Record of Grancrest War Series Review: Run While You Still Can

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.

Review:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Theo’s crest makes pretty lights. Not sure if it does anything else, but look, pretty.

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.

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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.

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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.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Reasons The Anime of Spring 2018 Have Been a Bit Disappointing

I normally try and keep the top 5 posts pretty upbeat, but I can’t deny I’m a little disappointed with the last season of anime. No, it isn’t a sign that modern anime are dreadful or that seasonal watching is the problem. It is just that there were a lot of anime that just didn’t live up to their potential or deliver. As the season comes to an end, I’m reflecting on reasons why I was so disappointed this season.

Whether you liked the season or not, I’d love to know your thoughts on the anime from Spring 2018 so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Number 5: Sequels and Spin-offs That Just Didn’t Land

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Whether it was the debacle that was the continuation of Tokyo Ghoul (reverting to the story in the manga without providing explanation for anime viewers) or the disappointment of SAO Alternative: GGO where viewers were asked to watch a pink bunny girl play a game without much in the way of stakes and were expected to care, the Spring 2018 season has definitely had its share of mis-fires with sequels and spin-offs. Even if we look at the ending of Cardcaptors, most people are expressing a general sense that it just didn’t manage to live up to its predecessors and My Hero Academia took a fair while to get going (though fortunately it has now gotten going and it has certainly stepped up).

Number 4: Scattered Viewership

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Normally with seasonal viewing there’s the couple of shows that everyone is watching. Spring 2018 hasn’t had one of those unifying shows that has ignited the entire community. Instead we have small groups of people proclaiming a love for Megalo Box while older mecha fans have been rejoicing over the return of Full Metal Panic, some people praising SAO Alternative: GGO for not being SAO and a few who have gone for one romance or another. But there’s been no single show that has gotten everyone really excited. With so many big titles out that would seem really odd and yet nothing has really captured the masses this season.

Number 3: Controversy and Fan Idiocy

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While I like to avoid the fandoms are toxic debates, some of the stories going around this season really do emphasise that sometimes people just go too far. Death threats to writers and voice actors just should not be a thing. I know I don’t want someone coming into my workplace and threatening my life just because they disagree with how I go about doing my job, or spamming my email or twitter feed for the same. And then of course we have the issue of post plagiarism sweeping the blogosphere with quite a number of bloggers impacted. The last few months have not been great for community spirit and like it or not, it does impact on the enjoyment of the medium when the community is very much focused on some of these more negative aspects.

Number 2: Recaps, Fillers and Gaps

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How many shows this season have done recap episodes or fillers? And how many have skipped airing one week or another due to some event of the like? It has made following shows more challenging than normal as episodes are delayed or skip a week, or worse they put out a recap episode four episodes in as if the entire community suffers from short term memory loss. While I get production delays happen and that sometimes schedules do go awry with broadcasting, the Spring 2018 season feels like it has just been one interruption to the schedule after another making it even harder to get into some of the shows on offer.

Number 1: Broken Narratives

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Whether it is Record of Grancrest War, Darling in the Franxx, or even the abomination that is Devils’ Line, there are so many anime this season that just make no sense in terms of how they have structured and delivered their story. Maybe they are trying to avoid the label of generic but we’ve got time skips, random characters dropping in and out, reveals that make no sense, themes that get built up and then abandoned, and all and all its just a mess. This hardly makes for a satisfying viewing experience. There’s a reason narrative structure is almost identical in every culture, and that’s because people figured out a long time ago how to deliver a story in a way that made it interesting. A lot of these shows need to go back to basics and just figure out what they wanted to be because honestly Spring 2018 has definitely been a bit of a miss in terms of delivering anything resembling a compelling story line.

So those are my reasons for feeling a bit disappointed. I’d love to know if you were disappointed with the season and why, or whether you ended up loving the season and why. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also you can vote for your favourite and least favourite anime of the season below.


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Record of Grancrest War Episode 24: At Last, The End

We’ll burn 10 minutes of this episode fighting the vampire king who is apparently important despite not really showing up at all prior, and then we won’t fight the Mages in Eramu because they’ll just poison themselves. Yes, this is how Record of Grancrest War Ends. Not with a bang, or a whimper. Unless that’s the sound of the audience hitting themselves for watching this far.

