Granbelm’s first episode was super flashy but didn’t quite have enough substance to pin down where the show was actually going. Episode two remedied that nicely. Eschewing last week’s cool robots entirely in favour of taking some time to actually establish the concept a bit more beyond occasional shouting in between cool robots blowing things up. I liked this episode a lot more and am now fully on board. Picking up the morning after the intro’s big fancy battle with Mangetsu having apparently spent the night at Shingetsu’s house. This brought up the most immediate consequence of the previous night, Mangetsu’s family having called the police after her disappearance. Luckily this didn’t amount to much because hey, magic, with Shingetsu casually altering their perception to make them swallow a flimsy excuse without any awkward questions. She brushes this mind control off as a simple trick with magnetism, which was an amusing bit in and of itself but also acted as a solid defining moment for her. Her willingness to dismiss things that are very definitely still magic as mundane helps to build up how out of touch with the everyday her upbringing as a mages descendant has left her, a theme reinforced further by her less than perfect introduction to Mangetsu’s school later on in the episode.
Shingetsu’s characterisation in general was super interesting this episode, stradling the line between supportive and vaguely menacing throughout the episode. On the face of it she’s trying to make sure Mangetsu can make an informed decision while aware of the risks involved in competing to become princeps she’s also subtly pushy about it. Her emphasizing the dangers of the Granbelm contest at every turn and the way she just sort of assumes Mangetsu will hand over her magic stone to be “disposed of” could plausibly be read as her trying to remove a potential rival from the competition before she becomes a threat. On a meta level Shingetsu is clearly framed as the secondary protagonist but we haven’t actually been given any reason to trust her. While it’s entirely possible that she is genuinely trying to look out for Mangetsu the possibility that she’s being more duplicitous is present and interesting.
Mangetsu on the other hand took a far more solid stance on things, in spite of Shingetsu’s warnings she commited to taking part in the battles to come, not out of any high minded ideals but purely for her own satisfaction. And I’m honestly pretty down with that. She wants to compete because she’s ordinary, her life is generic and uneventful in a way that seems unlikely to ever change. Mangetsu exists in a state of being that can only be described as “fine” never clashing with her peers but also having no real impact, no oportunity to stand out amongst her more talented classmates. Being presented with a chance to break free from this it’s not entirely surprising that she’d be willing to take a risk an embrace that oportunity. While Shingetsu can’t seem to understand why someone not raised for it would willingly put themselves in harms way to compete for the Princeps role but this once again plays to her own obliviousness. Shingetsu was born into magic and repeatedly fails to identify how astounding even “simple tricks” appear to an outsider. Mangetsu sees this as a chance to be something more, to inject some very literal magic into her mundane existence with something only she can do, Mangetsu is asking her to throw away her chance to be something. It may be selfish but it’s still a believable reason to fight.
All in all this episode did a far better job of establishing stakes than any amount of flashy robot combat could and I’m a lot more invested in seeing how this all plays out now.