Day after day, it’s goblins, goblins, goblins, goblins. Rain or shine, it’s goblins, goblins, goblins, goblins, goblins, goblins.
– An exciting day in the life of Haruhiro and team
It seems that whenever I find a bone to pick with Grimgar one week, it throws those bones back at me the following week, as though they were telling me that I just needed to be a little more patient. One of the gripes I had from last week was the abrupt exposition of Mary’s tragic past, and the second (arguably bigger) gripe was Ranta’s continued sexist behavior and regressive character development. But in this episode, Grimgar did what it does best — subtle and deliberate character development — while it didn’t have the emotional resonance of episodes 4 and 5, it still packed satisfying insights into Ranta and Mary’s psyches.
So I haven’t been the biggest fan of Ranta’s character so far. Part of the problem is that he’s an anime stereotype — the obnoxious and sexist character who just doesn’t know how to shut up. For the first few episodes, however, Grimgar actually made his character work — his shell-shocked response after his first goblin kill and his emotional fracturing in the aftermath of Manato death were some of the most humanizing moments in a show that has excelled in its subtle portrayal of the human psyche. But last week it all regressed; Ranta was back to being obnoxious and sexist and nothing else, with the repercussions of his bathhouse peeking incident from a few episodes back seemingly forgotten.
So I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised that Grimgar again managed to humanize his character, all within the first five minutes of the episode. In the aftermath of Haruhiro and team learning about Mary’s troubled past, Grimgar could have gone the sentimental and clichéd route by having everyone conveniently fall in a sympathy line to quicken Mary’s ingratiation into the team. But Grimgar knows its characters too well for that, and Ranta was absolutely having none of it:
We have to be nice to her just because she’s had a rough past? You’ve got to be kidding. How is she any different from us? Are you saying we haven’t had a rough past? Is it all our fault? Why do we have to be okay being friends with someone who won’t treat us as friends?
Ranta’s words were harsh, but they weren’t unreasonable, and Haruhiro and gang knew it. The entire crew had been through the same emotional tragedy of losing a friend, but having a shared trauma didn’t mean that they needed to be responsible for Mary’s behavior on the team. Mary had been cold, condescending, and occasionally downright rude to the team; Ranta’s defensive attitude was relatable for anyone who’d ever been talked down to. But Ranta’s reactions are just that — reactive behavior that would never benefit anyone in the long run, and Haruhiro, and surprisingly Shihoru, point out that they needed to be proactive with their own behavior to improve their relations with Mary for the long term. None of them were going to become friends with Mary if none of them were willing to make the first move to actually get to know her as a fellow human being. And then this happened:
Then are you trying to get to know me, Haruhiro? Aren’t you guys always ignoring my thoughts and opinions?
So Ranta has FEELINGS — actual emotions and insecurities that manifest through his immature behavior and obnoxious comments. Couple that with his attention-seeking and prideful nature and you get the boisterous anime stereotype who would normally never serve a real narrative purpose other than as an occasional punching bag. Like most insecure individuals, Ranta is so mired in his own insecurities that he has difficulty acknowledging that his aggressive words, borne from his own self-doubt, might actually be hurtful and upsetting, which Yume points out are what makes the team take Ranta less seriously in the first place. Meanwhile, Haruhiro continues to grow into the role of the team’s de facto leader when he acknowledges that he himself had never bothered to look beyond Ranta’s bravado and bluster. The entire scene was natural and understated and wonderfully lacking in any melodrama, and it’s great to see how much Haruhiro and team have matured that they’re now able to openly communicate their feelings and intentions, whereas a few episodes ago their conversation might have fallen into disarray.
