What it’s about? It was supposed to be an historic marriage between the children of two Archdukes, ending the long war that has been tearing apart the Atlatan continent. But when a Chaos demon attacks, the nuptials are cut short and the war continues. Shortly after, Siluca Meletes, a newly minted mage who watched helplessly as the Archdukes were torn apart, is on her way to fulfill a new contract with a “pervy Lord.” As she travels through the Chaos-torn landscape, she encounters Theo, a young and idealistic knight bearing a Crest that allows him to do magic.
I’m going to state it outright: my opinion of Record of Grancrest War will live or die on Siluca’s role in the plot.
But let’s back up a bit first and speak more generally before diving into the feminist implications of the show’s pilot. Record of Grancrest War started as an original light novel from the creator of Record of Lodoss War, which itself originated as a game of Dungeons and Dragons. A single author allows for a more cohesive universe and storytelling, and though the first episode isn’t much to go by, Grancrest does seem to have that. It does, however, have a lot of the marks of someone who is used to storytelling through RPG conventions: random encounters, chance meetings, esoteric combat rules, and world-building terminology make up the bulk of the first episode’s action.
If you think that sounds like the recipe for a slog, you probably wouldn’t be wrong. But Record of Grancrest War luckily has some special spice to make it more palatable. First is the director, Hatakeyama Mamoru, who directed Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. His storyboarding and dynamic shot compositions elevate the material. The demon attack in the opening scene felt otherworldly and wrong in a way visual media can rarely capture, like reality was torn apart and then sewn back together. Long expository conversations are made interesting through use of dynamic, purposeful camera angles. The actual animation isn’t anything to write home about, but Hatakeyama makes it look good.
And now, finally, we get to Siluca.
Siluca has potential to be a great heroine. One episode isn’t much to establish a character, but her personality comes shining through in full force, leaving a strong impression of just who she is and what she stands for. She’s talented but inexperienced. She’s frustrated and angry with herself about her inability to save the Archdukes, and dissatisfied with her first assignment to a Lord that makes her dress in a belly shirt and miniskirt.
She recognizes in Theo not just an idealistic boy with great potential, but an opportunity for her to better her own situation and takes control. The two have a fun back and forth dynamic as she steers pretty much every interaction in the direction she wants it to go, running circles around the poor boy. She’s capable and confident, opportunistic but stops just short of being manipulative, and all around a lot of fun to watch.
But there are so, so many potential caveats here. She may complain about her skimpy outfit, but the camera is all too willing to pan up her body in it. My hope is that she switches it out for something more practical and comfortable, but she seems to still be wearing it in the ending theme song. It could also easily turn into one of those frustrating stories where a cool, capable female character mentors a boy and he is the hero and he gets all the glory in the end. Theo isn’t a particularly interesting character thus far—brash, idealistic, and driven by a terrible past where his home region was overrun by Chaos—so it’s up to the rest of the cast to keep things fresh.
Record of Grancrest War is pretty boilerplate tabletop RPG-style high fantasy. If that’s what you’re into, you’ll probably like it. If it’s not what you’re into, I doubt this will float your boat. If you’re on the fence, watch the first five minutes. If that opening scene doesn’t get its hooks in you, then you’re safe to move on.