Grimgar has gotten a lot of attention for its leisurely yet focused pacing, but its most underrated trait may be the orderly structure of its episodes. Each of these episodes were partitioned into distinct, substantive parts, and only this show, which has made the slow-burning episode into an art form, would decide to devote an entire episode to the characters taking a day off from their daily grind of goblin slaying.
But that doesn’t mean Grimgar doesn’t know how to turn up the excitement when it needs to. The battle scene between the team and the goblin camp in Damuro was bloody, brutal, and filled with the imperfect combat skills that we’ve come to expect from our team of misfits. There were no MVPs on this team, only greatly improved teamwork, and even both Moguzo and Shihoru reminded us that they’re just as tenacious and resilient as their teammates. Grimgar has also never glamorized its battle scenes as an escapist adrenaline rush — I honestly thought Mary was a goner when she got shot in the back — because our heroes are flawed enough that any wrong move might end in their deaths. I’ve also appreciated how Grimgar’s always managed humanize its goblins, even though no one would have batted an eye if the goblins were portrayed as typical RPG peons. The goblins of this world are intelligent and seem to have actual emotions, as we saw with the goblins going about their business at their camp. But the most powerful scene was at the end of the battle, where the goblin commander lay bleeding out on the chessboard that he’d been playing a game at just minutes before. As Ranta said, it’s either kill or be killed, and it’s a harsh reality for both the humans and goblins of this world.
Meanwhile, the team finally managed to get their volunteer soldier badges, and it turned out that their raid on the Damuro camp had as much to do with closure as it did with retribution for Manato’s death. Even though Manato’s death and its aftermath has been a huge part of Grimgar’s overarching story, the effects of his death still feel somewhat incongruous with his character, mainly because the team had known Manato for a very short time. But his death still hurt, badly, and while a lot of its effectiveness had to do with Grimgar’s pacing and world-building, an underrated component was Manato’s own personality. Manato was the likable older brother we all wish we had, but that was the only aspect of his personality that was ever shown. Even Haruhiro had only viewed Manato as the older brother archetype, never really questioning the character behind that veneer. Haruhiro and team weren’t just mourning the person they’d known; they were also mourning the person they could have known. The team walking away from Manato’s grave was them finally moving on the loss of those two persons, walking toward the present and a future where they could become the team that Manato had always wanted.
In typical Grimgar form, nothing much actually happened in these two episodes, with the only two notable events being the team’s raid of the Damuro goblin camp and their decision to switch combat bases to the Cyrene mine, where Mary’s teammates had met their deaths. But sandwiched between that was half an episode devoted entirely to the team taking a day off, which could have been hopelessly banal if it had been handled by less skilled hands. It’s the little details that count, from the short, awkward pauses in between dialogues, to the scenes in Moguzo’s kitchen and the vendors in the marketplace, and Haruhiro wondering out loud as to what people actually do on a day off. We find out that Ranta enjoys fishing and that Yume is a ridiculously skilled rock-climber, and we also got to enjoy Ranta’s awed reaction seeing Yume scale that rock face like a lizard that lost its tail. Meanwhile, Mary’s been slowly but steadily ingratiating herself into the team, but I like that she’s been much warmer to her teammates without completely losing her reticence. When she finally confided to Haruhiro her fears of returning to Cyrene Mine, it was as though her body was being loosened from her emotional restraints, played out against another beautiful backdrop and a refreshingly sensitive Haruhiro.
But in all honesty, everything that’s happened with Grimgar so far could easily have been compressed into three episodes. At least, that would have been my complaint if Grimgar hadn’t been doing such a great job at turning the mundane into purposeful reflections of the characters’ psyches and the humdrum concept of work. With only three or so episodes left to the season, with its patient and deliberate world-building and character development, it’s becoming clearer that Grimgar is invested in this for the long run.
Other random thoughts:
- The fanservice award of the week goes to Haruhiro’s teacher, whose comically impractical outfit and somewhat sadistic and extremely flexible martial arts moves were obviously meant for titillation. At least the scene only lasted about three minutes long.
- That awkward and half-hearted “go team” at the top of episode 8 was pretty great.
- Favorite battle move so far: Moguzo roaring THANK YOU each time he crushes an enemy with his titanic sword.
- Shihoru and Haruhiro had their conversation about birds and fresh bread on the same bridge where she and Manato once shared a moment watching the sunset.
- But Shihoru really needs to have a character moment that doesn’t involve the boys in her life.
- It’s ironically fitting that Ranta is type of person who wakes up early on his day off to go fishing.
- Moguzo is so earnest and lovable, but I really want to know more about him other than his bread and soup recipes.
- Haruhiro might seem like your typical male protagonist but so far he’s proving otherwise. He’s unafraid to show emotion and uncertainty, and his tears always feel genuinely in-the-moment and never contrived for melodrama.
- I love how the camera deliberately kept away from Mary’s face while the gang was discussed switching raid locations to the Cyrene Mine.
- Grimgar has had an insert song for almost every episode now (most of which have been in English), and I don’t remember any anime that has utilized this many insert songs within its run of episodes. I felt that the insert song during the battle slightly undercut its intensity, but the other folksy-sounding songs in these two episodes were very much on point for the tone of the moment.