Over the last nine weeks, I’ve noticed that the biggest bone of contention among viewers of Grimgar is Ranta. His entire personality is something that, in general, most people don’t seem to like. This week, the show sheds a bit more light on him as a character, and I have a feeling the dislike is going to turn to outright hatred.
As I’ve recapped the show, I’ve often acknowledged that as a character, Ranta isn’t exactly likeable. He’s rude, boorish, arrogant, and in general, clashes with the rest of the party in pretty much every way. Yet, I can’t ignore the fact that there is a reason he’s written the way he is, and there is a lot more to him than we see.
Part of life is dealing with people you don’t like. Anyone who has ever held a job will know that usually, you have to work with people you just can’t stand. There’s always that one person who rubs everyone the wrong way, and doesn’t care. Yet, you still have to work with them, and since they don’t care if you get along or not, it’s on you to figure out how to deal with them.
It’s not fair, but then again, nothing in life really is. It remains true, and in many ways, I see the writers broaching the idea here. Part of what makes me glad they did is that anime, in general, doesn’t really deal with this fact of life.
Most often, a character who is a pain in the ass has a turnaround and becomes part of the team. They just needed a little coaxing, or some such, and next thing you know, they are friendly and outgoing. Real life doesn’t work this way, and in many respects, Grimgar has managed to be more true to life than just about any anime ever, and most fantasy stories in general.
Granted, I know a lot of people don’t tune in to anime to deal with real life. Having it intrude ruins the fantasy aspect, and makes it hard to watch. I get that. However, as a medium, anime is still a great tool for showcasing just how to go about dealing with real life problems, and that shouldn’t be ignored, either.
Ranta isn’t getting better. He’s not opening up, softening up, or becoming part of the family. He’s withdrawing, growing more combative, distant, and difficult to deal with. Why that is is an interesting thing to think about, but the big thing here, to me at least, is that Ranta has never been intended as a character to be liked.
From the beginning, I have grown to believe that as a character, Ranta was always intended to be disliked. He is never going to come around and be part of the family. He’s always going to be a pain in the ass. In a lot of ways, this is fine, because not everyone needs to be liked, or even wants to be. There are always those people who could care less if anyone likes them.
How we deal with them says as much about our character as it does theirs.
With all that said, let’s look at what happened this week.
We join the party already in combat against a group of Kobolds, who are doing pretty well holding their own. Yume gets to show off her new dagger throwing skill, and we get to see Haru’s Spider skill in action as well when he jumps on a Kobold’s back and stabs it. Moguzo is the only one who seems to be overwhelming their opponents with some measure of ease, though really, the party as a whole is doing well against this new foe.
During the fight, Ranta and Haru bump into each other, which sets Ranta off. He yells at Haru, calls him an idiot, and then refuses any help from the party when the rest of the Kobolds are down, and he’s the only one fighting. Even after he uses a new skill meant to confuse an opponent, it only seems to send the Kobold into a rage, making it all the more difficult for him to defeat it. While he eventually does, the rest of the party is left wondering what the hell is up with him, as they easily could have taken it down had he not refused their help.
The biggest problem with all of this is, of course, that Ranta loves to shout his skill names out as he uses them, and is making a hell of a lot of noise. Considering where they are, making that much noise is probably a bad idea.
After the battle, as the party searches the bodies for loot, Haru reflects on the fact that, from the Kobold’s point of view, they are invaders. This causes him to treat the dead with some measure of respect, as well have a bit of guilt over the fact that they are actively disrupting the lives of these creatures. He recognizes that they are rolling into their home, slaughtering them, and looting the bodies with little regard for the fact that they simply want to live as well.
By contrast, Ranta doesn’t care. He grabs anything that looks valuable and in general, treats the bodies with no respect at all. Haru understands that from his perspective, they are simply creatures, but it still bothers him.
In the meantime, Mary gives a bit of breakdown on the layout of the mines. The upper levels are where the weakest Kobolds live. They are considered ruffians and generally unwelcome by the Kobolds in lower levels. They have the worst gear and don’t really use much in the way of tactics. Lower down, where the Kobold Elders live, things will be different. Much better equipment and much better tactics will be employed, making it much more dangerous.
Then, of course, there’s the matter of Death Spots. We don’t want to forget him.
The party heads down to the second level, having found the Kobolds of the first level easy enough to deal with. As they make their way deeper, they happen across a small group of Kobolds asleep in an alcove. Ranta thinks they should slide in and kill them in their sleep, something Haru finds unsettling.
Ranta scoffs at the whole thing, and explains that as a Dark Knight, and servant of the dark God Skullhell, the whole idea of morality is a waste of time. Death comes to all things, and in death, all things are equal. The philosophy of the living is meaningless in the face of death, so why bother with such things to begin with? Embrace instinct and desire, do as you please, and never mind the rest, because death will come no matter if you are good or evil.
This actually explains a lot about his character. Especially when he calls common sense a waste of time. You know, that thing that says you shouldn’t be rambling on about your belief systems when a monster Kobold is lurking somewhere nearby, listening to everything you say.
They soon encounter another group of Kobolds, this one stronger than the others. Shihoru uses a new spell to keep them from moving around, and the party easily takes out most of them. Haru sees the streak of light again, and uses it to take down another with little effort.
