Apparently the writers are aware that a lot of viewers call it at episode 3. Fan-service is low comparatively this week and plot stakes are high ending in a cliff-hanger designed to force viewers to commit to at least one more. Was it successful?
While it might have been very easy to dismiss this title as just another fan-service laden isekai story adapted from a light novel there have been definite signs of some thought put into this anime right from episode 1. Whether or not the aspects it gets right are enough to offset some of the other elements is entirely up to the individual viewer, but episode 3 is probably a good indication of what this show might be able to do. With the fan-service dialled back to about a five instead of a nine out of ten (there’s some low angle shots of the girls, an ongoing focus on bouncing breasts, and a sequence where elf-girl squishes herself against Diablo for the length of a conversation), there’s actually time for some plot development and this is actually going fairly well.
The story Rem told in episode 1 about housing a demon’s soul is fairly relevant as is the discontented Mage who has been mostly the butt of jokes for the past two episodes. We also get more of a sense of who Diablo is going to be in the world as he steps up to the task of defending others for little gain of his own. The duelling personalities of the main character continue to work well with his in-game persona carrying him on even as his inner self kind of freaks out at the thought of fighting.
I’m not about to proclaim this one a master-piece or even particularly great in the grand scheme of things, but realistically, there’s actually a fairly solid story being set up here and these first three episodes have given me reason to believe that the plot is even going to work on being cohesive and tying points together making encounters not feel so pointless or random. It could all still just become a boob and butt fest with the girls, but this episode came with a decent enough attempt at narrative and characterisation.
It seems Okabe’s friends might be getting a little tired of waiting for the passive protagonist to act and now they are taking matters into their own hands. What does this mean as we go forward?
There’s no doubt that Steins;Gate 0 has been characterised primarily by an Okabe Rintaro who is determined not to build a time machine and will not risk moving world lines. However, that’s always a dangerous stance for a story to have a character resist taking an action. It kind of leads the plot to stagnation and ultimately the only real way to resolve a situation like that is to either have the character do something else instead or to force their hand. After half a season of meandering, it seems like the support cast have decided to rise to the occasion with Suzuha and Daru enlisting Maho to help them recreate the time leap machine. While they aren’t the team that Okabe and Kurisu were, I’d have to say their likelihood of success is pretty good particularly this far into the season.
But what does that actually mean for the narrative? Has it actually outgrown Okabe or is this just a way of forcing his hand without having him do a complete back-flip on his own decision not to mess with time? And part of me can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just do this earlier rather than waste all that time trying to get Okabe to come around when clearly he was adamant about not moving from his current position.
It also, of course calls into question the motives of the characters. Daru wants to help his daughter and Suzuha has always had pretty openly stated motivations to change the future from the one she escaped. It is Maho’s motive that seems fairly murky and I wonder what that will do to the enterprise.
Well, plenty of possibilities as always for this show and yet overall I can’t help but note that I’m still not enjoying this anywhere near as much as the original. I’m not disliking it but it kind of just is at this point and while that’s kind of enough it isn’t a show I’m going to rush to recommend whereas I firmly recommend watching the original Steins;Gate.
Full disclosure, I’m not big on real historical settings or situations. Fantasy ones with historical trapping are fine but mostly the warring states era, samurai and the like don’t make for overly compelling viewing (with some exceptions). So while I originally avoided this one, some heavy praise from fellow reviewers and a feeling of minor desperation for something actually good this season rather than just tolerable, had me trying the first episode of Angolmois. So what did I think?
While this one isn’t to my usual tastes, and the weird visual filter over everything (particularly noticeable over moving images of the landscape) makes it look kind of ugly and murky (I’d also suggest leads to feeling slightly queasy when the background but not the foreground moves) there was something quite compelling about the first two episodes here. Possibly not being filled with characters trapped in another world, happy go lucky teenagers, characters whose entire lives seem to be defined by weather they can hit something over a net or sing really good, and an absence of gratuitous fan-service made this one stand out regardless of some of its lesser qualities. But that probably isn’t giving it credit for what it did well.
However, before I get onto those positives, I’d also like to throw in that this one did start as in what looks like the end of a conflict before going back to show us how the protagonist got there and while the technique is a little more affective here than in something like Lord of Vermilion, it still isn’t the best way to get me interested in a story, particularly when the sequence on the boat would have been a perfectly fine introduction and a much better hook.