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Yes, let’s just pretend the last ten minutes didn’t happen and that someone hasn’t just died. It is better that way.

Clearly this episode has some issues as a final episode, but for the most part these are issues that have plagued the whole series. Priscilla being a deus ex machina to overcome the vampire king is more or less par for the course that this show has run, and the fact that the mages, set up as the true villains, are taken out in almost ridiculously short order because they are already pretty much defeated and then the only mage left of note kills himself (what is it with the suicidal mages in this story) is just what you would expect.

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So with that said, I’m not actually disappointed in this and the show’s general unwillingness to follow through on knocking off any of its main characters. So many death flags for both Silica and Theo and yet these weren’t acted on, nor were other characters forced to sacrifice themselves on their behalf. Essentially they all just held hands and walked through the finale because Theo promised to end chaos. Apparently that’s enough to allow him to succeed.

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With that, this anime is done and I will now have to get around to writing a series review. That should be fun.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 23: The Final Battle?

The newly united army under Emperor Theo marches on Eramu and so the Mages throw a giant cyclops at them? Right, totally saw that coming.

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Before getting into the silliness that is the plot development one episode from the end of this series, I’d like a take a moment to discuss how truly ugly this episode was. Given a lot of the run time was given over to the fairly small scale battle of Lassic and his couple of trusted helpers (who I think we’ve seen once before, maybe twice) taking on the cyclops without the aid of the army for reasons, I’m kind of thinking this sequence needed a lot more polish. However, I’m also thinking Lassic wishes he was a protagonist really because there’s no other excuse for it. He didn’t even manage to gloriously die which might have at least made it vaguely worth the while.

Seriously, Lassic has never looked this bad. What was going on with this episode?

However, outside of random monster killing, we then get all the different groups working together to break through the gates of the city while no mages actually attack them. Why not? Don’t really know. Why is that girl suddenly having orgasms at the sound of cannons like she’s Rory Mercury? Really don’t know. Is there any reason we need a circus troop climbing sequence? Not really.

This is another case of don’t think too hard. It’s just going to hurt.

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Finally, Theo gets ready to do something other than making grandiose sounding speeches about why it is noble and all to let his friends go get killed for their honour or something, and just as he takes a step, he and his little band of friends get whisked away to the forest by the Vampire King from like episode 4 or 5 who has done more or less nothing since then other than a couple of cameo appearances. And I still don’t even know why vampires exist in this world or story.

There’s only one more episode. We can get to the end of this. It will be fine and then it will be finished.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 22: So Now Theo’s The Enemy of the Church, Only Not Really?

I could have just left all the question marks in the title from episode 21 as this episode of Record of Grancrest War kind of fails to shed any kind of illumination over the confusion that is the plot.

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Much as we only found out the Mage Academy was the true enemy a handful of episodes ago, now the church emerges as a serious threat to Theo’s Emperor-ship. Only, other than a mention by Priscilla in an episode a fairly lengthy time ago, I don’t recall the church actually being a significant plot point. Like, ever. And we have never actually seen the Pope or any of these Priests or followers before so have no reason to care about them three episodes from the end of the season. Not to mention, Priscilla herself has been a non-entity other than a magical get-out-of-death-free card for a couple of the characters after battles. Now suddenly the fact that she’s actually the Holy Grail apparently matters to the greater plot, only I’m lost as to why I should care.

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The whole thing would of course be easier to swallow if the episode didn’t take her death so seriously. It really wants this to be a touching emotional moment full of drama and angst but really I’m just wondering where Alexis and Marrine are during most of this episode. They were kind of big deals like three seconds ago and now they’ve literally disappeared off the map as Lassic, Theo and the crew kind of go through the motions of running an army that isn’t actually fighting anyone just at the moment because now Theo’s having emotional problems with the prospect of people dying in war (I know, the irony when we go back and do a body count after each encounter so far in this story).

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Well, now Theo has pretty much all the crests, the Holy Grail, the armies, the church followers, and more or less everyone except the mages on his side (and even then he has some mages on his side). I can’t help but think that this final battle is going to be absurd because I’m thinking quite literally the only way to create a threat at this point is to more or less open the gates of hell and that would just be silly (let’s wait and see if that’s their option).

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 21: ????????

Questions. So many questions. And I just don’t think this world makes a whole lot of sense at this point in time.

