<insert main character> suddenly finds himself/herself in a fantasy world…
How many times have you read a synopsis that started like that? A lot, huh? I’m not going to lie, the isekai genre has become oversaturated over the past few years. However, that doesn’t mean an anime can’t be good if it’s an isekai.
Enter Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.
The story of Grimgar focuses on a group of teenagers that suddenly awoke in a completely dark room, without any memory of how they got there. Upon finding the exit to the dark room, they are informed that they are in the world of Grimgar; a medieval, fantasy-type world.
It’s then they are told they can become volunteer soldiers, and collect certain items from slaying monsters in the area to trade and make money. They didn’t have to become soldiers, but if they refused, they would most likely starve to death. With really no other option, and a nice chunk of money to start, the entirety of the group chose to become volunteer soldiers.
At this point, the group splits into two parties. The first party is chosen by clearly the strongest of all the newcomers, Renji. He chooses others he feels are the strongest, and sets off, leaving some leftovers. Haruhiro, Manato, Ranta, Moguzo, Shihoru, and Yume.
The story primarily focuses on the perspective of Haruhiro, or Haru for short, as he and the other “leftovers” attempt to make their way and survive in the world of Grimgar. They each choose a guild, and do their best to train. However, they quickly find out that putting their skills into practice is more difficult than expected.
Haruhiro and company, like it or not, have to survive in an unforgiving world. A world they know they were not born in, but can’t remember anything prior. They deal with the struggle of living, and the grief of losing close ones. There are happy times, hard times, and sad times ahead for the group of leftovers.
A Different Take
Yes, it’s a fantasy world. Yes, they were “transported” there. However, the story has a slightly different take on the isekai genre.
Grimgar’s story focuses heavily on the morality of situations. The fantasy world is very much real in the sense that it’s kill or be killed. Whenever the party is hunting goblins, they just aren’t monsters, they are living creatures. The characters struggle with the idea of taking a creature’s life, especially in the beginning.
This new kind of view is different. We don’t have some crazy, overpowered main characters that just run around wrecking everyone and everything. We have a group of leftovers. People that were thought not to be strong enough. We get to witness these people struggle as they attempt to grow in a harsh world. They are just trying to live; to make a living.
When you think of isekai, you mostly think of a light-hearted anime where, there may be a death, but it’s more to just give the main character motivation or development. This story is different, the threat of death for any character is just around the corner. You can feel for the characters; feel their fear for the future. The story has some lighthearted moments, but the overall theme is a struggle for survival and finding a purpose.
I, personally, love this story for that reason. It’s different than just having a character that can overcome anything. The characters in Grimgar fail; a lot, actually. They learn from their failures, and try their best to improve upon it. Sometimes they pull out a victory, other times they retreat in defeat. It really is a crazy range of emotions, because you are always pulling for them.
We’ve all heard of plot armour, right?
Well, in this story, there really isn’t any. It doesn’t go to the extreme like, say Akame ga Kill, but you are always constantly worried about the characters. There are situations where you are sure they aren’t going to make it and, sometimes, they don’t.
That’s part of the emotional rollercoaster that is Grimgar. For every happy moment that the party shares, there is something devastating waiting just around the corner. That’s what also makes it exciting. It shows the reality of the struggle to survive and, even if things are going well, something can go wrong at any moment.
There is really only one problem I have with the story of Grimgar. The story does a good job of building up the characters, but, at the same time, it also almost spends too much time doing so. I’ve gotten to the 8th book of the series, so pretty significantly into it, and there is a repeatable theme going on.
The party will do something great and gain some confidence, but then something happens. Something bad. After that, it’s like they all relapse. All of the character building that happened almost goes out the window, and they have to slowly pick themselves up again. I understand that it is showing the struggle, but I’m also pulling for these characters so much that I want them to become powerful.
At some point, I want this party that I’ve followed for so long to finally push through that final barrier and become great soldiers. I want them to be able to confidently walk into a battle and wreck everyone.
Will I get that? Who knows. Probably not.
Back in January of 2016, Grimgar got an anime adaptation! The anime is actually how I got introduced to the series. I quickly fell in love with it and dove, head first, into the novels. The anime adaptation covers the first two books.
All in all, the anime did a great job of following the story, and portraying the group’s fight for survival. Though it did seem to be lower budget, the watercolor backdrops were beautiful. The only differences there really were from the original novel was the cutting of a couple scenes, increase in fan service, and more romantic spins on certain situations.
The first few episodes of the anime had quite a bit of fan service, between certain postures of Yume and Haru’s teacher, this kind of put some people off. Luckily, they dialed it down later and focused on the story. As for the more romantic spins on situations, I was fine with it. The anime kinda “pairs” up the ships that form later in the series, giving the viewers hints on who ends up falling for who.
The one thing I don’t understand, well, I kind of do, is the cutting of a particular series of events. In the light novel, Alterna gets raided. Haru and the others are separated, but thrust into the defenses of the city. There is a great scene where we get to see the raw power of Renji, and it causes Haru to reflect on his and his party’s growth. This was cut from the anime, and replaced with a “day of rest” episode. While I would’ve loved to see Renji kicking ass, I can also understand it was probably out of budget and/or they cut it since the raid builds up to the next book (3), which was not animated.
I’ve watched the anime a few times through now and still can’t get enough. I really wish there would be more, but as I said previously in this article, the story really got dwarfed by other titles upon release.
In the end, I feel that Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is a very underrated title in its genre. It kind of got dwarfed by the other stories that got brought to the light with anime adaptations when it came out. However, it’s a great story that offers a fresh perspective on things. Actually, kind of like Goblin Slayer is doing right now, showing people it’s not all sunshine and daisies.
I’m heavily invested in this story, to the point where I can’t wait until the next book of the series comes out. Seriously, it’s hell waiting for these translations, man.
Oh. And. Haru x Mary. Yume is best girl.
Thanks for nerding out with me.