As a cursory glance at my twitter feed will tell you, I play quite a bit of Granblue Fantasy. As such I was at least cautiously optimistic. While I’m a big fan of how the story is progressing at this point, several years in, the early game’s main quest is… pretty generic.
And then they aired the preview episodes, the whole thing got pushed back 3 months and they ended up releasing the first 2 episodes around the original planned air date as a sort of preview. They were OK, formulaic and unlikely to sell someone not familiar with the game on the premise, but OK. This kind of shot down what minor hopes I’d been harboring of a less than direct adaptation, with the preview eps following the game’s story more or less beat for beat. If I hadn’t already agreed to cover the anime for the wiki I might have given the whole thing a miss when the rest of the series eventually aired. When it actually did come out though? I had a surprisingly good time with it.It still hewed a little too close to the game’s standard fantasy fetch quest early story for most of its run, before suddenly veering wildly to the left for a few episodes in a semi succesful attempt to drop a climax in far ahead of where the game’s first real one is (Which was the point I’d assumed the anime was shooting to end on). But it succeeded in one area the game fails for the most part. They added downtime.
Part of why the game’s early story feels so lifeless is down a problem that a lot of the earlier content suffers from, an over reliance on shoehorning in fights for every single chapter. Characters can’t hold a conversation for more than a minute or two without random monsters jumping out of thin air to initiate an encounter. Character interactions that could be fun are lost in a haze of “characters talked for a bit and then a fight happened without the story really advancing in any meaningful way”. Outside of occasional encounters with named antagonists and Primal Beasts, a lot of the main story is frankly, irrelevant until 30 or so chapters in. Given Most relevant gameplay content for the early to mid game can be unlocked as early as chapter 24 there’s not a whole lot of incentive for a player to keep pushing on through the other (currently) 77 chapters “It gets good later, honest” is generally not the strongest sales pitch.
Unable to justify random wolves materializing every few minutes the anime instead falls back on scenes of the characters just hanging around town, the game tends to brush over the cast resupplying, or trying to get places, the anime goes all in on them and it helps a lot. Simple scenes about Lyria acquiring her journal, or Katalina embracing her Grand Blues persona and petting Vyrn half to death go a long way towards fleshing out the narrow scope of the main story.
A particular standout is episode 9, acting as the final moment of calm before the anime starts building towards its slightly rushed finale, the majority of the episode is devoted to an extended sequence of Gran and Lyria just wandering around the city of Mizarea, ostensibly to stock up on supplies, but it’s really just an excuse for them to hang around some more, whilst bumping into a few cameos from characters not involved in the main story.
The adaptation is spotty, but as a fan of the game who’s become fond of these characters over the years, it’s nice that they gave them some time to just mooch around town. (The weird pseudo romance subplot between Gran and Katalina that never goes anywhere is pretty bad though).