Meanwhile, Mary’s character journey has been an interesting one, mainly because we’re seeing her development entirely from Haruhiro’s perspective. She also subscribes to the “less talking, more doing” mentality, which leaves us to discern her thought and emotions almost entirely through Grimgar’s visual storytelling. The scene where Haruhiro opened up about Manato to Mary might be one of Grimgar’s best so far; it was completely devoid of melodrama or dramatic music, solely focused on Haruhiro’s monologue and the facial expressions of everyone on the team, with only the pitter-patter of falling rain in the background. Mary didn’t say a word through this encounter, but everything she might have said was communicated in her face — transforming from a hardened, defensive mask at the start of the conversation to something tenderer and almost apologetic by its end. But beyond being a plea for Mary’s solidarity, Haruhiro’s monologue about Manato was also a cathartic confession of Manato’s strengths and weaknesses as a priest and leader, and the first open admission of the team’s collective regret over his death. This was a scene that could have gotten saccharine very quickly, especially when Shihoru, Yume, Moguzo, and Ranta started chiming in their support, but Grimgar has proven time and again how adept they are at these intimate, understated conversations.The whole scene felt completely organic, with the team’s stuttered but earnest attempts to establish camaraderie, the short but awkward pauses between each character’s dialogue, and the joke (at Ranta’s expense) thrown in at the end to break the tension in the room. It was as heartfelt and real as any conversation about deeply-rooted emotions should be, and Grimgar made the execution seem effortless.
Even with all that emotional catharsis, it was still satisfying to see that it took Haruhiro and team a much longer time to even get Mary to enjoy a meal with them. Most shows would have had Mary turn over a new leaf by the time next scene rolled around, but in reality, people don’t change that quickly and easily, especially people who have experienced some form of emotional trauma in their lives. Grimgar seems fully aware of this, but at the same time, it wouldn’t be practical to build the rest of the season around Mary slowly becoming friendlier with her teammates. So we get another time-jumping, world-building montage, which worked much better than I thought it would because it felt balanced against the slow burn of character development we’d seen in the first half of the episode. By the end, Mary felt much more familiar as a character, even as she still refused her new team to see even a single smile.
Grimgar really is an oddball of a show, not just because of its eclectic mix of traditional genres, but because its plot seems completely nonexistent. In fact, Grimgar seems much more invested in capturing the ennui of its dog-eat-dog world, where every day is a tedious battle just to survive to fight for another day. Those who try to game the system are indemnified; those who accept the system like an actual, real job are justly rewarded. Grimgar might look like your run-of-the-mill fantasy epic, but it’s a show that’s really about the humdrum of work, the bores of money management, the monotony of honing a discipline, and the harsh cruelties of life, which all happen to be set within the confines of a medieval fantasy world.
Other random thoughts:
- This week on #equalopportunityfanservice — we get scenes of both the boys and girls hanging out in their respective bathhouses, as well as glimpses of Haruhiro’s naked torso and Yume’s bottom in tiny shorts while they put on their battle garb.
- Hayashi and Mary made a point to grab their fallen comrades’ military dog tags before making their escape. The dog tags are probably serve as some kind of tally for the population of volunteer soldiers, but their repetitive appearance in the OP makes me think they represent something more significant within the Grimgar universe.
- Of course Ranta is a master haggler and is the kind of fighter who likes to shout out the names of his skills as he uses them in combat.
- Haruhiro and team are starting to take notice of the subtle difference between the goblins they kill, another nice detail that shows their investment in improving their fighting strategies. The fact that their society is governed by a matriarchal hierarchy was another interesting tidbit.
- The team’s new skills felt ripped out of an RPG, which makes me again question the possibility of Grimgar as a virtual reality.
- Losing teammates in combat seems to be a common occurrence among volunteer soldiers, based on the way the Orion tribe’s Shinohara was talking about it.
- Haruhiro is still vulnerable to making rash decisions based on spur-of-the-moment emotions, like when he attempted to go after the goblin who’d picked up the hunting dagger he’d dropped the day Manato was killed.
- Was there a spark when Yume jumped Haruhiro to prevent him from showing himself? Or was it just Haruhiro’s overly active imagination?
- Manato’s deceased presence remains a sensitive topic for the team. Meanwhile, his recurring appearances in Haruhiro’s mind does appear that they’re projections of Haruhiro’s subconscious, but I can’t help but wonder otherwise.
- Sassy and deadpan Moguzo is the best Moguzo.
- We’ve seen glimpses of Moguzo and Shihoru’s vulnerable sides, but I’d really like to see more of their characters beyond their roles as Paladin Masterchef and Magical Girl respectively.