Granblue Fantasy the Animation
Episodes 1-3

by Rebecca Silverman,

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Granblue Fantasy the Animation ?

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Granblue Fantasy the Animation ?

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Granblue Fantasy the Animation ?

GranBlue Fantasy The Animation's first three episodes teach us some very valuable lessons: never go out without your breastplate, learn to fly an airship before you acquire one, and beware of beastmen bearing gifts, to name a few. These may feel like incidental bits of information, but that's part of this RPG adaptation's charm – it takes fairly ordinary plot devices and uses them in a way that's both carefree and fun, allowing the story to transcend its basic fantasy setup so far.

These first three episodes handle the task of introducing us to our heroes and starting them on their journey. Lyria and Katalina are on the run from the Erste Empire, which has been using Lyria as an experiment – her power over nature through the use of primal crystals is both extraordinary and possibly unnatural. Katalina is a lieutenant in the army who recognizes the horrors of Lyria's situation, seeing her as an actual person who deserves to be treated humanely. So of course, she helps Lyria escape the Empire's clutches by plummeting off their airship onto the island where Gran lives. He's an ordinary boy who may or may not be orphaned (his dad took off for a mystical sky island years ago), and he spends his time hanging out with his friend Aaron and training in swordsmanship. When he sees Lyria fall, he heads out to see what's going on – tragically forgetting to put his breastplate over his signature blue hoodie. GranBlue Fantasy may not hold the record for the fastest an anime has killed off its hero, but it's definitely up there in the rankings. Humorously enough, after Lyria has revived him, we never see Gran outside without his breastplate again.

Where this show shines is in the small interactions of its characters. The chase through the forest is impressive, not just because of the tension, but because it functions like it might in a more realistic setting – due to the limited underbrush, heroes and villains can see each other between the trees and over the hills. It's moving to see Gran bleed out and Lyria resurrect him (especially since it gives us a good idea of why the Empire wants her so badly), and the dragon who awakens is impressive despite its less amazing animation. But ultimately what I remember from these episodes is how quickly Gran and Lyria become friends (and how comfortable they become with each other, which is lovely), the easy relationship between parentless Gran and the villagers, and Aaron's worry disguised as anger when he realizes that his best friend is planning to leave with the strangers says a lot more about the boys' relationship than if it had been spelled out for us. In terms of character relationships, GranBlue Fantasy has mastered showing rather than telling.

That helps when all of the villains appear to be about ten minutes away from tying someone to the railroad tracks while twirling their mustaches. For all the protagonists' charm, the bad guys are thus far walking the fine line between smarmy and stereotypical, which makes it a little hard to take them seriously. Sturm and (und?) Drang, the beastmen who try to lure Lyria, Vyrn, and Gran away with apples and the promise of a ship, come the closest to being actually threatening, but they still don't really seem like major antagonists. This is backed up when Rackam, a sky helmsman who I'm really hoping was named after the real-life pirate Calico Jack Rackham, is able to defeat both Sturm, Drang, and little Furio, the latest Empire emissary who has plans to blow up the entire island. His laughability is tempered by the sheer audacity of his vile plans, but in the end, Rackam takes him out just by shooting the leg off of his chair – victory through humiliation, however temporary.

We're still clearly just getting this journey off the ground, and the ending theme indicates that not only will Rackam and his awesome airship stick around, but that he'll be joined by at least three others to help the party. This relatively slow start doesn't hamper the story too much, however, because there's something delightful about just watching Gran and Lyria look around in wonder. Things will be picking up next week though, because while Furio is down, he's clearly not out, and Rackam will need to be convinced that he's their only ticket out – plus they should probably stop Furio from exploding the island. Once it gets fully underway, GranBlue Fantasy: The Animation looks like it will be a fun, potentially exciting ride through a beautifully drawn fantasy world. Let's just hope they don't let Katalina pilot any more ships.

Rating: B

Granblue Fantasy the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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