What’s it about? In this world, everyone has a book that describes every event in their lives, from birth to death, in detail. They are divided into “story zones,” where each generation plays out fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. However, Chaos Writers have been altering people’s stories and turning them into villains! Four adventurers use their power to transform into different characters to combat the Chaos Writers and return their stories to their rightful arcs.
Fairy tales have, for many years, been regarded as women’s territory. They are archetypal tales passed down from grandmothers to mothers to daughters, with themes and imagery that recur across cultures, warning young girls of the dangers the world may hold. These days, it’s hard to play things straight, so fractured fairy tales that rehash and recontextualize these old tales have become popular source material.
Unfortunately, as has long been the case, the people dominating these stories have been men, transforming the source material to focus away from female resourcefulness and more toward being rescued by patriarchal figures. The Grimm brothers did it, Perrault did it, Bill Willingham did it, and so on.
Is Grimms Notes one of those cases? How does it relate to its source material?
It certainly has potential for an interesting take. In the story zones, people live out their fairy tales with every generation. With their books, they have no illusion of free will or agency, and every deviation from the story is an aberration. The way this first episode presents it, changes to the narrative are the product of Chaos and must be resolved and set right. Instead of being stories of resourcefulness or cautionary tales, they are simply traditions that must be relived.
When Little Red Riding Hood leaves the trail and fails to be captured by the wolf, turning her villagers into faceless villains, it comes from feelings of anger and confusion about the Huntsman courting her mother. It’s up to the four protagonists—Ex, Tao, Shane, and Curly—to set things right by defeating her, erasing her memories, and returning things to their rightful place so the story can repeat once again.
This doesn’t quite sit right with me. I understand the cyclical nature of the stories—every generation must learn things for themselves, after all—but the idea that it should be repeated with no alterations seems counter to the nature of folklore. Folklore is, after all, ever-shifting and evolving with the times.
If Little Red Riding Hood needs to sort out her feelings about her mother and the Huntsman, why is that terrible? She’s the only one who questions destiny or fate, and that must be eliminated.
Roles should be questioned. Systems should be broken. Fairy tales don’t need to be conservative by nature. People who do that are not and should not be considered evil.
Not that the first episode of Grimms Notes seems to be asking those questions. The Tao family, as Tao tries to declare them, travel from zone to zone fighting villains and putting stories back on track. The series starts in medias res, so we don’t know much about who they are or where they’re from, just that Ex is the new member.
Ex’s book is blank, and I assume that their compatriots’ books are as well. It’s hard to say whether it will be a “chaos writer of the week” format, or attempt to take a deeper look at the nature of their world, but the script leaves a lot to be desired.
One thing that does interest me is that the masc-presenting Ex transforms into the femme-presenting Alice during battles. They’re fairly matter-of-fact about it too, at one point declaring, “I’ll teach you how to be a real lady!” while in their Alice form. It’s unclear if this is a shallow gimmick or something the series plans to explore, but it’s at least not actively cringe-inducing at this point.
I’m worried I’ve made Grimms Notes sound more interesting than the first episode actually was. It’s honestly a solidly mediocre effort and I’ve probably put more thought into its themes and contexts than is really there. Life is short, and I probably won’t follow it week to week, but I’ll be keeping my ear out to see if it does anything worth paying attention to.