Generally speaking, most new shows follow a certain formula. The first episode is to establish the world setting, while the second is dedicated to fleshing out the characters. Grimgar is weird, in that it chooses not to do that.
In the first episode, we got the world setting established, yet also got way more characterization than we normally see for a first episode. The second episode deviates from this even further. Instead of getting more characterization, we get an episode that focuses almost entirely on a single character.
Don’t take this is as something I’m knocking Grimgar for. It’s actually kind of refreshing to see a show deviate from the norm. While we do get some character building on the party as a whole, it’s mostly just reinforcing what we already know, or at least, suspected.
For their second outing, Grimgar made the rather bold choice to have it mostly be about Ranta, the least likable member of the cast. Usually, this sort of thing would wait until somewhat later in the season, allowing the viewer to develop a stronger dislike before showing us why this character is misunderstood, or motivated by things we didn’t know about, in order to up the emotional impact of seeing them in a new light.
Doing this now is very odd, and as a long time anime viewer, makes me wonder what nasty surprises the show has in surprise for later. There are hints here that make me almost fearful of future story developments, especially where Manato is concerned, but I’ll get into that in the afterthoughts.
For now, I really just wanted to comment on how strange the structure of the second episode is. It defies everything we’ve come to expect of an anime like this, and bolsters my hope that, by the end, we’ll have gotten to see something really unique and special with this odd little series.
You’ll see what I mean as we get into this weeks offering.
The episode opens with Haruhiro, who I’m just gonna call Haru from here on out, waking up and noticing that Manato is gone. The guys all share a room, as do the girls, I assume, since they can’t even afford a home with windows. Thinking the girls would each have separate rooms under the circumstances doesn’t really make sense.
Anyway, Haru wakes up and sees that Manato is gone, so goes looking for him. He runs into him outside and notices that Manato smells of booze. Apparently, Manato hit a local tavern trying to gather some information that would make them more successful in their hunting efforts. While on the surface, it’s a pretty proactive effort, there’s something that feels off about it.
Manato builds a fire and the two share a warm drink as Manato explains that he learned of a place with creatures they should be able to take on. Haru responds to this by saying that he feels bad that Manato is doing all of this while everyone else sleeps. Which is fair,as Manato is basically carrying the entire group, and is the only one thinking of ways to improve their overall situation.
The two banter a bit about drinking. Haru has no idea if he’s ever even had any alcohol, while Manato seems to have a taste for it. Haru wishes he had gone along, and thinks that maybe next time, the whole party can go, which Manato seems both okay with, and not okay with at the same time. There’s a lot of subtle subtext in this scene, something the show seems to excel at, but it becomes a lot more overt as Manato turns the conversation to Haru’s most recent trip to the Thieves Guild.
Naturally, Haru finds Barbara both attractive, and terrifying, before asking about Manato’s experiences with the Priest Guild. Turns out, rather than a good looking, if mildly frightening Guild Master, Manato worked under an older man who yelled a lot. Like, all the time, really, making Manato feel as if the only reason he was born was to be yelled at.
Again, that subtext is compelling, and the series so far is relying on it very heavily. Manato is clearly unhappy, both with his Guild choice, and his situation in general, but I’ll get into that more in a little while.
Haru is surprised that Manato would have to deal with stuff like that, meaning self doubt, and Manato just sort of verbally shrugs, saying that of course it does. Sensing that his friend is feeling melancholy, Haru thanks him for taking care of them all, which does seem to lift Manato’s spirits a bit, at least. It’s an odd scene, and carries so much both with the dialogue, and in the undercurrent of it, that it raises more than a few questions for me.
Haru decides to try and get off this topic, and comments on the moon, which is red, and kinda weird looking. Somehow he knows that where he came from, the moon wasn’t red. This, again, seems to carry some kind of unspoken importance, though just what, I have no idea, as the writers are playing their cards very close to their chest.
