Hiroko TaguchiRyouko TanakaNatsumi YanaseTomoe Tamiyasu
Le Fruit de la Grisaia
Also known as: Gurizaia no Kajitsu
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: F
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Tensho
Actor: Hiroko Taguchi, Takahiro Sakurai, Ai Shimizu, Akane Tomonaga, Erika Narumi, Kaori Mizuhashi, Natsumi Yanase, Ryouko Tanaka, Tomoe Tamiyasu
Keywords: Grisaia, anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 13 episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=16140
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 8 March 2015
Amazing. I didn't hate it at all. I'm even looking forward to the other two series in the trilogy.
The original version of this story is a highly praised adult visual novel (i.e. computer game), with about 80 hours of gameplay that got boiled down here to 13 episodes. By my calculations, that meant discarding about 95% of the original material. Unsurprisingly, the comments I've seen from game fans have been savage, calling the show a train wreck and asking why it wasn't given more episodes. I get the impression that over-condensed adaptation is a problem with many modern anime series.
Me, though, I liked it. I thought it was good. I haven't played the game, so I can't compare. That said, though, I can see a reflection of those people's point of view, in that I think some of the characterisation gets lost in the wash. Too many silly girls and tragic backstories, not enough screen time to do everyone full justice. Thus, for instance, I don't think I was sufficiently conscious at the time of Sachi's peculiarities. She's the polite one who wears a maid outfit and will always do whatever anyone asks of her. Exactly. To the letter. Even if it requires explosives. (The latter isn't being played for comedy, by the way.) You'd think that would have to be a memorable character... yet somehow she gets lost in the crowd a bit. Thus, for instance, I didn't get full value from the gag of Sachi being asked not to talk about something, only for her to email around a picture of it, with the subject "I can't say a thing" and the message "I didn't see a thing".
The show's fundamentals are strong, though. Our protagonist is Yuji Kazami, an assassin who's asked to be allowed to go to school. As far as we can tell, he just wants to live a quiet life and be ordinary. Fat chance. Mihama Academy is a faintly prison-school with only five students (all female, eccentric and hiding dark secrets), which Yuji will decide is a place where rich people send their broken children to forget about them.
I got almost none of that from episode one, though, which instead made me think I'd hate the show. I nearly didn't continue. Episode one gave me the following:
(a) a harem hero surrounded by bimbos, with even the head teacher, Chizuru, surely being too stupid to live.
(b) fanservice and panty shots.
(c) every sign that Yuuji's going to become the focus of everyone's sexual attention, despite having the human warmth of a rattlesnake. For example, the episode takes only ten minutes to go from Amane's first meeting with Yuuji to her flaunting herself naked in his bedroom. (Nothing happens, but that's not the point.)
...and then, to my amazement, ep.2 was fine. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the whole series. No one else does anything suicidal (thank you, Chizuru), unless of course they're actually attempting suicide. The fanservice doesn't disappear, but it diminishes and stops vandalising episodes. We also get no more porn-logic scenes, like a naked girl in the bedroom of a boy she'd only just met. (Besides, with Amane as with everyone else, there was a reason for her actions and when we eventually learn it, it's an utter screaming horror.)
I'm not defending the director's arse fetish, though.
The characters also improve when you get to know them. Some had been good even in ep.1, though. Michiru was already funny and gets funnier, while Yumiko's hostility is a breath of fresh air. Get within slashing range and she'll stick a knife in you. (She's less striking in later episodes after the show's dug into her backstory and partly humanised her.) All the girls unfold and before long they feel like a family.
Yuuji's distinctive, too. He does help his new classmates, in roles ranging from therapist to hit man, but he's also a complete bastard who gives the impression of hating everyone in the world. In ep.3, for instance, Sachi starts talking girly to Yuuji and he just tunes out. He's pretending to listen, but his answers are just random words. That's dangerous with Sachi. Meanwhile his notions of helping people can be scary, although I was amused by his idea of playing Daddy. I was surprised when the last episode just uses him as a sniper, but in fact that was the right decision because it wasn't his story.
I like this series a lot. It's funny and entertaining, but it's also got some deeply brutal material up its sleeve. Survivor guilt, suicide, super-rich corrupt families, post-traumatic stress disorder and more. The visual novel's fans have some pungent opinions about this anime, but I think the adaptation works even if the fanservice can be ill-chosen and we could have definitely used more episodes. The ending's sequel-hunting, but that's okay because this month we're getting anime adaptations of the trilogy's other two games: Le Labyrinthe de la Grisaia and Le Eden de la Grisaia. I'll be watching them. There are things I want to know. Yuuji's sister, for instance. I'd recommend it, unless you're squeamish.