Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 5 Light Novel Review: The Hole of Surprises Isn’t Kidding

If you missed my reviews of the first 4 books, check them out here. The review below will contain spoilers for the previous books.

Review:

Level 5 is an interesting entry into the Grimgar series if only because it seems to be forcing the direction of the story and the characters down a slightly different path. Prior to now day to day survival and the grief of losing friends has stayed first and foremost in the characters minds. They are newbies in a vicious world where mistakes get you killed and that kind of dominated the first four books.

Needless to say, by book 5 a change was needed. Not because what came before it wasn’t good, but because there’s only so many hunting trips where the characters caution each other, or pitched battles where they rely on others and feel regret, that you can read through before it starts to become repetitive. These characters are no longer the newbies in the world and they realise they have to step things up. The end result isn’t flawless and certainly as a story this chapter is probably weaker than the previous entries, and yet the possibilities it presents for future instalments makes me want to keep going.

Let’s look at some specifics. Level 5 sees Haruhiro and the crew still playing in the Wonder Hole and getting into a kind of routine. All of that changes when they discover a new shaft in that isn’t known to the other recruits and they decide they want to claim it as there’s. Unfortunately for them, team Tokimune also stumble upon the discovery and so an uneasy alliances is formed.

This premise has some great potential. For the first time Haruhiro and the others aren’t just following along with the directions they are given. Initially they started goblin hunting in areas they were directed to, and then Mary led them to the mines. The pitched battle was organised by others as well and even their forays in the Wonder Hole were always following the advice they were given about the different areas and dwellers. Moving into unknown territory is a huge step for this group. Also, pairing with another team, while they’ve kind of worked with team Renji before during a battle, allows new characters and interactions and a general shake up of the group dynamics. There’s really a lot of scope being opened up at the start of this book.

Unfortunately there is a major problem fairly quickly. And that is that team Tokimune is made up of nut-jobs and not the fun kind. While one or two eccentrics would be understandable and could even be fun in this setting, an entire team of people who seem like they shouldn’t have survive a week in Grimgar is asking a bit much. Then as these characters dominate a lot of the interactions part of me is almost wishing for Ranta to start shouting again. Oh, but he does that anyway. So we’re left with the worst interactions from the original crew and a new team that aren’t all that interesting (because they are trying to hard to be quirky) or likeable.

Where this volume manages to save itself is that it presents a genuinely interesting challenge for the teams. And as team Tokimune are the ones blundering into things unprepared for once, it makes Haruhiro and his team step up and take the lead, which is quite satisfying to see. While they aren’t instant juggernauts and the threat of death continues to seems very close at all times, these characters are quite pleasing in their new role as the stable support and later the rescue squad.

Grimgar5b.jpg

There’s a very weird series of interactions between Haruhiro and Mimorin from the other team that seem to be indicating that she’s wanting to either adopt him as a pet or maybe she’s falling for him. I’m not really sure but their interactions are weird and the book ends with these two which makes me wonder about how significant this character is overall or whether she’s going to fade away after this one volume.

Overall though, while the book has its good points and weaker parts, it is a very satisfying continuation of a story that I’m pretty engrossed in and I’m looking forward to buying the next books and finding out where it goes.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

avatar

Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2                Thoughts on Anime             74iz

 

Advertisements

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 4 Light Novel Review: Thematic Consistency Makes For A Compelling Read

I’ve reviewed the first three books in this series but if you missed those posts you can read them here. The review below will contain spoilers for the previous books.

Review:

I said in my review of the third book that each story here takes us further into the rich world of Grimgar and book 4 is no exception. However, stronger than the extraordinary setting is the ongoing development of the characters and the themes of loss and the will to survive.

After the death of Manato in book 1, Grimgar set its tone clearly and also demonstrated a fairly strong ability to write real human emotions into a story. Coping with loss and death is done fairly poorly in so many stories with characters completely breaking down or just forgetting about the death as soon as they step away from the grave. Grimgar managed to show the mourning process in a compelling manner as well as portray the long journey back to some kind of emotional normalcy even while the characters were forced to continue to act because to wait would have been to die.