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Right, so Theo’s now Emperor (maybe not officially but everyone acts like he is) and the three armies are all unified, only the Lords who don’t want to fight are allowed to leave, as are the Mages who don’t want to fight, leaving just the group of characters we’ve mostly seen throughout the series (which kind of mocks the whole unified statement really). The Mage academy are purging Lords and Mages who oppose them and there are apparently cursed spies who will carry out attacks from within the ranks. But plucky hero boy and his main squeeze will rise to the challenge with a reduced army, mages who can’t really cast magic quickly because they broke their wands, and no real plan.

Oh yeah, this makes a lot of sense.

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Can I just ask the story to back up a bit? Mostly because we only found out the Mage Academy were the ‘true’ enemy like two episodes ago. And what evidence do we have of that? Siluca said so. Now they are running around orchestrating a massacre. And they aren’t even asking mages if they are on the Lords’ side or theirs, they are just killing them while wearing mysterious looking robes.

And do the Lords really want something different from the Mages? I mean, the Mages don’t want the Grancrest made, but the Lords were only making that to stop chaos. So if there’s some reason that would be a bad thing, surely the Mages could explain that. Then if the Lords don’t see reason they could go to war. But they seem to have just skipped all those steps.

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More importantly, wasn’t the Mage Academy the ones that sent Mages out as contractors to the Lords? Isn’t that why Siluca was supposed to become Vilar’s Mage like way back at the start when she defied that by becoming Theo’s Mage?

And while we’re on it, isn’t Theo now entitled to more than one contracted Mage given he’s now the Emperor. I kind of recall something about quotas of how many whatevers people could have based on their rank. Which raised the question of where are the rest of Alexis’ and Marrine’s mages, etc.

Ah, this anime is just so frustrating.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 20: Grancrest, The Soap Opera

The three factions meet with a bang and then for some reason have a sit down and chat and decide something that could have been decided about 15 episodes ago. Oh well. I guess now we’ll face the ‘true’ enemy.

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There’s something utterly ridiculous about how seriously the characters in this anime take their own plot. Given how illogical it is, they spend a good three minutes having Marrine give excuse after excuse as to why she can’t just marry Alexis and actually be happy. Seriously. He loves you. He makes pretty roses for you out of non-plant materials. Just marry the guy already. If your goal was to keep him out of the war that has already failed spectacularly.

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The upshot of all of this is that they are going to turn their crests over to Theo leaving everything on his shoulders. Because nothing says saviour of the world like nobody from the sticks who has a cute mage companion by his side. I’m feeling this is the final death flag for either Theo or Siluca (or both) and we’ve past the point of no return. Particularly with Siluca stating that afterward they can turn the crests back over to Alexis and settle down together. It just gives us a clear feeling that there isn’t going to be an after for these two. But everyone else is probably going to get a happily ever after, unless the Mages’ bloodbath gets too extreme.

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Anyway, no real change in terms of quality. The usual hilarious moments of animation failure occur during the battle and the characters are all following some core honour code that hasn’t been adequately explained to make their actions logical. Meanwhile, we can cut down any of the no-name extras without batting an eye and that’s apparently fine.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 19: Alexis the Artist

I wondered what Alexis would be like in a fight. Turns out, he doesn’t so much fight as conduct battles and the result is illogical but pretty (if a bit gruesome).

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Theo has vanished again without a single appearance in this week’s episode of Record of Grancrest War. Siluca barely gets a showing at the end when she confronts Marrine and seems to be triggering all out war for reasons that make no sense, as well as labelling the Mage Academy as the hidden big bad. I’m not sure that there’s been enough build up to this, or that the Mage Academy has enough presence other than being talked about to end up being the big bad and for that to be a satisfying conclusion, but whatever.

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This episode is about Alexis. At the end of episode 18 he’d been artfully manipulated by Theo and Siluca into riding out to war (artfully manipulated, told to go fight, same difference in this anime). And here we are treated to the notion of war as a work of art with Alexis literally conducting his troops with a shiny baton. Again, I’m wondering how the crests work given in the sea battle in the second half, it seems to almost give the King and troops supernatural powers yet other crests (like Theo’s) just kind of give them a shimmery mark and a morale boost. It is all very inconsistent.

