Image source: アニプレックス on YouTube
A straightforward fantasy adventure story right out of the fantasy JRPG playbook… I hadn’t realized I’d been missing that until I saw it.
Based on the extremely popular smartphone game, GRANBLUE FANTASY The Animation is a fantasy adventure story that’s about as fantasy adventure as fantasy adventure can get. The game has gained immense popularity in Japan allowing for the creation of an anime series that was originally scheduled to air this season. However, due to unknown reasons, the release of the anime series has been delayed until April, with the one hour special, GRANBLUE FANTASY The Animation: Zank Tinzel-hen, showing the first two episodes airing in Japan last Saturday.
[Note: This article contains minor spoilers for GRANBLUE FANTASY The Animation: Zank Tinzel-hen.]
GRANBLUE FANTASY takes place in a world of countless islands floating in the sky where communication, travel, and trade are conducted between islands by airship. The military expansionist Erste Empire is secretly conducting research into an ancient race that were said to have control over powerful mystical creatures.
The protagonist of the story is Gran, a village youth with an adventurous spirit. One day, Gran sees an explosion from an Erste Empire airship flying above. A shining object falls from the airship into the forest below and Gran and his companion, Bii, head off to investigate–only to find themselves caught up in a life-changing adventure.
In terms of story, GRANBLUE FANTASY is almost right out of a “fantasy adventure writing 101” textbook. You have the adventurous youth, the mysterious girl, and the evil empire that hunts her. It’s pretty much Castle in the Sky with Final Fantasy summons. And yet, while the plot is pretty much a barebones template, it’s a template that works.
In recent years, adventure and fantasy stories in anime have become obsessed with adding a twist to the archetypal fantasy premise. It’s a fantasy story, but it’s violent, brutal, and deadly real. It’s a magical adventure, but the setting is a locked room mystery. The hero is about to defeat the evil demon king, but discovers that the demon king actually wants to save the world though advances in agricultural technology.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a straightforward fantasy adventure. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. I like my story writers to put some thought into their stories, but I also enjoy things nice and straightforward at times, too.
Image source: TVアニメ「グランブルーファンタジー」 on Twitter
GRANBLUE FANTASY’s simplicity is actually beneficial in a lot of ways. The story is extremely easy to get into for one thing. The protagonist is as barebones as you get which allows viewers to project themselves onto him and understand his motivations. This is pretty much a carry-over from the game, and it works. The world and the mechanics don’t need a lot of explanation to understand. The relatively simplistic story allows the viewer to sit back and enjoy the animation and the artwork. And dear lord is the animation beautiful. If the series’ delay was to allow the animators to maintain the animation quality across the entire series, then I wholeheartedly welcome it.
Perhaps most importantly of all, thanks to the easy-to-digest plot and world setting, there’s really nothing else like GRANBLUE FANTASY airing right now. It’s like everyone was fighting to see who could come up with the most compelling or captivating twist in their concept and GRANBLUE FANTASY just strolled in with the option of having virtually none at all. It’s a weak premise, but it’s also strong because it doesn’t have any direct rivals.
From what I’ve seen from the initial two episodes that have aired, GRANBLUE FANTASY looks to offer simple, yet genuinely enjoyable fantasy escapism into a world of wonder and adventure. It’s a classic, but I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing it until I saw it.
GRANBLUE FANTASY The Animation is scheduled to air in Japan starting in April. The preview special of the first two episodes, GRANBLUE FANTASY The Animation: Zank Tinzel-hen, can be viewed with English subtitles on Daisuki and Crunchyroll.