We get the opening credits this week, as well. It features marbles very heavily, though I can’t be certain if that’s just a stylistic choice, or has a deeper meaning. With anime, you never know for sure. It could be a giant spoiler, and since I don’t know the source material, could easily just be missing it. Time will tell, I suppose.
After that, we rejoin the party the next day as they are out hunting in the new spot, and Haru spots a lone Goblin by a river, filling up its water skin. Yume almost gives them away, again, but pipes down when Haru shushes her. They rejoin the rest of the party and pass on the info, leading Manato to deciding they should take it on.
There’s a very brief scene that makes me happy right here. The party takes a moment to set aside their traveling gear, such as food and cooking implements, and gives their combat gear a quick check before heading in. The reason this makes me happy is that is adds a layer of realism to things, further separating this from shows like SAO. That, and as a long time Dungeon Master, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to dock players on their attack bonus because they were carrying fifty pounds of stuff with them. That might seem nitpicky, but you can’t expect to fight effectively with a backpack full of cooking utensils, now can you?
I am a slave to these kinds of things. What can I say?
The party tries to stealth their way up, planning to take the Goblin by surprise. Haru is the first to notice the flaw in this plan, as they have no signal to advance, much less begin the attack, or hold back. Ranta proves the necessity for this when he just starts charging towards the river bank, yelling and screaming as he waves his sword around.
Haru tries to hurry down and back him up, but the Goblin, able to count, decides to haul ass out of there. Yume manages to stop it with a well placed arrow, not hitting the Goblin, but turning it back towards Haru and Ranta all the same.
Ranta then gets in a fight with a bush. For real.
Haru is rightfully exasperated by this, right before he trips over a root and almost lands on his ass. He manages not to, but only barely. Point to Haru for not failing his Dex Save. Unfortunately, this ends up putting him face to face with the Goblin, and totally by himself. This is not a position any Thief or Rogue wants to be in, as they are sneak attackers. Knowing this, Haru manages not to shit his pants, and just does his best not to get killed.
He does manage to get a hit in, nicking the Goblin’s wrist, but it’s too shallow to really hamper the critter, putting him totally on the defensive. Manato and the rest start to catch up, as Ranta recovers from his tussle with the flora and comes in swinging. He misses by a mile, of course, and buries his sword in the mud of the river bank, then gets kicked face first into some more mud by the Goblin.
Nothing like a mouthful of mud to make you realize you aren’t a badass.
This also allows the Goblin to get behind him, and Ranta nearly gets stabbed in the face. Lucky for him, Manato charges in and pushes the Goblin back. With the critter taking a second to survey the mounting opponents it faces, Shihoru is able to get off a spell. Which blows up a small portion of the river, while everyone, including the Goblin, just kind of stares at that.
Manato seizes this opportunity to get Moguzo in front of the Goblin. With his big ass sword, he should be able to keep it occupied while the rest flank it and take it out. Should being the operative word there. These guys still have a lot to learn about team work, something I suspect Renji’s group figured out very quickly.
With Moguzo pressing the attack, Ranta stands there yelling at him, completely failing to notice that they have surrounded the Goblin, something Manato managed to get them to do by sheer luck. What Ranta doesn’t do is attack it himself. For some reason.
The Goblin manages to get some distance from Moguzo, but this just puts it right up against Ranta, who finally remembers he’s suppose to be making with the stabbing of things that aren’t bushes and gets a hit in, piercing the Goblin’s shoulder. Which he then gets really excited about, to the point the critter almost gets away. Manato manages to block him, forcing the Goblin back into the middle of the circle they’ve formed.
Six people and this lone Goblin is giving them a run for their money. Teamwork isn’t all this lot needs.
Ranta realizes that he cut into the Goblin’s bone, which more than freaks him out. His hands start shaking as he tries to come to terms with what just happened, all his bravado fading away in an instant.
The Goblin bellows at them, forcing the entire party back a step. Haru realizes the Goblin doesn’t want to die, that even though he can’t understand what it says, it is fighting for its very life, and will do everything it can to survive. Ranta manages to shake off his moment of fear, reminding everyone that this is kill or be killed, getting the party back on task.
