After Log Horizon failed to start a revolution of more thoughtful “stuck in a game” series, although there has still been plenty to fulfill this subgenre, I wasn’t expecting to get something that finds itself following a similar pace. However, just because Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash manages to scratch a similar itch does not mean it has presented itself as strongly so far.
Following a group of youths who have somehow ended up in this fantastical world, with no idea how or why and barely any idea about where they came from, as they struggle in their new lives as members of the Volunteer Army; Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash does quite a lot right on the character front. However, a tendency to sometimes skip over moments prime for character development and dwell a little too long on fanservice oriented sequences does nothing to help the series.
Neither do the musical interludes that cropped up in episodes two and three. While the more offensive usage was definitely in episode two, both episodes cut away opportunities that could have been used in a more focused manner on the characters in favour of giving a slice-of-life feel to series; despite their daily activities including going out to hunt and kill goblins. Episode three even uses this interlude to gloss over the activity of hunting goblins; presenting much of the action in relatively still frames. It’s a waste of the wonderful art and animation styles, which remind me of a moving charcoal or watercolour image, and makes the already slow pacing of the series feel even slower.
On the positive side of things, however, the animation is definitely a stand out. With everything holding this painting-like quality, the series has a visual identity purely its own. Seeing as it is part of a burgeoning subgenre of fantasy stories, this is a boon in its favour for sure. The fact that the animation looks so good while using this style is just another point in its favour. Actually, it is highly possible to watch this series just for the animation and art style. They both stand out that much.
As has probably been noticed, there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about what has gone on in the episodes that have aired. And to be totally honest, there hasn’t been much that has occurred. The main characters woke up in this new world, with no memories of their pasts, and became trainees in the Volunteer Army, hunting goblins to make a living. That’s honestly about all that’s happened. The series feels far more like a slice of life series in the vein of Non Non Biyori or Hanasaku Iroha, than something like Overlord or even Log Horizon; the defining feature of this one being its fantasy setting.
However, there is plenty to like about this format. The pacing allows more time to be shined on the characters, rather than some form of overarching quest, and this has worked quite well in many cases. There’s still some faltering, and some characters just don’t click no matter what, but it’s appreciated what they’re attempting to do. In particular, the anime’s emphasis on Yume in many scenes is quite appreciated. She’s been given a wealth of personality and interaction with the other characters and it works really well. In fact, she probably stands out the most of every character in the cast.
Overall, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is an enjoyable series with a lot to like so far, and some things to dislike. If they could stop with the musical interludes in future episodes, and drop some of the awkward fanservice sequences, the series will have a lot more of a chance to live up to the potential of its concept. Even with these flaws, however, it is definitely one of the series to keep an eye on this season.
Episode 1 – 3 Rating: 8/10
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash streams new episodes Sundays exclusively on Funimation.