Granbelm has become a show of dramatic ups and downs, something I’m starting to think is by design. We last checked in on the show during the revelation that Mangetsu, our protagonist, was a sort of magical doll. Two episodes later, she’s come to terms with both her artificial nature and her slow “death” as she vanishes from reality. The series has taken on a much more somber tone as it closes in on its finale, now just two episodes away.
Shingetsu and Mangetsu’s differing perspectives on magic have been an important element in both their characters. Mangetsu considered her magical gift something important, something she could do that most other people couldn’t. Shingetsu on the other hand considers being a mage a curse. The closing episodes of the show have solidly taken the latter side in the argument. Magic in Granbelm erases people from existence and seems to be little more than a vehicle for tragedy.
One of those tragedies is Mangetsu’s own slow vanishing. The revelation that she was an automaton was followed by some force–likely the Magioconatus itself–wiping everyone’s memories of her. The sole exceptions being the other mages.
She handles the revelation that she’s not a real person about as well as anyone would. Which is to say, she’s shattered by the idea. Her own family do not recognize her, and as her condition progresses, non-mages become unable to perceive her at all. The 10th episode has stunning scenes of her crying in the rain, some of the best tonal pieces the medium’s delivered this year. The 11th sees her calm down, experiencing the surreality of sitting among a group of people who can’t see you. That group is her former school friends.
The conversation the two have eventually turns to a former classmate that the girl on the right can’t quite remember. Someone who was notably okay at making bento boxes, and who seemed like a sweet girl. They remember Mangetsu, but only in feint outlines.
A Firework Phantom
This, it seems, is Granbelm‘s final thematic through-line. We are defined by how others see us, so when we are gone, the memories we leave behind are our legacy. Anna burned herself alive in the fire of her own magic, but Shingetsu still fondly remembers her as a childhood friend. Kuon, an episode ago, was killed by Suishou. Her sister is now freed of her curse, as the universe has rewritten the past such that she was never involved in the Granbelm. She does not remember her, but when confronted with her name, thinks it sounds nice. This is the consolation prize that the Magiaconatus’ victims get. Memories so feint that they’re more like hazy, half-remembered dreams. It is more than it might initially seem.
The inherently ephemeral nature of human connection certainly seems like a major fixation of these final few episodes. Mangetsu manages to convince Shingetsu and a smattering of other people who can still see her (Nene and her siblings, her own sister who now doesn’t know who she is, and Kuon’s sister) to go on a picnic. There, she says goodbye, in what might be the standout shot of the show so far.
She’s reduced to a ghost. Visible only to Shingetsu and Suishou, as the final Granbelm starts.
Where The World Ends
We are left wondering, what, exactly, to make of all this. It’s hardly a foregone conclusion that Shingetsu will win the final Granbelm. The show has flipped its entire presentation over more than once at this point, and saying we know much of anything about what’s going to happen would be presumptuous. There is more that could be gone into here. Suishou’s bizarre rant about “the arena of Gods”, and “testing” Shingetsu, in episode 10, could warrant a whole article on its own. I think though that one of the few things we can say about Granbelm is that its core thesis might lie in a tossed-off line while Mangetsu and Shingetsu talk in this episode. One I think is easily overlooked.
It is fair to say that Granbelm is a hard series to parse. It might go down as the most opaque, unpredictable show of the season–no mean feat when you’re competing with Astra: Lost In Space. Yet I think there’s a lot of meaning in this small scene. Mangetsu, created from the desire for connection wished for by Shingetsu, rejecting the idea that she’s bandied about for most of the series–that she “has nothing”–by affirming that her connection to Shingetsu is more than enough.
It may be I’m well off the mark (with Granbelm, it’d not be the first time), but if I’m right, I think that’s a fine note to go out on.
Granbelm has just two episodes left before it concludes. I for one, am excited to see where this strange story ends.