The death at the end of book 3 (which might have been a tease) was confirmed very swiftly in book 4 and even though I had quite a few weeks waiting for the next book to be released and to arrive, I hadn’t quite come to terms with what that death would mean for the party. Once again, Grimgar has managed to impress me with its handling of the grief process each character goes through and their recovery as a party. It isn’t a repeat of what we saw in book 1. These characters have gone through so much since then and this is the second time, but that actually makes it more intriguing.

Merry wasn’t with the party when they lost Manato but she has lost her own comrades and this death hits her hard and reinforces her fear that she is a failure as a priest. For Ranta, he has lost the one person in the party who kind of tolerated him and someone he’d actually started forming a connection with. But outside of the loss of a comrade and making so many of them feel guilty, is the feeling that without Moguzo they will die. That their party can’t survive without him.

There’s also the added emotional confusion when several members of the party are offered places in more established and potentially safer groups with more experience.

Grimgar4b

But this book isn’t just dwelling on the past. Once again, the story manages to balance dealing with the characters’ emotions with moving the plot forward. More importantly, the characters still aren’t at the stage where they can rest as each day uses money and if they don’t fight they don’t earn. Another replacement party member is found and the group begin to explore new territory taking some risks in the hopes of getting stronger and finding a way for long term survival.

While Ranta remains a fairly insufferable character, his presence is kind of needed in this group and the story balances him well as he never crosses the line of making me hate him as a character. He is annoying and he stirs the other characters and at times he is a complete idiot, yet in every fight I find myself hoping he survives if only so he can stir Haruhiro up the next day.

Actually, I like all the characters as characters. They are all flawed people and struggle at times and I doubt I’d like many of them in real life, but I’ve grown very attached while reading this series and knowing that the writer can and will kill characters leaves me feeling quite stressed during fight sequences.

On that note, the final battle delivered in this book tops anything read so far and once again I’m wondering why the anime didn’t make it this far because books 3 and 4 would be incredibly impressive in anime form.

However, I can’t just be all lovey-dovey about this book so my small criticism would be Haruhiro’s character. After the progress he had been making before this book, now he seems to stagnate as a character and given he’s the narrator that might become a problem. Still, it seems as though the final fight may have broken through some wall so maybe book 5 will deliver some growth. Unfortunately it isn’t available on the Book Depository just yet. Still, I am very keen to read on.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

avatar

If you enjoyed this post and would like to see Patreon2more great content on this blog, consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month.

Thoughts on Anime.jpg

Another way you can support the content here is by buying a copy of ‘Thoughts on Anime 2017‘ as an ebook. It contains a selection of reviews, features and top 5 lists from 2017 and while the content is available free on the site, this is a great way to give a one off show of support for the blog. It is available for $3.99.

 

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 3 Light Novel Review: Why Has This Part Not Been Adapted Into Anime?

I’ve previously reviewed level 1 and level 2 so if you missed those, please check them out. Also, some spoilers below though I’ve tried to be fairly vague about specific plot points.

Review:

No beverage comparisons this time; the story is just worth reading.

When reviewing level 1, I admitted the writing wasn’t very good but I really enjoyed the story and the world the characters inhabited and how many possibilities that provided. Level 2 gave us improved writing and a really sharp character focus on two of the male leads. Level 3 brings us a story that wasn’t part of the anime so for the first time I went in without any idea of what was about to happen, but even if I had known, this still would have been fantastic.

It should be noted though that the writing, while improved from book 1, still has some moments where you just want to grab a pen and do some harsh editing. There’s one section narrated by Haruhiro where he gets this really repetitive thought pattern starting with ‘like’ that is used over and over again. I get what they were trying to do in this section of the book and it does make it distinct to other parts Haruhiro narrates, but it is really awkward writing.

I’m also going to point out that I felt the cover art of this one was a bit ho-hum and some of the black and white images throughout the book are so dark I can’t really see what they are supposed to be.

