Fresh, Familiar, Fantastic: Granblue Fantasy Anime Early Review

As one of the most successful Japanese mobile games ever, it’s no surprise that Granblue Fantasy is getting an anime this coming spring season. While anime based on video games don’t have the healthiest track record, Granblue Fantasy looks to buck that trend as potentially one of the most impressive animated series of 2017.

The premise of the anime is as follows: In a world where floating islands fill the sky, a young girl named Lyra escapes from the Erste Empire to halt their plans to conquer the world. She meets a young adventurer named Gran, and the two must evade the Empire together.                                                                                                                

Anime is an industry where skimping on the budget has been common practice since the 1960s. Granblue Fantasy defies this decades-long trend. While this might change as the show progresses, the first two episodes ooze money. The characters move with grace and style. The scenery is lush and colorful. Whether it’s slow moments or action-packed ones, Granblue Fantasy has put its best foot forward in almost every way possible. Mobile games are big business, but the Granblue Fantasy anime and the sheer quality of its animation is arguably the best indicator of what a difference those profits can make.

However, attractive visuals alone do not necessarily make for a good show. What’s more, based on the origins of Granblue Fantasy alone, the odds are stacked against it. As an anime based on a mobile game, it would be easy to imagine the Granblue Fantasy anime as being less fantasy series and more half-hour commercial. Plenty of series, especially those based on collectible card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, have done it before. Moreover, many current fantasy anime are heavy in light novel tropes, acting primarily for adolescent power fantasies dripping with sex and violence. While those aren’t inherently bad qualities, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Granblue Fantasy followed that formula.

Fortunately, Granblue Fantasy does not succumb to that sort of predictability. Much like another strong anime based on a mobile game, Rage of Bahamut Genesis, it successfully conveys a compelling world with interesting characters and storytelling that feels less paint by numbers and more seemingly organic. While there might be some familiar clichés—a runaway princess, a young hero, swords and sorcery—I already felt invested in both Lyra and Gran’s stories within one episode. If anything, Granblue Fantasy seems as if it is actively trying to move away from the more harem-esque, fanservice-oriented style of many recent fantasy anime, and more towards the style of older shows, such as Record of Lodoss War.

It’s hard to fully judge a show just based on early episodes. Things can always change. But Granblue Fantasy is off to an excellent start, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more in the coming months.