Very few anime shows grab me, but Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash has me hooked with the first episode, “Whisper, Chant, Prayer, Awaken,” thanks to a promisingly funny cast, good writing, and a unique hand-drawn sketch-like art style.
Not knowing what and where they are from, this anime follows a cast of characters in modern clothes trying to survive in the Dungeons and Dragons-esque world, Grimgar. It’s an interesting concept. What would it be like if we were dropped into a situation like that? What’s fascinating is that they remember speech from their old world as one of the characters say, “It’s not a video game.” The main character, Haruhiro, mentions that they speak words that they remember, which don’t make sense in the world they are in.
In this new world, they have to strengthen themselves and defeat monsters for the voluntary army to gain money. They can also sell whatever loot they get from fallen monsters like horns, fur, etc. If you are a fan of Sword Art Online, you’ll probably like this series (or at least this episode) because it’s actually from the same studio who made it! If you are a Dungeons and Dragons fan, this might appeal to you too.
The writing of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, while cringeworthy at times due to some sexual innuendo, has been stellar so far with a likable main character — who is annoyed that everyone thinks he has old eyes — and a cast of characters that banter off each other well. However, a perverted innsman near the beginning of the episode feels out of place and made my skin crawl. He is the character who is supposed to introduce us to how the world of Grimgar works, but it just came off as awkward. A discussion about flat chested and big breasted women was in this episode too, which once again felt out of place and screamed fan service to me. It took me completely out of the story, and it felt forced. Unlike Sword Art Online, it seems as though there will be a progression of skill and strength for the characters. They each learn a different class and train under a master, and at the beginning, they fumble and struggle to fight off just two goblins between the six of them. It reminded me of when I first played Dungeons and Dragons and how horrible your characters are in the beginning while laughing at the same time.
The art style is similar to Sword Art Online and Fairy Tail with clean animation throughout. Everything looks bright and the environments around the characters are drawn like a watercolor painting. It looks wonderful and brings personality to the world. The establishing shot of each town and location is also given by a sketch like drawing. Each character design looks like it would fit in a Dungeons and Dragons-esque setting, but they also provide that Japanese anime flair that people love to cosplay in.
The sound design and the English voice acting are top notch. The sounds of animals in the woods and the flow of water unspoiled by the modern world around us sound wonderful, and the clashing of swords is exactly what you expect. The voice actors give great performances and clearly reflect the personalities that the anime is trying to portray. Some of the voices may sound a bit mature for the characters sometimes, but overall, the cast sound natural while speaking to each other.
Definitely give Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash a go and see if you like it! The story is intriguing with these modern day characters being thrust into a tabletop-RPG like setting, and the production quality from the animation to the sound design is top notch. However, the out-of-place fan service scenes could take you out of the story and the world that the anime is trying to present.