It's the end of Grisaia, after Le Fruit de la Grisaia
(2014, 13 episodes) and Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia
(2015, 47-minute TV film). It's a bit messy and trying to do too much in the available time, but it ends interestingly and powerfully. I liked it.
Firstly, scene-setting. Yuuji Kazami is a killer who seems to have the emotional range of a crocodile. He's almost dead inside, which isn't surprising if you consider his childhood and upbringing. That said, though, there's someone he loves. Her name's Asako. She's a loud, brash, hard-drinking soldier with an abrasive personality and we've been waiting to meet her for some time, after hearing a lot about her in Fruit and Labyrinth. Yuuji would live if Asako told him to live. He'd also stick a knife in his own eye without hesitation or even regret if she told him to die.
Unfortunately she's dead. She was dead before the start of Fruit, in fact, and we can only meet her now during the prequel section. We're learning just how broken Yuuji is.
It's an adaptation of "adult visual novels", i.e. computer games with pornographic content. Apparently one of the game's bonus scenes includes Yuuji having sex with his mother while she hates herself for being weak and useless. His mother died when he was very young. Let's give this no more thought. The anime mostly avoids all the sexual content anyway.
Anyway, the 2014 episodes adapted the first game and introduced Yuuji to the five girls at Mihama Academy. Then the 2015 episodes are effectively one twelve-part sequel series, with the Labyrinth TV film being a double-length episode that was broadcast the week before Eden began. Together they adapt two games, allocating them six episodes each. Discussing all this could have got messy, given all the shared titles between game and anime, but fortunately the anime has split up much of itself into sub-serials with umbrella titles:
- Fruit 1-7,13 = [individual episode titles]
- Fruit 8-9 = The Seed of the World Tree
- Fruit 10-12 = Angelic Howl
- Labyrinth + Eden 1-4 = The Cocoon of Caprice, adapting the second (prequel) game
- Eden 5-10 = The Seed of Blanc Aile, adapting the third game
Labyrinth is so dark and horrific that it arguably damages Eden for new viewers who haven't watched Fruit. Nothing could live up to that and indeed it doesn't. That's a non-issue for me, though, so I thought the problem with Eden 1-4 is that it's neither one thing nor the other. It's just the story of Yuuji's life until this point. All the really dramatic stuff was in Labyrinth. Meeting Asako is all-important to understanding Yuuji as a person, but Yuuji serving in the American army is almost pointless. It's obviously cut down massively from the 100000000000 hours of gameplay you'll get in the visual novel, leaving it in a halfway house where we're clearly being told about a major episode in Yuuji's life, but without enough screen time to establish the new characters and make them meaningful. You don't care. When one of them dies, it's a non-event.
It doesn't even set itself up properly. Where did that line come from about "would have sex in toilets for money"? I presume it makes sense in the context of the game.
It's still watchable, mind you. It's just not what it should have been. I preferred the Asako episodes, but even there the show's still in prequel mode without a strong dramatic goal. Yuuji's doing whatever Asako tells him, basically. If she tells him to have sex, he has sex. (On the upside, at least she waits for his birthday.) I actually quite liked the sex content in eps.1-4, which is adult (as opposed to "adult") and is saying important things about the characters' relationship. The show even gets away with the comedy semi-rape on Asako's probably drunken orders, which is impressive.
Also, importantly, at one point we see Asako telling Yuuji that he's not allowed to die until he's saved five people. Later, in Fruit, he saved his five classmates. We should now be getting scared.
Eden 5-10 is a sequel again. The girls are off to rescue Yuuji, who's managed to get himself in trouble with his Sinister Government Agency employers and a man from his past called Heath Oslo. Again, this is flawed due to length. The show struggles to distinguish the five girls, Yumiko, Amane, Michiru, Makina and Sachi. If this weren't the third instalment of a series, you could boil them down to a single character. It also has a few fanservice and sexualised gags that I could have lived without, e.g. the food fellatio. Presumably that's a token nod to the source material.
However the story soon gathers momentum. There's something wonderful about seeing all those different threads of Yuuji's past coming together. I'd thus strongly recommend having watched Fruit, but at the very least I think you'd want to have seen "Angelic Howl". (Warning: horrific.) To my surprise, for instance, there's an odd kind of power in seeing Yuuji's American army comrades return to help him all these years later, even though I hadn't thought that much of them at the time.
We also see Grisaia major action sequences, which is to say "warzones". This has always been a series where even the heroes could slit a throat on-screen. If this were live-action, it might sometimes get quite hard to watch. Horrible, horrible things have happened. We meet sinister government agencies and terrorist organisations. Yumiko, Amane, Michiru, Makina and Sachi are a security threat on a par with Yuuji himself and what we see them do here is basically a full military operation. They have an anti-tank gun, smoke grenades, helicopter machine guns, missiles, a submarine and (scarier than the above) Sachi with a kitchen knife. Her maid outfit appears to include body armour, although the gas mask is a disorientating extra.
However it's still Yuuji they're trying to help. At one point he promises to return to be killed by the sister of a man he doesn't even remember. He goes up against Heath Olso, but the worry is what he'll do next even if he survives.
In the end, it's about Asako. Again. I found it emotional, although afterwards the "two years later" epilogue is a bit disposable.
This series has problems, but in the end I liked it a lot. I might rewatch the whole thing one day, with the main question being whether to stick to broadcast order or to insert Fruit between Eden episodes 4 and 5. (On first viewing, I'd recommend broadcast order. The Cocoon of Caprice has a framing story that assumes you've seen Fruit.) It's pulling no punches, but it's also very entertaining and often funny. The girls have given each other code names when preparing for their Yuuji-rescue, for instance, all of which are insulting. Michiru is Obnoxious Tsundere.
I'd definitely recommend it, although be warned that it's a bit of a rocky road at times (some intense and violent content, a few cheap sex gags, weak first half of Eden). I won't be going near the original games, though.
"Emotion. That might be what I'm missing."