Order has crumbled. The laws of nature have been overturned. Chaos has spread, allowing demons to attack the world. The nobility wield Crests, symbols of order which can be used to attack demons and absorb their chaotic energy. In particular, the Crests of the two strongest families can combine to form the Grancrest, the ultimate power of the forces of order. However, instead of working together to fight the demons, various lords have turned against each other with the goal of stealing Crests and gaining further power. The country is split between the “Factory Federation” and the “Fantasy Alliance,” with every attempt to end the war resulting in failure. An attempted marriage alliance goes south when an immensely strong demon lord attacks the wedding, overpowers even the Grancrest, and kills the archdukes of the two strongest families.
Siluca, a mage who was in attendance at the wedding, hopes to do everything in her power to end the war. For that reason, she agrees to enter into a contract of servitude to a count of the Alliance, despite not getting along with him at all. On her way to his land with her retainer Irvin, she is attacked by the forces of a greedy Lord named Mesto and saved by a renegade knight named Theo. Theo considers himself not on the side of either the Alliance or the Federation and possesses a Crest which he created himself from fighting demons, rather than inheriting it from family – something which is practically unheard of.
Inspired by Theo’s ideals, Siluca forgoes her planned contract and enters into one with him instead. They travel to Lord Mesto’s castle, where they confront him for the crime of attacking a mage who had been guaranteed safe passage. Mesto is defeated and his Crest is taken by Theo, who through this gains even more power. Many of Mesto’s servants choose to join up with Theo and Siluca as the pair discuss their plan to end the Alliance-Federation war by working from the inside.
From the plot summary, Grancrest Senki probably sounds like a fairly generic fantasy anime. In some ways it is – but I ended up liking it a LOT more than I expected from reading the summary. Firstly, the animation is downright beautiful in some parts. The characters look distinct from one another, the Crests look great…but the highlight absolutely has to be the animation of the demons and their effects on the world, especially the Demon Lord who crashes the wedding. They are animated in black and white, imposing various distortions on the world around them, such as the ticking of a massive clock or the sudden appearance of what looks to be a giant spider in the sky. It’s downright creepy and highly effective.
In addition, I felt like this show did a pretty good job of having an interesting, clearly well designed world without dropping too much exposition on us in the first episode. While we got an explanation of Crests and how they work against demons, primarily in the form of Siluca instructing Theo, we still have minimal information about exactly what different demons can do or about the Alliance and the Federation. (I also like how, at least so far, neither side is portrayed as “better” than the other, and there is at least SOME moral grayness with the demons being the only explicit “bad guys”). Now this could prove a problem in future episodes if things go unexplained too long, but in the meanwhile I was happy to see that the first episode wasn’t the “information overload” that high fantasy anime tend to go with.
Lastly, I of course have to address the characters. Theo is a fairly generic hero, but at least a positive and idealistic one rather than mopey or angsty. Siluca is the standout character, being a self-assured, talented mage who makes her own decisions and is willing to actually teach Theo how to be a better fighter rather than just letting him stumble through stuff. She takes on an interesting mentor role while clearly still being a central character with ambitions and character development of her own. (Her outfit is a bit odd and fanservicey, with a bared midriff and a massive floating cape, but that at least gets an explanation in that the uniform was decided by the Count who she was originally going to contract with, and she mentions disliking it. Time will tell if her opinion changes, though.) The other characters, like Siluca’s retainer and the greedy lord who served as the episode’s antagonist, were kind of bland, but forgivably so as the episode’s primary focus was – rightfully – on Theo and Siluca’s meeting and developing a working relationship. I’d also love to see more of the man and woman from the two major families who were going to be married, as I’d love to know what they thought about the marriage and where they stand in this whole war. Luckily, the OP seems to indicate that that will be the case, as they both feature in it.
Grancrest Senki may not rise above the label of “fun high fantasy adventure,” but it also may not have to. It didn’t revolutionize the genre, but it didn’t fall prey to its weaknesses, either. The engaging characters and REALLY cool design choices are enough for me to give it a few more episodes at least
Out of 5 Dios: