Review/discussion about: Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar has these uncomfortable-looking straw beds that many of the cast members sleep in.
If I had to choose between a regular bed and one of those beds, I would choose the former every time. Otherwise, all of the tiny pieces would poke me, they would get into and stick to my clothes, and they wouldn’t make for the best blankets due to the numerous holes.
Yet as Grimgar shows, sometimes we don’t get a choice. Sometimes we have to accept the reality presented to us – no matter how harsh it may be.
Grimgar finds Haruhiro, Manato, and many other everyday people in a brand new world. They don’t know how they got there, and it’s not important. Because, realistically, this world is not much different.
“Realistic.” Purposeful word choice. For that’s exactly what Grimgar is: realistic.
The astute or the quick to point out would argue that, no, Grimgar is not realistic. It contains curing spells and monsters and a personal Aurora Borealis every now and again. That’s true. Arguing against the idea that the anime is completely realistic is a fool’s errand. However, it’s still fair to say that it portrays a fantastical setting in a realistic light, leveraging relatable drama despite the improbable within.
The killing of their first goblin is one of the best examples to understand this direction. It also happens to be one of Grimgar’s highlights.
It’s “just one goblin,” but, as the group immediately discovers, it’s not that simple. The goblin is as every bit out to kill them as they are him. He evidently has emotions, and he cries out in pain when hurt. Much like they do. In other words, each battle isn’t a game, it’s literally a life-or-death situation – for both sides.
The realistic portrayal continues to the group themselves. They don’t command the most potent spells, and they don’t wield weapons as though they were gods. They are just a bunch of regular people trying to survive off of dingy lodgings, scarce food, and not enough new underwear.
Reality really hits, though, when they lose a lover, a mentor, and a friend in Manato. His death makes it as obvious as possible that anything can happen. That, just like the real world, life can be filled with immense sorrow.
In other words, this world is real – and affects them on a personal level.
The group’s struggles don’t stop after Manato’s death. Conflict arises between themselves, and Merry, their new party member, proves difficult to work with due to both parties’ resignations. But through their own interpersonal problem and her, the group comes to understand that they, individually, are not the only ones experiencing hardship –everybody is. Again, a realistic throughput.
Merry’s inclusion does slow the anime down somewhat, but the transition is, as always, realistic.
They learn about each other, and they start working as a team. Most interesting of all, though, is how the group stays within the same town for presumably weeks. On one level, it’s basically them wanting to avenge Manato’s killers. On a deeper, more motif level, the group staying in one area for a long time makes realistic sense since one wouldn’t expect them to barrel through the world like they owned the place.
All the while, Grimgar demonstrates where it truly shines: in the mundane, down-to-earth events. A small chat on a bridge with some birds. The group collectively visiting Manato’s grave. A nighttime argument between two supposed friends. The different action segments and tenser moments are certainly thrilling, but, once again, the show’s focus on realism strikes hardest.
This investigation covers roughly three-quarters of the show. The last stretch involves the mine and the myriad of conflicts that ensue. Unfortunately, Grimgar somewhat drops the ball (or, maybe in this case, drops the sword).
One of the biggest errors the anime makes is in Merry’s resolution. The anime made it rather clear that Death Spots was her block, what she needed to overcome to move forward. But then the anime throws in, without warning, her now-undead previous group. It comes off as sloppy – she was meant to defeat Death Spots, not dispel her old friends.
Afterwards, the weird continuity skip of Ranta evading the kobolds despite being in a clearly inescapable situation does not help matters, either. Neither does Haruhiro killing Death Spots. Yes, the glowing streams were established earlier on in the season and even used throughout. But his pure luck stretches the realism when he has a broken arm, it’s him solo versus this raid boss, and his sacrifice doesn’t amount to any tangible loss.
As for the ending, it, too, has problems. Mostly in the wrapping-up department. The group not reacting to Haruhiro being alive and well, the relationships between many of the characters having not progressed all that much, and the uncertainty of what the group is meant to do next leave Grimgar ending on a questionable note.
