Grimoire of Zero Series Review: Witches, Mercenaries & War, What More Could You Want?

Overview:

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.

Review:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 12

Review:

I wasn’t expecting much from this final episode and so I cannot say I’m disappointed. Still, as far as concepts go, Grimoire of Zero had so much more potential than it ever delivered and the final episode really hammers that point home.

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The group, including Thirteen, spread out, draw their magic circles, and get back to the centre to erase magic from the kingdom, somehow covering all the distance required in less time than it took the witches to break through a gate. Oh yeah, the war started. in fact, the witches are attacking these guys as they wait for Albus to rejoin them at the centre. This attack seems about as effective as anything else the Sorcerers of Zero attempted during this series. Might as well ignore it.

Anyway, magic gets denied and for some reasons the witches aren’t all massacred by the guards now that they are defenceless, and somehow Albus becomes the state sorcerer and people are just cool with that now because magic and non-magic people can all work together. It’s a really half-hearted way to deal with a conflict but as I said, I wasn’t expecting much else.

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Then we have contrived reason number 563 (not really) for why Zero can’t turn Mercenary back into a human, some random comedy hijinks, and then the two are off to see how magic is going in other kingdoms. I’m really hoping there isn’t a sequel showing us that story because I’m well and truly done. I will review the whole series of this and while I don’t think there’s anything too terrible here, I’ve mostly bounced between being indifferent and unimpressed.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 10

Review:

Oh, they finally reunited and just to be sure we don’t forget that Zero is supposed to be a sassy young witch almost her very first words to the Mercenary make us wonder why he bothered spending all that time climbing a cliff.

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Firstly, this is clearly a lie given she does need someone to save her or she wouldn’t still be sitting around in a tower. Secondly, Zero does not pull this off very well. Some characters do an excellent job of giving the guy the cold shoulder but in Zero’s case it just kind of comes off as a half-hearted attempt  to make her not seem like a damsel stuck in a tower because that wouldn’t be cool at all.

Obviously, my biggest issue is I just don’t much care about either of these characters so their touching reunion didn’t do much for me.

Still, I did get one moment of genuine happiness while watching this episode.

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There’s something about convoluted insults that just appeals and this one was well deserved given Thirteen is insane and his plan is ridiculous. Pretentious is actually the perfect term for his entire being. I just had to appreciate this moment.

Oh yeah, and Holdem and Albus are in trouble but then some old witch just lets Holdem go. For some reason the Sorcerers of Zero haven’t killed Ablus yet and are taking her with them (no explanation as to why).

This is coming to a close and I’m kind of happy about that. It isn’t unwatchable but I’m not really into it either.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 9

Review:

Grimoire of Zero continues to be an oddity this season. I don’t particularly like it but it isn’t actually bad either so never comes close to being dropped. There was actually a small segment in this episode that made me really sit up and take notice. They were running from the assassins and magic was actually being used in combat and then they devised a plan to bring down magic in the whole kingdom which kind of does end the conflict even if the whole point of magic was to make things easier and you are essentially saying if you don’t use it my way you can’t have it.

But that was only one part of the episode.

The rest of the time we were either having to listen to inane banter between Zero and Thirteen which might serve some purpose if we actually cared about either character (so Zero fans might get something out of it) or we had to put up with the idiotic remains of the Witches of Zero coming up with an idiotic plan that is doomed to failure before it even begins.

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Seriously people, try thinking things through for once.

The end result is that last week the Mercenary and his new sidekick wolf-boy rescued Albus/Sorena’s grandchild and this week after running around a lot, Albus is pretty much a prisoner again, Zero is still locked in her tower, and the only difference is instead of running away, the Mercenary is now running toward her.

Meanwhile, the Grimoire that they were meant to be looking for is still no closer as far as the audience knows given the Wolf said Sorena’s granddaughter had it but that clearly isn’t so.

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Moving on to next week then.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 8

Review:

I don’t know about you, but I found the mercenary’s newfound friendship with the wolf guy very hard to take seriously. I mean, from the opening it was kind of expected, but the wolf’s introduction was pretty dreadful and I can’t imagine why they think we’re going to start liking him now because you give him a shallow backstory  and some half-hearted motivation.

