Granbelm is such a riddle of a show. There’s not that many people talking about it so I’m not getting the community’s pulse on this series. It’s got a pretty poor MAL rating but no reviews and let’s face it, MAL ratings can be rather random.
The show isn’t perfect and I wouldn’t blame you for dropping it but it’s got more going for it than is obvious at first sight. For instance, it can be quite pretty as evidenced by the screencap gallery I put together over here!
My title refers to Kuon who I’m curious about. She has good taste in hairstyles.
What I Thought Would Happen
I am having a bit of trouble figure out where Granbelm is going. The last episode ended right as a mecha battle began so I felt pretty confident we would see that play out but other than that, my only clue is the mysterious drama behind Shingetsu and Anna’s relationship. Since I thought it was a bit soon to dive into that I figured we might actually get a little more character development for Mangetsu (she really needs some) but I had no clue what form it would take.
What Did Happen
The mecha battle continued and took a bit longer than expected, for a while, I thought it would actually take up the entire episode. We did get to know the three sisters that fight together a bit better during the battle. It seems the one actually in the mecha is called Nene and her two sisters help with strategy from outside the field. Aside from a lot of flying around and finding out that the new white-haired girl seems quite powerful, the battle ended at a stalemate with no clear winners and no one getting disqualified either.
The second half of the episode concentrated on Nene’s past and her current situation. Turns out she’s Mangetsu’s little sister’s friend and ended up doing recon at their house while Shingetsu, Mang and Kuon (the white-haired girl) were negotiating an alliance. An alliance whose main purpose is to take out Nene. It ends with Nene revealing herself voluntarily to Mangetsu and Shingetsu.
What About the Characters
Aside from Mangetsu who is a bit of an empty vessel, I quite like the characters. We were more intimately introduced to two of them this week. Nene who is a rational straight man despite being much younger than the rest and who bears the responsibility of putting her family back together on her shoulders. Her sisters are older and a bit more free-spirited. All three of them are quite fun and possibly my favourite character group so far,
We also got to know Kuon a bit better. As already hinted at, she is taking care of her older sister that seems to be suffering some type of deep trauma. I’m assuming wining Granbelm is a way to help her sister somehow. Kuon is cool and collected. She’s very driven for understandable reasons but seems wound so tight that a set back could push her over the edge. Still her skills are undeniable and her instinct to find the other mages in the real world and negotiate an alliance is pretty interesting.
What I Liked
Suishou I love Suishou. She’s Anna’s blue-haired servant(?), follower(?), hanger-on(?), friend(?)… Their relationship is not entirely established but Anna treats her like an underling while Suishou is generally amused by it. She is a huge troll thoroughly enjoying herself and was a breath of fresh, sarcastic comic relief air! I didn’t mention her much in my synopsis or character section because she isn’t very present and so far hasn’t been narratively important but every time she had a few minutes of screen time, it was delightful!
Granbelm has essentially set up that every character has a good, generally selfless reason to want to win and they keep insisting that there can only be ONE winner. In fact, the only one without a great justification for wanting victory above the others is our main character Mangetsu who just wants to win cause she can and it looks like fun. This spells some potentially difficult moral decisions down the line which makes the story a little “deeper” than I thought it would be.
Nene’s covert spying operation was just a ton of fun and she’s a good foil character to throw in the mix.
What I Liked Less
My bias remains clear although my justification for it is getting cloudy. I prefer the real world events to the actual Granbelm competition by a mile. This week’s mecha battle was actually pretty good. There was some strategy involved so it wasn’t just two robots crashing into each other or batting away projectiles over and over again. We also had some fun communication between the magical mecha pilot girls. Objectively it was a fairly good battle scene but I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.
I think they should stop introducing new characters now. As I mentioned I find Mangetsu rather underdeveloped for the moment and I don’t think the series can support a much bigger cast without getting lost along the way.
Granbelm has its limitations and it’s probably never going to be my favourite shows. There is also a lot of genre and style biases it has to work against which may make it hard for it to find an audience (something I could also say for Given). But there are a lot of actually good elements in this series and for what it is, I find it to be an above-average showing.
Once again this a week, I was expecting to be bored or disappointed but the episode turned around at the midway mark and became rather charming. And this has consistently been my experience which I think is praiseworthy.
Mood: Pleasantly surprised
Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!
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Images from: Granbelm. Dir. M Watanabe. Nexus. 2019.
5 thoughts on “Granbelm Episode 4 – A Ministering Angel Shall My Sister Be”
@Mangetsu: I’m not sure whether you saying she’s a bit of an empty vessel is a criticism or not, because that’s exactly what she’s been characterised as to her outburst in episode 2. Her motivation to take part in the tournament is indeed because she can, but that’s opposed to her thinking that she can literally do nothing else (e.g. she keeps making food everyone says tastes normal). In a sense, denying the magic would feel like giving up the only thing that makes her special. You’re right that she doesn’t have a goal of her own, nothing she wants to accomplish (so she says she’ll help Shingetsu fulfill her goal, but who knows?).
She has this critical distance to everything she’s told and goes by her intuition. I think she’s set up as a rule-breaker: everyone’s magic being fuelled by the wishes, with her being the only one taking in the whole picture, because she has no stakes, and because she’s learning as she goes. She feels as developed as anyone to me.
@Nene: I’m not sure about her age. I think she’s actually older than all of them. Magic just seems to have messed with her ability to age. However, I’m not sure how reliable that is – since she can behave quite childish from time to time (but then who doesn’t). Undecided.
The episode was okay. I agree about Suishou, love her little moments. (And there’s an intriguing angle about a hierarchy of mage families. One wonders.)
The show really is better than I thought it would be after the first episode.
It’s a simple statement about Mangentsu. It puts her at odds with the other charas which isn’t bad
I agree. I think this is the episode where Granbelm found it’s footing more.
I think I preferred .last week but it’s overall better than I expected