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Grimgar: A Fresh take on the Fantasy World

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An excellent story that didn’t quite reach the spotlight it deserved, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is a thrilling story that shows us a different side of the fantasy world.

A group photo of all of the characters of Grimgar

Intro

Fantasy world. Parallel world. Game world. Those terms are probably enough to make any anime fan roll their eyes at this point. The market for “protagonist suddenly gets transported to another world” is obviously over saturated now. That being said, I still enjoy these types of stories.

We have anime like Sword Art Online, No Game No Life, Log Horizon, and many others that have a basis where the characters are either transported or stuck in a game-like world. So…where does Grimgar fit into the mix of all of these?

Well. It’s interesting to think about.

A view of the thieve’s guild backdrop in Grimgar

The “world” that the characters in Grimgar suddenly appear in has game-like qualities. The author, Ao Jyumonji even has little notes at the end of the books talking about games that inspired him. However, it’s a real world. Meaning it may have video game qualities, such as skills, but priority goes to realism. There are no levels, no menus, and they don’t just acquire skills, they have to learn them.

Comparatively

Let’s start with the premise.

From just the starting point, this show has a lot of similarities with Log Horizon. Meaning, the characters suddenly appear in this “game” world right off the bat. After that, the two split completely. Log Horizon’s world is firstly a game, whereas Grimgar is a reality.

Instead of focusing sorely on the action scenes and major character interactions, like Sword Art Online, Grimgar shows you all of the gritty details. When the characters first arrive, they are poor. Not to mention they are the “leftovers” because no one wanted them in their party.

Grimgar isn’t afraid to show the reader, or viewer, what day to day life is like for the characters. Quite honestly, it’s rough. You feel for them. For instance, I got so happy whenever the main character, Haru, could finally afford a new pair of underwear. Like, you go dude.

Moguzo washing his sword after a fight

In Log Horizon we get to see some good combat sequences, with a master strategist at the helm. Well, none of the characters in Grimgar are strategists, and it shows in their combat. You are taken along for this painful ride of the characters learning how to fight, and how to work together.

Building upon that, unlike in Log Horizon or Sword Art Online, Grimgar is a reality. The characters don’t get the luxury of having stats boost them to superhuman strengths. They are just teenagers; normal teenagers. I mean, could you walk straight up to a snarling, smelly goblin and have what it takes to go a couple rounds with it?

Morality

One thing that I love about Grimgar is the fight scenes, but not for the action. Since the books are from Haru’s perspective, we get to know his thoughts. He is constantly in an internal battle of morality. He and his friends are killing living creatures, and it has an effect on them.

That’s something I’ve never experienced in any other story. Even after the party slays an enemy, they talk or think about the price of their actions. The character Yume is great at pointing stuff like this out, by saying things like “Yume feels sorry for the goblin, but Yume feels good for herself for winning” (Yes, she refers to herself in the third person). They feel bad for their enemies because, well, they aren’t really their enemies. Haru and friends need to eat, to eat they need money, and to make money they have to kill. As they iterate over many times in the book, it’s kill or be killed. Nothing personal.

Mortality

Another fantastic point of this series is the author not being afraid to kill a character. I always get a little bent out of shape when I see anime or read books where it’s obvious that the characters have plot armor. It takes the danger away from it because, in the end, you know the protagonist will prevail.

For Grimgar…really only Haru has plot armor, but, I wouldn’t put it past the author to suddenly kill him off and then switch to another character’s perspective. That would actually be pretty incredible, and unexpected.

A bloody helmet resting on a log

Anyway. This idea of mortality is always in the reader, or viewer’s, mind whenever the party gets into a fight. You never know when one mistake may cause the death of a character. Heck, the first book alone houses a pretty good shocker, though somewhat cliche, death.

I’m drawn into the fight with the party. It’s like I’m there frantically trying to keep all of my favorite characters alive. I love it.

Anime vs. Novel

I’ve watched the anime subbed and dubbed, and I’m currently about to finish the second book (which is all the farther the anime got).

Though the anime did get swept under the rug a bit, due to titles in the same season like Erased, Konosuba Season 2, and Gate Season 2, I really liked it.

First of all, the art style they used was beautiful. The watercolor backdrops were really amazing, combined with some good music, it really set the mood. Though, the dialogue seemed a little off at times.

A view of the town backdrop from Grimgar

The book, as you would expect, does have quite a bit more information. This is very apparent from the beginning, as the party’s arrival at Grimgar is much more hashed out than in the anime. There’s a whole deal with Haru exploring the town, getting lost, and running into Manato that goes untouched by the anime.

There were also some pretty important scenes that were cut, for some reason.

For example, there is a scene where Orcs raid the town. Haru gets separated from his party and comes face to face with an orc and a decision. Does he run away and leave a defenseless old mage, or does he try and fight? Along with that, Haru runs into Renji’s group and gets to witness their fighting abilities, as well as Renji 1 v. 1 with a skilled orc.

Commercial break Renji character portrait

Instead of including this, the anime did a “day of rest” episode, which was okay. It was nice seeing the characters interacting without the overhang of death, but I feel like the raid helped Haru grow as a character and would’ve been a better choice. Who knows, maybe they didn’t have the budget for that?

The anime does do a terrific job of filling in the in between moments. There are lots of interactions between the characters before, and after, their normal hunting day that aren’t in the book. The anime did this on its own and executed it very well.

The last comparison I really have is the essence of romance that is present in the anime, but not necessarily in the books.

The anime implies at least two pairings, which if you watch you will figure it out fairly quickly. But, even where I am now in the book, there is really only one, and I wouldn’t even call it a “pairing”. It’s more like, the male character is struggling to understand his emotions toward the female character.

There was also that Haru and Yume moment that got way over-romanticized in the anime (you’ll know when you see it). The book portrayed it as them leaning on each other more as comrades, whereas the anime made it seem more…intimate.

Haru and Mary having a moment in Haru’s room

I feel like the anime took a more romantic approach since…well, that’s what viewers want. Who doesn’t like a small dose of romance in between death battles? It shows that the party is growing closer.

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if the book dove more into the romantic side of things. It would be an interesting twist on how the party structure works. How would the others react, how would combat and strategy change, battle of emotions, etc.

Conclusion

Basically, what I’m trying to say is…go watch the anime, or read the books. Haha. I feel like it’s pretty underrated, though it is fairly high scored on MyAnimeList.

It’s kind of sad knowing that it will never get a season two. I mean, I don’t know that, but it’s also kind of assumed. No plans have been announced, or even rumored.

It’s a really great story. I can’t wait to get to the third novel, since that’s past the anime. I’ve read some descriptions, and it seems that Haru and friends improve, but also suffer some heartbreak. I’m scared, but also really excited!

Due note, if you are going to watch it in dub (Funimation), Ranta’s voice actor changes for the last, like, three episodes. It sucks, and it really throws you for a loop when you first hear it. Just a warning.

Yume hanging upside down being all cute

Oh. And. Yume is best girl. But I’m totally for Haru x Mary.