When I first wrote about Hai to Gensou no Grimgar barely halfway through its run, I said that the series felt very personal to me, in a way I found extremely hard to explain. Of course, those things that are more important to us are often harder to explain ones liking for. After all, it’s a piece of media that has to work on multiple reasons. One of the major reasons why I still have never published any of what I’ve tried writing about Hibike Euphonium many years after falling in love with it because I still cannot pin down which one of the million reasons I love it should be the one to talk about.
I later tried to talk about Grimgar as a series that simply deals with grief extremely well and that that was a thing I found incredibly fascinating about it, but while that definitely plays a part in my love for the series, I still feel like it’s a bit off. I only just finished reading the first volume of the Grimgar books, having bought it almost a year ago at this point, and blame it on my recent come back and fascination with the massively popular World of Warcraft, but I’ve come to love it just the same again. But this time I feel I can finally give an answer as to why.
I’ve come to the conclusion during this read that the biggest reason that Grimgar manages to resonate with me is really its simplest and really the idea at its very core. It’s a story about human beings. Not just in the sense of its characters being well fleshed out with strengths, weaknesses and more (in all honesty, Grimgar actually lacks quite a bit in that sense) but that them being human beings, really is its core theme and idea.
The major focus of both the book and Anime is on just how little our main characters are actually capable of when they arrive in the world they’ve been thrown into. Where their supposed ally arriving at the same time as them, Renji, has been rocketing ahead, it takes the group around main character Haruhiro extremely long to even kill a single Goblin. This by itself certainly does make for an interesting premise, but what makes Grimgar fascinating is its focus on the idea that stands behind this. That we’re all just human. And this idea stretches itself throughout the series.
Ranta, although from the start only serving the role of the punching bag, in the end, is often still made fun of by the other people but has moved to be someone that the others have learned to be considerate of and accept as a human being that’s part of the team. Despite his idiotic and erratic behavior that has been annoying and even harmful to most people within the series, he’s a human being. And he deserves to be listened to.
The goblins, the major enemy our heroes have to kill throughout all of the first novel are in almost all places not just shown as the cannon fodder early opponents usually are in MMOs but instead, ironically, possess actual, human capabilities and emotions. They don’t just exist for others to kill them, but have family, try to enjoy themselves but most importantly, they want to survive.
However the biggest example of this theme has to be Manato.
For the first half of Grimgar’s first novel, there’s a lot of emphasis on everyone in the group relying on Manato to carry them through everything that may come. He is the one that finds out about the Goblin city. He is the one that figures out what classes a group has to consist of. He is the one in the backline making sure everything goes according to plan. That is until things happen, that is no longer possible and the group as a whole becomes completely disoriented for a large part of the remainder of the story.
Throughout the latter half of Grimgar then, Haruhiro’s lamenting and thoughts about the priest start swinging from the person he has been relying on so far, always wondering “What would Manato do?”, to thinking of him as a friend. He stops subconsciously expecting Manato to be a hero that saves the day and starts thinking of him as a human being, just like himself. Everyone in Grimgar is just a human being trying to survive in a world that’s doing its best to kill them. And only as he and the group around him understand that, is when they’re finally able to move on.