moments are most definitely diluted through the more meaningless exchanges). Every now and then you’ll just get a line that will make you laugh out loud or nod in agreement.

grimgar_e2b-noscale

Mostly what this book does well is while reading it I genuinely wanted Haruhiro to survive. I didn’t really care about the party or whatever goal they were working toward, but I wanted Haruhiro to survive because he has so much potential as a character and I would love to see him grow (and hopefully he does). This story made me fear for his safety, worry when he got hurt, feel bad when he was emotionally down, and want to cheer when he got things right. Basically I got swept up in his story and that is always a good thing.

Okay, this has gone on for a fair while so I’m going to wrap this up. As a book, this has issues. Big and glaring, cannot be overlooked issues. As a story and an introduction to a larger world, it works very effectively. Basically if you are a stickler for wanting good writing, give this one a miss, but if you just want to be transported to another world for an afternoon, this one is probably something you should check out.

If you’ve read the book I’d love to know your thoughts (please don’t spoil the next ones because I am planning to read on in this series).


Thanks for reading.

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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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37 thoughts on “Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level. 1 Novel Review: Kind of Like Reading a Cappuccino Really.

  1. I agree with your thoughts here for the most part. Only part that I really disagree with is the fact that I thought the anime did a worse job with the more visual “fanservice” shots than actually work the sexuality into the dialogue like the novel, which I thought was perhaps more natural for a bunch of teens to do than just having the viewer itself stare at a good shot of Yuma’s butt for a few seconds. Guess that’s harder to work that sort of thematic thing into a show without ruining the darker tone though…

    Anyway, I actually had also read the Grimgar LN the past week so you pretty much summed up my thoughts on it pretty well. I actually really like lots of aspects of the novel itself (especially the artstyle, even though it was vastly different from the anime), and I thought the writing itself wasn’t too atrocious for the most part, minus the repetitive parts of the dialogue that you pointed out, which were just annoying. I also thought the novel itself rushed through the events rather fast as well and expected a lot more detail between what the anime gave us, which didn’t happen.

    Personally, I probably enjoyed the anime more, despite its flaws, but I think the novel isn’t necessarily bad either, just enjoyable in a different way.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to avoid comparing (as much as was possible), but if I had to choose, I probably enjoyed the anime more because visually I really liked the anime and the music and tone were fantastic, plus I felt more emotionally connected with some of the events. Still, I didn’t mind this and it did fill some details in that I felt were missing and this kind of indicated that some of the answers about what Grimgar is all about will come in later books, so that kind of hooked me.
      Glad you liked the review.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really liked the anime and I wasn’t aware it was based on a light novel but I’ll definitely check it out now, it sounds pretty good despite it all. I encountered the same issues when I read the No Game No Life light novels. Namely, the bad writing and ridiculous amount of bath time moments/talking about breasts and sex appeal, and whatnot. The story was incredible and super interesting, though, and I could look past it because I’m used to ignoring these things as well. But the anime had a lot more of it and I definitely recommend checking it out because the world is just insane and the anime barely makes it justice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’m hesitant to read another light novel from an anime series I’ve watched at this point (maybe at some stage). And No Game No Life is one I would definitely want to learn more about so I’ll keep it in mind for somewhere down the track.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very interesting. I somehow own first few novels of the series but there just has been more pressing matters to address. I guess my own bitter feeling that it might be good but as well it might not is quite grounded. Do you plan to read on and review the following volumes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do. Though most of the later volumes I’ll have to wait on given the book depositroy has them for pre-order but not actually available yet. Still, it isn’t like I have a lot of time to read at the moment anyway. But, I want to know what happens with this story and with this world.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cool review and I especially like the comparison with coffee. Well I do like coffee but let’s just say that my stomache really doesn’t. This doesn’t sound like a read I’m really interested for if I am being quite honest (then again I can’t even find time to watch movies/anime these days, let alone read a novel), but I did really enjoy your review 😊

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s so true. I really wish that I could have some kind of clone for myself that could do all the mundane tasks, and me do all the fun things (then again, I don’t think that the world is ready for another me lol 😂😂).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. For someone who doesn’t drink coffee, you made that analogy remarkably well.