Looking at the anime as a whole, even more problems surface. Perhaps the most surprising is the lack of world-building. Other towns, the role government plays, and so on are strangely missing. Granted, the show focuses more on this group and their mission rather than expanding its vision, and, indeed, they do realistically stay in one place the entire time. So this may be an unwarranted nitpick. But when the anime incorporates a brand new world yet fails to flesh it out, it comes off as underwhelming.
Definitely the worst issue, though, is the blatant sexual content. Seeing Yume’s butt, Shihoru’s breasts, and Merry’s legs, while each titillating in their own right, are not exactly relevant. Especially given Grimgar’s dramatic, somber tone. The show can have moments of chemistry, such as when Yume cuddles with Haruhiro and Merry laughs at Haruhiro’s incredulity (Haruhiro gets almost all of the action…), but the show’s weird penchant for perversion can and does take away from its purpose.
Smaller issues also exist, such as some of the dialogue relying a bit too much on “Yeah…” and none of the apparent romance getting followed through on. Still, the anime’s positives keep it afloat.
Grimgar has some beautiful background art. Its stylized, watercolor backdrops are splotched in their depiction yet serene in their feeling. They are often accompanied by unusual lighting choices: greens, pinks, and purples. Such lights add ambiance, a sense of familiarity and longing and happiness.
Much of the cinematography also goes a long way towards capturing that realistic feel. Multiple, singular shots of various parts of the town – from in front of a building, looking down an alleyway, off the edge of a bridge – make it into not just another random location but into a safe haven, a home that the group can use to escape the scares and dangers that await them away.
The character designs, while not as beautiful as the art, have their own appeals to speak of. Some have color symbolism: Shihoru’s lavender coloring represents her sweetness, Merry’s blue coloring represents her (initial) coldness, and so on. Others, like Haruhiro and Mogzo, shoot more for that realistic feel with normal yet relatable looks. And Yume combines both with her redder colors symbolizing her warmth and her attractiveness through simplicity.
However, whether due to the extensive care given to the art itself or just not having enough resources, the Grimgar’s animation can honestly be tough to watch on occasion.
A lot of the show is simply the characters speaking with one another, but these quainter moments are barely filled with movement. Action sequences are the same. They can sometimes have continuity errors or even long still-frames to give the appearance of dynamism. Haruhiro’s victory over Death Spots is particularly egregious (despite how much the show tried to stylize the encounter to cover up for the low amount of animation).
Grimgar can, in fact, prove otherwise. Shihoru creating magic or Ranta fighting while yelling out his moves prevent the more action-oriented sequences from coming off as completely shoddy. But these moments are merely passable whereas the offending ones are wholly unacceptable.
Grimgar’s cast, while far from perfect, are a strong bunch.
At the very top sit Merry and Manato.
Merry is without a doubt the strongest character that the anime includes. She joins the group following Manato’s death and, unbeknownst to them, the death of her friends. Meaning both sides are not necessarily ready to welcome new people.
Indeed, that’s basically what happens. Merry acts cold towards the group, refusing to heal them or simply being aloof. At the same time, Ranta and the others find it hard to approach her while subconsciously not being as welcoming as they could be.
It’s at this point that they finally learn of Merry’s past. She’s floated from group to group without staying for very long. She’s changed from the likable, carefree girl she used to be. And, most importantly, the event that led to her new, distant self – the death of many of her close friends – let the group understand that she’s not so different from them.
Thus, the group opens up to her. They reveal their own hardships while growing closer as a team through tough battles, downtime jokes, and nightly dinners. It’s a gradual process, a realistic process, which slowly melts her icy exterior.
As she grows closer to Haruhiro, the girls, and everybody else, it is only fitting that she must then face the past that has haunted her for so long. But she’s finally not doing it alone; she has her newfound friends.
