Review: Granblue Fantasy: The Animation Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Blu-Ray)

In a world made up of a multitude of floating islands, a girl named Lyria falls from the sky above the island of Zinkenstill, fleeing the Erste Empire. In the island’s forest she is found by a boy named Gran and his small winged friend who is definitely not a lizard, Vyrn. When the Imperial forces land to recapture Lyria they are helped by Katalina, a defected knight of the Empire that assisted Lyria’s escape. It’s clear that Lyria holds some form of power, and once they repel the Empire’s forces the new friends take to the skies.

Based on what is, depending on your point of view, either a fairly solid mobile phone RPG or a waifu/husbando gacha RNG hellgame of the same name, Granblue Fantasy well and truly wears its RPG roots on its sleeve from the beginning. Gran is your run of the mill young male protagonist who dreams of being an adventurer like his father, Lyria is the mysterious girl with mysterious-er powers, Katalina is the loyal, stoic knight and little animal mascot Vyrn is the floating tooltip who all band together against an Evil Empire Doing Evil Things. After their initial run in with the Empire on Gran’s home island, it is revealed Lyria has the ability to harness the power of ancient Primal Beasts who reside within the islands, summoning Bahamut to kick the Empire in the pants.

From there our merry band of adventurers set off and crash land on the next island of Port Breeze, where they meet Rackham, a Helmsman fixated on repairing an old ship that refuses to fly. And you guessed it – they fight off the Empire again and help Rackham repair his airship, which he lends to their cause and joins the party, making Gran the captain of the ship as they set off to the next island and…

If it all sounds pretty generic, you’re right. It plays out exactly as you’d expect the standard fantasy RPG story beats to go as they go from port to port, always meeting the same merchant who tips them off on jobs while sticking it to the Empire and tangling with more Primal Beasts who will later act as Summons in the process, but the characters hold what is an otherwise fairly standard story together and keep the show interesting, as Gran and Lyria work together and uncover more about her past and why the Empire are so interested in her powers while the rest of the party fills out and builds their own dynamic along the way.

The second volume also includes two OVA episodes that replace Gran with the female protagonist option from the game, Djeeta. The first being a short recap of the season from Lyria’s journal told with Djeeta being present, followed by a bikini-filled trip to the beach, and the second being a Halloween-themed story, again with Djeeta in place of Gran. They’re fun little side-stories, but not required watching in terms of the overall story.

The character designs and animation are absolutely top notch, with a nice, slightly sketchy hand-drawn look applied to the animation and the backgrounds always looking alive, with plenty going on – it definitely feels like some money was put behind this to keep production values high all the way through at studio A-1 Pictures. Granblue Fantasy may not break any new ground as far as storytelling goes, but this tale of sky-faring RPG adventurers is delivered with a lot of style, great designs and some good action. With a second season on the way later this year, it will be on my list to keep watching when it pops back up.

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