If Granbelm‘s first episode led anyone to believe the show would be all action-packed magic-mecha fight scenes, they might be a bit confused by now. The two episodes since its premiere have largely been dramatic character studies.
This is nothing new to the style, mecha anime have dealt with the pilots’ problems on equal footing with the robot battles since the dawn of the genre. In fact, if you could level a single valid criticism at Granbelm thusfar, it might actually be that it’s a little derivative.
The small personal dramas that the show has brought to the table over the last episode and a half–before the third episode dives back into action at its tail end–have nonetheless been compelling. In lieu of any large plot developments so far, it’s worth pouring over what we know of each character in turn.
Pink Hair, Big Heart
Our protagonist is Mangetsu. She’s sort of great.
It didn’t take long for us to find out though that behind her cheerful, bento box-making demeanor, Mangetsu seems to have a bit of a self-worth problem. She gravitates toward the Granbelm fight, and magic in general, not out of any strong wish, but because it’s something she can do that other people can’t. Fans of Puella Magi Madoka Magica might find this line of reasoning familiar. In that series, it cropped up to contrast the eventual end of Madoka’s character arc, and her role as a savior. Here, its ultimate purpose remains uncertain.
Wherever her drive to be different leads her, it’s hard to deny that watching Mangetsu get comfortable with magic is immensely endearing. Her training in episode 3, brief as it is, shows her having real fun with her new giant robot. However this story might end, I think we can all agree that that’s a pretty understandable reaction to have to getting your own giant robot.
Mangetsu of course, isn’t alone.
New Moon Sky
Shingetsu–aka Ernesta–is the other protagonist of Granbelm. Shingetsu was introduced to us with very little indication as to what her whole deal was and where her arc would go. A few episodes in, we have a slightly better idea. Shingetsu’s role seems to be that of the character who wants the core story cycle to end.
In Granbelm, that’s the Granbelm fight itself. She really does not seem to have a high opinion of magic (despite using it for everyday convenience), and is of the evident belief that the world would be better off if it was just gone entirely.
Despite this, Shingetsu seems to support Mangetsu. The two seem rather close already, actually. Whether this will remain friendship or blossom into something else remains to be seen, but it is quite endearing when Mangetsu thanks Shingetsu for “being you” after Shingetsu helps her train.
Lastly, there’s Shingetsu’s relationship with Anna. At some point in the past, Shingetsu lived with Anna’s family. They even seem to have been quite close.
Anna is the closest thing Granbelm has right now to an antagonist (an Annatagonist?). She’s haughty, rude, and seems perhaps a little bit over-enthusiastic about the Granbelm battles themselves.
This in many ways makes her an excellent “bad guy”. It’d be easy to not give any real depth to the character beyond these traits. Anime with less ambition have certainly decided to just stop here. Granbelm however does not seem content to do that. Anna’s relationship with Shingetsu is explored throughout the third episode.
While we’ve yet to get any concrete answers there is certainly some kind of wedge that’s been driven between them. There’s even a lengthy flashback showing the two playing together as children. We know that Anna blames Shingetsu for “ruining” her family. The meaning behind any of this is still kind of up in the air at this point.
Nonetheless, Anna’s a neat character if nothing else. Faces like the ones she makes in the embed above go a long way, and compelling personal drama goes even farther.
The last character we’ll be taking a look at here is Kuon. Kuon’s role in the series so far has consisted mostly of lurking about. She’ll show up in scenes, near other characters, appearing quite mysterious. She has an ill sibling, about whom we don’t know much yet.
That is, until the second half of the most recent episode. Kuon abruptly joins the in-progress Granbelm (not unlike Mangetsu in the first episode), and summons her puppet. It has laser hand fans.
On this (admittedly awesome) note, the third episode more or less ends.
We’ve certainly got more questions than answers at this point. That remains true even after some of the exposition that episodes 2 and 3 have. Still, Granbelm continues to be a compelling show, and one to follow.
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