Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: Episode 3

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“Are Goblin Pouches Filled With Our Dreams?”

Sundays at 11:30 am EST on Funimation

Awkwardness within the party is at an all-new high thanks to Ranta peeking on the girls bathing. Luckily, the discovery of an abandoned city full of goblins offers some hope for their future in Grimgar.

Aqua’s thoughts

If there’s any word to describe this season of anime, that word would be “baffling”. Erased in baffling in its sheer cinematic quality and unapologetic treatment of a difficult subject matter, BBK/BRNK and Active Raid are baffling in the “what sort of drugs were they on when they wrote this” kind of way, and GrimgarGrimgar just sort of defies any conventional manner of analysis. It’s simultaneously an attempt to cash in on the “trapped in a video game” craze as a spiked kick in the genre’s family jewels; not so much a show about real people as one about anime stereotypes behaving like real people.

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To call Grimgar a ‘deconstruction’ of popular fantasy anime in the same vein that Madoka is one of magical girl anime and Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the super robot genre would be both giving it too much credit and lumping it in with any sort of convention, which wouldn’t be very fair on this utter unicorn of a show. Rather than putting a “realistic” (read: dark) spin on the conventions of its genre, Grimgar plays all the tropes in the book straight, yet treats them as if they were common facts of everyday life. It leads to a show that feels positively otherworldly, populated by tired archetypes spouting cringeworthy clichés that somehow still feel like real people. Given the show’s premise, this is likely intentional.

The best example of Grimgar‘s odd approach to realism can be found at the very beginning of this episode. In line with last episode’s general theme of acknowledging that actions you’d shrug off in games or anime would have lasting consequences in the real world, it spends considerable time on the fallout of the pervy antics we last left the show with. A throwaway gag that existed only in function of the mandatory creep quota Grimgar seems to be obliged to fill up gives way to some genuinely touching character moments, with the adorably awkward exchange between Yume and Haruhiro in the forest as an absolute standout. It’s honestly the first time I’ve seen casual perversion in anime have any sort of lasting impact on characterization. If it’s really not possible to eliminate puerile sexism from our beloved Chinese cartoons, I’m happy to at least see them acknowledge it.

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Unfortunately, Grimgar‘s “realistic” approach to anime conventions doesn’t always work out so well. While Haruhiro’s monologuing about his lack of underwear is a nice way of accentuating the party’s not exactly enviable predicament, the good intentions quickly get soiled by yet another hi-la-rious perv scare at Shihoru’s expense. Apparently not even Grimgar can manage to make that nefarious kind of anime victim blaming (“You girls shouldn’t lower your guard like that! Us guys won’t be able to hold back!”) sound remotely realistic, no matter how much effort it puts into self-aware quips and character animation. It’s almost as if the adaptation rights actually did come with mandatory creep quota per episode, which would certainly explain the often jarring turns Grimgar takes from character drama to misogynistic mush, often within one and the same scene.

Nevertheless, Grimgar‘s overall approach remains a thoroughly enjoyable one. In this era of high-concept, technobabble-spouting pseudo-epics, its laid-back, character driven focus on the less glamorous aspects of fictional worlds, feels incredibly refreshing even after three episodes of relative uneventfulness. In fact, the biggest mistake Grimgar could make at this point would be to try its hand at a more conventional narrative, likely kickstarted by a grand reveal that our character are — gasp — trapped in a video game. We know they are trapped in a video game. It’s Grimgar‘s refusal to rub it in our faces that makes it special. It sets itself apart from its peers in the slice-of-life genre because of its setting, yet understands that settings essentially are little more than characters in their own right: They are better off being shown, rather than told.

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Random observations

  • Do fans even like hearing that “Think about us guys” bullcrap? Like, are men supposed to be okay with anime basically assuming that they are all rapists who lose all dignity and reason when a girl dares to dress down because she can’t afford clean clothes?
  • I suppose Haruhiro adheres to the Eiji Hino philosophy of clean underwear being all you need to have a good time.
  • Looks like something is finally happening next week. Judging from how much this episode liked to accentuate just how awesome and mature Manato is, it’s very likely he’ll be at the centre of it.
  • What are goblin pouches filled with, though?
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2 thoughts on “Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: Episode 3

  1. nice analysis! I agree with all you said.
    One of my favorite parts of the series are are conversations between Haruhiro and Manato. They both have calm, somewhat dorky sounding voices that ooze genuine understanding. I feel like I learn the most about those two when they talk to each other.

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