Here’s two cases of looks being deceiving.
Nijiro Days – 02
OK, I’ll say flat out that was darker than I expected by a wide margin. There was a hint in the first episode that Nijiro Days might not be all snips and snails and puppy dog tails, but I was still expecting something fairly restful and kawaii. There is some of that, but there’s some other stuff going on here too.
So Tsutsui Mari (Uchiyama Yumi) is my early pick for most unlikeable character of the season. Yeah, lonely, in love with Anna, abrasive personality – whatever. I’m sorry – decent human beings don’t spit on other human beings for no good reason. And they don’t mug people for gift bags and then throw them away. Sympathy is not coming from me.
Then Tomoya goes and kisses her uninvited. If she’d spit on him after that, I would have said she was justified. Tomoya is a pretty skeevy character too, generally speaking. And then you have Keiichi, who’s openly an “S”. It’s sort of odd to see what looks like a school-life series with so many edgy characters, and while it doesn’t make you fall in love with the cast, it does give the show an interesting and unpredictable component I quite like. Stuff like Tsuyoshi (the otaku character to boot) actually having a 3D girlfriend and the boys treating it as no big deal is definitely not S.O.P. for these sorts of shows.
It’s Natsuki and Anna, then, who more or less hold down the fort for traditional warmth and cuteness – blond and innocent and adorable peas in a pod. Neither one of them seems to have a strand of deceit in their DNA, and Natsuki’s crush on Anna and her clueless but moe response are totally on the level. If the whole cast were like that I’d be worried, but the fact that there’s actual contrast here is a good thing. I dearly wish this series were full-length, but at least it’s two cours – I have some real hope for this one.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 02
It wasn’t my intention when I started this post, but there’s an odd sort of symmetry between these two series, as different as they are. Both seem to be relatively straightforward examples of their genre, but offer a kind of darkness that makes them interesting.
Is that enough? I’m not yet sure in either case, and with Hai to Gensou no Grimgar there’s more here that I actively dislike to get in the way of a real connection to the series. The sexism is so casual and so presumptive that I find it disproportionately unpleasant even in a medium where sexism of all kinds is common (this is symptomatic of a problem I often have with LN adaptations – even the interesting ones tend to have a couple of areas where they lapse into full-on LN cliche mode). And the casting just feels off to me – every character feels like they got the wrong seiyuu to read their lines.
Be that as it may, there’s stuff here that’s genuinely distinctive. While the animation itself took a nosedive this week the background art continues to be really weird and weirdly beautiful. And as RL/MMORPG crossover series go, Grimgar seems to be taking quite a gritty look at the concept. I mean, basically here you had five people ambush a goblin in the act of the terrible crime of filling his water bottle. And killing him – not neatly or heroically, but in extremely ugly and unpleasant fashion. It was, effectively, bullying and murder for financial gain – and the goblin clearly did not want to die (who would?). This thought has often occurred to me in these sorts of scenarios – what if the so-called monsters have lives and feelings and hopes and dreams? Wouldn’t that be inconvenient for the writer?
So, there’s definitely something to this show, though I’m not quite sure what yet. The musical insert scene where Haruhiro walks through the village in the aftermath of the goblin massacre is definitely not standard-issue stuff – it’s clumsy but manages to be modestly effective emotionally. I’m not quite sure what’s going on here, but comments about how weird a red moon is and model airplanes seem to confirm these kids are from our world or one much like it. I have no clue whether Grimgar is going to be able to put an interesting spin on the old yarn it seems to be spinning, or if its perspective is really as off-kilter as this episode suggests it might be. But it’s different anyway, and it certainly bears keeping an eye on.