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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES: April 2 - June 18, 2017
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

How does it skyfare?

With two upcoming video games including a fighting game from the talented Arc System Works (creators of Guilty Gear), I figured it was the right time to familiarise myself with Granblue Fantasy. The franchise began life as a mobile game from Cy Games, and the project was notable for bringing on-board composer Nobuo Uematsu and art director Hideo Minata, who had previously worked together on Final Fantasy V, VI and IX. After the game's significant success, an anime series was created to promote it, which I somehow missed when it came along in 2017. Given that the original game never left Japan, I'm surprised not only that the anime received a dub, but that the spin-off games are leaving the land of the rising sun.

The animated series tells the story of Gran, a main character with such a hilarious name that every time someone's shouting it I just get the impression that their poor grandma waddled off somewhere with her walker and nobody knows where she went. It's even funnier that our lead character Gran is some fifteen-year-old orphaned boy carrying a sword and not a geriatric lady. He lives with a floating talking dragon named Vyrn, the "Pikachu" of Granblue Fantasy, and together they dream of going on a big adventure.

As fate would allow, one day that adventure does indeed come. This story takes place in a world of floating islands and sky, a concept not too dissimilar to something like Granstream Saga or Skies of Arcadia. There are flying boat-like ships that cruise the clouds like waves on the sea, and the name given to such adventurers is "Skyfarers". With a ship and a crew, a skyfarer will go wherever the skies take them, to exciting new places. That's the idea, anyway.

Ruling the sky with an iron grip, The Empire (creatively named... The Empire) has a finger in everyone's pies. A knight of the empire, Katalina, escapes one of The Empire's vessels with a young girl they had captured, the charming Lyria, and they end up on Gran's island. Gran ends up getting mixed up in Katalina's crazy crusade and, after a kerfuffle with some Knights of the empire, ends up losing his life. Luckily, this elf-like Lyria seems to be sort of a special case, and selflessly uses her magic to half her life force to bring Gran back to life. With his new found powers, Gran went from snotty little kid to full blown legendary swordsman practically overnight.

What's that, Bleach? Yeah, I thought so too. About the only thing missing is gaining the ability to sense the presence of spirits, and— oh yeah, he gains that power too.

For a journey that starts on the wrong foot, Gran eventually ends up the captain of a skyfaring vessel named the Grandcypher, along with a crew of eccentric personalities including Rackam the "old man" despite only being 29 years old, and the cute Io (pronounced Eee-Oh) who despite being an adorable little girl has a rather crappy attitude with a propensity to start fights. Gran's crew will explore various floating islands while on their journey to discover the Island of the Astrals, a fabled land that may hold the key to Lyria's powers and clues to the whereabouts of Gran's father.

At the end of Season 1, there are many questions left unanswered. We might get those answers starting this very month as the second season will soon be airing in Japan. (By the time this review goes up, we'll already be one or two episodes in.) I have no idea how long it will be before a dub surfaces for this season, but if it takes a while then it will be worth the wait. Well it will be worth waiting for the dub if more time is spent on getting it to sound right this time around.

What she doing

If there is truly anything I can give Granblue Fantasy a great deal of credit for it would be a pretty good sounding dub, though certainly not astounding or remarkable. Kyle McCarley does a fine job in the role of protagonist Gran (though he doesn't quite give the emotional scenes the oomph they need - possibly the show's writing is to blame). The whole voice cast at the very least fits every character well, with the stand-out role being Katalina's VA, Erica Lindbeck. I couldn't imagine anybody doing a better performance in that role. All that pomp and circumstance one associates with lady knights, but also a kind heart and sense of humour. Very well acted.

Your typical, overblown and overacted sugar-coated high pitched cutesy voices are ever-present with Lyria's VA Kira Buckland reminding me how painful she is to listen to every time Lyria speaks. It's not that Buckland can't do well in roles, as I couldn't imagine 2B from NieR Automata being voiced by anyone other than her, I just think instead the writing of Granblue Fantasy and the voice director simply let her down this time around.

There is also a handful of lesser-known VAs working on this show's dub, or working under a pseudonym, and they tend to be a lot better than the rest of the cast.

The story doesn't really go anywhere in this show. Granted each island has its own arc to explore, and each provides a new crew member for Gran, but ultimately the first season ended with more questions than answers. It's obvious that the creators of this show were expecting it to be a huge success due to the popularity of the game, and it is only now (two whole years after the show first aired) that a second season is finally coming to screens in Japan. There has been a clear push in the form of merchandise and spin-off games to force this series to be popular, and from watching this season on and off over the past two months, I can see why it would need a push. Granblue Fantasy is simply dull.

It looks fantastic. A-1 Pictures really know how to do the big grandiose set-pieces, stunning locations and action-packed battles. Yet there are so few of them, with the majority of the show feeling like it is just one endless talking sequence. The music is excellent. Even Nobuo Uematsu contributed to the show's score. It even features an opening theme from the always prolific Bump Of Chicken. Yes, that's the name of a band, and don't let the name fool you because they're a fully pretty good. Looking at the Granblue Fantasy animated series as a whole the presentation is fantastic but the core story is just sort of meh. Yeah that's a wonderful bit of reviewing, I watched an entire season and all I can boil it down to is "meh", but I ultimately took nothing away from my time with Granblue Fantasy.

If you enjoy long-form stories about exploring wonderful worlds, Granblue Fantasy is certainly going to fill that niche for you. Me, on the other hand, I simply prefer something with more of a purpose or an end goal in mind. The show's mysteries are unlikely to draw me towards the second season, but then again, as a chewing gum show to turn your brain off for a while, this series is certainly adequate for that.

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