Granbelm – Ep. 1

Granbelm is a little known magical girl mecha anime that aired in Summer 2019. While I wouldn’t call it the best anime of that year, it was one of the most interesting and memorable shows for me. It definitely has its fair share of flaws but the whole experience really did grow on me and it made for a surprisingly emotional ride. Truth be told, I really regret not covering the series in episode reviews and while I normally let bygones be bygones, I honestly did have a hard time letting this one go. Since the show released on Blu-ray today (totally the biggest event of the day), I feel like rewatching the show and figured this is a good enough excuse to cover it on the blog. So here I am reviewing Granbelm a little over a year later. Here goes nothing!

The best way I can describe Granbelm is think Puella Magi Madoka Magica meets Fate with some mechs thrown in for good measure. Basically, there used to be magic in our world but because its devastating power, a group of mages sealed it away in a device called the “Magiaconatus”. Those who can still use magic now compete every full moon in Granbelm, a tournament set in an alternate dimension where contestants duke it out in a giant robots called “Armanox”. The winner is crowned the “Princeps Mage” and can then use the Magiaconatus to fulfill whatever wish they have. In true Madoka fashion, there are of course some darker twists to the mythos but the show doesn’t play those cards until a bit later (which means I’ll have to play dumb for time beining).

Something that always stood out to me about this first episode is how quickly it gets the ball rolling. Within the very first scene, Granbelm shoves its protagonist, Mangetsu Kohinata (Miyuri Shimabukuro) into the magical dimension and surround her with combatants who know what they’re doing. The only warning or bit of foreshadowing is the blood moon in the night sky though it signifying Granbelm is not readily made apparent until later. How and why Mangetsu gets transported is a mystery and you know very little about her character apart from her average cooking skills. In the show’s defense, having Mangetsu all clueless and thrusted into the fray allows the viewer to relate with her. Also, having seen the show, I can safely say the randomness is entirely deliberate. Still, I can see this being off-putting for some viewers. It certainly was for me the first time I watched the show.

There’s also figuring out who’s who. All the main characters in the show make an appearance in the first episode in one way or another. One you most certainly want to keep an eye on is Shingetsu Ernesta Fukami (Atsumi Tanezaki), a mysterious girl who comes to Mangetsu’s aid and befriends her (and yes, their similar names are intentional). Also prominent is Anna Fugo (Yoko Hikasa), Shingetsu’s main opponent and leader of two lackeys, Rosa (Chinatsu Akasaki) and Suishou Hakamada (Aoi Yuuki). There’s some hints dropped here and there regarding the characterization. Anna noticeably seems have a bone to pick with and while Shingetsu fights her as an enemy, the enmity does appear to be rather one-sided. Another moment that sticks out is when Suishou deliberately lets Mangetsu run free despite Anna’s orders to eliminate her.

For the most part, this is an action-heavy episode and for what it’s worth, I do have a lot of fun with the sheer amount of spectacle on display here. Giant robots fighting, a myriad of weapons, magical spells and explosions, tons of destruction in the process. What’s not to like here? There is also a deliberate bit of direction in the action as well. The fighting starts off with Mangetsu running from Rosa and Suishou (love the sense of scale here with the Aramanox) while Shingetsu fends off Anna before coming to Mangetsu’s aid. Later in the episode, it’s Mangetsu who ends up saving Shingetsu by transforming into a magical girl and piloting her giant robot for the first time. It’s something to keep in mind as the show elaborates on the two characters’ relationship with each other.

It also helps that the visuals are top-notch. Some of the vistas in Granbelm are downright gorgeous and the animation is impressively smooth and even intricate at times. Studio Nexus really outdone themselves here, so much so that I’ve been keeping an eye on what they’ll animate next (especially in action). I love all the character designs by Shinichiro Otsuka, especially Shingetsu’s, and while the mecha designs by Jimmy Stone are a bit bulky for my liking, they’ve kind of grown on me. Granblem may be a lot of things but ugly isn’t one of them.

OP: “Tsuki o Ou Mayonaka” by Eir Aoi

ED: “Negai” by Uru

Thanks for reading!

Watch Granbelm on Crunchyroll

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