Granbelm – 02 – Pretty. Bad.

Like we the viewers, Mangetsu begins this episode not sure why or how she ended up nude in Ernesta’s bed. Meanwhile, Mangetsu’s family panics and calls the police to report their daughter’s disappearance. While a literal hand wave (of magic) fixes the situation, I can’t help but feel like a more interesting plot line was waved away with it.

What follows is a by the numbers plot where Ernesta joins Mangetsu’s class as a transfer student, demonstrates or explains more about magic, and the source of Mangetsu power remains a mystery (and she continues to grow more powerful).

Side characters are developed a bit on the edges, such as a now magicless Rosa being kicked out of Anna Fugo’s mansion, and twins being introduced in Hong Kong, but those elements each felt isolated and inconsequential to the main plotline.

Granbelm’s broad color pallet, use of gradient fills, and subtle audio style make it pleasant to watch. However, these same qualities emphasize how frustrating its utterly incompetent narrative structure is at the same time.

Mangetsu has a Mary Sue quality, as seen by her natural immunity to magic and substantially higher powerful when casting magic. However, Mangetsu’s absence of personal flaws and lack of immediate challenges to overcome are more frustrating. She’s passive, too kind, and too removed from the magic world. The resulting character feels generic and the pairing narrative doesn’t have stakes. It’s underwhelming.

At its core, Granbelm is a show that could easily be a lot better. Replacing the short and scattered side character ‘check in’ scenes with a clear B-plot would have given the episode more focus.

Ernesta would make a stronger protagonist because she has stakes in the magic battle, relationships to build upon, and her point of view would structure the mystery about Mangetsu’s power as an actual mystery.

From Mangetsu’s dull characterization, to her lack of agency, to her lack of interest in her own mystery, to her apparent OP magic status, nearly everything  Granbelm idea feels wrong. Anna’s declaration at the very end of the episode gives me a sliver of hope — that Mangetsu is a demon could be an interesting twist on the demon lord and magic girl genre conventions — but it’s just a sliver of hope.

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