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Anyway, there is blood and death all to great music. I’m not entirely convinced of Alexis’ ability in any of this because while he clearly likes making pretty patterns with his troops, he doesn’t fight and a lot of his men are cut down while he is being sheltered behind the scenes. I’m pretty much going to be Alexis’ reunion with Marrine will have him declaring his love and her running him through with that sword she’s been carrying about for most of the series.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 18: That Was Almost Playing Dirty

After the events of the past few episodes, Theo and Siluca have returned to centre stage though I’m wondering when Theo became that manipulative.

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There’s something oddly disturbing about this image.

The whole way through this series Theo, when he’s been involved at all, has been the ‘good guy’. The one who puts himself in harms way to protect others, who doesn’t willingly sacrifice those around him, who feels genuine pain when those near him are hurt. And then we get to this episode. I guess we could argue that the war hardened Theo who has finally realised that he won’t accomplish his goals without getting his hands a little dirty has finally stepped up into the world of politics, but that doesn’t ring very true. Theo actually already accomplished his goal and could easily at this stage simply step aside and run his island. Very few people would care or try and stop him.

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So what is going on Theo? This episode he finally takes control of the treaty and declares them separate from the union creating a third faction. The argument is that they are trying to force a stalemate but that only works if they can get Alexis to rally the union and we all know Alexis is pretty useless except at writing poetry. Enter Theo the manipulator. He literally uses Alexis’ emotions and attachment to Marrine against him to push him into taking rash action. Admittedly, it only works because Alexis has the emotional maturity of a turnip (and seriously, Marrine was probably better of with Milza and that’s saying something), but at the same time, Theo the moralising and noble leader has just sent that immature lord out with an army to fight and he has to have done so knowing there’s a good chance Alexis is going to get himself killed. How does Theo reconcile that within himself?

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I guess we’ll find out but from Theo’s expression it doesn’t look like he’s intending to lose a lot of sleep over it. As long as he gets to take Siluca away at the end of it all, I think Theo’s more or less in a ‘do whatever it takes’ mode. Though, will Siluca still be by his side if he gets too underhanded?

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And while we’re on it, how many death flags did Siluca raise in one conversation with Theo. Seriously, is she wanting to be the tragic sacrifice right before they manage to get peace? Though, I’m seeing it play out with Alexis falling to Marrine, Theo taking out Marrine, then Theo having some confrontation with the pope who is apparently important again in this story for whatever reason, before Theo uses all the crests to banish chaos and probably dies in the process (unless Siluca throws herself under the bus for him). It’s a good theory, though this anime has a history of not really being logical so we’ll see what it decides to do next.

In the meantime, I’d love to know your theory about how this is going to play out. Even if that includes the loli werewolf maids suddenly seizing power, because that would be a cool twist.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 17: Decisive Victory

Outnumbered and surrounded Milza decides his best plan is to ride out from the safety of his fortress anyway. Another wonderfully logical move by the characters of this anime.

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I don’t know that I would describe Milza’s strategy as a strategy or even as flexible. Mostly it just seemed to be ride fast, cut down anything in the way, and get to Theo. He became pretty obsessed with killing Theo because apparently Theo is heralding a new age for the world because he’s utilising people power or something. The notion that Lords haven’t used the common people in battle has come up before, but this is the first time this has actually been a major plot point so it suddenly seems like the anime is trying to craft an entirely new theme into its story just as it cuts down Milza who was really Theo’s last real goal after he’d already liberated Sistina. Seriously, why is Theo still involved in this war?

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But who cares about logic? We have a major battle with lots of the allied Lords, all of whom other than Lassic I’ve forgotten the names of and some of them even fight before they run away or have most their men cut down or they are utterly ignored as Milza bypasses them. All of Theo’s closest friends get to attempt to cut down Milza, failing miserably, before it all comes down to a one on one duel. This should more or less be over instantly in Milza’s favour but somehow the crest thing has made Milza weaker and Theo stronger since last time they fought. It would be really great if the crests had been explained properly at any point in time, but again, whatever.

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What I found really funny was how the end of this episode seemed to want to be this grand and cinematic ending and yet the whole fight sequence just seemed kind of hacked out and Theo’s victory was relatively hollow because he just suddenly got better than Milza. There was no real weight behind it and having to drop exposition mid-battle to explain things is never a great move. Anyway onward to fighting Marrine maybe, I’m not even sure what their next goal is but I guess they’ll find someone else to fight given the anime isn’t over yet.

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