I’ve finished binge watching Grimgar last week, but I needed some time to actually mull over the anime because it left quite an impression on me. You see, I’m a huge fan of MMO-themed anime. When Grimgar came out, I was like “meh, it’s probably another SAO”. But when I finally found a hotspot fast enough to batch-download the entire series (and eventually came to watching it), Grimgar had me glued to the screen and had me thinking a lot about how anime has come to shit these days.
Ok, as a summary, Grimgar is a story of a group of people who were summoned to a fantasy world. They have no memories of their past world. Anyway, right off the bat, they register as Volunteer Soldier trainees, and their lives in Grimgar begin. The main story is focused on a group of ragtag adventurers, with the protagonist being Haruhiro, a Thief. Oh goody, a Thief lead. Like Final Fantasy hasn’t milked that trope dry. So, they live as poor soldiers without basic combat capabilities at first. But as the story progresses, they become more and more powerful, until finally, being strong (or lucky?) enough to beat two Raid Bosses.
Let’s start with the strong aspects of the anime.
First off, Grimgar is capable of doing what SAO and Log Horizon was not: meaningful character development. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Grimgar is that it doesn’t “force” its characters to become from zero to hero in a compressed time frame. It lets the characters develop themselves naturally, according to the pace of the story. And this applies to both the personal and interpersonal aspects of the character. Let’s take Haruhiro, for example. At first, the team was highly reliant on Manato, the Priest and leader of the party. Haruhiro basically couldn’t hold a candle to Manato. But after Manato dies (oops, spoilers), Haruhiro is thrusted immediately into his shoes, giving him the kick in the ass he needed to actually be useful to the group. During the initial stages, he didn’t have it in him to be a leader. But the pace of the anime allowed Haruhiro to blossom into a party leader naturally. We are shown his endeavours, his hardships, and challenges in becoming a party leader. This meant he had to struggle to understand his members, to take care of them, to look out for them, and basically lead them. The best part is, there are no shortcuts, no “easy option”, no Deus Ex Machina at play.
Want another example? The relationship between Mary and Haruhiro. Watching those two probe at each other is what you would expect if you wanted to be friends with a girl in real life. What I liked about the Mary – Haruhiro relationship is that it happens naturally. There are no forced sexual fan service scenes, no “falling in love after he saved me” cliche, none of that. Their relationship blossomed over a long period of time and only worked because Haruhiro didn’t give up on her. Now that’s character development!
The second strongest aspect of Grimgar is the utter realism of combat and fear of permadeath. Though SAO had permadeath, the permadeath wasn’t nearly as frightening as Grimgar. Maybe because it was only shown once and never addressed again, or because the spotlight was on the Black Fuckboy. In Log Horizon, there was no such thing as permadeath. In Grimgar, even flesh wounds can be fatal if not treated properly. The combat in Grimgar held up and had the right balance between fantasy and realism. It takes strategy to defeat even a goblin, goddammit. Also, permadeath in Grimgar is something that is taken very seriously. Every time a player ventures out into the wilderness, they can die at any given time, in any given way. The NPCs grieve. Party members grieve. Death leaves mental scars. A funeral costs money. Grimgar managed to make everyone feel for the dead. Even the fucking monsters are terrified of death, goddammit.
I know they inserted a lot of PG-13 sex jokes and innuendo in the dialogue and I felt that was kinda unnecessary and annoying. In some episodes, the anime would just come to a complete halt so Ranta can babble out lame jokes or sexually harass the two girls. I believed that wasted time could’ve been used to provide some background stories on the supporting cast, seeing that Yume, Shihoru, and the big Warrior guy that says “Thank you!” every time he kills an enemy get very little exposition. This is the only flaw in the anime that I noticed, though, besides the sub-par graphics.
Overall, Grimgar is an astounding MMO-themed anime that really values character development and makes you actually care about the characters. The characters in Grimgar are not one-dimensional; they have their own mental baggage, quirks, and unique traits that make them more than memorable. Though people might complain that the pace is slow, I’d say it’s just right for character development. In an age where instant gratification is glorified, Grimgar tries to teach its viewers to appreciate the process, instead of being so fixated on the outcome. This is the message that Grimgar tries to convey. So, if you’re looking for a nice MMO-themed anime to watch, but just can’t stand the blatantly overpowered protagonists, Grimgar is for you.