Out of all the gimmicks that Anime has to offer, from Mecha like Gundam to Supernatural like Tokyo Ghoul, my all-time favorite is Fantasy. More specifically, I enjoy the “We have been trapped inside an MMORPG and must live life.” concept. Many anime lovers know of Sword Art Online, Dot Hack, and Log Horizon who offer this gimmick. Among those, Sword Art Online is the one that most folks have seen rise and fall. I was one of the viewers who couldn’t stand to see such a fantastic show devolve into a mess.
It’s because of this that I was a bit skeptical of Grimgar of Fantasy And Ash which is another show about people who get transported to an MMO and have to deal with it. However, within the first few minutes of the episode the viewer is informed of the fact they were transported and that they have no idea who they were in the real world or how any of this happens. The fantastic aspect is that they leave it at that, they never reveal details of the how but instead focus on the present.
The main characters had never met before and were leftover from other players who formed guilds of the strongest because the protagonists were left over, they too formed a guild. While other Anime series of a similar set up will always make their main characters ridiculously overpowered and able to resolve any issue with their fighting spirit, Grimgar of Fantasy And Ash is the complete opposite. The characters are flawed in major ways that causes them to struggle with fighting the most basic of enemies and even affording food. While my initial reaction was depression, I found it enjoyable for the simple fact that I had never seen so much struggle and it felt realistic. I know that I definitely wouldn’t be best fighter in a world filled of monsters and magic so I could relate. This also made every single victory feel incredible and worthwhile because I watched just how hard they tried and failed so many times before.
Another aspect of the show I enjoyed was the rules they created for their world and how firmly they stood by them. I won’t give any spoilers in this review, but I will say that the writers may not offer the hardest of punches but the punches they do give are serious. So serious that you start to freak out about any little mishap that occurs because you just don’t know what might happen. This is something that Sword Art Online Season 1 had that was fantastic before they completely threw all threats away and Log Horizon, who kept their world but lacked any real danger which made the show feel a bit cheap. Yet the combat in this show feels real, when characters get hit, it hurts and medical attention is required. The first time they kill a monster in this new world, it is hard and causes many of them to feel uneasy because they took a life. The psyche of the characters is something many shows take for granted as they often assume they would never feel any remorse.
The art of Grimgar of Fantasy And Ash is wonderful with their watercolor style. My personal favorite pieces of art were the episode titles that featured one of the main characters in a serious manner. You can tell the artists spent a lot of time and energy making it look beautiful and it pays off in so many ways. When some jokes were lackluster, I didn’t mind because my eyes were having a blast. I can’t tell if this is a new trend for Anime or if this show is special but whatever it might be, it was a great choice. The music and voice acting(Japanese) of the show were stellar, they seemed to fit exactly with the character’s personalities.
In conclusion, I loved Grimgar of Fantasy And Ash for so many reasons. There wasn’t an overpowered character in sight, combat felt realistic, characters suffered emotional trauma, the art was amazing, etc. It was a familiar setting with a unique story, and the story itself was not grand or epic but personal. The world did not change because of their actions yet their actions meant the world to the characters involved. It was a great story and while I do hope it gets a second season, if it remains a one and done it would not bother me one bit. I recommend this show to anyone who loves fantasy and/or has played an MMORPG before.
I hope you enjoyed our first ever Anime Review Mondays and hope you come back for more!