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Alright everyone, welcome to another edition of 5 Point Discussions. It’s the new anime season and I’ve got a few new series I’ll be covering for the Winter, including this one: Record of Grancrest War. This is a light novel series by author Mizuno Ryo, a creator best known for his work on the series Record of the Lodoss War. If you don’t know anything about Mizuno Ryo, he’s basically a gigantic nerd who helped create a pen-and-paper RPG in 1989 known as Sword World. Taking liberally from western RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, Ryo would eventually decide to develop the setting of Sword World by creating his own various series of novels and light novels that would eventually become adapted into everything from video games to anime and manga. Some of his other series include the Legend of Crystania and Rune Soldier Louie, with every one of them taking place on the same world on different continents.
Grancrest War is another series inside that world that takes place on the continent of Atlatan, which is important for context and because this first episode…is probably the most video game RPG-ass thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. So while I’m still below 300 words, let’s jump in~
1. Episode one starts off with this lavish wedding between two kids that are the daughter and son of the Archdukes of two different nations, uniting together in order to bring an end to conflict between their lands. Unfortuantely, just as they’re about to tie the knot, a powerful monster emerges from a strange monument at the front of the church.
Only one woman managed to even try to stop the monster’s summoning before it happened: a young mage known as Siluca, who finds herself held back by a bodyguard that believes her to be a threat to the royalty of the wedding. With only seconds to act, there’s no time to even fight back, and though she saves the prince and princess of their respective countries, she proves unable to do more. There are hints of both dukes being fairly powerful (which becomes proven later on), but their combined forces prove capable of only annoying their attacker slightly, and both men are beheaded before the monster vanishes just as unceremoniously as it arrived. Just like that, peace is shattered and the two lands of the Fantasy Alliance and Factory Federation (the most J-RPG country names possible) return to war.
There’s a brief moment after the kings are struck down when the prince makes an attempt to continue the union of their two nations, only to be immediately rebuffed by his wife. The implication here is that the wife very probably had something to do with what’s happened here, or at the very least never wanted to get married in the first place and is taking advantage of this now to do what she wants. I like that, because all too often in high fantasy worlds like this, the women are usually relegated to the role of princess or wife or something boring that steals the agency away from them. Here there’s a very real chance that she is the villain (I’m watching the anime and not spoiling myself via the manga and light novels so I could be wrong), and that’s shaking things up in a very fun way.
2. With all hope of peace thrown out the window for now, we’re introduced to our leading lady Siluca and her loyal guard, Irvin. With the two nations at war now, mages like Siluca sign contracts with counts and lords because of their agreements with the Mage Association they were trained by. Siluca’s been forced to sign up with a decidedly creepy count who only forms contracts with women and makes them wear…shall we say…very breezy outfits.
This brings me to the next big thing I really like about this series. The characters all have logical motivations and are generally likable. Siluca’s complaint over working for some creepy dude feels…oddly relevant given the last year, but this episode presents her as this powerful, smart woman that’s cool and confident about her abilities. Granted, they’re going to wreck this a little bit by having her stay in the very costume she’s complaining about, but…baby steps, I guess. We also have Irvin, the guard who stopped her from banishing the Chaos power that summoned the being which started this mess. Technically, Irvin was only doing his job so his position remained the same, but upon realizing what he’d done, he resigns and chooses to follow Siluca as a means of atonement. In a world where protagonists are increasingly made to be terrible people so they can be “relatable”, it’s nice to have characters who are genuinely trying to do the right thing.
The shots we see of the world around them establish a land that’s full of the typical high fantasy trappings. Villages and entire kingdoms have been ravaged not only by war, but the blight of Chaos, a kind of dark magic that has brought in monsters and demons that are unnatural to the realm. Mages can either banish this chaos or summon it, but more on that later. As Siluca and Irvin are traveling to meet the count she’s sworn to, a group of soldiers appear with the intention of striking down this mage before she can help their enemies. Now it’s the first episode and we haven’t seen her fight, but it does seem like she can handle them easily…still, out of nowhere our male lead shows up.
What I love about this is that our hero isn’t even needed here. By all accounts, the guys facing off against Siluca are a bunch of grunts and she seems to be a skilled enough mage to handle the job on her own, but she allows Theo to try and work a little, wanting to see what he’s capable of after displaying his crest of power. In this world, crests are usually granted to nobles of either the Alliance or the Federation, but Theo here seems to have acquired a (weak) one on his own, and manages to dispatch the assailants with some effort. Another note?