I don’t have enough familiarity with this particular historical era or conflict to comment on the accuracy or lack of it of anything going on here. My Mongolian history is limited strictly to their invasion of China and even then it lacks anything resembling depth. That said, while there might be something for history buffs, it isn’t a prerequisite as they aren’t expecting you to know what is going on and in just two episodes, without a massive exposition dump, this show has managed to establish where the island is, why the Mongols are invading it and what their overall objective would be, and why the character who seems to be the protagonist is there and is clearly going to end up fighting. That’s more or less enough to get into this story even without a larger context. Though I’m betting the protagonist wishes he hadn’t been asked to hold out for a set number of days.
And while the characters are so far fairly standard characters for this kind of historical drama they aren’t too boring and there’s potential for them to become interesting as we learn more about the exiles and the inhabitants of the island (assuming they don’t all get killed).
I’m enjoying the pacing of this so far as it isn’t moving at breakneck speed but I don’t feel like it is lingering too long on any one moment. And so far the fights have been interesting enough to watch though I worry they might become a bit too similar as the story continues.
Still, given I originally passed on this one from the premise, I ended up enjoying it a great deal more than I expected. I’ll see how this one goes.
I was pleasantly surprised that episode two of this was reasonably decent given the first episode’s shortcomings. The focus is very much on Vlad but the other characters definitely get a little bit of a look in as this supernatural story continues.
It has been awhile since vampires actually had issues with garlic, crosses, running water and were held to the belief that they couldn’t enter a building without being invited and while Buffy made good use of the mythology around vampires, most stories take great liberties with discarding the old legends or openly scoffing at them. While that doesn’t make this show any better, it does make me more interested in it if the characters are going to have a more traditional portrayal (despite all appearing to be generically good looking, young guys). If that was the only thing episode two offered, I’d probably still be more inclined to watch this show than I was last week, but overall I was generally left with the impression that this episode was better.
Ton was still not what I’d consider a great protagonist, but on one or two occasions she actually called Vlad on keeping information from her even if she didn’t press the point. The introduction of Wayne was kind of entertaining and I can see him being immensely useful as a plot device but he was just kind of fun as a character. Even Luke and the other guy (I keep missing his name) got a bit more detail about who they were and there was groundwork laid for an ongoing story with Luke that looks like it will get fleshed out next week.
Of course, the attention was on Vlad a lot and his vampire powers are pretty cool. He’s fairly stereotypical as a character and yet not annoyingly so, but he may not be all that interesting to some viewers. Plus he has absolutely zero chemistry with Ton so the scenes with the two of them that could have been charming or fun mostly end up being just a back and forth of flat dialogue that does progress the plot but isn’t overly interesting.
I think i’m in with this anime though. The heavy supernatural focus in this second episode really sold it to me and even though I’d like a bit more from the cast, there were improvements from episode 1 to episode 2 and hopefully they will continue.
What this episode had to do with anything I will probably never know, but as a follow up to a fairly ordinary first episode it really didn’t do much to generate any more interest in this anime.
There’s a very good chance that I’ll drop this at episode 3. Episode one gave us all antiques and no mystery. Episode two changes that around and other than meeting the family in the shop there are no antiques. It makes for a fairly unexplained situation where you have to wonder why they are asking Kiyotaka to look into threatening letters in the first place. This seems like something that could have been explained and wasn’t, and why Aoi is dragged around makes no sense given it has nothing to do with the shop or her job.
And even if we ignore that contextually it makes no sense, it isn’t very interesting. They go look at some flowers, talk to some angry girls, and then conclude with what was probably obvious from the get go, though the motives explained might have been overlooked given neither was all that interesting.
Visually this show remains good enough, though the sequence under the trees made for some distracted viewing as the sun spots on clothes and faces didn’t seem to move even when the characters did. It seemed like they were overly ambitious adding all those sun streaks into the scene but then didn’t really do anything with them leaving me wondering just what was going on at times.
But yeah, there’s not a lot here to be excited about. It’s working, kind of, but it hasn’t done a lot to ensure the audience knows who these characters are nor has it tried to actually make us care about them. So all that is left this episode is a bit of a puzzle that it would really be an over-embellishment to claim was a mystery.
Setsuna continues to try to figure out the secret of the island in episode 3, “The Right Way To Spin Dreams”. However, no matter which way you look at it, this episode is a mess.
Hands up who wants to watch dreams sequences without a context in the opening, followed by the story openly acknowledging it’s own trope by attempting to subvert it in a sequence that if executed correctly might have at least drawn a chuckle but here just fills up screen time? Setsuna’s ploy to get Rinne outside is childish at best (let’s pretend to have fun on the beach and she’ll join us) and the transparent excuse for beach fan-service as Rinne dreams of a far more adventurous romp on the beach for Setsuna, Karen and Sara than they could possibly have really just falls horrendously flat, as does Rinne when she finally venture out into the sand.
