Record Of Grancrest War Part 1 (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 285 minutes approx.
As an Autistic person, I have a number of triggers – bright light, loud noises, crowds of people (or just people in general) – but I feel after over a decade of reviewing anime I need to add another to that list – the phrase “based on a light novel series”. Whenever this is the source for an anime, it quite often results in bad news for all of us.
The continent of Atlatan has long been peaceful following the war in which a demonic force called Chaos was defeated and sealed away by a powerful wizard. Divided into two factions, Fantasia Union and the Factory Alliance, a wedding is taking place between the heirs of the two blocs, Alexis Doucet and Marrine Kreische, to unify the nation. Before the vows can be made, a Chaos demon appears and kills the two fathers, plunging both sides into turmoil once again.
Student mage Siluca Meletes of the Alliance is sent to strike unity deals with the lords of the Alliance, only to be ambushed by Union soldiers. She is saved by Theo Cornaro, a crest-wielding nobleman looking to free his home town of Sistina from a corrupt lord, by rising up the ranks of command. Siluca and Theo team up to fulfil his mission then unite the country once more.
Record Of Grancrest War has the rare distinction of its source material not only being a light novel series from the pen of Ryo Mizuno but is also a table top role paying game, though it must be a very involved game if the convoluted plot of this anime adaptation is any indication. As someone who isn’t a tabletop game player (I don’t even know what that is), I can’t even begin to comprehend how it works in that format.
With 24 episodes to fill and a light novel series that ran for ten volumes to lift stories from, a sprawling, epic saga is to be expected but it would appear Mizuno and his co-writers haven’t fully grasped the concept of “pacing”. The events outlined in the above plot summary remarkably cover the first episode, whilst the end game Theo and Siluca are working towards is almost complete by the third chapter.
Calling this a sprint start to a marathon is an understatement and the only losers are the audience who are left behind at the starting line trying to work out who is who, which side they are on, and why we should care. For comparison’s sake, imagine if LeLouch in Code Geass had achieved his objective to topple the rule of Britannia inside the first five episodes, how unfulfilling would that be?
Don’t take this as a spoiler, it’s more of a warning to expect haphazard and unevenly paced storytelling that has a knock on effect the further it goes. Theo is painted as the hero of the series yet he doesn’t appear until halfway through the first episode and even then, it is out of nowhere. Having played the white knight to Siluca – whose guard, Irvin, a demon seal holder, is useless – and they summarily agree to work together, without even a the slightest introduction for either for the audience.
Over the next two episodes, this dynamic duo have already won over other countries either by defeating their armies or the lord’s themselves, claiming their crests to give Theo more power, and joining him as part of the Union. But as soon as Theo becomes King of Savis, he abdicates because of his unspoken love for Siluca, handing the role over to Lassic David, happy to remain a viscount under Villar Constance, two former noblemen Theo won over as part of his campaign.
Things then massively change gears with a couple of standalone episodes in which Theo and Siluca make some more allies before settling down and getting to the heart of the story – the political struggle between the opposing sides of this bifurcated land. Quite why we had such a mad dash in the opening episodes just to slow down and start telling the story at a steady and far manageable pace is just one of the many vexing things about this show.
At least we know have an established antagonist – I won’t spoil who – and a better idea of where the story is heading, though character development is still a secondary concern as far as the script will allow. New faces are being introduced as we progress, mostly without any formal welcome, some literally destined to be killed off our forgotten soon afterwards, a side effect of having such a vast cast list.
It’s not all talk and dark intrigue however, there are plenty of battles taking place though discerning which side to root for is understandably a pointless endeavour in the early going. Often violent, they may be too brief for some tastes but are well animated, whilst the horn dogs are catered for by a couple of sleazy sex scenes, one in particular being congruently unpleasant.
Production values are high courtesy of A-1 Pictures, boasting fluid animation, top notch artwork and strong sound design, although the characters are off the shelf in their look with most of the women – and some of the men – sporting long blonde hair, it is difficult to tell them all apart. Only Theo stands out because of his green hair and the villainous Mirza Kooches, whose dark skin and jazzy beard make him an obvious bad guy.
Many anime shows are frustrating for a number of reasons, but Record Of Grancrest War sets a new bar by almost throwing away potential viewer interest with its baffling backwards storytelling of starting out so fast then slowing down. It evidently has a great story to share but does so in the clumsiest way possible, making my score for this first volume regretfully lower than it should be. Part two has a LOT to make up for.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ** ½
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