Most of us have ventured into that wild and wonderful world of RPG Fantasy gaming and many have wished that these fantasy worlds could be real. With worlds such as those found in Blade and Soul, World of Warcraft, and even Sword Art Online, for years, we have been dreaming of our chance to enter one of these magical worlds to live out our own adventures. The question remains however, how would we actually fare if one of these worlds suddenly became our reality? Are we as prepared as we think we are? Enter, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.
In Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash a group of young men an women awaken one day inside of a cavern to find themselves stranded in the world of Grimgar. With no recollection of much more than their names, the group inevitably find their way to the Volunteer Corps Office, Red Moon, where they are informed that their best bet at survival would be to join the Corps and form parties in true RPG fashion in order to carry out tasks and earn enough money to get by. The group splits off into parties, with each person taking up their own unique class role and they endeavor to find their way in this strange new world and most importantly, survive.
Right out the gate, the book makes it clear that all of these characters are unique. Be it the main character Haruhiro with his self doubts, Ranta and his loud mouth attitude or Moguzo our gentle giant, each character introduced is highlighted as an individual but falls perfectly into an established generic character trope, especially in terms of RPGs. Simultaneously providing variety and familiarity, its easy to get comfortable with this story even if the sheer quantity of new that is thrown at you can be overwhelming.
The world of Grimgar aligns perfectly with what we have come to expect from any RPG world. Magic, myths and monsters, a hidden world history that needs to be uncovered and of course questing. The thing is, what makes Grimgar Of Fantasy and Ash stand out from the multitude of games and anime out today, is its attempt to shine a light on the feelings of displacement and transition process of these everyday young people into this strange new reality. The book doesn’t stall itself by emphasizing this struggle, but it does make it clear that, even without most of their memory, these young people understand that this is not the way the world is supposed to be. It is seen when Haruhiro questions the ease at which most of the others just accept the unfamiliar situation and again emphasized when the main party is faced with making their first real kill. The manga doesn’t try to push the harshness to the any sort of extreme, in fact treating all these troubling changes as a norm that must be adapted to instead of holding some sort of ultimatum over the heads of the characters. While volume 1 reads much like a get-to-know-your-world entry into the series (which is a great place to start a story like this), it doesn’t shy away from developing the characters and demonstrating the severity of this new reality.
Seeing these everyday average people do their best to adapt to this strange situation is really at the core of the manga. They aren’t specially skilled, they haven’t been instantly blessed with the knowledge and know how to make them great. All of these strangers have been forced to learn and practice and bond in order to simply live on in Grimgar. No character dynamic is wasted and this entry makes a point of showing you that these kids are new to this. They are now learning and they are trying, all to culminate in that feeling of accomplishment when they finally start to feel comfortable in their metaphorical new skins as a party. . . of course, as things always seem to go, nothing can stay good for long.
I was pleasantly surprised but Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. It went down an all too familiar road with the RPG world theme but managed to distinguish itself from other titles such as Sword Art Online and Log Horizon. The plot doesn’t seem to have set the stakes too high which gives the book a more relate-able feel to it which makes it easy to slip into the mindset of any of the multitude of characters. . . as eccentric as some may seem to be.
The series promises to delve deeper into what makes these character’s tick and the world of Grimgar itself and any RPG fan would no doubt enjoy. There happens to be a single season anime of the series which was released in 2016. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of watching it as of yet, the manga at least leads me to believe an enjoyable ride is to be expected
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