Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions ?
Whatever its faults may be, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash does not skimp when it comes to portraying the emotional toll of being thrown into a violent new life and the consequences thereof. While some viewers may be growing tired of the apparently sluggish pace – and if you came looking for fantasy action, I couldn't blame you – it seems important to acknowledge that the internal lives of the characters are making progress with each episode since Manato's death. This week we for the first time see Ranta really say something about how he's feeling instead of trying to hide it behind his usual bluster while Shihoru finally feels comfortable enough to speak out. This is at least in part due to the revelation of Mary's similar past, but it also marks an acceptance that we haven't seen the characters reach before, and one that Mary never seems to have gotten to.
Mary's former party member, the one who reveals her story to Haruhiro and the rest of the group, comments that he was sure he took Mary back above ground after the kobold tragedy that killed the rest of their party, but looking at her, now he thinks she somehow stayed down there. This may be the most important statement in the episode, more than Haruhiro's speech about considering Mary a friend or the story he tells her about what happened to Manato. If Mary's spirit stayed back in that underground cavern where her world fell apart, the rest of the party never really walked out of the ruined city where Manato died. Even now, every single day, they return to the city to kill goblins, to the point where they've become something of a laughingstock in the tavern. This strongly implies that there are other places they could be hunting, other monsters they could be killing for possibly greater rewards. But the almost clockwork way they return, over and over, to the place where their lives were irrevocably changed indicates that it is their emotions holding them back more than anything else. We see further evidence of this when Haruhiro spots a goblin holding the dagger he lost on the day Manato died – he goes into a rage and is ready to just charge out there and take it back. Yume has to throw herself on top of him to stop it. The combination of that and the fact that Haruhiro still “sees” Manato late at night indicate that he is far from truly accepting and moving past, although killing the goblin and reclaiming the dagger might help him to do that.
By the time they are ready to leave the city behind, however, the party will be significantly stronger than they were before. Not only is Mary slowly beginning to accept being a part of the group – the look of shock on her face when Yume offers her half a cracker is fleeting but significant – but everyone's skills are also steadily improving, as is their gear. We can see them spending money on necessities while still sleeping under straw instead of blankets as their wardrobes, both combat and otherwise, slowly expand again, with new pieces of clothing mingling in with the remnants of their original outfits and later purchases. By the end of this episode's montage, which has a much harder musical piece than usual, we can see them as not only a more complete group with Mary finally feeling safe enough (emotionally) to join them for meals and a level of competency that they previously lacked. They've also honed their perception of the world around them, with Haruhiro commenting that he can now tell the differences between individual goblins and which are male and which are female. This is slightly sad since it does not come with a realization that they are individuals rather than a monstrous collective, but we can probably write that off as a coping mechanism to allow him to kill them.
It really has become clear that this is an interior story, more focused on the characters' emotions and development than one that deals in action and adventure. On that front, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is making good progress, even as it continues to relish the sight of Yume's butt and legs more than is strictly necessary. It is also a melancholy story, and I admit to feeling slightly tricked on that front, as that tends not to be my go-to genre. But now that we have passed the halfway point, I do appreciate the emotional honesty that the show is using. Not everyone copes with trauma and grief the same way, of course, and elements of this episode (and those before it) may seem melodramatic to some viewers. But it isn't often that multiple episodes after a character's death we're still feeling the effects of it, and that does make for a lot of small triumphs that we might not otherwise have noticed, from Mary's hesitant move towards the others to Haruhiro smiling at the moon once more. That's more rewarding than seeing a pile of vanquished monsters anyday.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is currently streaming on Funimation.
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