This is when I realized this series was essentially Fire Emblem: The Anime. The heroes are actually referred to by their classes, which is generally unheard of outside of isekai series like Sword Art Online or Log Horizon.
3. They even have a leveling system!: Now Theo actually has a long way to go here. After he dispatches the soldiers, he immediately asks for Siluca’s thanks for saving him. Rightfully, she refuses because she never needed his assistance in the first place, but that gets us into discussing who Theo is and where he came from. A young boy from a place called Systina, he’s watched the world become consumed by Chaos, and has finally decided he can take no more of it, and makes the choice to become a Lord and protect his land and everyone else he can on his own.
Completely removed from both sides of long-entrenched royalty, Siluca sees an opportunity to remove herself from the same cycle of pointlessness. She decides to swear herself to Theo, but as it stands he’s too weak to actually have anyone under him. So she helps him out a bit…by summoning a two-headed demon, Orthrus. Theo just barely manages to slay it, increasing the amount of chaos his crest contains and thus evolving his crest. At this point, the show has established the existence of classes and a leveling system. This is an RPG in anime form, through and through–particularly, it feels like Fire Emblem, what with their talk of Lords and their ability to strike down dozens of soldiers without any help. And also…
4. It doesn’t help that they directly introduce the idea of actually seizing castles from whoever’s on the throne, which is how most chapters in a Fire Emblem game are brought to an end. This happens to be the lord of the city they were traveling through, who’d somehow allowed his kingdom to fall to ruin, and decided to break the treaty by attacking a mage before she’d actually entered into contract with an opposing side. He’s something of a coward, and his soldiers have already been defeated before they arrive, leaving him with only a single guard and his own mage.
Or, well…maybe not. Disgusted by the fact that his lord Mesto breaks the contract with the Mage Association, even his mage abandons him, leaving him to face off against Theo under his own power. Though he’s only on-screen a short period of time, a fairly obvious picture of Mesto has already been painted. He’s lazy, gluttonous, and clearly cares more about maintaining the power he already has than working hard to attain anything further. With that in mind, even an inexperienced Knight like Theo is able to defeat him in fairly simple combat. He tries to hold onto his power after that, but…
Under Siluca’s orders, Mesto is attacked by Irvin, and finally offered two options: abandoning his crest to Theo or losing his life. Outnumbered, abandoned by his retainers, he decides to at least maintain his life and surrenders his crest to Theo’s, evolving it further and making Theo the ruler of these lands. As much as Grancrest is like an RPG, there’s also a semblance of actual feudal rules and general bureaucracy to what’s happened in this episode.
The princess at the start of the series breaks off the marriage, and the continent goes back to being at war. Because Mesto sent his soldiers out to attack a mage before she was officially apart of the opposite side, he loses his military force. And because those actions broke the treaty, even his advisor and mage abandons him when he needs him most, and this eventually costs him his castle. Though it’s easy to get swallowed up in the talk of Mages and Crests, this episode is just as full of treaties and alliances, and the consequences of choosing to follow or abandon them.
5. There’s talk that this episode moved way too quickly for most people, but I’m not so sure. This might just be personal bias, but ultimately I feel like the intro to a series is usually the most boring, as the creatives have to establish the characters and their interactions, the core conflict, and build up a world and establish the rules of that world. I tend to enjoy more what comes after all that, so the sooner they finish the better.
By the end of the first episode of Grancrest, we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve met our innocent lord Theo, an idealistic young man who wants to save the world from the blight of the chaos. We’ve met Siluca, the wise mage who will help Theo make the decisions necessary to achieve the world he wants. We know the state of this continent is crumbling thanks to the chaos and the general war. And we know that Theo is positioned to deal with these other lands fast because Siluca immediately has him declare he’s the enemy of all the lords surrounding him when she says he’s joining the other side.
It’s not the most brilliant set up in terms of execution or originality, but I enjoyed the world-building, the animation is almost uncharacteristically beautiful for A-1 Pictures, and the characters are all likable with understandable motivations. We’re off to a great start, and I’m pretty excited about where things go from here.
Record of Grancrest War is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.