Granbelm Review: Magic always brings suffering

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Mangetsu is apparently a genius

I suppose you could call this series “magical girls with mechs”. To be more specific, the show takes place in a world where magic has long been sealed away. However, it’s last remaining vestige is Granbelm, a monthly battle amongst mages who wish to become the Princeps Mage and gaining their one true desire. The main character, Mangetsu Kohinata, is randomly drawn into that battle one night. She’s rescued by Shingetsu Ernesta Fukami, who teaches her about Granbelm and inspires her to help Shingetsu win Granbelm.

Shingetsu can't be defeated

While the overall outline of the story is a pretty familiar tale, I think the series has some interesting twists along the way. There’s a lot of discussion about identity and finding meaning that I quite liked while watching the series. The main characters also have strong personal stories, but I would say that this comes at the cost of side characters.

Mangetsu tries to flee to safety

To give an example, I thought that Anna had a decent arc, but I found her personality to be frustrating to watch. Other characters, like Rosa, are completely cast off after the first episode, never to be seen again. On the other hand, I quite liked Mangetsu’s character. She starts out as a girl seemingly stuck being mediocre, and she eventually finds her own sense of purpose.

The spell is complicated

If I had to point to a single issue that I had with the series, it would be a weak explanation of the world. Granbelm is supposed to be a special competition that happens once a month, and yet the series tends to skip to the battle whenever it can. In addition to that, the magic of the world pretty much does whatever it wants. There’s no sense of consistency when it comes to the abilities that a particular mage has, and it’s hard to tell who deserves to win any given fight.

The robot is summoned

Unfortunately, the logic behind a magical world is one of those things that I like to think about, so I would say I had some trouble getting through the series. Overall, I thought that it had some cool ideas, though, so I would still be willing to say that it was a decent showing for the season it was in.

Final Score: 7/10

Granbelm Episode 5: A desperate wish

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Japanese is okay

Okay, this episode didn’t go where I thought it was going, and I feel like I enjoyed it more as a result. I think this episode did a lot to sell Mangetsu as a character. I had a fairly low opinion of her before this point. It also had some cool robot fights. That aside, it looks like next week’s episode might be making attempts to address Anna’s character issues. I sure hope she has a decent reason for being upset with Shingetsu.

Nene chooses to fight fairly

I definitely fell for the show’s trick in the previous episode. I was convinced that Nene would try to form a team with the main characters, but she had much more pride than I thought. I respect that she’s willing to recognize that she was everyone else’s target and choose to fight fairly despite that.

Mangetsu tries to track Nene

I do think that the fights in this series are interesting, but I question how they split the time between Granbelm and normal life. It’s starting to feel like the months just past by in an instant, which makes me question why the fights have to happen monthly in the first place. I get that the full moon has its own significance, but I feel like there should be more of a story element to it.

Kuon finds out about her sister

It’s strange to see Kuon struggle against a single enemy when she seemed to easily handle multiple opponents in her introduction. I’m sad that this fight didn’t get much development with Mangetsu’s fight against Nene taking most of the focus. I really liked the idea of splitting the mages up into smaller fights, but it felt more like they were drawing people away from Mangetsu.

Mangetsu awakens some power

Wow, Mangetsu’s powered-up mode has a sinister aesthetic to it. I’m actually all for this. The series seems to be portraying Mangetsu as a villain of sorts, and it makes a lot of sense. In this episode, we see that Nene has an innocent reason for joining the fight, wanting desperately to reconnect with her mother. In response, Mangetsu spends the episode hearing Nene’s calls for her mother and crushes her anyway.

Mangetsu looks menacing

I’m curious to see what Mangetsu’s real past looks like. So far, her main purpose is to stand out as someone special. It’s a pretty weak wish in comparison to Shingetsu or Nene. And since Mangetsu’s power come from the power of her wish, it makes me wonder if there’s a message behind it. Maybe the most selfish reasons are the strongest? I look forward to seeing what the show does with it.

Granbelm Episode 4: First in line

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Kuon schools Anna

I’m enjoying the character stories that this series seems determined to tell, but I think they’ve been fairly superficial so far. This week’s battle once again ends much sooner than I expected, so I’m curious to see what the series does with the extra time in the real world. The fights in this episode were cool, but the battle royale aspect of it made it pretty chaotic.

Nene remembers her mother

I feel like we didn’t get too much information about Nene’s past in this episode. It felt to me like the episode was giving us just enough to know that she’s the first character that the series will focus on. I guess we can gather that her mother was an advocate of hiding magical abilities, and that it was probably related to why she abandoned Nene.

