Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Impressions, Updated: Mary the Annoying
I’m working my way to catching up on Grimgar, a show I watched the first episode of purely to give my impressions on and then basically forgot about while I watched other shows and dealt with a bunch of boring real life stuff. (The usual: crippling depression, debt, and a lack of direction in life. Y’know, #FirstWorldProblems?) I came back to it this week because the first episode was actually really good in terms of characterization, if not world-building, and now I’m all but caught up. So what are my thoughts, five episodes in?
I really, really hate Mary. Okay, so there’s an episode six that could completely change my mind on who she is and why she exists, but right now? Fuck this character. She’s completely, utterly devoid of any personality other than the standard “beautiful stoic smart-ass”, which is frustrating because up until now this show has managed to avoid a lot of the more annoying anime clichés.
Yes, I know—the other characters feel like tropes, but what makes that work is they have realistic reactions to their situations and the circumstances that got them there. In general, while I usually hate “realism” in terms of setting—it’s the aura of realism the entire show seems to be shrouded in that makes me like it so much.
Yet another “brought to a fantasy world” series, Grimgar sets itself apart by not dwelling on the adventures of the uber-powerful. In Sword Art Online, and even Log Horizon, there’s an ever-so-small level of consent to the actions going on there. They willingly chose to play the game that they got stuck in, and this is merely a consequence. But here in Grimgar…we don’t even know if this is a game. The characters have no memory of an alternate world, and in the rare incidents they seem to recall their home, the memory is instantly deleted almost as soon as they can dwell on it. This adds a sinister, creepy element to things that’s missing in Sword Art Online, where there’s a clearly megalomanical figure to aim at from the beginning, or Log Horizon where they simply decide to make the best of things.
Grimgar takes its high fantasy world and applies cold logic to it. Characters aren’t killing and risking being killed for fun or for glory. Shelter, food, clothing—it all costs money. So when the characters are provided with their only possible way of making money they’re forced to stick with it. Even when they suck at it, or when it gets one of their own party members and friends killed.
There’s no fabricated sense of grandeur to the battles, either. Enemies don’t get sliced and vanish or cartoonishly explode. Their first successful goblin kill is unexpectedly visceral. It takes multiple attempts, and as a viewer it’s hard not to feel sorry for what’s essentially an otherwise harmless animal merely fighting for its own survival, just like them. However the show never revels in gore—people (and monsters) bleed when stabbed, but we don’t get any Tarantino-esque splurts or bloodthirsty characters attempting to murder everything in sight.
And as for the characters—tropes they may be, but up until now they’ve related to one another in realistic ways. When one of their teammates dies, it splits a group that was quickly becoming a family up in ways that combined with worst girl Mary joining them, make it impossible for them to succeed despite having grown in strength considerably since episode 1. The group splits across gender lines, which makes sense in that the loss of someone close often causes one to regress emotionally, leaving the lot of them behaving almost…child-like for the majority of episode 5.
Still, as annoying as Mary seems right now, there is some benefit to this. She’s clearly more experienced than the rest of the cast, and her presence will doubtlessly serve as the necessary spark to keep the characters’ growth steady, which one supposes is all that matters. For this series to continue to be interesting, soon this team will have to explore further out than they have been. Though character development has been excellent, the world-building has been lacking—another logical decision, considering this group is barely competent enough to fight a few goblins, much less some of the other monsters that doubtlessly lurk in dungeons and the areas further from the city. The truly unfortunate part is that as one of the lesser-known series coming out this year, it’s doubtful that a second season will happen this year.