Granblue Fantasy the Animation
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Granblue Fantasy the Animation ?
Visually, this is one of the best episodes of Granblue Fantasy to date. I'm always a fan of intricate background design, and this week's setting of Totally-Not-Sky-Venice is particularly striking. The city on the sea is built upwards rather than outwards, so that its rounded buildings form layers connected by bridges, with many of the shops that Gran and Lyria visit being open-air booths in arcades. It's labyrinthine (much to poor Gran's distress) and clearly built on its own ruins – one shot of the group riding in a motorized gondola shows more buildings under the water. (They could be reflections, but the structure suggests otherwise.) It's like the designers read Patricia McKillip's novel Ombria in Shadow and based the city on that. Equally impressive, albeit in a different way, is Lyria's nightmare, which opens the episode. While the contents of the dream are pretty standard (she'll somehow cause everyone's deaths), the imagery of her meeting herself in a ruined library with a floor awash in blood is striking.
Although not much actually happens in the episode, it still manages to set up the next major battle/plot point while being enjoyable in a “calm before the storm” sense. The crew's arrival on the beautiful island of Auguste, the largest landmass in the archipelago and the only one with an actual ocean, also reunites Rackam with his friend Eugen, a former skyfarer. These days, Eugen has hung up his captain's hat and is working with the people of Auguste against the Empire, which has been polluting the ocean. Since that's the main source of both tourism and industry, the people are not happy, and things are rapidly escalating. They're about to get even worse when the Empire realizes that Lyria is around – the episode ends with them kidnapping her in the twenty seconds Gran leaves her alone.
Despite this danger lurking in the background, which comes complete with another Empire mad scientist and evil jellyfish, most of the episode is simply sweet. The greater focus is on Gran and Lyria going on a shopping trip for Eugen, while he puts the rest of the gang to work doing other things. This gives us a chance not only to see Lyria deliriously happy (along with some beautiful animation of her hair), but also to watch Gran and Lyria's relationship develop a bit more. It's becoming clear that Gran's feelings towards Lyria are warming, and he nearly confesses something in the moments before the kidnapping. Whether or not it was a confession of love is unclear; he did buy her the blue feather barrette, which is supposedly a charm to deepen relationships, and it certainly seems like he might be starting to like her as more than a friend. But he's also fairly cautious and not particularly demonstrative – Vyrn is really the only one he's openly close with, and we know most of that from Vyrn rather than Gran. Lyria also saved Gran's life, so he may simply have been on the verge of thanking her once again. Whatever the answer, we're not likely to know for a while, because Gran has been unable to catch up with the kidnappers when the episode ends.
Fortunately, he's got a new ally in Eugen, along with the woman who cryptically warned him to watch out. (They're the remaining two in the opening theme, incidentally.) Providing that Katalina didn't destroy Eugen's kitchen and incur his wrath – and that she and Io have gotten over his mistaking them for Rackam's wife and one of this three kids – things should start moving as soon as Gran bursts in and tells them what happens. (Assuming he doesn't go off on his own and they find out some other way.) Next week should be a more action-packed episode, as well as hopefully getting into more details about what the Empire wants Lyria for. I'm looking forward to it, hoping that this foretells a more natural storytelling flow for the series, because I really want to love it as much as I love its opening theme.
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