And what an ugly task it is, something all of them realize now more than ever.
Ranta charges in, fighting for all he’s worth, determined to get his first Vice, a Dark Knight ability we’ll learn more about later. Yume points out he’s as scared as the rest, but he tells her to shut up as Haru dives in, trying to tag the creature while it’s focused on Ranta. Shihoru gets off another spell, this time hitting the Goblin and wounding it, to her own surprise.
Haru tries to capitalize, but the Goblin forces him to retreat. The mud makes their footing incredibly uncertain, something the shows reminds us of as Haru stumbles back, trying not to slip. This leaves him open to the Goblin, and he gets stabbed in the shoulder.
Wow. A show where the main protagonist, by virtue of doing all the voice over narration, actually gets wounded? Grimgar, I think I love you. All the more for not having Haru shrug it off and fight even harder.
No, Haru is too stunned and in pain to do anything as the Goblin tackles him and takes him to the ground, trying to strangle him. In a desperate attempt to survive, Haru stabs it in the neck, getting blood all over his hands and face. Still, it isn’t enough to finish the Goblin, and Ranta dives in, stabbing it and knocking it off Haru. Before the Goblin can recover, Moguzo brings his sword down on its head, finishing it off.
The entire party spends a moment gasping for breath as they slowly realize they defeated it. For the first time, they have been victorious, though it was hard won, and Haru nearly died.
As Ranta celebrates, Yume hurries over to check on Haru and pull the Goblin’s sword from his shoulder, leaving him in even more pain, which Manato is quick to heal. The struggle, for Haru at least, is all the more frightening now.
Ranta searches the body, but finds only a fang and a silver coin worn as a necklace. Regardless, a victory is a victory, and he’ll take it. To acquire his Vice, a body part from a creature that died by his hand needs to be offered up at the alter of his Guild, which is all well and good, except that it was actually Moguzo who finished the Goblin off.
Naturally, Ranta is frustrated by this, and for reasons I’ll again get into in a bit.
As he bitches to Moguzo, who just kinda stands there stammering an apology, the Goblin wakes up. Turns out, it wasn’t dead, just knocked out. It grabs up the sword Yume tossed aside after she pulled it out of Haru’s shoulder, knocks Ranta off his feet, and scrambles to escape.
Infuriated, Ranta dives after it, wrestles with it, loses it, and scrambles after it, managed to land a blow across its back that knocks it down. What follows is as ugly as it gets. Without thinking, Ranta stabs the Goblin, over and over, until it dead, screaming as he does. There is no epic battle, no cool moves, just a brutal struggle that ends in blood and pain. It is real, visceral, and defies all anime standards by being difficult to watch.
When it is over, Ranta staggers back, and collapses into tears. For all his brash words, he has taken a life, and his walls fall down, showing us the frightened, weak, young boy he is. Despite his claims, he is afraid, and deeply affected by what he has done.
The others can only watch in horror. They know it needs to be done, for their own survival in this strange, cruel world they find themselves in, but the brutality of it shakes them all. Shihoru especially, who hides her face in Yume’s shoulder and cries as her friend holds her.
Haru realizes he is gripping his dagger so tight in his trembling hand, he has to pry his own fingers lose in order to release it.
As I said at the top, this episode is primarily about Ranta. For all his unlikable qualities, his tendency to brag and belittle others, he is a teenager, a child still, and in the face of what he must do, what he must really do, to survive in this world, that same bravado he hides behind comes crashing down, showing us a child horrified at what he has done. There is no consolation to be found in the necessity of it, only grief, fear, pain, and the loss of some part of himself he can’t get back.
Nor is it just him that is affected by it. The others are as well. As an abstract idea, killing monsters in order to survive, it seems easy on the face. It is only when confronted by those same monsters, and their desperate will to live as well, that the full implications are realized. Each of them are now more, and less, than they were before, but none so much as Ranta, who looked the Goblin in the eyes as it died by his hand.