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Anyway, Thirteen is clearly going to be our main antagonist and he’s being all creepy big bad evil. He’s imprisoned Zero, after threatening Albus he’s then attempted to burn him at the stake, he drove off the mercenary but now doesn’t really need to seem to know what he wants to do with the mercenary given hurting him hurts Zero. What we don’t have is any reason to care about Thirteen or any understanding of what he actually thinks all of this dribble is actually going to achieve. Is there a master plan here or are we going to find out his puppy got squished by a witch when he was a boy and then he grew up vowing to get revenge by becoming a witch (sorry, sorcerer) and then manipulating all the humans into burning witches?

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Despite my issues with a lack of caring about what little character motivation there is and the basically contrived nature of the plot so far, this isn’t a bad show to watch. Just don’t think too hard about it or the pretty and shiny comes off.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 7

Review:

So after half a season of kind of wandering around (assuming this is only 12 episodes) things are finally moving along. Continuing from last week the mercenary leaves Zero and gets into some fights with other beastfallen, gets disappointed in humanity all over again, and then gets ambushed by some witches just for fun before learning what might turn out to be actual information about the location of the grimoire. That’s a lot in and of itself but the story also packs a bit more in.

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In case we weren’t already clear on the fact that these witch hunts are essentially a political farce and corruption runs pretty much through every organisation in this world, we get a not to subtle conversation between random characters who I think may be a guard and a knight but I don’t think that matters in the slightest. It’s a little heavy handed but kind of fleshes the world out a little bit further.

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We also have Thirteen clearly advancing his own agenda, not that we know what it is.

There’s definitely been a pick up in this story since they finally arrived in the town where the grimoire was supposed to be. This episode was quite enjoyable and it felt like there was lots going on.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 6

Review:

There’s no denying I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by Grimoire of Zero so far. From the overly cute titular character to the overall lack of tension or direction (other than fetch the book) it hasn’t exactly been blowing me away with its creativity or even its general execution of a fairly ordinary story.

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Episode 6 doesn’t exactly remedy all the issues I’ve had with the show, nor it is a sure sign that things will get better and this might become more than just passingly watchable but, for me at least, it was a far more enjoyable viewing experience than anything this show had offered prior. For the first time I kind of worried about the characters and what would happen to them next and for the first time I actually felt a sense of menace in the world (rather than simply being told that things were bad). Thirteen’s inclusion is certainly part of the reason for that but even without him in the mix they could have explored the Mercenary’s and Zero’s trust issues and certainly someone could have given Albus a harsh dose of reality a little sooner.

That said, it wasn’t a perfect episode and the opening sequence where the fight just abruptly stops followed by the ridiculous banter between Thirteen and Zero over the inclusion of sugar in soup really did make the earlier parts of the episode feel much the same as everything else. However, that dinner time chat transitioned into something I found infinitely more interesting and gave me reason to not want to drop this yet.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 5

Review:

So everyone was dead in the village, kind of as expected. Except, you know, that one guy who wasn’t. He stayed alive just long enough to tell them some fairly vague information that wasn’t really helpful. On the bright side I finally remembered the blond kid’s name so that’s a help.

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Turns out the Grimoire is not where they expected it to be, so that is probably going to extend this magic scavenger hunt a little further and it also looks like multiple groups are after it. How long has this book been missing for anyway and why does everyone seem to know about it?

My positive from this episode was we finally got another magic fight.

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For a show about travelling with a sorcerer, other than episode 1 the magic has been fairly unspectacular so this was a nice treat.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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Grimoire of Zero Episode 4

Review:

A lot of this episode is just the pleasant lull or the calm before the storm. We make jokes about the mercenary bathing and then have a pleasant montage of the three travelling, with occasional interruptions for actual dialogue, and it is all very sweet. I just kept waiting for something to break through this.

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As they got closer to their destination and the boy started talking about his dreams for the future and the town I suddenly got a very bad feeling about where this was going. Sure enough, tragedy revealed right at the end of the episode. From that point of view, this episode works quite well in building up to this moment and giving it perhaps the most impact of any event so far in this otherwise fairly emotionally flat series. That said, not much actually happens in this episode because it is all build up for the final few moments.

Grimoire of Zero is available on AnimeLab.


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