Anime Review: Granblue Fantasy Part 1

By Drew Hurley 03.12.2018

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Granblue Fantasy Part 1 (UK Rating: 12)

Mobile phone gacha games from Japan have always managed to gain truly unbelievable fan bases, and now that behaviour is beginning to translate to the West. With games like Fate Grand Order topping the charts on the Play and Apple stores, Puzzle and Dragons receiving localisation of their handheld ports, and Fire Emblem Heroes devouring the free time and cash of series fans. Granblue Fantasy stands high in the standing of these games. It's certainly one of the most ambitious and has some of the best pedigree of any game of its ilk. Can its anime tie-in live up to its progenitor, though, or is this just a quick cash-in? Coming courtesy of MVM, this first part contains episodes 1-7 and is available now.

Protagonist Gran has big dreams for the future of following in his father's footsteps, but for now he's just living the quiet life in his village, chopping wood and hanging out with his talking chibi dragon, Vryn. That quiet life comes to an end when an airship flies above his sleepy little village. Suddenly an explosion rocks the ship and something falls from it into the forest. Concerned of a forest fire Gran rushes off and finds a blue-haired beauty asleep on the ground. The girl is named Lyria and she seems to have some sort of amnesia. All she remembers is fleeing and being protected by her friend Katalina. Suddenly her pursuers appear and Gran swears to protect her, he realises that he bit off more than he bargained for, although as it turns out her would-becaptors are from the Erste Empire. This vanguard of this terrifying military might well easily be able to take out Gran and his entire village.

Luckily, Katalina shows up to help out and provide some exposition. Katalina explains Lyria was a captive of the Empire, and Katalina is well acquainted with her treatment considering she was once a lieutenant of the Empire - but no longer. Now, she's a traitor and a fugitive, abandoning her position to save Lyria. Gran throws in with Katalina to protect Lyria, too, but realises quickly that even with Katalina they are going to be outmatched. To drive this point home, an Empire contingent with a sinister officer at its head appears and summons a huge red CG Hydra to one-hit KO Gran, leaving him bleeding out on the floor. Lyria decides to play White Mage and resurrect him, and in doing so she shares her power with him, giving him a summon ability for fan-favourite Primeval Dragon, Bahamut.


 
The term "Res" is appropriate as it turns out Gran actually died from the hit and Lyria brought him back from the void by splitting her life force with him, and now the two are inexplicably linked, forced to stay together or they will both die. There seems to be a potential way to fix their issue, as on the Island of the Astrals, somewhere Gran has dreamed of going when he was a small child when he hoped to become a Skyfarer, like his father.

From here the link to Final Fantasy feels very noticeable as the story begins to play out very much like an old-school Final Fantasy game. The trio travels to themed lands and while there, they take on huge monsters reminiscent of the Summons of Final Fantasy history, enlist the aid of new individuals to join the party, and have to flee an evil group with mysterious motives. First up is an island blessed by wind where the team enlists the assistance of Rackam, a character that may just as well have been named "Cid;" he's an airship pilot and gives the team their method of transport. Now a team of four, the group faces off against a diminutive evil general along with the wind goddess Tiamat. Then a new land once again and a new character joining the party and another summon to battle against. This time the party gains a mage in the young lady Io who is hunting for her master and they face off against an Iron Giant style behemoth.

The Empire is the primary antagonist here; however, it is mostly a faceless group, with the occasional commander that is around for a bit of an episode. The real villains are a mysterious group of Imperial Agents who seem to have their own separate agenda. Led by a woman in heavy Judge-style armour, there is also a pair of beastly-looking characters, a male caster with a pair of cat ears, and a busty assassin with horns. They are joined by a silent woman who looks eerily similar to Lyria, whom they call their "doll." These are some of the most interesting characters in the series, but they get little screen-time to develop, and their objectives are not explored much in these first few episodes, but, just like everything in this series, their best elements are their designs. The designs of the characters and the world they live in are all absolutely wonderful.

Anyone who has enjoyed even the smallest aspect of this series should consider trying out the game. As mentioned previously, it has a considerable pedigree, including legendary composer, Nobuo Uematsu. Nobuo is renowned for his works in countless games but is likely best known for his work with Final Fantasy. He has crafted the soundtrack to those games from day one. Nobuo's not the only Final Fantasy veteran on-hand, as Hideo Minaba is here as art director, too. He previously worked as art director in Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy XII. Two big names working on a phone game, and their contributions really show, as Granblue has been likened to the old Final Fantasy games.

Despite these wonderful designs, they are not exactly stunning here. A-1 Pictures must have been working with a pretty limited budget - surprisingly, considering the amount of cash the game rakes in. There are no bonus features here, either, although there is at least a full English dub available, along with the original Japanese.

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Considering the quality of the game, and its pedigree, it's a sad state of affairs that Granblue Fantasy Part 1 is such a by the numbers, generic, shonen-style series. The designs give a glimpse of an original Final Fantasy style anime, but while the quality of the characters and the world is impressive, the writing and overall narrative are completely bland. This is just the first half, though, so things still have the chance to pick up, at least.

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