Grimgar3b

That is much lighter and clearer than the print version I got of this. And while it is a really minor issue, I’m not exactly buying these for the art anyway given I’m wanting to read the novel, if you are going to include images they should at least be nice.

The other criticism I’m going to put out there, before I get on to what I really loved about this book, is the chapter narrated by another random soldier. Now level 2 explored the idea of switching up the narrator but then we moved from Haruhiro to Ranta in order to get a different perspective on a known character. It gave us more insight on someone who had been dominating a lot of scenes but had so far been painted only in the way that Haruhiro saw him and the switched perspective actually helped flesh him out enormously (though didn’t make him any more tolerable in this book).

But level 3 has a chapter entirely narrated by some random soldier (not a volunteer mind you, just a soldier) as he directs an attack. Mostly he is swearing and cursing other members of the army and the basic command structure and while that is understandable, given the circumstances, it doesn’t really do anything for the reader. We don’t know who this soldier is (we’re given his name at the start of the chapter but that isn’t really the same thing). We don’t have any reason to care about what is going on. While the events of this chapter do have flow on effects to the main characters, we would have understood more or less what had happened without this chapter. Maybe some of the characters in this chapter become significant later but for this chapter to have worked these characters needed far more introduction earlier in the story.

So what works for Level 3?

The storyline here is pretty epic (and not in the I just thought it was cool way). The main army has put out an order asking volunteer soldiers to join a campaign against not one, but two orc strongholds (yep, orc and not goblin). Previously we saw how strong some random orcs were when they attacked the town (a minor part of level 2) so this is a fairly big deal. But so is the reward for the volunteer soldiers who take up the call. Naturally after a lot of umming and ahhing, Haruhiro and crew do sign up but right from the start things don’t go exactly as expected (and which reader thought they would).

Basically the entire second half of the novel is either taken up with the battle at the Keep Haruhiro and his friends are attacking, or with the first definite sign of the world these characters came from through a flashback/dream type sequence that Haruhiro has. Even with Haruhiro’s fairly mundane and narrowly focused narration the audience glimpses just how intense this battle ends up being and the toll it takes on the volunteer soldiers. In case you read level 2 and felt that Grimgar had forgotten its promise in level 1 of gritty and dangerous fantasy world where death could be a reality, let level 3 remind you. Of course, the ending will have you screaming particularly when you realise that the only way to get level 4 is to pre-order and wait (Book Depository), which of course I did.

The other part I really enjoyed about this was Choco’s character. She was a volunteer soldier who arrived after Haruhiro’s group and she’s kind of the catalyst for a lot of the reveals we get from Haruhiro. We’re really getting our first sure signs that something is really wrong with these characters being dumped in this world. She didn’t do much in the story but her impact is fairly significant and to be honest, she brought out a side of Haruhiro that was kind of entertaining.

Renji remains an incredibly impressive character every time he finds his path crossing Haruhiro. That’s probably because Haruhiro has a bit of hero-worship going and he’s narrating, but Renji manages to make everything look cool (even losing). He is a nice contrasting character given he arrived in the world at the same time as Haruhiro did but as even Haruhiro admits the difference between them is insane at this point. And yet, this book shows us that Haruhiro and his group have definitely come a long way and it is their confidence that is lacking more than their abilities at this stage (that isn’t to say they aren’t still a little rough around the edges).

Lastly I’ll give a shout out Moguzo who quite literally steals a number of scenes right out from under our narrator’s nose.

Every book draws me deeper into the world of Grimgar and to be honest I can’t wait to get the next one. Certainly there are still issues with the writing and other points, but the story, the world, and the characters more than make up for it. I’d personally like to see the girls in the part get more development, though this book actually had Shihoru starting to develop a bit of personality so maybe we’ll get there yet.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 2 Novel Review: Like A Bitter Hot Chocolate?

Okay, I previously reviewed the first Grimgar light novel and I kind of compared the reading experience to drinking a cappuccino so I kind of wondered what drink this book would be. Which made me think that the story is no less bitter and there is some surprising depth to the flavour, but this is a much smoother read. The froth and silliness of the first book is mostly gone save for a few wispy bubbles so more like a hot chocolate than coffee.

