Wow. Now that's what anime fantasy ought to be. I watched this alongside a particularly trashy example of anime wish fulfilment (Beast Tamer) and the two shows were like night and day. The other was like a showcase of every annoying thing you'll see in anime to bastardise the fantasy genre, whereas this show kept making choices I wanted to put on a pedestal and make mandatory for the rest of the industry. Theoretically, we've seen it all before. Elves, dwarves, dragons, undead, gods, etc. In practice, though...
ELVES = we get a feeling for elf culture, thanks to Will's half-elf friend who's really bad at being elf-like and the other elves we meet. We also get an idea of their mythical nature, almost akin to fairies.
DWARVES = they lost a mountain. They lost their king. They've been wandering for hundreds of years, wanting to die and forbidden from doing so. This is honestly one of the best portrayals I've seen of the honour, history and psychology of dwarves, including genre classics like Lord of the Rings. Also, less importantly, they're dwarf-sized! Half the time, a "dwarf" in modern anime will be the same height as everyone else. You've no idea how much that's bugged me in other shows. (One of Will's friends is a halfling and she's TINY.)
DRAGONS = holy shit. Now that's an imposing dragon. (He's also unexpectedly chatty, with a line in suggestions to knock me sideways.)
GODS = another thing that puts this series above a lot of its genre brethren (and not just in anime). As well as doing really well and thoughtfully with the usual fantasy staples, we also have a cool take on mythology and ancient deities that fits rather well with actual old religions (Roman, Norse, etc.)
I love how polite, respectful and thoughtful Will is. I love watching him and spending time with him.
The show's sometimes slow and talky. This season takes a few episodes to get going. It's at the drier, more intellectual end of the fantasy spectrum, so it's not afraid to spend whole episodes discussing the political situation or just finding the correct way to talk to someone. I like that. It points out, for instance, that it's not courage to have a fight you knew you couldn't lose (ahem, Beast Tamer, etc.) and then has Will realise that he's going to have to go up against a mythical dragon. It's suicide, basically.
I really like it. The show requires a fair amount of patience, mind you, and it's easy to name plenty of modern fantasy anime that are more exciting. But it's getting everything right. It feels the weight of its own fictional history. It's moral, ethical and intelligent. Will spares the right people and makes surprising choices that I hadn't seen coming and are better than what I'd have done. He has respect for the world around him. The only thing I missed here was Blood and Mary...