Anna gets more upset

I’m still not sure how I feel about Anna as a character. I get the sense that she will become sympathetic in the future, but I’m not seeing any proof that my initial evaluation of her issues was false. On the other hand, we got a brief moment with Shingetsu in this episode where she seemed to be apologizing. So, I wonder if Shingetsu’s story is just that she wanted to be close with Anna, but she ended up making Anna resent her in her efforts.

The fight rages on

It’s mentioned a couple of times in this episode, but I find it interesting that the characters reference a “larger fight” at the beginning of the Granbelm. Just how many mages participated in it? This revelation almost makes me feel less sympathetic for Mangetsu and Kuon, who seem to have avoided the hard part.

Kuon introduces herself

I’m surprised that the alliances are forming so quickly, but it certainly makes things more fun. I’m hoping that this development breaks the chaos of large-scale fight. I think it would be a great way to validate the combat so far. Also, I guess Kuon could be easily explained as a replacement if we find out that her sister was one of the initial participants in Granbelm.

Nene does some recon

Next week’s episode isn’t looking great for Nene. The fact that we’re getting into her backstory probably means that she’s the first to go. The preview makes it look like Mangetsu will find out about Nene’s true wish, and she’ll feel sorrow when Nene fails in her attempt to get it. Nene painted a large target on herself in this episode, so it makes a lot of sense.

Mangetsu is the chosen one

Excuse me while I pretend to look shocked.

Granbelm Episode 3: Into the next round

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Nene has no idea who that is

I was starting to get worried that this series would play coy with its mecha fights, but it definitely jumped right back in with this episode. To be fair, I wonder if it’s a bit too sudden, since I still don’t feel like I have a solid grasp of the mechanics of this fight. I feel like I’m just running off of Fate comparisons here. Though, I appreciate what this episode does to develop Shingetsu as a character and to introduce some more of the competitors.

Shingetsu learns magic

Am I the only one who felt less sorry for Anna as the episode went on? When she first confronts the main characters, she makes Shingetsu sound so sinister for “taking over” her family. However, the combination of her flashbacks and Shingetsu’s interaction with her mother make it feel pretty tame.

Anna's mother calls out to Shingetsu

As far as I’m concerned, Anna’s family took Shingetsu in, and Anna became jealous of how much attention Shingetsu got. The fact that Shingetsu feels guilty for it herself makes me think that maybe she feels responsible for splitting up Anna’s parents or something along those lines.

Shingetsu trains Mangetsu

Honestly, I think finding out where the power of the mechs comes from would be the most interesting thing for me. I’m a little disappointed that Mangetsu effectively gets a montage crash course before the fight. I mean, I guess I appreciate that the series gets right into the fighting, but I’d like to hear more about the lore of the mechs rather than the competition.

Shingetsu talks about her motivations

I think that Shingetsu has reasonable motivations to fight, given what we know about her past so far. She seems like a solid character overall. I do have to say, though, that the idea of destroying the magic wish-granting object to stop the competition forever seems extremely familiar.

Nene talks strategy with her sisters

I thought that Nene’s chat with her sisters was pretty cute. I liked the fact that Nene’s face in the program reacted to the numbers next to it. I like the idea that she’s essentially making up for her lack of magical power with science (and sisters). I hope she’s not just cannon fodder.

Kuon joins the fight

I honestly had no idea that this character was new to Granbelm. Was I supposed to conclude that? Based on how she refers to herself, I guess her name is Kuon, but I feel like her addition to the cast wasn’t the best placed. That being said, the fact that she fights for her sister could be interesting.

Granbelm Episode 2: The world of magic

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Mangetsu is slightly confused

As I hoped, this episode fills in many of the blanks from the first episode by going back and explaining the lore of the series. I’m sticking with what I said last week about this series being the Grail Wars with giant robots. However, I guess it seems considerably less dangerous. Even with her further introduction in this episode, Mangetsu feels hard to place. There’s definitely a lot of mystery surrounding her, but she seems like she could be interesting to unravel.

Shingetsu uses some light magic

While the magic in this series doesn’t seem like too much, I do appreciate that it has a sense of subtlety to it. When Shingetsu does things in the real world, we don’t see any otherworldly effect or things like magic circles. Given that the series makes a big deal of establishing that magic is lost in this world, this type of magic makes that claim feel more plausible.

Shingetsu tries to erase Mangetsu's memories

Despite the explanations in this episode, I don’t feel like I’m completely clear on the terms. To be specific, I’m not entirely sure whether “Granbelm” refers to the contest as a whole or the world that the combatants enter. And if it’s not the latter, does that world have a name?

Mangetsu hesitates to return the magic stone

A large part of the episode seems devoted towards Mangetsu’s decision to join Granbelm, but I’m not entirely sure I buy it. It’s true that we still don’t know all of the details, but the competition itself doesn’t seem particularly dangerous from the perspective of the audience. A later scene shows that Rosa is totally fine despite being defeated by Mangetsu in the first episode. What does Mangetsu have to lose if she participates? I feel like that’s not made totally clear, so the dilemma isn’t believable.

Shingetsu uses magic to make the flowers bloom

Is this secretly a time travel series? I feel like this explanation about magic is important. Shingetsu makes it sound like she directly interfered with the flowers in some way. Based on the wording, I interpreted as meaning that she messed with their “fate” in some way. Are the mages in this world screwing with the future?

Mangetsu insists that she has nothing

On the one hand, I feel like Mangetsu’s idea that she has no redeemable qualities is a little bit too harsh. It seems like it’s trying a bit too hard to establish that her magic is strong to compensate. That being said, I find it incredibly interesting that she has convinced herself of this idea to the point where she’s defensive of the notion. It’s certainly a relatable thought, but seeing her cling to it makes me curious to see how it will manifest in the future.

Granbelm First Impressions (1): Right to the fightf

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Mangetsu is apparently a genius

Well, this series certainly wasted no time getting into the action, so neither will I. Uhh…it was cool? To be honest, it was my favorite mech fighting in the world, but it certainly has my attention. We get a bit of a pause halfway through the episode for exposition, so I know enough to tell you that the story takes place in a world in which magic has been locked away and forgotten.

Mangetsu is transported to another world

For whatever reason, our main character, Mangetsu Kohinata is instantly transported into this hidden magical world when she returns to school late at night to retrieve a bento. In this world, magical girls from all around the world pilot magical robots called ARMANOX in a competition that definitely isn’t the Grail War. There’s even an all-powerful magic object that they’re seemingly fighting over that looks like it absorbs the magic of a dead Serva- ARMANOX.

Mangetsu tries to flee to safety

I make jokes, but this episode was pretty fun to watch. I admit I felt a little bit lost when the fighting started, but I didn’t really mind it. My general impression was that the battles try to be too flashy with the magical attacks, but maybe that’s just my personal preference showing up.

Attacking the boss

I wasn’t even sure what to make of these girls. The attack seems aimed at Shingetsu, but the girl is talking to two completely different characters. Is it just another faction? I suppose it’s better if the girls aren’t cleanly split into two sides.

Mangetsu wonders what kind of world she's in

This scene is clearly meant to be the initial exposition dump, but I still liked it. Watching Shingetsu eat the lunch in the middle of the ruins was pretty good, and I liked the isekai joke.

The robot is summoned

I’m not the biggest fan of the robot designs, but I’ve always had a problem with the “SD style” of mech. Am I being too much of a downer? I’m curious to see what abilities they’ll have, though…

Mangetsu doesn't understand

Honestly, I think it would have been cool if a large part of the series consecutively took place in this magical world. The preview for the next episode makes it very clear that Mangetsu will return to the real world without any trouble (and gain a suspicious new transfer student at school). But the fact that this episode immediately shifted into this world made me wonder if it would just cover the entire competition without returning to the real world. It would have made the isekai joke funnier…

Piano no Mori First Impressions (1-4): Catching up on other stuff

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I’m pretty late to the game on this series, but I finally decided to give it a shot. The focus on piano competitions reminds me a lot of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, but the tone seems significantly lighter. I’d say the atmosphere and the characters remind me a lot of the competition you’d find in “sports-ish” series.

The main characters seem fairly standard, but I think they work. I like the idea of Kai being pushed into taking the piano seriously by a rival. He and Shuuhei have a pretty pleasant relationship despite their rivalry, and I’m actually kinda rooting for Shuuhei to find his own way to get ahead. It would be refreshing if he was more than just the diligent scholar type.

The first episode actually put me off with the piano in the forest. I like where the series goes after the first episode, but the seemingly supernatural aspect of the piano really stood out like a sore thumb for me. I’m quite glad that the series has shifted towards treating that piano as a symbolic tool.

Moving forward to the first competition itself, I quite liked how the competition showcased the three different characters with different stories playing the same piece. Especially with Kai, I could really hear the change in his style when he started playing himself.

This kind of piano snob drama was really predictable. It kinda bums me out, but I guess it’s meant to set the stage for Kai’s eventual growth. I’m pretty curious to see where this series goes after putting it off for so long.