Ranta wants to keep going, but Haru decides to call it a day. He doesn’t want them getting complacent, just because they’ve had an easy run of it so far. Ranta thinks that’s lame, but doesn’t argue. As he sulks away, Haru looks to Mary, who insists she’s fine, despite his worried face.
That night, Haru decides he should talk with Ranta about his attitude. To say it doesn’t go well would be an understatement. Not just because Haru isn’t always good at saying what he thinks, but because Ranta doesn’t really care, something he makes abundantly clear.
Basically, Ranta feels he is doing his job and fulfilling his obligation to the party. Whether they like him, or think of him as a friend, isn’t important to him. He isn’t interested in being friends with them, or being part of their family. He’s out for himself, and they are only useful to him in that they help him do that.
Haru points out that despite this, he has to be part of the team, and Ranta turns it around him by pointing out that Haru doesn’t want to talk about his own weaknesses, much less how they affect the team. This frustrates Haru, but again, Ranta doesn’t care. He has no interest in anything other that upholding his obligation to the party. Everything else, to his point of view, is a waste of time.
Ultimately, Haru feels as if he failed to make any headway, but as a viewer, things become a lot more clear in regards to Ranta and his behavior. I’ll get into that more later on, though.
Haru ends up falling asleep outside, and wakes up early the next day to see Yume practicing with her daggers as Moguzo prepares breakfast. He listens to Yume ramble a bit about how she got the daggers, another of her stories with no point, and feels somewhat better. Despite the problems with Ranta, the rest of the party is doing well.
They head back to the mines and continue hunting Kobolds, where we get to see that Priests do sometimes get offensive magic when Mary uses a spell called Blame, making the Kobold she hits slower and less effective in battle. She wanted to help support the front line fighters, and since this is a ranged spell, it works well to that end.
Haru uses his Spider skill to take down a Kobold, and nearly loses his own head when Ranta stabs it from the front. Haru jumps him about this, but Ranta just claims that if Haru were to die by his hand, it would net him a new Vie, so it doesn’t matter.
Yeah, that’s not okay.
Even Haru recognizes that. He’s beyond pissed about it, even when he tries to remind himself that it’s just how Ranta is. For the first time, he begins to wonder if he’ll be able to just ignore Ranta.
Moguzo takes down another Kobold, while Shihoru and Yume tag team one, leaving just the Elder. Haru orders everyone to surround it, but Ranta ignores him and goes in for the kill on his own. His attitude is quickly leading to trouble, not just for the party, but for him, as he’s bound to get himself killed the way he’s acting.
Regardless, they move on and soon encounter some farmland, where the Kobold’s grow some kind of crop that does well underground. They also raise some sort of livestock that Yume finds cute. I can’t really agree with her on this.
Ranta continues to be the biggest dick he can, until Mary spots a group of Kobolds nearby and motions everyone to get down and be quiet. Naturally, Ranta accidentally sets off some alarm bells, drawing a lot of attention to the fact that the party is there.
Just as Mary says they should go deeper to avoid a fight with too many, she senses the worst possible thing. Death Spots arrives on the scene, and after a moment, picks up their scent. Faced with that monster again, she begins to panic as the beast steadily narrows in on their location.
The thing that jumped out me most from this episode is that Ranta is in fact becoming a problem the party can not tolerate for much longer. Not just for his brash attitude, but because of his growing selfish streak. He is no longer interested in proper teamwork, and with the stakes constantly going up, is becoming a liability they cannot tolerate.
The worst part is, Ranta knows this, and simply doesn’t care. He has now rejected their offers of friendship and family, instead choosing to embrace the ideology of Skullhell in the most literal way possible. The question then becomes why.
In part, I think it is self defense. Manato’s death hurt him deeply, to the point he was ready to give up being a Volunteer Solider and find some other way of getting by in this world. Rather than allow himself to ever be in a position where he can feel that kind of hurt again, he has decided to distance himself from those around him.
The thing that brought this on seems to have been Mary. Once the party knew her story, and determined to make her not just a part of their party, but a part of their family, Ranta even acknowledged that he thought of her as a friend. Yet, he knows that that won’t matter in the long run. Mary lost people, just as they did, which makes death inevitable.
So, he seems to have come to the conclusion that it is inevitable he will lose someone he cares for, and rather that risk the hurt that comes with it, has decided to abandon anything like friendship. It’s a dangerous way of thinking, and is bound to get someone killed very soon, possibly even Ranta himself.
By vivid contrast, there is Mary, who is not only facing her worst memories and fears, but doing so with a smile. Being back in the mines must be akin to torture for her, but she is dealing with it by relying on her newfound friends and family. Rather than reject the idea of close bonds to protect herself from hurt, Mary has accepted that those bonds while help her prevent the same kind of pain she has already suffered.
It’s a fascinating parallel. The writers are exploring two radically different ways of dealing with grief, all without beating us over the head with it.
Then, of course, there is the arrival of Death Spots. How the party will avoid a confrontation with the monster is unclear. They may not be able to. If a fight is going to happen, Ranta’s new attitude may well spell death for some of them.
Even if they do avoid a fight, or even more unlikely, defeat Death Spots, there remains the fact that one corner of their team, and their family, is unraveling quickly. How they chose to deal with that, be it exile Ranta from the party or try to reach him, one thing is sure. This little group is headed for their darkest day yet.
Next week: “Between Life And Death”