The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
Record of Grancrest War
What's It About?When an important political marriage comes under siege from the forces of Chaos, young mage Siluca is forced to demonstrate her unmatched talent in the magical arts to help save the attendees, catching the eye of Villar Constance, a lustful lord who only makes contracts with young, attractive women. Against her wishes, Siluca is sent by her academy to become one of the young man's mages, but her carriage is attacked en route to the lord's stronghold by a rival lord. Fledgling lord and squire Theo comes to her aid and in a moment of inspiration, Siluca strongarms him into accepting her contract as his mage to avoid contracting with Villar. Now Siluca intends to use her powers to assist the naïve, if well-intentioned young lord to fulfill his goals of bringing peace and prosperity to his hometown—even if it means going up against the more tyrannical lords in the area.
Record of Grancrest War volume 1 (11/13/2018) is based on a light novel series and tabletop RPG with original story by Ryo Mizuno and character designs by Miyuu, adapted by Makoto Yotsuba. It is available in digital format for $6.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from VIZ Media. A 24-episode anime adaptation is available streaming in its entirety on Crunchyroll.
Is It Worth Reading?
The first volume of Record of Grancrest War paints a picture of a vast world with magic and political systems that form the core of the conflict within these pages. It does the right thing by zeroing in on a particular set of characters to humanize the conflict, but it still leaves too much of the political maneuvering of this world vague for newcomers to fully embrace. For example, Chaos is apparently an essential force of magic, but it's never fully explained. The mechanics of the world aside, though, Siluca makes for an appealing main character. She's driven and intuitive and her heart is in the right place, even if she knows that to defeat the system, you have to work within it. At the same time, Theo balances her out perfectly. He just wants to do what's best, even if he doesn't really think his actions through—but that's where Siluca comes in to help him out. So far, she comes on rather strong, but her pushiness works well with her character for the most part. The volume gets a bit tiresome toward the end with the introduction of Siluca's handsy, almost-naked ally, who spends far too many of her pages this volume feeling Siluca up in a tired fanservice trope. Villar doesn't yet appear enough to make much of an impact, but his obsession with Siluca could prove interesting in volumes to come, adding a more emotional element to the army skirmishes.
Yotsuba's art is appealing but doesn't particularly stand out. Backgrounds are often detailed but nothing particularly pops off the page. The designs of the main characters, based on Miyuu's original work, also seem too cartoony to lend gravity to what otherwise seems like a serious story.
Record of Grancrest War likely has eager readers already lining up thanks to the anime and the novels on which it's based. However, the manga isn't an ideal starting point for readers new to this world. Between vague magic and political mechanics and tired tropes, the first volume is off to a slow start. However, the main characters make it worth checking out for the most part.
While it wouldn't be entirely fair to say that if you've enjoyed Ryo Mizuno's brand of fantasy war story before you'll like this one, there's still a very good chance that that's true. Record of Grancrest War follows a fairly familiar template for Mizuno's works: nice, incredibly innocent guy, firecracker blond girl, chaos threatening to overwhelm everything with a dollop of greed for good measure. Even the much lighter Rune Soldier Louie has a lot of these Mizuno basics. And really, he's quite good at using them – Theo doesn't read like a total Parn knock-off and Siluca owes as much to more recent heroine trends as she does to Deedlit, so it is fine on its own fantasy war merits.
It's also a step up from the anime adaptation, at least as far as pacing and character design goes, although I may be giving it too much credit for not using that weird elbow-sail thing Siluca wears in the animated version. The volume does fly along at a good clip, which feels a little jarring at the start of the book, but by the time Theo's got his own domain and is realizing that there's more to Siluca than just bossiness you can understand why the early set-up was hustled through. Siluca's clearly got a lot more going on underneath her prickly exterior than Theo realizes (although Irvin's more aware of it, but then, he's been with her longer), and there's probably a reason why she's keeping herself largely hidden away from him – the flashback by another mage to Siluca's reaction when he hit on her at school probably speaks to the fact that it isn't easy for a girl to be pretty in her particular political profession. She also clearly resents the system that makes mages subservient to lords; Theo's appealing because he knows so little about the way the world works, which allows her greater freedom to do what she thinks is right. That he largely agrees with her, even if he doesn't understand her methods, means that eventually they're likely to actually get along.
This is very much a “getting started” volume for the series, which is fine given the prolonged nature of the source material. If the sexual harassment played off as comedy of Siluca's school (girl) friend can be toned down (or, dare I hope, eliminated), the series will be in better shape, but as of this volume, there's enough that's done well to at least merit checking this out.
It's hard to say much about Record of Grancrest War because its aspirations are so modest. And if you view a successful story as one that does all it sets out to do, then Grancrest slots nearly into that criteria. But what is Record of Grancrest War trying to do in the first place?
Well, it's based on a light novel by the guy who wrote Record of Lodoss War, anime's premiere high fantasy derivative. Grancrest is in a similar vein; its worldbuilding and complex systems of nations and hierarchy are given the most time and elaboration; the characterization is stock archetypes going through stock arcs. In a lot of series, this kind of boilerplate writing would bother me, but Grancrest is partly just scene-setting for a tabletop ruleset and doesn't have much of an interest in anything beyond setting up the central conflicts of the world. Its hard to be bothered by lazy tropes when compelling narratization isn't really what a series is going for in the first place.
But that does that make in an enjoyable read? Nope. Not to say it's bad, just uninteresting. I don't care about the ten or so tiers of the world's the caste system, especially if what that caste system looks like on a human level isn't explored beyond super basic feudalism pastiche. There's also several moments of fan-service that really grate, which is expected but still annoying. Watching the big-chested friend of our female lead feel her up and mock her cup size is eye-roll inducing. And on top of that, though the art mostly consistent in quality, the paneling is often hard to follow and the designs of the demons incredibly hard to decipher. Grancrest does have its insightful moments (a scene where the main female lead is forced to reckon with her own privilege when she dines with a couple peasants comes to mind), but they're sparse. And since the focus is mostly on world-building, it's impossible to find any real thematic meat or anything to connect with.
It's impossible to hate Record of Grancrest War, but I don't like it either. Manga has far better high fantasy, and Grancrest doesn't want to really dig into its world or characters beyond the surface level of borrowing from other, more established works. And that's fine, I suppose. It just doesn't make for enthralling storytelling.
Record of the Grancrest War's original source material is a 10 volume light novel series that came to a close this March. There is also an additional spin-off light novel, an anime series that aired this year, and a video game, as well. Despite having a laundry list of ways to consume the series, I would never experience it on my own volition. However, I can see where fans have become attached to Grandcrest War.
Theo is an everyman-knight, if there ever was such a thing, focusing on being kind to the people around him and wanting to protect his original home. He's hardworking, kind hearted, and at times, a little naive. After defeating a demon, Theo begins his quest to take his village's safety in his own hands. Siluca is a freshly graduated mage set to take on the world, no matter how unorthodox her methods may be. She's stubborn in a cute way, and responsible, making her the perfect match for Theo.
Together, the two are working to become a strong pair and to defeat the chaos-ridden injustices that power-hungry elites have created. Teaming up with the help of some powerful allies and friends, Theo and Siluca may reach their goals and become a powerful duo as a war around them breaks out.
Record of the Grancrest War seems formulaic, akin to every other fantasy world based series aimed at young teens. Though not a game scenario like Re:Zero or Sword Art Online, it appeals to teen boys who want to imagine themselves as the lead. The female characters are valued more for their looks than their abilities and it's very tiresome for anybody to read besides the intended demographic.
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