Granbelm – 06 – Okayish

Nene isn’t dead. Anna Fugo’s rage is finally explained and resolved. Dark Blue goes off on her own. Kuon has a cold. Mangetsu makes lots of soup.

Granbelm did a lot right this week but, like a super model striding down the catwalk in a pretty dress and gigantic clown shoes, it contradicts itself and cannot help trip over its feet in the process.

Anna’s confidence stems from mastering a fire-to-ice combo spell her mother and grandmother couldn’t master… except Anna didn’t actually master it. Ernesta did. This is a nice twist and shutting Anna down by replicating Anna’s inability, backed by Anna’s own mother’s words, and showing this like came from a place of love in Ernesta, tied a nice little bow around the conflict.

…but… this returns us to the clown shows problem. If Anna has never had meaningful power, showing her casting powerful magic during the tourney for 3/6 of the episodes doesn’t make any sense. Honestly, none of the relative magic power levels make a lick of sense but Anna’s all-is-nothing story hinges on something we have seen constantly contradicted in battle.

I’m happy Nene isn’t dead and it’s charming to see her invested in Mangetsu and/or Ernesta becoming the witch. I’m not sure I buy that her life long ambition can turn on an emotional dime like that but it’s pleasant and it moves the narrative onward.

Onward to what? Anna seems to be out, which means Dark Blue Is the only villain left. This week was a decent episode and there’s obviously more going on in the world than we know… but how that’s going to fill 7 more episodes? I’m not sure I’m looking forward to.

Granbelm – 05 – Dejavu’ish

This week opens with Nene’s sisters commenting on Nene’s choice to reveal her identity to the alliance last week… and then skips ahead to the next full moon, effectively picking up where the last battle left off. What follows is an episode long battle between Nene and the alliance, then smaller one on one fights between each protagonist and her matching antagonist.

Anna traps Ernesta in a magic circle, only for that to fail for some reason. Dark Blue ambushes Kuon and implies that she knows who cursed Kuon’s sister. This leaves a powered-up Mangestsu to face a powered-up Nene. While Nene has the upper hand for most of the fight, Mangetsu appears to have the ability to capture her opponent’s feelings and memories. Since magic in Granbelm is entirely based on the mage’s ability to envision an outcome, and the strength of the mage’s feelings, things do not go well for Nene. What sharing these feelings will do to Mangetsu in the long run is left unsaid but it is doubtlessly going to weigh heavily on Nene. After all, Nene is essentially defeated by the strength of her own powerful feelings.

While the abrupt jump forward in time was awkward, fleshing out Mangetsu’s power makes for a substantially more interesting story than we’ve seen in the previous four episodes. Vamp’ing her opponent’s feelings also gives us a way of figuring out those same opponent’s motivations, without the heavy hand of exposition — and it gives Mangetsu a way to humanize her opponents in the process.

It was also helpful to see Nene’s memory of her mother not recognizing her, as that implies there are consequences for the mages who lose Granbelm. Stakes have been seriously lacking up to now.

The trouble is, Granbelm lacks focus. I enjoyed Nene’s arc, but the amount of screen time it took and the emotional investment it was given, rivaled that of a main character. Kuon and Ernesta have received similar treatment and it just dominates Mangetsu’s position… even though she is clearly the point of view character and who the viewer is supposed to most identify with.

Granbelm isn’t helped by its antagonists either. Anna Fugo is bland as they come and Dark Blue is a mustash twirling villain in every way short of having a lovely flavor savor on her face. Both will receive tragic back stories that motivate their actions, no doubt, but it is hard to care about them in the mean time.

In closing, this week expanded our understanding of the magic, rules, and characters battling each other, and it did so with visual flair and quality writing. Will it continue to improve or go back to being an unfocused mess with too many characters? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Granbelm – 04 – All them Choices

Nene’s attack is a remote energy-ball-turret, which fires green beams that can be bent to chase targets. It knocks all the mages off guard, at least for a while, but Dark Blue eventually locates Nene’s hiding space and the battle ends in a draw, with the setting of the moon.

Surprisingly, Grandblam’s social landscape quickly changes from that point forward. Kuon confonts Mangetsu and Ernesta, and an alliance of sorts is formed. Meanwhile, Nene discovers the alliance, and avoids being discovered as a mage herself (because talisman)… but later decides to reveal herself (because backstory). Depending on how that cliff hanger shakes out, it could be 4 against Team Fugo next time arround…

Another Granblam, another episode that has all the elements of greatness (flashy style, diverse characters and motivations) that just doesn’t connect at all. Character power seems to rise and fall for the purpose of making a battle exciting for a while. Social alliances seem abrupt and wildly thrown together. Half-explained issues (like Nene’s mother) come off as annoying more than mysterious. In short, the drama and tension do not feel earned.

Granbelm – 03 – 満月に鐘は鳴る

Bloodline adoption, missing moms and cursed sisters, lead Granbelm into stronger, more interesting storytelling waters this week. Unfortunately, Mangetsu is still the main character, and remains so utterly uninteresting that no one even cares that her having magic COMPLETELY BREAKS THE RULES OF THEIR WORLD.

Granbelm isn’t incompetent and it isn’t boring or frustrating to watch. Granbelm is just completely ineffective, at everything, on every level.

For example, the opening scene that carries over from the previous week ends with a confrontation between Anna and Ernesta. In it, Ernesta catches Anna’s hand mid-slap as she repeats the fact that Anna can not win. However, Anna’s leaving (and the non-resolve of Mangetsu’s mega flower magic/Anna’s accusation of being a demon) transitions unseen while the viewer watches the opening credit sequence…

Bizarrely, Anna and Ernesta’s confrontation scene semi-repeats later in the episode. The sky is again red but this time Ernesta gets slapped! The visual link of the red sky and the fight is baffling as it makes the sequences between the open and this show down feel unnecessary.

Last week should have ended addressing Mangetsu’s WORLD BREAKING USE OF MAGIC and Anna should not have been given a confrontation scene until this week’s mid point.

Don’t even get me started on Mangetsu’s elementary school age sister, who is in some sort of flirty relationship with Nene, an adult who only looks like a child. I’m not even going to try making sense of the duality of Mangetsu feeding Ernesta and Mangetsu’s sister liking Nene because she shares food with her…

There are now fourteen interlocking characters to follow, each with moderate characterization, motivations and magic powers. After three viewings, I do not know half of their names.

The action is hard to follow as well. It took a second viewing for me to catch Mangetsu’s mech somehow getting in Anna’s puppets’ way. After three viewings I don’t even know what Nene is doing. Something about floating gems with magic power? For the length of time the Granbelm shows us, it doesn’t actually explain what is going on…

In conclusion, Granbelm is a highly polished collection of incorrect choices. That polish makes it easy to watch but it’s choices make it very difficult to care about. Meh?