We have seen several incarnations of the Moepocalypse subgenre over the years from default magical girl to ecchi military. With this show we can add mecha to the mix. Let us find out whether the mix was good or not as we take a look at GRANBELM.
Genres: Dark, Drama, Magic, Mecha, Moepocalypse
Number of episodes: 13
Plot Summary: Long ago, the world was rich with magic, until the wizards and witches used magic to wage war on one another, bringing the world to the brink of destruction. To prevent this, a group of wizards sealed all the world’s magic into a device known as the “Magiaconatus”. and since then, magic has been largely forgotten and wizards have been slowly disappearing, with just a few magical families existing all over the world.
In the modern age, however, magic is making a resurgence thanks to the Granbelm, a tournament involving magical girls that pilot giant robots called “Armanox” with the winner becoming the “Princeps Mage” and becoming able to wield all the magic inside the Magiaconatus. Mangetsu Kohinata finds her ordinary life forever changed when she discovers she is a mage and earns her own Armanox, the White Lily. As Mangetsu fights in the Granbelm, she meets other girls who fight to have their wishes granted.
Put simply the main concept of the show is a battle royale tournament with the expected deeper meaning and hidden agendas. It starts off as intense and cool battles with simple eliminations but as the number of mages lessen so do the stakes grow higher, more is explained about the tournament and soon the veil is lifted revealing that, yes, the show is indeed a Moepocalypse as many viewers expected. This is not a spoiler. The tone of the show and design of the Armanox gives that away pretty early. Having said that let us go over what makes the show really cool one by one.
1: The mecha battles. As shown in this screen grab the robots look like cute chibi mechas similar to the ones in the SD Gundam franchise. So long as the viewer enjoys battles between giant robots they are in for many visual spectacles. It may possibly appeal to some non mecha fans too so long as they do not loathe the genre. With each battle they get flashier, more intense, brutal and epic.
2: The drama.
- The history and secrets of GRANBELM and the hidden magic.
- The mages, their personal lives, their interactions with friends and other mages, what they are fighting for, how the tournament affects them. On the surface their goals/wishes are straightforward but when viewers see what motivates them to make said wishes it gets emotionally deep yo.
- The morals and messages. I cannot spoil them here but trust me when I say the above mentioned character drama leads to some familiar life morals but how they are delivered can hit hard emotionally.
3: Anna. Just Anna. By the end of the show most will remember her and look up her seiyu to commend her performance. Oh yes indeed. Should the anime get dubbed I do not see the English or Spanish dubs coming close to this performance but the potential voice actors can try. There is another whose performance is praiseworthy but I will not give away who. The only hint I will give is I dream of an alternate universe where she is my wife.
4: The hidden stuff. Throughout the show there are some cool secrets that reveal more about what could/will/did happen including symbolic items, foreshadowing, animation effects and the end of a GRANBELM battle to name some examples. Most of what happens on the show has an explanation.
5: The presentation. Along with the above mentioned animation effects and flashy mecha battles the rest of the show is very pretty and colorful despite its looming darkness. The soundtrack is quite nice too with some cool orchestral battle tunes to the dramatic melodies. Worry not for there are some cute moments too.
6: Mangetsu X Ernesta. There is other yuri goodness on the show from the precious to the eye opening but the main draw is the growing relationship between the lead duo, the adorable Mangetsu and the beautiful Shingetsu/Ernesta. The girls help each other grow stronger physically and emotionally with many adorable and heartfelt moments. Some hit me right in my kokoro.
Not to spoil the conclusion but it was an interesting end to the story. While I think the journey was better the destination was what I expected. I leave viewers to decide for themselves how they feel upon seeing it.
Overall GRANBELM is one of the hidden gems of 2019 and another pretty good Moepocalypse show. Great mecha battles, interesting take on a dark all-girl battle royale, the cast were all interesting (One did got little screen time compared to the rest but was not useless) and the main duo were wonderful. Recommended to Moepocalypse/Dark Magical Girl show aficionados and/or viewers interested in a different kind of female centered mecha show.