Of course, we could still gain something from this overly long sequence if they had then done something with Rinne. She claimed to believe she had Soot Blight Syndrome and was apparently at risk of death from sunlight. And yet immediately after her fall on the beach she’s sitting under the umbrella with Setsuna and just kind of shrugs it all aside with an, ‘I kind of knew’ line. However, with one potential plot line (the mysterious illness Rinne might be suffering from) shot in the foot, the girls stumble upon a shack and when they go to open it Rinne freaks out and collapses.
This is not how a story should develop. If we then follow this up with a hot springs sequence where Rinne once again decides to sing, for no apparent reason, and then we get her singing over a whole bunch of still scenes that I guess are meant to be the group getting closer together or something but its so boring I kind of zoned out. Then we get more drama with Karen and her father before a quiet heart to heart with Sara who pretty much calls Karen on her childish behaviour and lack of planning, only to Setsuna and not Karen.
There’s not one interesting sequence in this entire mess and while there are ideas that link all of this together, it really doesn’t feel worth the effort to think about. Honestly, in a season where I had more on my watch list, I’d drop this at this point, and even without a replacement show, I might still drop this. It is just not particularly interesting.
Mana takes a vacation in this episode of GeGeGe no Kitaro but wouldn’t you know it, Rat-Man is also on a ‘vacation’ and soon we’re going to have yokai trouble again.
It’s probably a testament to how light-hearted this show is that even an episode that focuses on a yokai dragging sailors under water isn’t enough to make me flinch when normally any potential drowning has me on edge and reaching for the mouse to skip a scene. I actually had no emotional response at all to this episode which concerns me a little for the future of watching it. Previously I’ve had a lot of fun with this show, but I will admit to feeling very detached during the more recent episodes.
Still, there’s nothing actually wrong with this episode. Mana visits family and one of them doesn’t return home from his fishing work. When seeking to rescue him, they realise that there’s a yokai that is claiming sailor’s and using them as yokai to bring up his treasure (though no one ever seems to really pin the blame on Rat-Man which is where it belongs given earlier in the episode he’s the one who opened the pot letting the yokai out).
I think where the episode may have dropped the ball a bit was in the town’s response. It is obvious they were using the yokai threat as a reason to unify a town that was being torn apart by opposing ideals on how to run a festival, but other than a bit of exposition early on the audience didn’t really have any connection to the plot about the festival so it didn’t really have much impact when they all came together to play tug-of-war with the ghosts.
Ultimately, this episode works but for me it was kind of functional without being particularly interesting.
I wasn’t going to cover this one initially but was still trying to decide between this one and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. After two episodes the overall opinion is both are riddled with problems so I might as well go all in (or drop them both but we’ll see what episode 3 does).
Right, so we’ve got another average guy in a strange world with a smart phone that for whatever reason actually works and he’s surrounded by beautiful girls. So, we’ve seen this already, what is this doing new other than giving us an even more annoying title to type?
Well, the first episode didn’t give us much new, except perhaps a more overt sexual advance from one of the girls that we would normally see. Or at least that’s what I would say if this was an already established show. However, this one seems to have dropped us head first into the middle with Yuto having already been in said world for two years and already risen to a position of power in the Wolf Clan. This at least means we don’t have the fish out of water experience with our main character because he’s already relatively acclimatised. While this might seem like cheating, it actually does cut through a lot of the standard points that would normally bore me silly as characters make similar observations to ones we’ve seen before.
The other thing it did that was a little bit novel was strongly suggest that we’re still on Earth but in the past and gave Yuto the ability to call to the present day with his phone seemingly provided he’s near some weird device which from the OP seems kind of critical to the whole travelling to where-ever he is situation though nothing has been explained about that. Now while neither of these points makes for a totally new experience, they at least shake up the formula a bit.
The second episode gave us a bit more combat focus and while it wasn’t amazing and having Yuto explain his strategy and reasoning throwing in healthy doses of all the usual war quotes in the process really undermined any sense of tension, it wasn’t terrible. Even the hot springs sequence where the leader of a clan Yuto conquered in the previous episode wasn’t as painful as it might have been.
While I’m not expecting much of anything from this anime, it so far has been watchable. And in a season that has been pretty flat in terms of first episodes, this one is kind of on par with the rest of the pack so far so we’ll give it a little while and see how it goes.