    I’ve never sampled LNs before and is unlikely to any time soon with their rep for bad writing. Good luck though, with the rest of the books in this series, and thanks for sharing you thoughts.

    “Boing, boing, look at them bounce’ — I’m gonna regret asking but this was actual words written in that book?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmmm mixed feelings… I didn’t realize that this is all the material that the anime adapted, that definitely isn’t enough time for stuff. That explains a LOT actually. I can’t believe some of those sequences are in this, that is just dumb. Still, the good bits sound genuinely good. Less interested in reading it now but not turned off entirely to the idea. Thanks for the look 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not all the material from the anime. I think maybe episode 8 or 9 (it has been awhile since I watched the anime through). They don’t get into the mines in this book.
      But yeah, the pacing and writing are just not great. The story is pretty good though and I’m kind of hoping future entries may settle the pace (or maybe I’ll just get used to it).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Grimgar is an interesting beast to tackle. The writing itself isn’t too great, but the story itself is absolutely incredible, the world is interesting, and the characters are so easy to root for and grow attached to. I think one of the best things about Grimgar is how human the characters feel; they aren’t heroes, or chosen ones, they are just normal, flawed people who got sucked into a harsh world.

    I think that, for Ranta, being a jerk to everyone is basically his coping mechanism to deal with the stress of everything going on with them. Yume’s airheadedness, Haruhiro’s depression, Moguzo’s carving, Manato’s drinking, and Shihoru’s shyness are all ways that they cope with the stress, fear, pain, and grief that they feel on a daily basis. But, that’s really not enough, so it’s nice to see how, even as they fight, they also awkwardly rely on each other to stay sane.

    The bathroom scenes and whatnot could certainly go bye-bye; the Anime cut most of them out, and was better for it. Still, it’s a wonderful story, i’m glad you’re enjoying it, and awesome review, by the way!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m looking forward to reading more of this though it seems I’m going to have to wait a bit before I can get the next one.
      I agree, the world is really interesting and the characters, despite being really annoying sometimes, do make you want to look out for them. Kind of important that as the reader you want them to survive.
      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I was looking at the series available on the Book Depository and wondering what else I should try. I don’t really want to read ones that I’ve watched the anime of though because I’m not a big fan of reading books that I’ve watched the movie of (or watching films I’ve read the book of). I gave in with Grimgar because I really want to know what the next part of the story is so I’m going to read on.
          By the time I took out those titles there weren’t a lot of options left.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I would very highly recommend The Rising of the Shield Hero. It’s another Isekai, Dark fantasy series like Grimgar is. There’s not an anime for it yet, but there is one in the works, I believe. There are 8 or 9 volumes currently in English. I’ve got 8 volumes in paperback, and I read the web novel when it was initially releasing, it’s a very good story with an interesting plot, good characters, and a lot of emotion.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. There is a LN series as well as a Manga series, i’d recommend the LN over the Manga. Manga leaves out a lot of semi-important plot points, character building and dialogue

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I think anime production has been given the green light for Tate Yusha… ah forget the Japanese name!

            Just look for the video on YouTube. They made it look hype as hell!

            If Grimgar took on some realistic drama of Isekai, Rise if the Shield Hero takes on reality of corruption and scumbags in another world.

            Liked by 2 people

          4. Oh yeah. Shield hero takes darkness to a very personal and real level. I will say, though, if they mess up the adaptation, I will go ballistic, because they have such an incredible piece of work already there, they just have to make it right.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. That sounds like a good reason to not watch the adaptation. I avoid movies when I’ve loved the book because I know I’m just going to hate what they do to ‘my’ story. Though, if I’m only luke warm on the book (like Hunger Games) sometimes the movies can be quite fun.

            Liked by 1 person

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