In the Cyrene Mine, she literally finds her old companions, saving them from themselves which, in turn, saves herself from herself. That is, while the group was there supporting her, only Merry could overcome her troubles – in both a physical and mental sense.
In the end, her cries for Haruhiro, her friendliness towards the others, and simply the smile on her face demonstrate that she has fully progressed as a character, proving the high level of execution in her arc.
Manato likewise sits near the top. Not because he’s also a priest but because he serves a two-fold role. On one level, he is entirely designed to disrupt the group. His death hits harder than any goblin ever could, causing them to question how they will survive in this troubling world.
On the other, connected level, he represents the ideal. He was smart. He was strong. He was their leader. He was someone that they all looked up to in one way or another – and nobody more so than Haruhiro.
That’s Manato’s best contribution: He allows Haruhiro to grow as a person. Manato’s death forces Haruhiro to fill Manato’s shoes. Shoes way too big for the plain, unassuming rogue. Haruhiro can’t speak in the same gentle manner. He can’t understand how the others are feeling like Manato could. He doesn’t have the same air of confidence as their previous leader did.
Yes, Haruhiro doesn’t technically grow as a person, but he certainly grows as a leader. All of his maybe-spiritual-possibly-real asides with Manato encourage him to try harder. He interacts with Yume, Merry, Shihoru, Ranta, and Mogzo more so than anybody else. And, if nothing else, him sacrificing himself for his friends, much like Manato and Merry’s former leader did, easily prove how much of a leader he has become.
All because Haruhiro had that ideal to look up to.
The rest of the cast are similar to Manato in that they each have a role to play. Granted, they are arguably not as important as Merry, Manato, and Haruhiro, but it’s worth investigating their roles, too, when looking at this bigger (watercolor) picture.
For Ranta, he is the voice of reason. Or at least the person who says what’s really on everyone’s minds. He doesn’t immediately accept Merry’s sob story because he, and they as well, have felt similar loss. He defends his selfish fighting style because, as he correctly points out, sometimes situations don’t go perfectly, so having options helps the team. He decides to take the spoils of war without remorse since the enemy no longer needs or cares about the
For Mogzo, he’s definitely the most overlooked. But that’s somewhat the point. He does not complain about their situation. He cooks food for the group whenever he can. He is the one that takes the brunt of the damage to protect everyone. Yes, he’s the tank. The rock. The one person they know, no matter what may go down, will not waver.
For Shihoru, she originally is very shy, almost scared. Of both this crazy world they find themselves in as well as just the people in general, including her own group. Her not being that strong of a fighter also doesn’t help her self-esteem much. She rarely speaks, but, when she does, one has to listen because it must obviously be important.
Although, unlike Ranta, Mogzo, and Yume, she actually does develop as a character. Comparing her person at the end of the season – running forward with gusto, landing magical spells, and feeling like one of the gang – to who she was at the beginning shows the personal improvements she has made.
For Yume, she’s the lighthearted one. She’s always smiling, saying a common cliché almost always wrong. Whether it’s putting a reassuring hand on Merry’s back or consoling Shihoru in her time of need, Yume makes it her mission to keep the group not just happy but also worry-free.
Seeing the cast segmented in this manner makes it appear as though their connecting theme deals with everyone having a role. That’s a nice interpretation since it fits the fantasy motif: damage-per-second, tank, and healer are common roles for people in a similar setting. Though, as has been discussed at length, the fantasy element is not the focus. The realism is.
The stronger, more realistic interpretation? Loss now does not mean loss forever.
The loss of a loved one will always be tragic. That will sadly never change. That is something that everyone in Grimgar understands. But that doesn’t mean they will always experience loss from then on. Indeed, Haruhiro, Yume, Shihoru, Ranta, and Mogzo gain a new friend in Merry, and Merry likewise gains new friends in them.
Sure, as friends they go through more troubles. Yet the strength they earn, the bonds they share, and the events they overcome prove they have gained something despite so much loss: each other.
