Zero is a witch who wrote a grimoire (magic book) only it has been stolen and now she’s travelling to get it back. She runs into a Beast Mercenary (no name given) and recruits him to guard her until she retrieves the book. As payment, she offers to turn the Mercenary back into a human which would allow him to finally live his dream of living a quiet life and so after some bickering he agrees to the deal, but things aren’t as simple as they seem.
I reviewed Grimoire of Zero week to week so if you are interested in my episode reviews, click here.
I’ve always kind of felt that the worst thing a series can do is be boring and Grimoire of Zero walks perilously close to boring for a lot of its run time. Even when watching something terrible like Hand Shakers, at least I can sit and make fun of it. With Grimoire of Zero, there really isn’t anything wrong. All the key elements of a good show are sitting right there on the screen. Yet at no point did this show actually ask me to get invested or to care in the slightest about the fate of any of the characters or the events in the story. Admittedly, this was a problem I had with a few shows this spring (Granblue Fantasy being another), where it seems like the story should be really interesting and right in line with my usual preferences, and yet I’ve been unable to actually care about what is going on.
Despite my general lack of engagement, there are some good points to Grimoire of Zero that deserve to be mentioned. Other than a few scenes in the second half, it is a really pretty anime. The characters, the world, the magic are all just well done and great to look at. Admittedly, there are a few moments in the second half where group shots of the cast have a few of them looking a little rough around the edges and a few moments where you have to wonder which direction they were actually looking or who they were talking to. It isn’t a deal breaker by any means but there’s definitely a downward turn in the overall appearance as the show goes on so it is probably good that it started out so strongly in that department.
Zero as a character is quite okay. A lot of people really like her, the young confident witch stepping out into the world for the first time with a little bit of sass. I found her more than a little cliché at times and at other times just found her lack of communication skills with regards to Mercenary far too convenient for the plot given just speaking could have solved a lot of issues, but mostly she’s an enjoyable character.
Mercenary too is quite okay. He has some genuinely good moments, he looks pretty cool in a fight, he’s a little thick but not painfully stupid, and his personality plays well against Zero as the two of them have a competition to see who can be the most ridiculously stubborn while genuinely forming an attachment for one another.
While neither of these characters are sweeping me off my feet, they both serve their purposes well enough and given a stronger storyline probably could have been quite fascinating.
And that’s where we hit the real snag of the show. It has a cool concept with the missing grimoire and the new system of magic that Zero had created, and even the world itself with the Beastfallen and the witch burnings was inherently interesting, but the story itself just kind of meanders around from one thing to another. There’s no intensity or drive, and while all the issues are more or less connected, it seems more that one plot idea gets thrown under the bus for another one to take the focus for a bit, and you aren’t really given any reason to invest in any particular issue.
If we add to the unfocused and undriven nature of the narrative the absence of any antagonist to care about it really starts to hurt the enjoyment of the show. For awhile it seemed like they were actually trying to build Thirteen up to take the role of that antagonist. The show really needed something for the group to overcome and he seemed like a great stumbling block. He was powerful, seemed to have a plan that was contrary to what the others wanted, he could direct others so could match numbers with our protagonists, and it all could have worked really well. Then in the second last episode he just decides that if Zero doesn’t actually want the mass disaster he’s been planning he’s done with it.
Now at that point there is another group rising up, but it is a group that we as the audience don’t much care about. They’ve been mentioned a few times and we’ve even met a few of them, but their motives are incredibly weak and their plan is rubbish. You don’t think for a minute they might succeed so you don’t actually care. Yet the main characters go through the motions of countering them like they are an actual threat. You can see they’d like you to care about what is going on in this sequence but it is all just kind of there. And then they solve that problem, make a few announcements and somehow everything worked out. Hooray.
Even the fantasy fan in me couldn’t get into this one. While there are some elements to the magic I would have liked to learn more about, the show really isn’t interested in getting too explanatory about that, so while there are some parts of the world that aren’t generic, the overall feel of the world is pretty ordinary. The fight sequences are done well enough, although as another blogger pointed out possibly a magic battle between two high level magic users should involve more than just coloured lights and intense glares. There are some good character moments and scenes and just enough points of interest to keep this rolling a long but ultimately the entire show is pretty forgettable unless you really like those two main characters.
Before I end this review there is one more point I have to make and I know it isn’t really pertinent to the review but I have to say it. ‘Arrow to the Knee’ jokes should not be appearing in anime in 2017. I’m a big Skyrim fan and I loved these jokes and memes when Skyrim first came out, but that time passed and the joke is not that great that it needs to be revisited. What makes this worse is that the Arrow to the Knee joke is probably the most memorable thing Grimoire of Zero offered me.
As for a recommendation, basically if you like fantasy you won’t dislike this. You may not get super into it either, but there’s nothing overly broken about it and it does look very good, particularly early in the series. It’s worth checking out and if you connect with those two main characters you may even have a lot of fun with it. Otherwise, it is a show that happened and now I’m moving on.
Thanks for reading.
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