Grimoire of Zero
Episode 10

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Grimoire of Zero ?

After finishing this week's Grimoire of Zero, I went back and watched the first couple of episodes again to test my theory that this show is better served as a binge-watching experience. Not only do I still think that, but at this point I think the series would be even better off as a film. Looking at the structure of the series, each four-episode chunk of this season's run corresponds roughly to a single act of a traditional three-act structure. The first act shows how our trio of heroes meet and establishes their quest, the second act sees them bonding and confronting the story's antagonist, and the third act contains the climax of the story, where the suspense and emotions of the tale reach their peak. It isn't a one-to-one fit, but I think it could work, especially if a hefty chunk of fat was trimmed from that first half. As this episode clearly demonstrated, all the interesting stuff this season has been crammed into the last five or so episodes, and while I'm definitely glad that things have remained steadily entertaining for the past few weeks, I still can't help but feel frustrated at how long it took us to get here.

Still, I'll be the first to admit that the show has definitely picked up, and this week contains just as much of the pulp-fantasy goodness as the last couple of episodes. Albus and Holdem's story takes up the B-plot this week, but this is the most I've been invested in these two all season. Their story is tightly woven into Zero and Mercenary's fate, especially now that they've been captured by the sorcerers of Zero, and the episode did a good job of cutting back and forth between these scenes and the main plot. There was solid tension in Albus and Holdem's capture that the show has only mustered in fits and starts up to now, and even though I never thought that Holdem would actually be killed, I was still a little worried for the guy. The animation is rough as ever this week, so the editing and performances had to make the most of a fairly stock side-plot like this, which is commendable in its own right.

Less commendable is the weakest part of the episode, where we learn in the most predictable twist of all time that Thirteen and the Him that controls the Sorcerers of Zero are the same person. While Thirteen's motivations themselves are perfectly serviceable, the execution of his master plan's reveal leaves something to be desired. If we'd learned this twist back when our heroes first confronted Thirteen, it might have given the series time to build him up as a more grandiose and formidable threat. His plot to manipulate the will of the masses by instigating his own brand of theatrical witch hunts is typical anime-villain stuff, so it needed to be dressed up better to make any impact.

The A-plot of the episode doesn't completely stumble though, because it finally reunited Mercenary and Zero in an appropriately schmaltzy manner. The music, writing, and direction of this reunion scene were a bit predictable, but that wasn't enough to shake the genuine pathos and chemistry these two share. Mercenary and Zero breaking it off was Grimoire of Zero's first really effective turning point, and the show's quality and entertainment value has been on a steady increase since then, so their inevitable reunion ended up being satisfying too.

With only a couple of weeks left in its run, Grimoire of Zero is finally living up to the B-grade popcorn fantasy potential it always had. Just like its cinematic counterparts, what it lacks in visual polish and finesse it makes up for with charm and earnest entertainment. I still think a slightly more polished, two-hour version of this story would be more effective, but I'll be happy if the show just manages to end on a high note.

Rating: B

Grimoire of Zero is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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