Mikako KomatsuHiroyuki YoshinoNobunaga ShimazakiChika Anzai
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2016: G
Also known as: Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2016
Writer/director: Ryosuke Nakamura
Original creator: Ao Jumonji
Actor: Yoshimasa Hosoya, Mikako Komatsu, Haruka Terui, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Fukushi Ochiai, Chika Anzai
Keywords: anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grimgar_of_Fantasy_and_Ash
Website category: Anime 2016
Review date: 15 August 2017
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
What if you woke up in a fantasy world, not really knowing who you were? Occasionally you catch yourself saying strange words, but you don't know what they mean.
All you know is that you're in a world of monsters and magic, with no choice but to kill to survive. Other people are forming parties. You should be doing the same, but no one's going to choose you. They don't. In the end, you find yourself joining forces with five no-hopers like yourself. One of you is a prize jerk who doesn't know when to shut up. (He's going to train as a Dark Knight, which appears to be a recognised adventurer class but is still a slightly unsettling career choice.) Another is frightened of men. The biggest of you has little no choice but to be a fighter, but he's also a gentle, slightly slow man who likes cooking and hand-carving wooden animals.
You choose a class and train in it, then go out to kill. Your prey are goblins, the weakest monster, but right now even they're out of your league. Besides, they don't want to die any more than you do. You're committing murder for money, day after day, because the alternative is to starve to death.
Welcome to Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. It feels like AD&D, down to specifics like the monsters (goblins, kobolds), certain spells (magic missile) and game mechanics (priests can't use edged weapons). Our heroes are a thief, a hunter, a dark knight, a warrior, a priest and a wizard. Theoretically there are lots of "light novels turned anime" like this, but most of them are power fantasies. This one isn't. It's realistic, to the point of being drab and slow. Our heroes are pathetic. They lose a lot. They can heal damage with magic, but they don't have heroic immunity and they can't resurrect their fallen comrades.
(Death being permanent is a key difference between this and other 2016 deconstructive fantasy anime like KonoSuba and Re:Zero. There was a cluster of such shows around now and they make quite interesting viewing.)
Our heroes really have to work for their progress. Being short of money creates mundane problems like not being able to afford new underwear. What's more, they're emotionally vulnerable. Grief at losing party members can hit them hard, potentially to the point of triggering a complete personality change. They're insecure. They're horrifically bad at talking to each other. It's a slow, painful process, but gradually they grow (or die) and by the end of the series have found some measure of confidence and even healing.
So, the key question... is this show any fun whatsoever?
Mmmmm, well. I don't know if I'd call it fun, but I didn't have trouble watching it. I wouldn't call it a downer, unless you find yourself siding with the goblins. (All these monsters are just minding their own business when the adventurers come to slaughter them, but the show's aware of this and some of the heroes even feel guilt about it.) The show's simply portraying its heroes' situation realistically. Besides, they're basically good, nice people. (Well, except for Ranta and even he shows some growth. Besides, the show's few laughs are usually due to his boorishness.)
Most importantly, the season ends pleasingly. Our heroes make important progress, both as adventurers and in their emotional growth. It's satisfying and positive.
Trivial observation: this world has its own writing system and it's possible to decipher it. You can start by looking at names on gravestones and work up.
Would I recommend this? Yes. It's subdued, though. Don't expect action-packed excitement. You'll need an attention span, but one might just as easily call the pace "relaxing". It also has some lovely watercolour art. I hope they make a second season.