Granbelm is a wild combination of mecha, magical girls, and survival game, brought to you by the production team behind Re:Zero. This week, Nick and Andy share their favorite things about this new original series.
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Andy, it's finally time. After so much waiting, we're going to talk about the mech-infused magical girl action extravaganza of the season. That's right, we're finally going to talk about SYMPHOGEAR.
Oh damn it, did I watch the wrong show again? I thought we were covering FATE this week.
How about we split the difference between these two premises and talk about GRANBELM?
I guess. Even though it has 100% less Nana Mizuki singing about swords.
But 100% more smug Aoi Yuki in a wizard robot.
And 1000% more Anna Faces.
Damn girl, please chill. I know we need a Berserker in this FATE-like, but she has not stopped 'zerking for a single second.
So yeah, Granbelm is one of this season's few anime-original offerings, brought to us by the crew that helmed the beloved Re:Zero anime a few years back. And it answers the question that has mystified anime fandom for nearly a decade: what if you made a Madoka-like that was actually good
Turns out you just need the right ingredients! Where most other Madoka clones have only delivered a heavy mix of Dark Magical Girl stuff, Granbelm has combined that with SD Gundams and a Holy Grail War. It's an eclectic mix, but I can't say it doesn't work.
Okay, so it's easiest to describe Granbelm by its composite influences, but I do want to note that the show quickly establishes its own identity, which is why it's worked so well thus far. Rather than aping other successful properties, it feels like Granbelm is using the space those shows made to play with its own toys. And I'm not just saying that because I want plastic models of all these adorable magic robots.
That's the thing that's working so well for me. The character designs aren't great, but the facial expressions are, and the cartoony action sequences with their mechs are tons of fun! The combination of SD mech combat with interspersed shots of the magical girl pilots makes for a super-engaging dichotomy.
I actually like the character designs a lot! I dig Shinichirou Otsuka's knack for pairing that rounded, cutesy aesthetic with subtly quirky design choices. I genuinely believe Rem from Re:Zero wouldn't be such an evergreen favorite if her head wasn't an uncannily perfect circle.
And don't get me started on Mangetsu's rat-tail. Girl looks like she fell straight out of Kentucky circa 1997.
Counterpoint: Owl Girl's outfit
Listen, everyone's magical girl outfit is an expression of their soul, and Rosa's soul happens to be a Kemono Friend who likes quoting Bing Crosby.
I'm baffled by that, but she completely disappears after the first episode, so who the hell knows why she's like that. I assume she'll return once the logical conclusion to "what if we take out the opponents in the real world?" comes into play, but until then, her owl boomerangs lived a short but beautiful life.
So actually, I thought that was a random catchphrase too, until I bothered to listen to "Pennies from Heaven" for the first time since I was five years old. Turns out that one line may be the most subtle bit of thematic foreshadowing ever.
I'm just saying, don't be surprised when eight weeks from now, the moral of the story is that if you want the things you love, you must have showers. But that does bring up what Granbelm is supposed to be about, and like any good battle royale story, it's about how shitty it is to be in a battle royale story.
Unless you are too dumb to realize it.
Mangetsu's just sad she didn't wind up in the current Genre-du-jour.
Just say no to isekai.
The reveal of Mangetsu's motivation was where I went from curious about this show to "oh damn I have to watch this." After nearly a decade of DARK magical girls with overwrought tragedy as their motivation, it was astonishing to see a character who felt like just
a normal human.
She's doing her best. She doesn't really care what she's doing her best for, as long as she believes it's worth doing, and that's why she's shacked up with the half-german ninja cat semi-adopted heiress runaway mage named...Ernest.
It sounds like a noble grand gesture, but at the end of the day, she's motivated by the loss of her friend.
We haven't seen her exact falling-out with Anna, but there's been more than enough detail for us to put the pieces together.
Much like FATE, it turns out being a Mage in Granbelm is mostly a recipe for being miserable and paranoid. Shingetsu obviously cares about Anna and her family, and they care about her! But the power struggles they were born into have turned Shingetsu into a total loner and Anna into...
Much like FATE, I'm waiting for this Caster to pull some sort of gambit and focus the plot entirely on her scheme all of a sudden. Anna's position in a more prestigious bloodline afforded her some underlings, but with one immediately getting punked by Saber and this one being a flippant Aoi Yuki with a flash of sadism, I think we're gonna get some lesser bloodline comeuppance soon.
Meanwhile, it's certainly entertaining to watch her literally boil with rage.
For real though, Anna's quite a theatrical antagonist, but we can still see where she's coming from in all this. The whole Granbelm battle royale thing is shady as hell. I can't be the only one suspicious of a system that selects who gets to hold a power sealed away to prevent war by testing to find the person who's best at waging war.
It's a bad system and everyone involved in making it should feel bad. Good job to those seven mages for sealing it away, but why does "and now our descendants shall play the shittiest game!" always follow? If that's how it's gotta be, I do applaud Granbelm for making me root for the actual gamer in the group.
Well, why wouldn't you root for our very own
Micchy to win?
If there's one thing I don't like about her character, it's the "she's in middle school but actually older" part. Also you made a mistake, because Micchy is obviously the pink friend in that photo.
Yeah, the whole thing about her being an adult in a kid's body is full of potential red flags, but at least so far, the show's avoided exploiting that for anything uncomfortable, which is notable considering how episode two opens:
Episode 2's intro did more in a single line to solidify Mangetsu's character than the entire first episode.
Or how their chat avatars manifest in her mech for her to talk to them during fights.
They also do a great job of explaining the mech's mechanics better than the Proper Noun Soup that everyone else spouts.
So her mech hides from everyone and charges up Spirit Bombs because hell yeah, Gamer King in the house. Also shout out to her tiny crown.
Her tiny crown that's also the one memento she has left from her mother after whatever magical aristocracy forced her to abandon their family. Even if the character designs aren't your thing, I just appreciate how much individuality's been put into each one.
This does lead to what I feel may be the dumbest turn at the end of episode four, though. Nene, whose power was so disruptive in the last battle, has caused three of her opponents to ally together. The one ace still up her sleeve is that no one knows who she is outside of the magic battleground. So then she promptly throws away that advantage for some reason. Look, I know no one has acted outside of the game yet, but there's probably still a pretty good reason not to announce this???
Eh, I expect it'll make more sense in the next episode. If nothing else I get why, having spent the entire show lying about her identity and hiding on the edges of conflict, she would get sick of it all and just throw down the gauntlet. And I'm excited to see where the show goes with all of these characters. I suspect we're in for some pain—that ominous blood red moon's gonna have to pay off some time.
Where's Piccolo when you need him?
Oh shit, YOUR NIGHTS ARE NUMBERED, MOON!