The OP is a welcome addition to Grimgar. It starts off ethereal in tone thanks to the haunting vocalist and the calm build-up. This arrangement gives way to fiddle playing, back-and-forth lyrical singing, and some ending guitar work. The piece is both varied and passionate, crowning it as one of the better musical offerings.
Not wanting to be outdone, the ED goes in the opposite direction tonally. It’s slow, filled with just a piano and the vocalist for nearly half the track. At that halfway point, the rest of the instruments kick in as the somber composition continues. It’s sad, surprisingly catchy, and emotional to boot – yet another strong musical offering.
The rest of the original soundtrack, while not memorable, does include many different insert songs that help to set the mood accordingly. When the group is fighting goblin after goblin after goblin or when the group is simply enjoying their day off, the accompanying songs bring the thrill and the chill, respectively.
If nothing else, the preview piece – just the singular acoustic guitar – that played during (coincidentally enough) each preview was simple in its execution yet serene in its sound.
While lots of crying is had, voice acting does not see any stand-out performances. At the minimum, Yoshimasa Hosoya as Haruhiro does well in using a voice that comes off as simultaneously mature and naïve.
My biggest gripe with this anime is pretty petty. I’ll admit that. Allow me to explain.
I like Yume a lot. She’s cute, silly, and a caring person to boot. I could cheer for her all day.
I like Ranta’s character, but I don’t like his personality. He’s usually just a jerk towards everyone – especially Yume. Some scenes involving him made me laugh, but they were almost always at the expense of his person, usually in the form of a teasing insult.
So the anime trying to put them together once Merry arrived (her and Haruhiro do make for a nice couple) made me more than peeved. And it only got worse as it went along.
That small boat scene, Yume clinging onto Ranta out of fear for a brief second, and her I’m-totally-not-crying-about-Ranta-because-I-like-him-but-because-he’s-in-a-lonely-situation each made me shake my head at the anime’s implied thoughts.
I would have tolerated the pairing more if the show hadn’t already paired Haruhiro and Yume together and if Ranta had been a bit more compassionate. The show basically doing away with Haruhiro and Yume’s intimate scene in episode five, and Ranta going back to his name-calling ways despite nearly dying only made me madder.
As for the other characters, I liked them. They each brought something different to the table. Merry’s wonderful character arc. Shihoru’s sweetness. Mogzo’s easygoing attitude and “Thank You!” attacking. Haruhiro trying his best to lead the team. And Manato simply being a really nice person. They’re not complex characters whatsoever, but they’re likable nonetheless.
Beyond my frustration and the cast, one moment in particular got to me. It happened in episode eight, and one can probably guess which scene it is.
Yes, the culmination of their efforts which leads to that collective talk with Manato in front of his grave. As they speak, they reveal their Volunteer Soldier badges, indicating that they have officially reached that next level. Them getting a badge for Manato, too, and Haruhiro’s final words – “We’ve become a good party” – solidify the strength they have gained together as well as the lump in my throat from trying to fight back tears.
Would I like to see a second season? Yes, I would. So long as Yume doesn’t end up with Ranta. He’s a rude, mean guy, and she’s a funny, lovable girl. She deserves way better.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is a rather solid anime. A fantastical yet realistic narrative, roles and change for its characters, and pretty art are some of its highlights. The weird focus on sexual content, less-than-impressive animation, and annoying developments do, however, get in the way. Even so, it’s better than any prickly straw will ever hope to be.
Story: Fine, a realistic portrayal of a fantastical setting sees highs in its mundane events and dramatic happenings and lows in its botched final stretch, lack of world-building, and unnecessary sexual content
Animation: Fine, beautiful art, nice character designs, and below average actual animation
Characters: Good, Merry stands on top, with Manato supporting Haruhiro’s development, Ranta, Mogzo, Shihoru, and Yume filling their roles well, and a theme on non-lasting loss threading between them
Sound: Good, good OP, good ED, good OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Fine, likable characters and emotions throughout, but forcing Yume’s romantic pairing is a no-go
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3