This is a world of the skies, where many islands drift in the sky. A boy named Gran and a speaking winged lizard named Vyrn lived in Zinkenstill, an island which yields mysteries. One day, they come across a girl named Lyria. Lyria had escaped from the Erste Empire, a military government that is trying to rule over this world using powerful military prowess. Gran and Lyria, in order to escape from the Empire, head out into the vast skies, holding the letter Gran’s father left behind – which said, “I will be waiting at Estalucia, Island of the Astrals”.
Granblue Fantasy was an anime that was meant to be released for the Winter 2017 line-up, but was pushed back a season because of some production delays with A-1 Pictures. So now, after months of waiting, I am here to see just what this anime is really about.
Gran first appears as your average kind of guy-protagonist, and this doesn’t really change throughout the story. He’s living a peaceful life but aspires to one day travel to the fabled island of the Astrals which, according to a message left to him, is where his father has gone. Avoiding the wrath of the Empire whilst teaming up with ex-Empire lieutenant Katalina and the mysterious Lyria who has been broken out of captivity, Gran begins his travels in typical fantasy story style. He meets other characters along the way that both help and hinder him, and some of them join his crew in his quest to find an island that may or may not actually exist.
Sounds like your typical anime fantasy fare, am I right? Well, for all intents purposes, it is. With an aspiring young swordsman, a flying mascot, an airship and a young woman able to summon dragons, this anime is ticking the majority of the genre boxes on the way to their epic fantasy road trip. But that’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable. There’s plenty of magic and myth to get stuck into as well as an average amount of chemistry existing between the characters as they set f on a big advenure. With Granblue Fantasy being an anime adaptation of a game, you can tell it recognises the important of storytelling over trying to relate so many things back to game mechanics, which automatically distances those who know nothing of this anime’s origins, so I have to give A-1 Pictures credit to how they structured the story so it didn’t plummet into the same pitfall Phantasy Star Online 2 did. We also have the added bonus of having the beautiful, ornate style of the original game featuring heavily here, with gentle shading and blends, varying line strokes and sharp angles – but the holistic and traditional feel is somewhat ruined by the dubious and generic CG monsters Gran and crew face. There’s a lot of anime this season experimenting with 3D, with varying results…
On their travels, our main group arrive at different places and carry out episodical tasks for money, which are reminiscent of game-like quests, all the while meeting characters with cameo appearances and being ghosted by suspicious Empire employees that seem to be keeping tabs on them, but their purpose is yet to be revealed to me. Though Granblue Fantasy is moderately entertaining week-on-week, it seems to have lost a bit of overall conviction and momentum halfway through, focusing on the latest town rather than what Gran should be doing in order to reunite with this father.
As the group gets bigger, the bring in new ways for the characters to get a good amount of screen time, such as having the group get split up in some ancient ruins and have them navigate as two separate three-man cells. They’re not new ideas, but you can’t dispute the fact that these techniques work. Things tend to continue to follow the obvious tropes: some characters have banter, some disagree (rather pointlessly, as if they’re bickering for the sake of it) but they all come together in the end, as you can expect. All the while, Gran is still the typical anime fantasy male lead, sticking by Lyria as she unwittingly gathers parts of a sky map by encountering certain elemental monsters such as Tiamat the wind goddess and Leviathan (in a weirdly FFXV-reminiscent episode). Katalina and Rackam assume the adult roles in the crew because they are the oldest and, let’s face it, Gran and Lyria wouldn’t get very far without them, naive minors that they are. Towards the end, however, Lyria still gets captured, but this is ones of her roles as the pretty, naive young female protagonist.
Granblue Fantasy isn’t going to break any molds. It seems to be a straight-up cookie-cutter fantasy that fans of the game (and the artwork) can sit back and enjoy the show. That’s not to say it’s not worth watching – if you enjoy the typical anime epic fantasy structure (and I often find myself in this grouping) then Granblue Fantasy is likely for you. In this instance, things just seem a little tame and predictable for me, but I’m a jaded otaku that’s always looking for something new, and this anime doesn’t provide that.