Record of Grancrest War is a fantasy series that doesn’t seem to understand that cohesion is an absolute must when building a fantasy world. However, that’s just the start of this anime’s problems.
I really love fantasy. There’s just something really great about stepping away from this world for awhile and losing yourself in another world with characters who are struggling to overcome overblown evil and to find their way in their world. That means, even when early indicators are that a story might not hold up, I tend to hold on and hope. In many cases that leaves me feeling a little burned.
Record of Grancrest War isn’t actually a case of me feeling burned. I’d honestly be lying if I said I didn’t quite enjoy that frustrating twenty minutes of viewing each week even as I wrote ever snarkier episode reviews about it. It isn’t so bad that it is good, nor is it actually good. There’s just something about it that remained appealing and kept reigniting my optimism that maybe this anime might pull itself together even as it failed to capitalise on anything time after time.
While that means I don’t have regrets about watching it; it also pretty much means I will never put myself through a rewatch of this anime nor would I actually recommend it to someone unless they were equally desperate for a fantasy and weren’t too concerned about the quality of the story being told.
So let’s look at the show in greater detail.
Essentially this story bites off a lot more than it can chew. It starts off with a wedding that is essentially interrupted by chaos appearing and killing both the father of the groom and bride, apparently stopping the continent from being united and plunging it into war. It’s a fairly dramatic back drop for a story, but we’ll not get back to this particular plot line for a fair while so just leave that in the back of your mind.
We jump to Theo and Silua, who from the OP are apparently the main characters but be prepared for these two to just disappear from the story for episodes at a time and regularly not be even half as interesting as anyone in the support cast. Admittedly, there are some adorable Theo and Siluca moments and by the climax Theo is the speech making protagonist that I kind of hoped he would become, but realistically these two kind of bring the show down right from the start by not being interesting enough to shape the story around.
Instead we keep going off on little side quests about following other characters and their plights. Villar and Milza eat up a lot screen time in the first half of the series being a far more interesting hero character and antagonist. And Marrine and Alexis eat a substantial portion of the second half, being the couple who didn’t get married in the beginning and end up leading opposite factions in the war (at least Marrine does as Alexis is more of an artist than a fighter). Throw in some werewolf maids, an assassin, a warrior, other Lords and Mages, and even a Vampire King who will apparently be super important in the final episode even though we know nothing about him, and the story is cluttered, unfocused, and bloated.
None of this is the end of the world for a story if it manages to link its ideas together, but Grancrest just kind of reels from event to event, jumping time and space with little care for its audience. You never get a sense of the world as characters literally move between cities and islands and cross half a continent without any real indicator of how long that took. The world as a result feels like a series of hubs rather than an actual world.
The story also keeps forgetting that the whole point was to end the age of chaos. It gets back to it in the climax but you can go episodes without anyone mentioning chaos. And the chaos beasts that are such a big deal in episode one just vanish for nearly half the series. You can’t help but feel you are being told chaos is a big deal just so the climax makes sense but there’s no evidence to support that for the bulk of the series. Mostly because the series focuses almost exclusively on fighting between the Lords and acquiring lands and crests.
And this is where things get really dodgy on the world building side. The crests don’t ever make sense. What one Lords crest does isn’t the same as another and the discrepancies are given no explanation. Even the titular ‘Grancrest’ itself has no explanation other than it will end chaos. Great, what does it do? And you’ll still ask that question at the end. Because while it does end chaos, the how and the why are without even a quick explainer.
I guess I can’t get through this review without mentioning the visuals. Even in episode one the animation isn’t great. While you can ignore it and enjoy the episode, it isn’t exactly something you would praise. However there are countless moments in episodes where the animation is just outright bad and distracting. And while in a more compelling story they might get away with this, in a show where the story makes little sense, the characters aren’t really winning us over, and the world building has failed, poor animation just takes things a step too far and it becomes quite painful to watch in some instances. Blending poor animation with poor CG also doesn’t help the situation (ask Irina about the water).
Then we have this overly dramatic soundtrack that would work perfectly for a game or a competent anime of this nature, and yet here just feels like it is desperately trying to prop up the thin outline of a narrative and it fails.
There we have it. Nothing really to recommend here and yet it isn’t unwatchable. I can complain all I like, and I certainly did in the episode reviews, but I kept going back to it and watching. Realistically, after the half-way point I didn’t even want to drop it because I actually did want to see if Theo would become the Emperor and save the world, even if the process involved to get him there made no sense.
If you put yourself through this anime, I’d love to know your thoughts.