I’ve watched my fair share of “hero taken to a fantasy world” kind of shows and generally enjoy the genre, but it does tend to get kind of stale after the 10th “Hero of the World” iteration. I heard Hai to Gensou no Grimgar was a different, grittier take on the trope, all about what would really happen if a bunch of regular people were thrown into another world and had to survive without all the modern amenities and protections we’re used to, so I gave it a try. And you know, it was actually pretty good.
Blurb: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash (灰と幻想のグリムガル Hai to Gensō no Gurimugaru?) is a Japanese light novel series written by Ao Jūmonji and illustrated by Eiri Shirai. The story follows a group of people who suddenly find themselves in a fantasy world with no memories from before their arrival, and chronicles their struggles to survive and make a life for themselves. (source:Wikipedia)
First, before you get scared off, Grimgar is not that dark a series. The darkest take on the trope I’ve ever seen is Now and Then, Here and There (recommended watching if you’re feeling too happy and just want to be pissed off), and Grimgar never gets quite as unhappy as that. Nevertheless it does chronicle the likely struggles of a bunch of regular teenagers who have never even killed a chicken before and who now have to fend for themselves in the wilds of a new world by killing sentient, highly intelligent monsters and living off the proceeds.
I liked that Grimgar wasn’t that dark and still contained plenty of fantasy staples like magic and skills and a super-talented main character who overcomes great odds etc etc. I’m cool with that kind of thing, especially since nothing comes easy to the party so it feels like they deserve everything they eventually get. The show also ends on a highly positive note and is very well-wrapped up so unlike most light novel adaptations you don’t feel like you have to go out and get the books to get the full experience, even though the show does make you interested enough to want to do so.
Other positives: the watercolor-like backgrounds are lovely and a nice, mellow change from the often-garish colors of other fantasy series. The action sequences are not as good as the better ones from Sword Art Online or even Yes It’s Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, but it’s still clear and easy to follow even when things get hectic. The fights keep you on edge a bit because the rookies are so raw that anything can and frequently does happen in that world. It’s also nice that the characters have to deal with everyday stuff like buying food and getting clean underwear. It’s good for people who like slice-of-life and immersion into fantasy worlds.
Now for the stuff that wasn’t so good. The voice-acting isn’t very impressive. It’s a strike against those who insist on how wonderful Japanese VAs always are. The MC’s voice was too deep and too impassive, Manato’s voice was too screechy and piercing, Ranta always sounded like he was trying too hard, the other characters weren’t very memorable. I don’t remember anything about the music either. The fanservice episodes and excessive discussions of bust-sizes and other vulgar topics was also something I could have done without. The long sequences where people just stand around while some annoying high-pitched singer warbles about nothing important weren’t necessary to the show either, IMO.
Those minor nitpicks aside, the main negative of Hai to Gensou no Grimgar (for me) is that far too much time is spent talking about stuff that doesn’t really interest the viewer. Especially at inappropriate times like in the middle of dungeons (they pay for that at least once, but they don’t learn their lesson). I’m like “Can’t this wait till you get back home where it’s nice and safe?”
But really, they just like to talk. Talk talk talk about their feelings. Tell me how you feel. I feel this, we feel this, feel feel feel. I get it, I get, but you really don’t need to spend 10 minutes in one episode talking about your depression, then 5 minutes in another episodes going on about the same thing, and then again in another ep, and on and on. It could be faster paced, is what I’m saying.
But there’s no perfect series, and I think Grimgar did pretty well keeping a balance between being upbeat and being realistic. It’s a great watch for anyone who likes fantasy, other worlds, tragedy, slice of life or straight up action. Or a fun combination of all these like Hai to Gensou no Grimgar.