Oh, hey, finally that Sakugablog post on the Record of Grancrest Wars. I say finally, because this show has always been a wild ride on the animation front since its early days last season. The visuals are laden with artistry, if unpolished, and you wouldn’t think twice about it since the story runs on at a neck-breaking pace.
A hair of spoiler material ahead, but nothing that ought to matter.
The neck-breaking pace in Grancrest Senki means there are only so much time spent on its garden variety cast, with both good and bad characters, of both the “worth a webring” kind of good/bad, and “literary heroes and villains” kind of good/bad. Well, it’s not complicated nor did the characterization had much time to breathe. The main couple aside, they really had to spend time building up the world, and the cast of other characters who either die, or are just not on camera enough, and that takes away from what fans are going to enjoy from the show in the second cour.
The thing about that Sakugablog post I want to talk about is how the final showdown between Mirza and Theo. The fight itself is a symbolic thing for the production. In it, you have the production (Mirza) and Theo’s team (the key animators of the ep) all get a crack with him. This comes to a head when the animation director/animation supervisor Tokuda draws out the main climax clash between Theo and Mirza, as who also happens to be in charge of this episode. Who actually is the key animator for those cuts.
Oh I guess by comparing Mirza with The Production that is a spoiler too huh, LOL. Joke aside, what I really want to talk about, in short, is about emotional expressions and economy of character development. When you have this fast pace plot where the story takes the viewers from one country to another and to yet a third, all within 22 minutes, and week after week, whiplash is a problem. Grancrest manages to dodge that by doing a few things.
First, it only does the weekly whiplash so much. It does take the time to slow things down here and there, which both makes the slower episodes easier to tolerate, and it serves as a spacer between the fast pace switches between various political intrigues and subplots playing out among side characters that didn’t get the development.
Second, a good chunk of the animation is spent on the various battles. This means both screen time, and a lot of the exciting sakuga moments. The character development continues in these scenes, perhaps not as drastic as hot-blooded robot battling each other with cross counters, but it is done in artistic flair consistent with the art design and overall theme of the series. There are some grand, grandcrest-y grandness you expect of warring states, and some very personal battles, may it be a one-on-one challenge, an assassination attempt, or just a dude leading the charge and you see what the other guys have to say behind his back (or in front of him but too far to be heard yet).
The last point is actually how those two things come together, kind of by necessity. Because there’s these ebbs and flows to the plot, you can really highlight a moment in a battle through that. The battles leading up to the siege of Castle Unicorn probably did this the best. There’s also that climatic mid-series fight that capped the siege, where direction, art design, storyboarding, animation and just some solid voice over put everything together and make the whole Villar heroics work. And it had to–he is a super important character in the story and yet he was second fiddle (and had to play so) the whole time, due to his status as a side character.
It’s kind of like the first ED. I really liked it, it made Siluca a lot more charming than she had lines for, and it was something you didn’t have to know anything about Grancrest to see and enjoy, yet symbolic enough that it fits.