So now that I’m done with the beverage comparison, and why I decided to start comparing books to drinks I won’t ever try to figure out, what did I think of this second book in the series?

I loved it!

My main complaints with book one was the endless and unnecessary fan service moments as well as the fairly poor quality of the writing (particularly the dialogue). This second book is incomparably better in how it reads (though there are still some issues with the writing itself and the dialogue, while improved, still has its eye-roll worthy moments). And the fanservice moments are all but completely gone. There’s one moment where one character suggests going to look in on the girls’ bathing and he is ignored so gives up, and that’s pretty much it.

For those who have watched the anime, this book takes us to the end as it deals with the fight against Death Spots in the mine, though that isn’t the only thing going on in this book. There’s once again a surprising amount of depth in the world building and the story and the characters continue to be fleshed out as they become more at home in this strange world.

I really love how simple things like their lodgings and whether they should stay where they are or find somewhere new in the town to live get discussed or turned over in Haruhiro’s mind as just one more pressing concern. It really drives home the point that these kids, and they are kids, are literally being forced to fend for themselves in a fantasy world. Forget dying in a mine somewhere, just having a roof over their heads is something of an accomplishment.

Another part I really enjoyed was that new arrivals were mentioned in this book. Haruhiro’s group we already knew weren’t the first and they haven’t been the last. Yet this is background to a larger story and even though some of the newest recruits join them in their lodgings, we don’t directly meet them. Haruhiro and his team have bigger things to worry about and really can’t spare a thought for someone even greener.

A lot of this book focuses in on Haruhiro’s struggle as he realises his personaity just isn’t suited for leadership and he agonised over every single decision and every comment or word from those in his team. His inability to work with, or communicate properly, with Ranta really weighs on his mind and this struggle comes through clearly and for the most part you can kind of empathise with him. Like everything else with this team, they are making do. Haruhiro didn’t become the leader by some sort of vote or because the others thoughts he’d be top-notch at it. The group kind of worked by committee for awhile but more and more often Haruhiro became the one who would have to make the call because the other team members just can’t (except Ranta, but no one is following him). The others acknowledge that and while they know Haruhiro isn’t exactly leadership material, they accept him in the role first out of necessity and throughout the course of this book we see Haruhiro growing into that role and the team’s growing respect for his leadership.

Grimgar2b

What I find really great about this is Haruhiro doesn’t suddenly become some juggernaut of destruction and able to snap out comands left and right. He’s the same scared teenager with no idea how he ended up where he is that we met in book one. But he’s a scared teenager who wants to live and doesn’t want his friends to die so he’ll do what he has to do. How he figures out what that is takes a bit of trial and error and advice, but it is lovely to see him progressing.

However, this focus on Haruhiro and Ranta comes at the expense of the other characters. Merry should have had a more significant moment in this story but it seems like that kind of got buried under the boy’s personal growth. Yume and Shihoru have one or two moments but for the most part are background in this story. Same with Moguzo. While hopefully these characters will see some more development in later stories, here, other than a few skills they have learned and a general connection as a team (which has grown enormously over the course of the story) they really don’t get any independent development.

There is an early action sequence with an orc attack on the town (kind of destroying the illusion that the town is actually safe which was also kind of nice from a general feeling of hopelessness about this world) and we get to see Renji in action. Renji was the actual talented one who arrived in the world the same time as the others and formed his own group and the difference between the two teams is immeasurable at this point. Not sure where this plot line is going, but Renji is a nice bit character who makes his few moments on the pages count.