Taking a life is no easy thing to do, no matter how simple and necessary it may sound. It leaves scars on the soul that never fully heal. Ranta’s reaction, to collapse and cry, are only human.
When I covered the first episode, I admitted to having fears that despite how promising the show seemed, it wouldn’t be able to carry through. Those fears are lessened by this, as in the midst of this lovely pastel scene, a young man is diminished by his actions, and now must find some way to reconcile what he has become with himself. It’s the kind of writing you rarely see these days, with heroes and villains that are clear cut, and the good guys carrying on, unaffected by their actions.
It is profound, in its quiet, brutal simplicity.
The party heads back to town, and learns that the silver coin they took is worth less than a silver coin, but the fang is worth one silver. Probably something to do with that hole in the silver coin. Regardless, they split up their profit and decide to call it a day, each heading out to do as they wish with their earning. It’s worth noting that Ranta sits quietly through all of this, never saying a word.
In a lovely montage set to an equally lovely song that I’m sorry to admit I don’t know the name to, we see the party go about the rest of their day, learning more about them. I did try to look up the song that plays over this, but with the episode having just come out, I couldn’t find anything at the time of this writing. By the time it is posted, it’ll probably be available. I’ll try to remember to edit this to include it, but no promises. I have a reputation for being lazy to protect, ya know.
Haru just wanders around town, spotting other Volunteer Soldiers, as well as a couple sleeping on the street, reminding him that others have it even worse than he and his group do. This is something he seems to understand, too, as he looks on them with an expression that is part pity, but heavily shaded with fear and doubt for the future.
Ranta does as he swore he would and hits up the vendor from last episode, getting himself a big ass piece of meat. He sits eating it, but clearly isn’t enjoying it, his expression one of sorrow. I can only imagine how finally getting that treat he promised himself must taste, after what he went through to obtain it, and the way he sees himself now.
Yume and Shihoru go looking at clothes, with Yume giving Shihoru a hard time by trying to get her to buy a thong. Given Shihrou’s obvious lack of self confidence, its not the kind of thing she’d buy for herself. At the same time, given Yume’s previous attempts to bolster that same sense of confidence, it makes sense she’d try. It reinforces what we’ve seen before, all without a word of dialogue.
Moguzo, unlike the rest, just goes home and tends to his gear, seeming to enjoy sitting quietly. A bit later, we see him carve an airplane from some wood. While he obviously has no idea what it is, or even why he did it, it shows off his artistic skills, as well as his desire to make things rather than destroy them. It makes me worry for him as this tale continues, as the gentle souls are often the ones most heavily crushed by cruel necessity.
Manato finds a nice spot in the sun to admire some flowers and takes a little nap. Later, he catches up with Yume and Shihoru. Yume is looking at who knows what as Shihoru is checking out a hairclip. In a scene that says so much, Yume watches as Manato encourages Shihoru to buy it, finally putting it in her hair for her as she blushes furiously. With a sad smile, Yume leaves the two alone.
As the day draws to a close, Haru spots Ranta teasing a little critter with the bone from his earlier meal. He gives him a little shit about not having eaten that bone, like he said he would, and Ranta, already in a bad mood, gives him shit for being nitpicky.
Deciding to try another approach, Haru asks if he got his Vice, and we learn why it was so important to Ranta. He did, and it now allows him to summon a demon that can warn him if enemies are nearby, as well as do a limited attack on any enemies they encounter. While this might seem like a small thing, the reality is somewhat different.
Despite acting like an asshole, Ranta wanted this ability for the party as a whole. His attitude may be shit, but his thoughts are always about being of more help to the group, protecting them, and being more effective in a fight. It’s a telling bit, as it shows Ranta is more than just a big mouth who picks on others. That is his shield, what he hides behind to keep his own fears at bay. Beneath that is someone who wants to protect his new friends with everything he has.
Like I said before, this is the sort of thing that is usually saved for several episodes into a series. Here, they are getting it out of the way early, setting up Ranta as someone who is more concerned with the safety of those around him than in just attaining power for himself. It’s an interesting and different approach to see in an anime, and adds a lot of nuance and layers to the character of Ranta. I find myself very interested in seeing where his character arc goes from here, something I didn’t expect to have happen after last week.
