Granblue Fantasy – The Animation Part 1 (Episodes 1-7) (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 167 minutes approx.
Release Date: November 12th
Anyone familiar with the video game this anime is based on will know what to expect; if you don’t know the game you will still have an idea of what to expect since Granblue Fantasy is an evocative title that says it all. Depending on your tolerance towards another fantasy show, this might set alarm bells ringing that anime studios are mining a well that must be empty by now – except this show isn’t bad.
In a world where islands float in the sky, the Erste Empire seek to gain complete rule by creating a military power based on the magic of the Astrals. One girl whose magic is vital to this program is Lyria, who can connect with Primal Beasts via her blue jewel. Refusing to be genetically manipulated by the empire she escapes the Erste battleship with the help of high ranking soldier Katalina Alize, landing on the island of Zinkenstill.
Pursued by Erste soldiers, Lyria and Katalina gain help from local boy Gran and his pet dragon Vyrn, fending off the enemy with his mighty sword skills. The Erste retaliate by summoning a Hydra which kills Gran; Lyria uses her magic to revive Gran and bond with him to defeat the Hydra. Joining forces with pilot and mechanic Rackam, Lyria and Katalina agree to help Gran find his missing father in Estalucia, Island of Stars.
The fundamentals of the plot for Granblue Fantasy owe a huge debt to the vast number of genre titles that preceded it but manages to inject enough palpable elements bespoke to its own diegesis to evade instant dismissal as an “Insert name here” clone. I have no idea about the original game but I do understand that the process of adapting a story to fit that structure to the episodic format of an anime TV show is not so straightforward.
Unlike other game adaptations, little time is wasted in getting into the story, eschewing the drawn out world building of opening chapters by beginning in media res with Lyria and Katalina fighting for their lives on the Erste Battleship. Gran is introduced after the opening credits, he first meeting with the two escapees mere minutes way and his first big fight of the series.
Some might feel this to be rushed and would prefer to be eased into things but it is clear there is gig to be much more happening in the next dozen or so episodes that warrant a swift pace to fit it all in. While the casualty of this is the characters not having the richest of backstories or motives, enough about them is delineated through their appearances and general behaviour for their roles to be quickly established without dragging it out.
Faring less well on that front is the nominal antagonist (so far at least), an irritating, short tempered, megalomaniac dwarf named Furias, barking his deranged orders to cowering armoured soldiers twice his size who could easily swat him like a bug. It is only through Katalina that the Erste masterplan is revealed, not Furias, and further details are vague, so viewer will really only be vexed by this little turd.
Offering more sinister opposition is the Black Knight, the true ruler of the Erste Empire, and aware of a secret pertaining to Lyria, so far undisclosed. Under his direct employ are two mercenaries, Sturm and Drang, tasked with following Lyrai where she goes. Along with Vyrn they provide light comic relief through Drang’s quirky sense of humour but this would appear to disguise a dangerous side yet to seen.
Gran is pretty much your earnest shonen hero – a hard working lad whose father has taken off leaving a note behind to reunite with his son in the future. Already proving adept with a sword, being bonded with Lyria’s magic augments Gran’s abilities to make him a formidable opponent for anyone or anything. So far no romantic interest between Gran and Lyria has been hinted but it could be just a matter of time.
In the seven episodes of this first volume, the group have already seen of the attacking Erste soldiers, faced down some powerful monsters including the Wind Goddess Tiamat, and solved the mystery of a missing mage. Along with Rackam, the adult of the group, they also pick up apprentice mage Io Euclase, or rather she inveigles her place on the ship, but you can’t have a fantasy anime without the twin-tail loli now can you?
Likely to be considered its greatest strength is the presentation from A1 pictures. This is quite simply one of the most stunning TV shows seen in a while and looks a treat on Blu-ray. The sky setting affords a sweeping palette of luscious blue backgrounds whilst the typically medieval/European architecture on land means exquisite details in the buildings and scenery.
Standing out designs wise however are the airships, part-steampunk dirigible, part-naval galleon, these odd looking constructions at least feel original; not only are they rendered in loving attention to the mechanics and engineering as much as the aesthetic but the animation is glorious, both in regular flight and during some the thrilling aerial battles – one fought in the clouds is quite the set piece.
This set closes at a point that feels like it might have already peaked story wise, but with plenty of plot threads still hanging and teased presences yet to be revealed, the final few chapters might have something quite spectacular planned. With the world building being sufficient to set the parameters of how far the “fantasy” element stretches, the worst thing this show can do now is drown in typical anime “overblown finale” excess.
Granblue Fantasy wears its fantasy credentials on its sleeve and even if it has no desire to reinvent the wheel, the potential is there to do so. It’s mix of brisk storytelling, fast paced action and sumptuous visuals are enough to separate this title from other recent, lacking genre fare.
English Language 2.0 LCPM Stereo
Japanese Language 2.0 LCPM Stereo
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black