The Age of Chaos is almost over. Only one thing stands in the way of Theo and his goal: the Mage Association. Well, and the Vampire Lord. Good thing he’s not a supremely powerful dude who’s been sitting on the sidelines all this time or anything. Wait, he is? And he’s not a good guy? Crap.
1. No matter how I feel about Grancrest, one thing I have to respect is how it started out with an RPG-ass first encounter, and it’s ending with an RPG-ass final boss fight. The episode starts with the Lord, his mage, two berserkers and his assassin walking into a spooky castle at the end of a forest dungeon, complete with a boss ass organ playing in the background. This is Suikoden with Fire Emblem’s class system. They inflict some damage on the Vampire Lord, he shifts into his second form that’s almost impossible to beat–complete with weird background shifts while he unleashes some overpowered reality-breaking abilities like infinite clones and the ability to drain life merely by touching a person, then a deus ex machina gets them out of it: in the eleventh hour, Priscilla’s ghost pops up and uses her cleric powers to weaken the Vampire Lord’s magic extensively, wiping out his ability to create clones.
2. Once the Vampire Lord’s main power is taken out, it falls to the werewolves to end him once and for all. Both of the werewolf maid twins help out, and eventually get help from Aeon, the guy who was left to lead the village after their mother died and they abandoned the place to hang out with Theo and Siluca. By far, Aeon does most of the damage to the Vampire Lord, killing his original body and attacking and destroying many of his clones…but he also takes the most, getting nearly all of his life force drained out.
It’s supposed to be a sad moment, as we watch him die and eventually split into two chaos cores somehow, but it feels more like a cop-out than anything else. They didn’t want to kill off Irvin, Theo and Siluca are the show’s OTP, Aishela’s already ignored two death flags, and the werewolf maids are too “moe” to die, so they brought back a character we all barely remembered so we could lose someone without actually losing someone.
3. The show goes completely left-field after the Vampire Lord falls. With the combined forces of not one but three different armies, the battle at Eramu is a foregone conclusion so we pretty much just skip ahead to the part where they’ve already won. That brings us back to where all of this began–the Great Hall from the first episode. Theo and Siluca confront the head of the Mage Association, who tells them they should touch the Chaos Core at the center of the hall.
When they do, they wind up transported to a completely different time, and we witness what happened before the Age of Chaos–a hyper-advanced world with technology far exceeding our own. At some point, the weaponry they’d developed became so dangerous it was risking the life of all humanity, and so someone started the Age of Chaos to put an end to that world…and hopefully, eventually all civilization would end and avoid the world blowing up.
…Yeah, I’m not sure what happened here. I figured Theo and Siluca would come face to face with some manner of god who would explain what caused the Age of Chaos, then suggest that without Chaos mankind would just fight one another, as it was suggested at the start of this episode. That would have been a logical reason why all this is going on–but instead it’s just an advanced magic computer, who suggests that instead of man blowing up the entire planet, it’d be better if they just killed themselves.
This still raises the question of who created the Age of Chaos–’cause I mean this was pretty extensive. It didn’t just create mages and lords, but entire societies: werewolf and vampire tribes, phantom kitty-cats, and monsters. And if there’s no “one god” and this is just a giant science equation being solved, then where’d the Order of the Crest come from? Priscilla seemed almost supernaturally gifted and seemed to “know” what lied beyond–if this is all science, then who was guiding her?
At any rate, despite the computer repeating “The Age of Chaos must not come to an end” a billion times, Theo says eff that noise and decides to move society forward by creating the Grancrest. Having failed his task, the head mage poisons himself and dies, leaving the only authority in the world the Imperial Army.
4. After getting three years to put the continent at peace, we finally get to see the two couples at the center of this series get married. There’s a cute callback with Siluca being late to her own wedding (just as she was late to Marrine and Alexis’ wedding in the first episode), but there’s actually a bit more significance to things than just seeing these four get married. Once they unite, it signifies the final bond necessary to create the Grancrest, as both Alexis and Marrine hand their crests to Theo in order to create the Grancrest. Once created, the Chaos instantly vanishes–there’s no plot twist, this is literally just “and then the good guys won”. We lose Webwood from the first episode, we lose our talking kitty, and The Forest of Eternal Darkness turns into The Forest of the Usual Amounts of Darkness.
Then afterwards, just as he said he would, Theo abdicates the throne and goes back home to Sistina to rule over it…and pick grapes with his genius wife and bad-ass maids and butler. Even though this is exactly what he said he’d do, I feel like Siluca got the short end of the stick–she saved the world to end up living on the countryside with Theo and a bunch of hick villagers. The things we do for love, I guess.
5. Review: I was really over the moon for this series when things began–even all the way up through the first third of the series, I thought Grancrest was the best fantasy anime I’d seen in roughly a decade or so. (Not counting Legend of the Legendary Hero, because it didn’t even get to end.) But somewhere along the way, after the third or fourth battle which had to be covered in a montage of broad strokes because they didn’t have time to delve into it, the series sort of lost its luster.
Don’t get it twisted, this is still a good series–there’s great animation and a likable cast of characters with a story that makes sense and doesn’t get overly up its own ass. But this series had every opportunity to be something special, and lost it because it’s not 52 episodes. That’s kind of the burden of adaptive anime: more often than not, they all tend to run too short. Houshin Engi missed out on its opportunity to be remembered as a modern shonen classic with it’s stupid series that adapted over 200 chapters into 23 episodes. Grimgar had the potential to be something special but they stopped it after thirteen episodes. I could go on for dozens of anime that all met the same fate–truncated runs with Gecko Endings. And because of the way anime exists to bolster the popularity and sales of an existing manga or light novel, we rarely ever get a second go around that does things the “right” way.
Grancrest is the most solid of 7/10s that easily had the potential to be a 9/10, because we lost out on all the personal stories. They did the best job they could, focusing in on the main characters and minimizing the time they focused on characters who weren’t Theo and Siluca in order to get the job done without too many loose ends, but there are so many cool characters that I daresay this could have easily gotten another two seasons of the same length and it would have only improved, something people can rarely say.
Still, if you want a proper high fantasy anime that’s not from the pre-HD animation era and actually finishes it’s storyline, Grancrest is as good as it gets. My only real complaint is its game looks absolutely horrible.