Manato and Shihoru arrive as Manato agrees that Ranta picked a good ability to have, lifting his spirits considerably. Again, for all his brashness, Ranta is seeking approval, and Manato seems to get that, giving him what he needs to bring him out of his melancholy.
Yume sneaks up on them, prompting Ranta to think she was the critter he was teasing earlier. Basically, he thinks she may have learned some kind of transformation ability, which she laughs at, making him try to act tough and claim he didn’t really think she could do that. Haru kinda calls him on it, but Ranta tells him to shut up, and Manato turns the conversation to the sunset before they can get going good.
They would all be so dead without Manato, I swear.
Later that night, Haru is having trouble going to sleep. He wants to ask Manato about the future, and their ability to survive, but finds he can’t. Putting it to words is too hard, and talking about it makes their tenuous situation too real.
Ranta reveals he’s awake as well, and back to his old self as he plans to sneak over and peek on the girls while they are bathing. Haru, Manato and Moguzo all think this is a terrible idea, but Ranta doesn’t care. While he doesn’t say it, it is kind of understandable, since he came face to face with death and is trying to find something to celebrate about being alive. I can’t say this is the best way to go about it, but Ranta isn’t the brightest guy around, so there it is.
Haru and Manato try to stop him, while Moguzo proves the wisest of them all by staying in bed. Naturally, Yume kicks Ranta’s ass, forcing the other two guys to try to explain why they are there, and apologize profusely before Yume beats their ass as well.
On that note, the episode closes.
I’ve already touched on Ranta pretty extensively, so I’m going to leave that be. Instead, I want to take a moment to focus on what the episode says about Manato and Yume, as there’s a lot of subtext in their brief scenes.
Especially Manato. While I can buy that he was off at the tavern getting a drink and gathering info, I can’t help but wonder if there was more to it than that. Having to carry this party, not just while out hunting, but at home, acting as a parent figure, has got to be taxing. While I can’t say for certain that he was out looking for another party to team with, abandoning them to their fate and making sure he survives, there is this undercurrent to his early scenes that makes me wonder about it.
More than any of them, Manato is under a lot of stress, after all. He sees to their organization in ways the others don’t even think of, and without him, they would all be in way worse shape than they are. The ways the scenes are framed, with the camera, dialogue, and Manato’s expressions makes me wonder if he’s buckling under the pressure, torn between his sense of responsibility to the group, and his desire to live, something he can’t help but feel is uncertain as things stand.
While I’m sure the show will reveal more about him as the story progresses, for now, he worries me. Having Manato abandon them would not bode well for their future, much less their survival.
The brief bit Yume watching Manato and Shihoru together seems to back up my earlier impression that she is either bi, or gay, and has an interest in Shihoru. There are other ways to read the scene, of course, but that little sad smile she had really made me think that.
It’s also possible that she just felt left out. After last week, when Ranta was picking on Shihoru and Yume stepped in to stop him, she may have felt as if she was Shihoru’s protector. Seeing her with Manato would have undermined that, and left her feeling less certain of her place, and on uncertain footing in a relationship she may see as sisterly with Shihoru. It was pretty obvious Shihoru likes Manato, after all, and that’s totally understandable, and makes what I talked about a minute ago all the more troublesome.
For Yume, though, it could simply be that she feels less necessary, and given their circumstances, that feeling of being needed can be like a drug. Either way you read the scene, though, it does serve to show that this little band is strained at the seams, and it would take little to fracture them as a whole. Like, say, Manato ditching them for another party.
The one thing I am certain of right now in the aftermath of the second episode is that I am fully on board with this series, and very eager to see where it goes. Only two in, and it is off to a really strong start as a character driven story. That is most definitely my kind of thing.
Next week, episode three: Are Goblin Pouches Filled With Our Dreams?
Geeze, guys. I’ve only got so much room for episode titles. Bring it down a notch, will ya?