A beautifully animated fantasy.
What They Say:
“I, the Mage Siluca Meletes, hereby enter into a contract with Knight Theo’s Crest, and swear eternal loyalty to him.”
From the Record of War series written by Ryo Mizuno, author of the highly acclaimed Record of Lodoss War with over ten million copies in print, the Record of Grancrest War is brought to life in full animation by A-1 Pictures, with the series composition also by the original author himself!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub in the same, both of which are done in the uncompressed PCM format. The show is a fairly standard fantasy series in a lot of ways as we get some bigger moments of action mixed in, both on the personal side and on the larger scale, but the bulk of it is smaller and dialogue-driven. That’s handled well as there’s some good placement to be had throughout with the run as there are often several characters about and placed in a way that allows for more directionality. The action side and the music come across very well with a clean and problem free design as it works the full soundstage to good effect and with some really nice swings in levels. Both tracks are clean and clear and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, 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 of this season of the series are spread across three discs with four episodes each plus its respective extras. Animated by A-1 Pictures, I absolutely adored the visual design of the show. It’s rich in details, fluidity of animation, and a fantastic color design that really knows how to hit the right emotions from the viewer because of it. There’s a lot of good character designs here that step beyond the usual standards and gives them more personality and the settings are wonderful to delve into with how it’s all designed, both in the natural elements and the human-made ones. The encoding does exactly what it needs to do with a high bit rate in bringing it to life with all its richness and complexity, making it an engaging and immersive experience that surpasses the streaming quality easily.
The packaging design for this limited edition release is definitely strong with all that it presents visually. The slim heavy chipboard box holds the single clear Blu-ray case and it’s all filled with great artwork. The case uses the Japanese home video artwork to good effect with the front panel using the main cast together with a lot of details. It also has a really great feel thanks to the kind of wrap used with some texture that works well. The back panel works more of the Japanese artwork with the same kind of framing which gives it a very good Japanese feeling to it all. The case does the same inside as we get two more pieces which are lighter in terms of the scenes but brings some good groupings of characters together. The case doesn’t have a strong visual for the reverse side but we do get a pencil rough of some of the city material which looks good with the light green color behind it all. The set doesn’t have a lot in terms of pack-in material but the full-color booklet is great with lots of character design material and details about it, some gorgeous settings visuals, and a map of the world for greater understanding.
The menu design for this release keeps things nicely in-theme while working the familiar clips visual design. With various segments visible across something that has a look of age about it, we get some good character and action moments from the show used as they play through with this kind of material over it, giving it some additional age. The layout is pretty standard with it filling the screen outside of the small strip just above the bottom of it. That’s kept to the same brown colors there with selections that are very fast to load and bring the pop-up elements easily both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. It’s a good menu that accomplishes what it needs to while also being nicely stylish without going so far overboard.
The extras for this release are pretty basic as we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the individual web previews for the episodes included. I had hoped for some dub cast interviews or behind the scenes material for fans to be able to enjoy, but sadly there’s nothing here of the production.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the early things that got me into anime was a little OVA series called the Record of Lodoss War. Based on a game played by friends, writer Ryo Mizuno turned that into some novels which in turn became an anime. Record of Grancrest War follows much the same path with it coming from Mizuno and based on a tabletop game. Mizuno’s novels for the main series began in 2013 and wrapped up in 2018 with ten volumes, making for some solid storytelling. Add in a couple of games for both console and mobile, a little manga, an anime series wasn’t a surprise. The two-cour series ran in 2018 for twenty-four episodes total with A-1 Pictures handling the animation. What we get is a show that is just gorgeous to look at with some big ideas and concepts to play with but is never able to fully connect with. The series is one that I found myself enjoying but almost as a kind of disconnected travelogue to the world.
The central premise is that the world, at least this decent-sized chunk of it that we’re focusing on, has a rough and dangerous history to it, notably in relation to Chaos and how it distorts things. Over time, things settled when a man of legend used a seal known as a Crest to deal with the ravages of his day. Those crests have been passed down over the years to various people and has created a kind of class system. At one point, they were close to fully uniting the people of the land as the two main factions, the Alliance and the Union, had the potential laid out for it through a wedding. But as is the case in such events, leaders are killed, a chance for peace is destroyed, and the two blocs are now in a state of cold war that’s heating up in various areas across the known world. It’s a good setup in which to place characters to play a game and through which to orchestrate a show with its central mission in trying to bring peace to everyone.
The opening episode gives us an awkward introduction to the two that will be both pivotal players within it but also observers to the changes that will be happening. Siluca is a powerful but young mage who has come from the Magical Academy and is intent on helping to forge this peace with the help of Lord Villar. While on her journey to his land, she ends up under attack and gets unrequested help from Theo, a young man who has similar goals but is without focus. She essentially takes him on as a knight because he has a Crest himself, something that he gained through a fight with a creature, and that’s somewhat unusual as Crests are handed down through nobility as they’ve been a part of the created and molded cast system. There are no surprises here in that as the two journey across the land and deal with their adventures in trying to built this treaty of peace that they’d get close to each other and it’d get serious, but without being fully realized in a way that feels authentic. That said, it’s done in a way that works well enough in the context of the show that it’s certainly enjoyable to watch and see the bonds form. It’s just the inability of a lot of shows to really convey a strong and working relationship of this manner combined with some culturalisms about it.
With a few shenanigans early on that gives Theo some land and his being set on joining Union in order to make inroads there, the show takes us to a range of lands and indivduals in power in order to try and build relationships there. Through it we get to meet a number of other Crest holders and their positions of power and see how they feel about the Alliance and the Union and what can be done to try and ease some of that. But there are battles to be had as well as through Theo, Siluca is able to help expand his forces and that does a lot to consolidate his power early on and even take on the last name of the famed hero Cornaro – which will have an impact on the second season as there are those that disapprove of this since names have meaning as does lineage. But you can see it as a part of what Siluca is doing to create wedges to exploit within the various factions and sides in order to bring more of their issues into it and begin to bond things together anew.
This season takes us to a lot of places and it was something where I kind of wish it was more like Legend of Galactic Heroes in its original form with names and places thrown up on the screen with a lot more regularity. Having not read the books and this being my first experience with it, it does get a bit overwhelming since there is a lot to take in and so many different issues that arise as a part of it. But these are all fascinating things that come about as we see the balance of power, the intrigue, and how it all comes together for the treaty that’s forged that puts Theo at a critical place and time for what’s to come. The show handles all of this well even if it does feel like a bit of a travelogue to me with action mixed in but it does it well. The action itself is just impressive with some beautiful animation quality out of it from A-1 Pictures that left me wishing at times that this was a big screen venture in order to really soak it all in.
While the initial idea might have led some to think that this is Record of Lodoss War 2.0 because of its origins, Record of Grancrest War is something that goes for a more detailed, political, and interesting angle than Lodoss did. That was a classic fantasy of its day whereas Grancrest feels like the fantasy writings of today with more realism mixed in, more intrigue, and more worldbuilding. The show has a lot going for it with its visuals and overall execution but something with the characters and the flow of the story kept me from feeling totally invested in it that I can’t quite put my finger on. I loved watching it and seeing it unfold, especially with the action and the atmospheric settings that really set a strong tone, but Siluca and Theo always felt just a bit too distant for me to really connect with. Aniplex’s release is gorgeous with its visual quality, includes a solid and engaging dub from my sampling, and has a fantastic package that brings us the first half of the series with its twelve-episode run. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Previews, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
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.