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Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions Complete Collection UK Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Trying to be the next Sword Art Online? Well maybe try something like…well…anything…

What They Say:
After waking up in a strange new world surrounded by people who can’t remember who they are or where they came from, Haruhiro finds himself drafted into the service of the Volunteer Soldiers. Together with a ragtag party, he must set out to make a name for himself in a world where magic and monsters are part of everyday life. But danger waits around every corner, and the small group soon discovers how quickly a life of adventure can be cut short. Faced with the reality of their situation, each member will have to choose how far they’re willing to go, and how hard they’re willing to fight to survive in the world of Grimgar.

The Review:
The sound quality has options of 5.1 English Dolby Surround and the Japanese a 2.0 Stereo option. There were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using. There were no problems with the video synching in with subtitles so definitely acceptable as a DVD release.

Similar with the audio, the video is set in 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio via NTSC transfer to PAL format – with DVD releases nowadays the effect definitely seems more grainier compared to HD and with me doing a ton of Blu-Ray reviews recently this is a good way to remind you how the times have changed. That said, the animation was great especially as the animation feels very old-school RPG like in terms of cover art style and the movement/battle sequences were very fluid, and there is a Blu-Ray version as well separately so it is available if needs be.

There was no packing for this test release, but for the Blu-Ray collector’s edition there is collectors’ packaging.

The menu is very standard, done in the interesting art style we have all the cast in a stern but relaxing pose done like a classic RPG cover art picture on the right hand side whilst the menu is below them on the left – selections are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on disc 2, Trailers. No problems with selection and can return to main menu from the show easily, and nearly instant with selecting your choices without delay, but not Blu-Ray pop-up menu standard obviously. With a rather excellent tune in the background (very intimidating, I can’t remember it ever being played in the show surprisingly) it is a very pleasant if standard menu.

The only extras we have (we don’t even have the op/ed) are trailers for My Hero Academia, One Piece Film: Gold, Gangsta and Aria the Scarlet Ammo AA.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the original light novels and 2015 manga, Grimgar Of Fantasy and Ash to give it it’s full title is another one of those shows that seem to focus of people in an RPG world or alternate world away from their real life – which is quite a theme with other shows but in different ways (Sword Art Online, Overlord, Log Horizon and Re:Zero to name a few) – so whilst familiar with the concept, Overlord for example breathed new life into it with the more villainous protagonist take (so much that enjoying season 2 on Crunchyroll now) that I’m always ready to give it a bash to see what take it will go.

The take I got was probably not the take I expected…or wanted.

The initial problem is right in the first episode – we are introduced to the main group of adventurers – our lead Haruhiro, the thief, Manato – the Priest and leader, Yume, the hunter and energetic woman, Shihoru, the mage and shy girl, Ranta, the dark knight and Leeroy Jenkins of the group and Moguzo, the warrior and gentle giant. They are fighting goblins (get used to this) to try and survive and earn money to get into a guild as they were not chosen to be part of a one when other adventurers like the seemingly awesome guy Renji is like – now this seems to set up that Renji will be an important character and these guys will get better…just two things.

1) Renji is an afterthought after his introduction and not important in the slightest and…
2) …how did these guys get to this world, what is their back-story, their lives, etc…

Point 2 is especially important because even though it is a short series (12 episodes) this is NEVER ADDRESSED. AT ALL. NOT EVEN SLIGHTEST. This already gives it some shortcomings as this makes us not really understand the characters which brings the shows secondary problem also come more apparent. However, they (and the audience) are thrown in the deep end to watch the cast try and survive this new world, trying to earn money and when they don’t, have to wash clothes in rivers, repair equipment and hunt on fish, nuts and berries instead of a warm meal at the tavern with the obligatory drunk here and there.

The group also aren’t that good at first so it is definitely a learning experience with all of them learning new skills, spells, techniques, etc – and as they are quite weak they are fighting goblins who are considered the weakest monsters and they still have trouble. The problem is that the goblins are not only one-dimensional (i.e. they have to be killed…just because) is that there is no reason to be on the good guys side as you see the goblins have their own lives and it just seems to be the humans invading their territory half the time. So, the first few episodes are literally that – the group trying to work together, getting stronger, earning money and getting equipment. Traditional RPG esque stuff in fact.

Episode 4 is when the series might have turned around a bit. Because they are getting a bit better, they begin to expand (which really means just fight more goblins in normal) but they get to a group which are quite smart and large which forces them to retreat. Up to this point, Manato, the healer, has been the leader and voice of reason – especially to the ones like Manta who are rather smart alecky, or a calming influence to the shy Shihoru. However, he has exhausted his healing magic and gets struck in the back by an arrow – where he actually does die. Now this seems a bit of a twist and might get the idea of an ‘anyone can die’ mentality.

The only trouble is which brings up the show’s second huge issue – the characters are incredibly generic and bland. I didn’t feel anything for his death because he didn’t really do much – they gave him a scene with Shihoru and one with Haruhiro which in effect makes him the leader now, but because the characters (bar the soon to be shown new healer) are so one-dimensional, it feels really not that interesting…and the one character who has a bit of character? His character is SO obnoxious (Ranta) that you want to punch the screen every time he says something…

So yeah, this show isn’t exactly one of the better shows that have this RPG scenario – it’s not exactly terrible, but is utterly forgettable. They nearly manage to save it though when they introduce the new healer – Mary. They get her quickly after Manato’s death which does give Haruhiro some questions if it was too soon (and a rare good segment with Yume which results in probably the only LOL moment when Shihiro takes it the wrong way…) combined with Mary seemingly rubbing everyone the wrong way. They try to get her involved but seems to only want to heal in certain situations. It’s ironic considering my complaining about the show that the only real character development is with the new girl, as we do learn why she is cold because of what happened to her previous party, which comes full circle near the end when she has the chance to get revenge…

Because of her similarities with Manato, and her past, Mary does open up more and they resolve to make sure everyone remains alive (another plot problem: the show doesn’t mention if it is a video game world or a real world so is Manato fully dead or not?) – they go to get a few revenge missions, first on the goblins who killed Manato (which they do get their Volunteer Soldier badges) and then eventually to fight what killed Mary’s previous adventure party, known as the Death Spot…

…oh and more goblins. They try to add a little more that Haruhiro has someone gained an ability where he learns where to strike, but again, it isn’t explained clearly or well enough to really just follow on from the ‘powers as the plot demands’ routine. It does lead to them fighting Death Spot and it concludes with victory and wondering what to spend the bounty on…

…AND THAT’S IT. It ends pretty ambiguously and with no set up for a sequel, no explanation of why they are there, if they are in a real world or a video game world (and if so, how to get back)…the first 8 episodes are very repetitive with the goblin killing even with the losing of one member and gaining another (due to the lack of character development) – to say it’s a series that doesn’t really have anything, it really doesn’t bar some really nice animation with the show, especially with the action scenes.

The major problem obviously is that the lack of character development of most of the cast also enhances the two characters that are more vocal, namely Ranta and Mary. Mary gets a pass as ironically despite being late to the series she gets far more development due to her past than the other cast does, but Ranta…it feels like he is being annoying and obnoxious for the sake of being annoying and obnoxious, almost like he knows they can’t win without him and rubs it in their faces, which makes the group less likeable just by account of how much screen time he gets in comparison to the rest of the cast who are nice, but no real defining characteristics. The fact there are other guilds with Renji looking to be a key character are not focused on at all, and instead we focus on them levelling up against goblins (the show even takes a pot shot at them as when they go to a tavern the group are pretty much just known for goblin slaying) before going on for Mary’s revenge feels like it’s a slog despite the short length.

Any real positives apart from the animation and fight scenes? To be honest…it’s not a show that’s insulting or terrible, it’s just one of many in a similar market and sadly all the others are more memorable, either for being one of the first (Sword Art Online), being deep and darker (Log Horizon) or being over the top (Overlord). This one will get easily lost in the pile as it is very generic, very forgettable and just not interesting enough with its characters combined with not very well explained regarding the plot or storyline that it is understandable why you may want to pass on this one.

In Summary:
Grimgar isn’t a bad series per say, it is just the very definition of average. Nice visuals, well acted in both languages, the fact there are other series similar that not only do it better, but have more episodes to explain a lot more means the lack of storyline explanation of why the gang is here, the generic nice guy troupe meaning the characters are similar, and the few ones that have a bit more range aren’t exactly likeable (bar Mary). It didn’t dumb be down, but didn’t make me excited for the new episode either and thus, is one you can skip especially if you own something like Overlord which takes the concept and runs with it so over the top you have to enjoy it, whilst this plays it safe but forgets some very key components to make it very generic.

Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-

Released By: Anime Lunuted
Release Date: February 5th, 2018
MSRP: £17.99
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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