Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions Review

Plot: After waking up in a strange land, with no recollection of the past, Haruhiro sets off and joins a party to try and make a living fighting the creatures outside the city.

This was the first anime I’ve finished in a very long time, so I figure it’s fitting that it be my first review back. I also wanted to review it, because I have read other reviews that seem to disagree with my opinion greatly. Grimgar seems to have been given a mediocre score by a lot of the reviews I’ve seen, so I’d like to try and persuade people otherwise.

The first half of this will be a non-spoiler review as always. So if you are planning on watching Grimgar, but don’t quite want to know what happens, this is the safe part. And I’ll warn you when the spoilers come up.

To give a brief background of what to expect from Grimgar, think .hack or Log Horizon but without the video game setting.

What caught my attention most about Grimgar, and is what first led me to start watching it on Hulu, was the beautiful art style. Now I am no artist, so instead of me getting the artsy terms wrong, you can just look at the pictures I’ve got of it in this post. Anyways, the watercolor thumbnail of the show caught my eye, and that was all it took. Just moments into the first episode you can see the animators showing off the beautiful colors, and fluid animation. The art was so impressive that my non-anime watching roommate caught a glimpse and decided to sit down and watch the episode with me.

Grimgar girls

One thing that grew on me was the music of the show. I’m usually not a fan of dramatic power ballad anime openings, but I’ll make an exception for Grimgar. I’m not a huge fan of the opening, but I will admit it fits the show. Which is all that really matters. I think a fitting song is more important than one I necessarily love. For example, I love the song “Basket Case” by Green Day, but if that was the opening for Sword Art Online, there might be some issues. Anyways, more importantly than the opening song is the ending. The ending is a piano ballad that I didn’t love at first. But as the show progressed, and emotions of Grimgar‘s themes revealed themselves, the song became so much better to me.

Startled Haruhiro

Aside from just the OPs and EDs, the show”s OST and background music was really great. The use of the music was what struck me the most, with nearly half of an episode being dialogue-less, with the only audio being a song. Some might say it’s boring, but I’d argue that it added to the narrative and character development. Of course you’ll have to watch it yourself to see.

The last non-spoiler points I would like to make are of character development and (what I imagine to be) a realistic portrayal of the scenarios.  The character development, in my opinion, was phenomenal. Without going into much detail, I felt that the character’s actually grew and changed as the show progressed, instead of being like many other 12-episode anime, where the characters act just as stupidly in the last episode as they did in the first. So this was certainly a breath of fresh air. And secondly, I think the portrayal of the scenarios that the characters were in was spot on. For example, how the characters react to taking a life, even if it is just a goblin. I think far too often, shows and movies will have characters mercilessly kill, as if it was second nature.

Manato and Ranta

To conclude this half of the review, I’d like to give Grimgar a 9/10. To be honest, I just really liked the show. It was exactly what I wanted to watch, even though I didn’t know I wanted to watch it at the time. I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a short anime that can bring some humor, emotion, action, and at the very least pretty pictures to look at.

 

–SPOILERS AHEAD–

 

My favorite part of this show has got to be how it just threw Manato’s death at the viewer. I suppose I was expecting a death towards the very beginning, but then nothing happened. So I assumed all was well. And then I was proven wrong. I say favorite, not because I wished for Manato’s death, but rather because it was so unexpected, and moved the story further. The way the characters developed afterwords, and how it pushed our protagonist Haruhiro into the role of leader of the party was well done.

Manato

The death also also goes back to what I mentioned earlier about a realistic portrayal of this kind of setting. When doing mercenary work where it’s kill or be killed, sometimes you lose. And the “be killed” part of the phrase wins. Not everything can be peachy all of the time. Which I suppose sounds contradictory coming from me, who loves slice-of-life shows where nothing happens. But to the point, once the party mourns for Manato, they quickly replace him with the last main character to be introduced to the party, Mary. I also thought this was interesting, as it isn’t often I see main characters being introduced half-way through the show. Of course it isn’t unheard of, I just think it was a bit more on the uncommon side.

Mary

And as I mentioned above, sometimes it is difficult to deal with the death of enemies, not just allies, as well. This was shown best, I think, when the group kills their first goblin. What might have been looked at as a victory, was turned sour by the reality that they had just taken a life. Ranta’s reaction best exemplifies this reality. As someone who started out seeming so eager to kill and progress along in his profession/class, he took the death of the goblin the hardest. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Ranta, he became slightly more likable after that interaction.

Lastly, I think a big criticism of Grimgar comes from the lack of explanation as to where the party actually came from, and what they are doing in Grimgar. Which is an understandable complaint. But I don’t really think it could have been done in just 12 episodes, let alone 24. So to get an answer, I’d have to give you the annoying “read the source material” response. Which I get can be a frustrating answer. Though while not quite the best answer, I again don’t think people should use that as a complaint against a show, especially one that is clearly not the finished story. So I suggest we wait on a possible second season, or just read the light novels to find out just what happens.

So that concludes this review! Let me know what you guys thought! And if you haven’t seen the show, do you plan on watching it? Reading the novels? Please tell me how they are. I’m seriously considering adding them to my reading list.

Thanks for reading!

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8 thoughts on “Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions Review

  1. I think the mediocre reception is due to the fact that it is like .hack or Log Horizon, but it doesn’t behave like it. So people expected something, and got a different thing.
    I like the realistic approach though. Dealing with death, making friends and simply living life is all subtly told in this anime and, yes, in gorgeous imagery as well. I saw Manato’s death since the first episode though. Someone was to die, and he was the most obvious. His death is really subtle too, and I just love how grounded the entire anime is. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, people’s expectations of what they want a show to be more often than not are different than what the actual show is. So it affects their opinion of it, maybe even a little unfairly. I suppose in hindsight, Manato was the easiest choice for a death. But my thinking at the time was that no one would die, since their party was an even 3 boys and 3 girls. So I foolishly thought that things would stay the same. But yeah I agree, how grounded everything was really stuck with me, and is probably why I loved it so much.
      Thanks for your comment 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked the realistic approach, too. Like what TPAB said, I guess people were expecting another SAO or Log Horizon and became disillusioned when it turned out to be something different.

    SPOILERS FOR ANYONE READING THE COMMENTS

    Manato’a death was surprising but it was probably for the best it happened. He babied everyone and tried to take care of everything by himself. That isn’t how a team should function and he was indirectly hindering their group’s growth. That’s the conclusion I came to after thinking about the situation and I like how Grimgar didn’t spoonfeed that to us. I also could be wrong. Nevertheless, I also think the show deserves more love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I totally agree with what you said about Manato babying the team. At the time I thought “man this guy is a great leader!” but now looking back, I think that maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do, even if he meant well. Thanks for that, I hadn’t even thought of it until I read your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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