I’m kind of excited to move to the next book because this one had great pacing, some good action scenes, and I really enjoyed the character moments. Not to mention, I now have nothing more to compare the story to (not that I was trying to compare to the anime, but you really can’t help it sometimes). So everything from now on will be new to me and I’ll see how the story progresses.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar

Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime With Action

Alright, I’ve looked at romantic anime before but this time I’m shifting my focus to action. It is really hard to get a definitive classification on whether something is action or not. Does one fight sequence really make for action? And how do you compare action used for comedy with gritty realistic fight sequences, and then how do you compare those to the over the top craziness that is most action in anime? In the end my criteria for this list was that the fight sequences themselves were a strength of the show and integral to the narrative. So yes there are anime out there with more action and maybe even more impressive action sequences, this is the list of anime that I came up with.

I’d love to know what action anime you love and why. Please comment below.

Patrons, be sure to check out my lesser top 5 list. The anime on the list this week are all actually decent anime (in their own way – okay one of them is terrible no matter how you slice it) but the action in them is not so awesome.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week go to Full Metal Alchemist and Claymore.

Number 5: Soul Eater

While I’d love to put Soul Eater far higher on this list (because Soul Eater is just plain awesome) when looking just at the action of the series I have to admit there are some really wasted moments and some fairly disappointing outcomes in some of the fights. The reason this stayed on the list at all is Maka. Her fights, right from episode 1, are some of the most amazing fight sequences I’ve seen from a female character in anime. She’s not using a ranged weapon, she’s not moral support, she’s out there in the thick of the fight and swinging around a weapon that realistically she shouldn’t be able to pick up. If we ignore the final fight (which, please do), all of Maka’s battles are just a joy to watch. If you’re interested my series review is here.

Number 4: Gangsta

This one is a bit more realistic than Soul Eater but still goes for spectacle and humans who can perform inhuman feats. Nicolas, as a tag, really shows off what he can do and given he seems to just like the rush his fights aren’t about efficiency, they are definitely about fun. Of course, most of his opponents also seem to be enjoying themselves so while the fight might be about life and death, you can’t help but get caught up in the enthusiasm of the clash itself. Again, I’ve reviewed this series so if you are interested the review is here.

Number 3: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

I know I just heard the sound of jaws collectively hitting the ground but there is a reason for this choice. While Grimgar is a sleepy little fantasy that is focussed very much on the main character’s internal struggle to cope with this life he finds himself in, the action sequences are an absolutely integral part of this story. More importantly, because every fight is literally a matter of survival for both sides and the tragedy of death is introduced early as a central theme, every battle has a feeling of absolute finality. There are no small conflicts when a single arrow might bring you down and hesitating for a moment could be all the difference between life and death. If we couple this with Grimgar’s distinct art style then the action sequences here are not just deadly they are beautiful. So, while this might be a slow moving story, the action is anything but and if you haven’t given it a go you should probably check out my review and then go check out the anime.

Number 2: Owari no Seraph

This one I haven’t reviewed yet but it will definitely happen. I think what draws me to this is it is a vampire story but it doesn’t really try for horror or atmosphere. It really is a straight up us vs them battle for the right to rule and we have some pretty cool weapons and characters thrown into the mix. Certainly there’s a few issues with the story, particularly in the second half of the second season, but if you like humans (or mostly human) fighting against a superior supernatural force with high stakes than this anime is well worth a watch.

Number 1: Full Metal Panic

 

Again, I’ve yet to review this anime but it is a great action anime. You have military conflicts, robot fights, explosions in school shoe lockers, and pretty much any other kind of action you could be looking for in a story. The weird mix of serious narrative and high school comedy somehow works and actually the Fumoffu season which is pretty much entirely focussed on the mercenary’s day-to-day school life delivers some pretty amazing action in and of itself. Season 1 and Second Raid give us hostage situations and dramatic rescues, chase sequences, straight up military fights, and just such a range of scenes to enjoy it is kind of hard to overlook this one. As being a fighter is an essential part of Sousuke’s character and the action is used so much for both dramatic and humorous effect I just had to choose this as the number one for the list.

There we go, my top 5 action anime recommendations, though not necessarily the most action filled anime out there. What would you have put on your list?


Are you a fan of 100WordAnime.blog?

If you like this site and you like what I do, please consider becoming a patron.

patreon

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar