I think I should preface that this is more like a not-fully-earnest take (shitpost as they say on Twitter) on the topic: what is missing that makes Granblue Fantasy interesting to me, in Granblue Fantasy. I posit this tweet as the giant arrow in the sky pointing to the answer.
I think it requires that trigger warning or disclaimer here because I am picking on GBF for no reason. And this is probably better phrased as “CyGames FantasyVerse” or I don’t know whatever the term is for that.
As in, those stories are missing what makes a fantasy in my estimation of what fantasies are. It leans really heavily on adventure and characterization–because I think it’s fair to proclaim the majority of people enjoy swashbuckling adventures, may it take place on an island-hopping airship or elsewhere, featuring mights, magic, intrigue, and fantastical beasts. However, is this what it means to have a fantasy story?
Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often inspired by real world myth and folklore.
According to Wikipedia, above, that is what a fantasy is. And I know everyone agrees with this, including Cygames, because we have stories like Manaria Friends (Mysteria Friends). That to me is a proper fantasy–where a set of relatively mundane human social circumstances are compounded into intrigue and interesting narratives because it isn’t just a boarding school for well-to-do teenage girls, but a magical school. In other words, it is the fictional universe (in other words, the setting) that defines fantasies. It is not the characters or the stories they tell that really make fantasies fantastical.
And FWIW the fictional universe in GBF is just a giant crutch. It doesn’t play a role as a character other than to peg different characters’ circumstances. If that’s all it is, you don’t need a fantasy to tell the same story. This is kind of how I feel about both seasons of the anime, and the Bahamut anime, with exceptions to some individual episodes. If the fantastical aspects of your story is just a contrivance, then your fantasy is just not that good? Hope I’m not saying anything really controversial here.
Again, here is a disclaimer that I am not versed in GBF story-wise, besides from the anime and random things I pick up on twitter. I really only play the game for the collaboration (and the free not-gambling).
Last Exile is the story that triggers this realization because, it is basically the same fantasy story, just slotted into the steampunk pigeonhole instead of the Tolkien-esque bin vis-à-vis JRPG lens. Maybe GBF has that story to tell inside all that garbage gacha game shell, but aside from cratered credit card bills, these tragedy-of-common businesses commit other sins in their wake.