Events scale up with intricate and fascinating battles.
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 a good up close and personal battle but it’s the box itself that really captures my attention with two of the best Japanese cover pieces used. 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. I really liked the two-page spread of the flags, however!
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 the only thing we get is a dub trailer itself on the last disc.
The Record of Grancrest War had an interesting first half with the previous set where I do think it helped in watching it in a marathon session as opposed to the weekly grind among other shows. The threads were a bit clearer, the scale a bit bigger and more visible, and moving between the various actions felt like they connected better. But the main problem that I had with the show during its first half, which extends into this one, is that none of the characters really connected for me. It ended up more like watching a fantasy version of history and knowing the name of the battles and the dates they took place but not really connecting with the context because it lacked the humanity to it with the characters not being all that engaging. It is, once again, a beautiful show to look at and watching it unfold across the screen had me really enraptured with it with the animation quality. But that was the extent of it.
With the war in full swing at this point, we got the event at the end of the previous set where the Altirk Treaty was put together in order to push back against the enemy. It’s an interesting moment where Theo is seen as the obvious leader to move forward with it – we even saw Lassic nominate him – but he’s really so new to the scene overall that even with all that’s been done it’s no surprise that there’s a good deal of resistance. That has him early on here looking to find a way to make himself be the right candidate in the eyes of others – which one imagines there really isn’t a lot of time for – and he basically undertakes some work to show that he can lead and do the right thing.
That initially has him heading to Sistina to raise an uprising by the people but the people here have suffered so much that they’re not able to bring themselves to that and not with how Theo is presenting it. I do like that he gets to spend some time back in his hometown and gets a good reception there but he has his work cut out in dealing with the Rossini’s and the subjugation they’ve been laying down. Unfortunately, a lot of what happens here is what frustrates me with the series in that it’s working some big sweeps for material and that makes events feel somewhat superficial. In the space of three episodes, Theo has returned home, dealt with the people to get them on the right side of things, and overthrows the Rossini. And on top of that, he ends up as the ruler of Sistina. It sets so much in motion so quickly, and war does move quickly, that it just doesn’t register well. Even as beautiful as a lot of the sequences (and as dark and grim as they are).
The midrange aspect of this season focuses on Mitz where they’re causing maximum harm now and it’s just the kind of crazy material that’s fun to watch. Honestly, if you’re very into the story then you’re likely to get more out of it. But if you just want to watch some really crazy fight sequences with an opponent that’s going all out as they know they have to put everything on the table for their side to win, this period with Mitza provides just that. It’s got some coherency to it in terms of strategy and action but with so much going on and so many changes in the nature of various forces, it’s just intense. The visual design is great and the fluidity of the animation throughout it all makes it hugely compelling to watch. The show works the cast as well as it can but it comes down to the big battle sequences where people are lost within the sequences themselves and you just get caught up in the battles, the forces being arrayed, and the bodies as they drop against such varied forces.
It’s no surprise that after all of these events we end up with Theo taking on the true leadership role and events moving forward from there, but this just means that everything scales up from there. The political machinations and intrigue flow in, some of the stranger magical pieces have their moments, but everything feels like it’s operating at such a large level from up high at this point that it’s almost at a game mode, watching the troops below but feeling little for them. I like the smaller moments of humanity we get from our core cast when they’re together between battles or during periods of respite, but this is like following the events of World War II after initially dealing with just a few folks from one place that are caught up in it. They’ve been ushered to the upper echelon but the focus shifts away from them for a lot of it and even though you’ve seen them do so many things you still aren’t sure they quite belong in their positions.
The Record of Grancrest War is fascinating. There is so much worldbuilding here, so many things going on, that I can completely imagine the world as the original creator came up with it and designed it with the why and how. In bringing it to life within this story, it feels like some of the narrative throughline material it needs isn’t quite present as it should be, or more that it’s not in the right character-container to move it forward effectively. There are a lot of great moments throughout this but the majority of them are action-oriented pieces where I know I’m drawn more to the scale and animation of it than the story itself. I imagine that in novel form I’d be all over this property but in how it unfolds here I’m left a bit distanced and aloof as I’m not invested in a single character. For fans, Aniplex USA replicates what they did with the first set and the end result is a fantastic looking show with a solid dub and a great package. I wish it had more original extras but it does things right there in general.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Previews, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Dub Trailer
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: August 20th, 2019
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.