Granbelm

Granbelm

Granbelm anime series cover art
Granbelm

Overview

Granbelm (グランベルム) is one of those dark, magical girl anime which have become popular ever since the introduction of Madoka Magica. However, this one sets itself apart from those which came before it in a number of interesting ways.

Usually we see what I’ll call the “Madoka formula,” which starts off with a group of magical girls working together to fight against evil. However, it quickly becomes apparent that by fighting this evil, they’re actually feeding into a vicious cycle of self-destruction which breeds more evil.

Right from the start Granbelm deviates from this formula. Rather than having the magical girls all work together, they’re battling it out in a free-for-all war similar to the Holy Grail War from some entries in the Fate franchise. Whoever stands victorious in the end is given the title of Princeps and will control the magic of the world.

The other major distinction from similar magical girl anime is that mechs are used in these battles. But they aren’t normal mechs. They’re more like chibi mechs and they run on, attack, and defend with magical energy supplied by their occupants.

And just as we see in some of the Fate entries, although Granbelm, the fight between these mages (they’re not exactly magical girls) is a free-for-all, they tend to group up. It’s easier to survive until later stages of the battle if you work as a team at the start, and so that’s generally what we see happen.

Granbelm happens in phases which coincide with the moon cycle, and it’s implied that there were rounds which occurred before the series began. However, by the time the series starts there are seven mages remaining, split into four factions. As the series progresses, these factions fluctuate in numbers.

Characters

“Our” faction is made up of two mages, Shingetsu Ernesta Fukami and Mangetsu Kohinata. The names Shingetsu and Mangetsu mean new moon and full moon respectively, so there’s your fun fact for this review.

Shingetsu is a powerful mage from a small family who’s goal is to win Granbelm, claim the title of Princeps, and user her newfound power to erase all magic from the world. On the other hand, Mangetsu is a mage from an unknown family who has no real goal of her own. She’s simply thrown into Granbelm.

Shingetsu and Mangetsu from the anime series Granbelm
Shingetsu and Mangetsu

The other main faction is composed of three members, Anna Fugo, Suishou Hakamada, and Rosa. Anna is the leader of this faction and is a member of a prominent mage family. She feels the need to defeat Shingetsu, a prodigy from a small family, in order to prove her worth.

Suishou is Anna’s right hand, serving directly under her despite not being a member of the same mage family. However, as is the nature of Granbelm, Suishou does have aspirations to become the Princeps herself. And Rosa is just some mage from a random family nobody cares about.

The final two mages aren’t allied with anyone — sort of. First up we have Nene Rin who, with the help of her two sisters, is attempting to prove to her worth as a mage. Her mother was against her becoming a mage, but Nene is convinced she can do it.

Second is Kuon Tsuchimikado who is fighting to save her older sister who was struck by a curse. Of all the girls fighting in Granbelm, Kuon is the only one truly alone. The others are members of groups, or as is the case with Nene, have support from an outside source.

Spoiler Territory

If you don’t want to be spoiled, then I suggest skipping down to the conclusion section now. Here I’ll be discussing some of the twists found within the series and how they fundamentally changed the story being told over time.

Suishou Hakamada

There are three main twists I want to discuss, so let’s start off with Suishou’s identity first. Although Anna was the antagonist for the beginning of the series, the true antagonist who had been pulling the strings the entire time is Suishou. And I really did like how she was portrayed once her true nature came to light.

Originally Suishou acted like a laid-back girl who didn’t really take Granbelm all that seriously. However, once Anna is out of the picture, her demeanor changes drastically and she almost takes on a horror element. Towards the end of the series this is furthered by the revelation that she’s been competing in Granbelm potentially since its inception.

Suishou Hakamada from the anime series Granbelm
Suishou Hakamada

And although Suishou has competed in thousands of Granbelm battles and won every single time, she has never been granted the title of Princeps. Tragically, her fate is to be a gate keeper of sorts. She can never become Princeps, but whoever eventually defeats her will.

Mangetsu Kohinata

The second major twist of the series was the fact that Mangetsu is actually just a puppet created by Shingetsu. Now, while I liked the initial reveal of this, I think it could have been done better. For starters, isn’t that cheating? How can a mage create a puppet that counts as another mage in Granbelm?

As for how I think it could have been done better, I would have liked to see Mangetsu’s younger sister Kibou, not Shingetsu, be the mage who created Mangetsu. This was hinted at by Nene at one point when she discovered a massive magic source coming from Kibou, but then it seems like this direction was abandoned.

Not only would that have gone along with the hints about the fact that Kibou may be a powerful mage, but it would also make more sense rule-wise. To be fair, we were never told the rules of Granbelm, but having Kibou enter a puppet to fight on her behalf seems less unfair than Shingetsu using a puppet to fight alongside her.

Those Who Lose Granbelm

The final twist I want to discuss isn’t exactly that much of a twist. It’s more like an inconsistency with the story which was given a free pass because it makes the series more dramatic. This, of course, is what happens to those who lose Granbelm.

When Nene is knocked out of the fight it’s revealed that although it looks like combatants die, they really don’t. Granbelm is fought in a dream-like world, and so theoretically nothing that happens there carries over. But I guess the writers realized that this reduces some of the drama of the series.

So when it’s time for Anna to be knocked out of Granbelm, we’re told that Shingetsu defeats her so hard that it erases her existence from reality. What? We’ve already established that’s not how Granbelm works, but in order for the series to be more dramatic I guess anything goes.

And it’s basically a 50/50 chance for everyone else who gets defeated. Half of them are fine, and the other half are erased from existence. There doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Also, some people are only partially erased from existence. It’s very inconsistent.

Conclusion

Okay, so as for what I rate Granbelm, it may come as a surprise but I think it’s a 7/10. Now, hear me out. As of right now, MAL has this series at a 6.98, so I can understand why you might be sleeping on this series. And, I’m also pretty sure I had it rated at a 4 after the first episode.

However, I’ve only seen one person who actually finished the series rate it lower than a 7, and I’m not even sure they really did finish it. It seems like most people dropped the anime while it was still ramping up, and before it got to any of the twists. This is like if you were to drop Steins;Gate during the first cour which is just setting up the entire second cour.

After the first episode, the first half of the series was around a 6 for me. But the second half was more like an 8, which is where my score of 7 comes from.

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