I keep thinking I’m done picking up series this season and yet here I am with another first impressions post. Truth to be told, I had intended on watching Grimoire of Zero earlier in the week but forgot about it in the midst of everything else airing. After seeing multiple friends picking it up and enjoying it I decided it was time I gave it a chance. I’m very glad I did because somehow the season of anime has decided to give us a ton of truly promising light novel adaptations for once and Grimoire of Zero is no exception.
Much like the last light novel adaptation I wrote about, Sukasuka, Grimoire of Zero is set in a fantasy world with beastmen. In this case these kind of beings are called Beastfallen and they’re generally seen as nothing but a free bounty for humans to go after. The opening of the first episode tells us about how humans fought a great war against witches who would use sorcery to try to rule the world. It was also the work of witches that caused these rare Beastfallen to be born into the world.
Our first lead is a Beastfallen mercenary, his name is not stated but his past and personality is explored in detail even in the opening minutes. He’s practically a large white tiger man with immense strength and stamina, but his size and kind also makes him an easy target for human mercenaries or witches to go after. He’s a very interesting character who manages to both be surprisingly cute in his appearance as well as vicious and terrifying when the tone requires him to be.
Then there’s the witch of the story. A girl who our Beastfallen mercenary accidentally drops in on while fleeing from yet another person who wants him dead. Unlike the mercenary, her past remains mostly untold to us, but we instead learn her path. She’s seeking out a book so powerful it could end the world, needing to bring it to safe hands before certain doom befalls them all. Despite the mercenary’s fear of witches, the two form a pact to help eachother out and begin on this journey together.
Despite it’s rather grim and dark story, Grimoire of Zero is surprisingly funny at times. It has a clear sense of humour and understands comedic timing better than even a lot of comedy anime manages to, leading to some truly solid character development between our two leads straight off the bat. Both our mercenary and our witch feel like genuine people from very different worlds just learning about each other and how their world views the other. It’s subtle enough to not be in your face either, it just flows naturally.
While I feel the series could manage to stand on its own with just these two characters, the cast is expanding with supporting roles as well. We meet one such character in the first episode named Albus, though we’ve not seen nearly enough of him to know how important he’ll be or what he’ll be like. Still, the cast is already more interesting and different from what you’d normally see in a fantasy light novel adaptation these days. It’s refreshing and most importantly it’s very very good.
The series is the directorial debut of Hirakawa Tetsuo who have worked on some of my favourite anime ever made. He was the episode director on Sound of the Sky‘s eleventh episode, on which he also made the storyboards, as well as a key animator on the 2006 adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. His mix of comedy and serious character drama from Sound of the Sky can definitely be seen in Grimoire of Zero and shows just how its one of his directorial strengths. I can’t wait to see how it progresses.
It’s also Kimiya Ryousuke‘s industry debut as Character Designer and Chief Animation Director, both roles which they share with industry veteran Mataga Daisuke. I feel that Mataga‘s experience as both animator and episode director on Utawarerumono: The False Faces will come in handy on a series like this, since both series share a lot of elements in tone and presentation. I feel the series is very much in safe hands as far as key staff positions are concerned.
The author, Kobashiri Kakeru, first wrote Grimoire of Zero in 2014 for a writing contest held by Dengeki Bunko, which she won and the magazine started serializing it. She’s spoken a fair bit of how she came about writing it, part of which relates to her health struggles, on her blog which I highly recommend reading if you can. For someone who spent most of her life writing novels as a hobby to have her first published work adapted both into a manga and an anime within two years is no small feat and the more I read about her the more success I wish her going forward. I also love that the mercenary being a tiger man comes from her being born in the year of the tiger and having Torashiri (tora = tiger) as her original pen name. Keep repping those tigers.
I absolutely adore this first episode and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here. Between this and Sukasuka, the battle for best of season is definitely off to a strong start. And to think, both are fantasy light novel adaptations, the type of anime that’s been practically nothing but boring or worse trash for half a decade. I don’t know if it’s that authors are finally getting tired of the same tropes and character setups or if it’s the fact that more work by women are being adapted that’s the reason for this shift, but I greatly appreciate it.
Also, while it’s not apparent in the English title, I love that the Japanese title, Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho, can be read as “the book of zero begins” as well as “starting the book from scratch”, it’s just a really nice touch. It’s always a shame when wordplay like that is lost in localization, but there’s not much you can do I suppose. Either way, I can’t recommend Grimoire of Zero enough and I can’t believe I’m still finding new series to watch two weeks into the season that are this good.
Grimoire of Zero is licensed by Sentai Filmworks and is currently being streamed on Anime Strike in North America.
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