What They Say:
Like most Beastfallen, the half-tiger known as Mercenary hates the witches who created them, so when he’s offered a chance to hunt witches, he quickly agrees. But things go spectacularly wrong when he’s rescued by a witch instead and she wants him to become her bodyguard!
Making matters worse, she’s seeking a missing book, the Grimoire of Zero, which contains the secrets of Magic, which could possibly end the world if it falls into the wrong hands. And the author of the book? Zero herself! Worst of all, Zero actually seems to think that Mercenary is cute and cuddly, and wants to do terribly inappropriate things with him! But, if he does as she asks, Zero promises to make Mercenary human, and with that reward in mind, there isn’t much that he won’t do to help retrieve the Grimoire of Zero!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show has a pretty good mix to it for a stereo show as there’s some good action elements with the magic that boosts things up and adds some welcome directionality to it. We do get that in some of the more physical elements as well with the fighting and that helps to give it all more impact. The dialogue side is fairly straightforward but it handles the highs and lows very well and there’s some placement in a few areas as well, though that’s not as big a deal here overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by White Fox, the show has a pretty good amount of detail to it in both characters and backgrounds to give it a good lived-in fantasy world feeling. The main cast have some good presence about them during the series and combined with a strong color palette that’s rich and warm, the end result is a show that has a definitive look but isn’t trying to be radically out there. The character designs are great, the settings are spot on, and the encoding captures that and the color quality very well with no breakup or noise throughout.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with both discs held against the walls with no hinges involved. The front cover goes with the familiar key visual that brings us the four main characters, though the really primary ones aren’t as large as some of the supporting ones which gives it an odd feeling. I do wish Mercenary had gotten more attention here and even that Zero was larger. It’s a decent piece and one we’ve seen for a couple of years now so it’s functional and appropriate. THe back cover has a nice shot of Zero along the right while the left breaks down the summary of the premise in a clear and easy to read way, though it may be a bit more detailed than it needs to be to hook people in. There are a few nice shots from the show while the rest of the cover breaks out the production credits and technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as some of the Japanese promotional videos.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series Zero kara Hajimeru Mahō no Sho, Grimoire of Zero is a twelve episode series that originally aired in the spring 2017 season. The light novels from KAkeru Kobashiri began in 2014 and finished up in late 2017 with eleven total. The novels spun off two manga adaptations as well so the stage was set early and easily for an anime adaptation. Fantasy shows aren’t exactly uncommon but a lot of them in the last few years have revolved around video games in a way, being things that characters went into or some other kinds of otherworldly projects. With Grimoire of Zero, it really is just a straightforward fantasy show.
The concept behind this is certainly interesting enough as we get a fantasy world where there’s magic in the land and those that utilize it are known as witches – male or female. There’s a lot of natural distrust for those that can use magic and that’s lead to three different groups within the this particular kingdom to deal with. The State has its own group to deal with problems, there’s a secretive group that’s trying to do the right thing, and a rogue group as well. Amid all of this magic has also created something called Beastfallen, people who have a range of beast-like appearances. Some are full-body transformations like our lead character while others are more just their heads. The beastfallen are pretty much persona non grata in most places though in some areas, as we see, they abuse the system because of how people fear them and essentially operate as little thug overlords.
The main focus of the series, at least for me, is on the Beastfallen character named Mercenary. He’s a full body type transformation that’s essentially a good guy that does his best to stay out of the way and out of trouble since it’s not easy living like this. Looking like a giant white tiger, he’s a strong warrior that doesn’t boast or overplay his hand and tries to defuse situations before they get worse. So when he ends up coming across Zero, a pint-sized witch that’s being hunted by another witch, he just books it out of there. That doesn’t help much but it was a really nice bit of humor early on and showed how he would rather avoid a fight if not necessary, especially against someone that he understands is more powerful. At the same time, he is pragmatic as Zero ends up hiring him for protection with the promise of using her abilities to turn him fully human if he can protect her while she’s on her mission.
That mission itself isn’t laid out too clearly at the start here but the general idea is that she’s tracking someone down that has stolen a grimoire that she put together. This mystery person known just as Him has his own grand plan for it because Zero put together a book that would destroy the world. With a lot of powerful magics in it, and the reveal that we get about the intent with it (and the alternate use that it gets toward the end), the series focuses on the journey there with some sidebars along the way. Mercenary and Zero are certainly fun to watch together and the group grows a bit with the arrival of Albus when she finds them and tries to kill Mercenary for a ritual magic that they she wants to put together and needs his head as a part of. This turns into a familiar kind of group as it progresses and as we learn more of their pasts and stories, and that someone else from Zero’s past with a man named Thirteen is after her as well.
The series works a decent bit of scale to it as it progresses and we understand how the kingdom is setup and what impact magic has had on it. I really liked the various groups that we get for the witches and how they were dealing with each other in a distrusting way. The exploration of the groups isn’t deep and it’s mostly limited to the one that Zero belonged to, but it’s done in an engaging way. That said, what really won me over with this series was the character of Mercenary. Avoiding the whole young man/kid or high school student from another world as the lead, we essentially get a seasoned warrior male leading figure that’s not a jerk and is pretty damn competent. It made watching him deal with Zero fun as well as handling Albus and Thirteen along the way. There’s a good sense of power to his abilities and skills but we also see just how he handles the prejudice and bigotry that exists in regards to the Beastfallen in a way that really humanized him. It’s no surprise that Zero gets most of the attention but Mercenary is my favorite here.
Grimoire of Zero didn’t get a whole lot of attention during its simulcast run as it was on Amazon but it delivers what I was looking for that I don’t see often. It’s a solidly competent fantasy show that doesn’t try to work a huge cast and expansive amount of politics and intrigue as it keeps focused to just a few characters and a single mission at hand. There are sidebars along the way but they help to expand the characters and dial back to the core story easily enough. With a solid dub included and a great looking visual presentation, Grimoire of Zero hits all the right notes in order to delight fans of it and provide a great bit of escapism for those that take a chance on it sight unseen.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 26th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78;1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.