Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is the latest in the recent crop of anime that address based in virtual worlds. In the last year or two, basically since the explosion of support that was Sword Art Online, we have been treated, or subjected, to at least one anime every season that drops the protagonists into a virtual world. The ways that they get there change, whether or not they are stuck there changes, the penalty for dying changes, but the setting remains consistently similar. The question then becomes, how do we determine whether or not the series is good and worth our time. In my opinion, it comes down to the nuances of character and storytelling.
From the very outset, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash works to set itself apart. In Sword Art Online, characters found themselves stuck inside a virtual world after willingly logging in and being trapped by the game’s creator. In Log Horizon, characters that happened to be logged in during the game’s latest update found themselves pulled wholly into the universe. In Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, the only thing that characters can recall about their lives is hearing a voice call out the them to awaken before finding themselves in a large building in a strange world. Occasionally words and phrases will spring to mind, but they make no sense within the world of Grimgar, and no one can place the importance of them. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, latches the viewer onto a small group of youths from the point that they are told to awaken and we follow them out into the world. They have to eat or they will starve. They have to sleep or they will remain fatigued. They have to shelter themselves or they will fall ill. For all intents and purposes, Grimgar is reality for the characters, and the only way that they are told they can support themselves is to become volunteer soldiers and perform tasks for the army. Such tasks are not safe, and survival is far from guaranteed.
We start out with our crop of new arrivals to Grimgar: Haruhiro, Manato, Yume, Ranta, Moguzou, and Shihoru. At the outset, each of them seems to be nothing more than the generic place holder characters one expects to find in and shounen anime. Within the first couple of episodes, we get to see that there is more to each of them than the tropes that we expect them to be. Ranta is more than the snarky hot-head. Haruhiro is more than the helfpful but initiative lacking second in command. There are nuances of emotion and action that each of them exhibits in the first few episodes that makes each of them more whole, more complete, more relatable, more human. You get involved with the characters. You begin to care about them and root for their success. Which is why it is a nice twist of the knife when one of them dies. The characters mourn their losses. Each in their own way. Such behaviors make the world feel more real and the characters more human.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is still running, so I can’t say for certain what the remainder of the season will bring, but so far, the series is well worth watching. The story is nicely developing, the characters change, grow, and evolve as the things move forward. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is not just another show about people inside of a video game. It isn’t a knock off of Sword Art Online or Log Horizon or Overlord. It is steadily developing into something that explores human emotions and the way that various types of people deal with difficulties, losses, and successes. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, you can head over to Funimation and take a look for yourself.