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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 Record of Grancrest War
Record of Grancrest War


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Karandi James

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 5: Did You Know There Were Vampires? I Sure Didn’t

Review:

Seriously, this show is making itself hard to defend. As much as I love a good fantasy (or even a bad one) when an episode starts with a bunch of characters we haven’t met, discussing events we don’t really have a context for, and then apparently we’re supposed to care about the outcome of said discussions because it is the basis for the next crisis our story’s hero is going to face, you have to wonder what the writers are even thinking about.

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That isn’t to say the new characters aren’t interesting. And hey, why not add vampires and werewolves into the world. However, there are ways of doing this that don’t leave the audience simply rolling their eyes.

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What makes it even more jarring is after the introduction of this new kind of issue, we then catch up with Theo and Siluca still dealing with the fallout of Theo’s status change after the last episode. Seems everyone still loves Theo but I did like the Prince’s reaction to him. I can’t help but wonder if they are going to do something with that later.

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However, soon enough Theo and Siluca are sent to deal with the vampire/werewolf situation in the forest and it really feels like a lot was left unexplained here. They kind of win and we see them setting up shop in the vampire’s castle at the end but it isn’t as though they beat him. More that he just couldn’t be bothered sticking around. All and all, there was something decidedly missing from events this week.

Though, Theo finally did something in a fight all on his own and we saw him actually use his crest in a battle so there were a few highlights during the episode.


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Karandi James

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 4: Finally

Review:

There’s something deeply satisfying early in a story when the protagonist’s plans go awry. Later in the series it can feel like set-backs exist just to drag the plot out, but early on if victory is too simple there’s no reason to fret. Well, Record of Grancrest War gave us three episodes of very easy victory and things all going Theo and Siluca’s way and then we get to episode 4.

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Not once, but twice, Siluca is rebuked by her foster father for over-reaching and both times leads to some fairly severe consequences. Good fortune and protagonist plot armour see them saved at the end but that also isn’t without cost, though one could argue that Theo didn’t exactly work to broker the best deal and it would be nice to know more of what is going on in his head.

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Throw in some battle sequences that work well enough (animation is not this anime’s strong point but it isn’t hideous so we’ll leave it alone) in addition to the added emotional investment in the story and this episode finally took this show from enjoyable enough because I like fantasy to genuinely interesting as I ponder what it might do next. Now, it might just return to forgettable mediocrity but I’m kind of hopeful that this is a sign of things to come.


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Record of Grancrest War Episode 3: Do You Suppose We’ll Ever Know Everything A Crest Can Do?

Review:

Well the story tackled head on what was possibly the biggest issue. Siluca is called out on the fact that she seems to be calling the shots and she realises that for Theo to be the leader he actually needs to be the leader. That said, he’s happy to take on her plan as while he had a goal he never really thought about the reality of how to accomplish it. These two characters coming together just work so well and complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses.

Once we get through that part there’s a random monster fight in this episode (oh and they introduce some priestess from a church though I’m guessing that will get explained properly later). The monster fight kind of bothered me at first because I didn’t see the point but then I kind of realised we needed a reason to believe that the people living in the village would offer to fight another army with Theo so it kind of made sense.

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And then we had some bigwig who didn’t really appreciate Theo gaining power or control over any land in the region raise an army against him. At first no one but the villagers show up and Theor produces a flag which makes them all glow for a little but it isn’t really clear what that does (something about protection) and I’m really hoping that the crests get a better explanation. So far they just kind of do whatever Siluca says they do in an episode. This is probably the part I’m most concerned about with this story now because if they don’t properly explain there will be a point later in the series where they will randomly pull a new power out of the crest just to solve a problem and it will really annoy me. Still, the flag was pretty, but it kind of reminded me of Fairy Tail.

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Anyway, despite the few minor things this remained your fairly standard fantasy with a little bit of magic and action mixed in. So for fantasy fans this remains a pleasant watch. Why Siluca is still wearing an outfit she apparently hated, I don’t know.


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Karandi James.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 2: Some Nice Touches This Week

Review:

It is amazing how when you are expecting bare mediocrity that an episode that is still only passingly better can leave such a good impression. I read some fairly negative reviews of this second episode prior to viewing it so my already low expectations for this sank lower before I’d even started which left me happily watching what is certainly an average anime but it fits one of my favourite genres and I continue to like the cast sufficiently that I’m probably going to enjoy the ride this is taking us on.

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Theo, this week, is coming to terms with the sudden advancement thrust upon him after meeting Siluca. His own ambitions never rose all that high and he is quite out of his depth and seems happy to be led by her on some matters. Yet, he also isn’t a doormat. Despite sitting out of the early stage of the battle, he kept a keen eye on events and knew when it was time to make a move. His actions turned the tide of the fight so while Siluca is certainly running the grand plan Theo is not going to just passively wait for her to hand him a kingdom on a silver platter. Nor do I think he’ll let her go too crazy before he puts his foot down should she try it.

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Siluca on the other hand is very adept at avoiding giving straight answers. She isn’t lying about her motives but she also isn’t revealing everything and I’m pretty sure Theo knows it. Still, we see Siluca making plans, calling for allies, and actively fighting in the battle, and she’s quite an enjoyable character. She certainly has personality. That’s probably what this show has done best. Even the fairly minor character with the future king of the Cait Sith’s showed us that he knows exactly what his personality should be.

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We’re also introduced to an old ally of Siluca who certainly holds her own on the battlefield and I really liked an exchange between her and one of the soldiers on the opposing side. Mostly because it showed that not every leader/soldier that fights Theo is a mindless thug. I kind of hope that character shows up again, but it was a pretty minor role so maybe not.

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All and all, this episode isn’t going to do much for non-fantasy fans or people wanting an in-depth story. But it works well enough and the conclusion of the battle is satisfying enough. If you also happen to like the characters you could genuinely have a good time watching this.


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Karandi James.

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