Granblue Fantasy: season 2
On his journey to find the Astrals and the answers he's been seeking regarding his father, their journey take the crew to some aspects of his friends' pasts. Katalina has to contend with an old friend and how Katalina left her behind to become a Knight. Rackam, too, meets an old friend from his past and has to dwell on a promise he made when he was a child. All through this, the Empire is still on the hunt for Lydia and her ties to the powers she has.
The first season of Granblue Fantasy was a blast. It was a bit of an old-school show as RPG-based plots went, but it had a rather nice visual style designed by a lot of the Final Fantasy oldtimers which translated rather nicely to the animated big screen, and the animation itself was made on a level I wouldn't see often in other shows. The whole thing is also spearheaded by a pop/rock song I until the time of writing wrongly attributed to Bump of Chicken, but it bears mentioning that Seven Billion Dots's opener named "Stay With Me" is very similar to their general style; a cheerful and lively anthem that is a perfect fit to the show itself.
While season 2 is, to some extent, about Gran's continuing journey alongside Lyria, the focus is somewhat diverted this time around. In fact, you could say that the season itself isn't really as much about him, even if the background noise is still very much about the Empire's chase for Lyria. Our two main stars this time are, as I mentioned in the synopsis, Katalina and Rackam. Having never played the game, it's quite nice to learn something about these characters, and although Granblue Fantasy will not win any prizes for originality anytime soon, the players are still fleshed out enough for this show to be interesting if you can accept its old-school ways.
The new animation house, Mappa, also does a decent job at trying to keep up with the animation of the first season. Which is to say the quality tends to waver a little, although the worst of it is mostly the show getting kind of cheap during some of the dialogue-laden scenes, where the line art is a bit too smudgy for its own good and characters seem a bit less expressionate than they otherwise are. The scenery is still lovely, even if the middle segment feels like a bit of a non-sequitur despite the show's insistence of why it shifts like it does.
It's also going to depend on how much you want to see justice served at all times. The first arc introduces us to Vira Lillie, a young woman who serves as the lord of Albion and the focus for its guardian spirit, Luminiera. At first glance, she seems like the perfect sister type, and it's revealed that she took on her leadership role so Katalina would be free to pursue her true passion. We quickly learn that this has had the unfortunate side effect of turning her into a bit of a yandere with a rather unhealthy fixation on Katalina. This, coupled with the Empire's own plans in all of this -- led by the sneering insincerity of our little buddy Furias, whom you might remember from the first season -- spells out a little bit too clearly what is going to go down, which is one of the downsides of going down the old-school route.
This extends to Rackam's story arc, where we also get to meet one of the top brass of the Empire, the Prime Minister Freesia. Much like Gran, she has some vested interest in the dealings of the Astrals, though her view of them are... vastly less positive. Or ambiguous. What little we learn of her definitely fits with the Empire's needs to control every aspect of the world, as power structures are built into their DNA strands, it would seem. Rather than being cackling evils, though Pommern and Furias comes close, they have a cold, calculated indifference about them that's typical of fictional empires. There are, of course, exceptions, as we often see Sturm and Drang again, doing their typical thing. We learn a little more about them too, as the two serve the more ambiguous part of the Empire who, while still searching for powers, do that more in the shadows. Whether they're doing that to avoid casualties is still up in the air, but the main player, the heavily armored Black Knight Apollonia, isn't as outright murderous as some of the other imperials, even though she makes it quite clear she will not suffer any opposition or competition to her plans. She travels in the company of Orchis, a girl that comes across as an emotionless version of Lyria and has the same powers as well. Lyria even gets the opportunity to get some alone time with Orchis when the two of them gets caught up in a mystery surrounding a whole village of undead who nevertheless live peacefully in their misty surroundings.
Some of the arcs also introduce us to more fairly well known Granblue Fantasy characters. Ferry features heavily in the undead/ghost/mist-like story mentioned just above here, while the very beginning also introduces us to Aliza, a Draph fistfighter who joins Gran and Lyria on their adventurer raid into an old construct housing the first of the ancient primals like the ones Lyria makes friends with on a regular basis, regardless of whether they've been subjected to the Empire's machinations. Granblue Fantasy has its share of nonhuman races, the most typical ones being the Erune (cat people), the Harvin (miniature people, think Lalafells if you're an FF XIV player) and the Draph (bovine people.) To the show's credit; despite even the anime featuring quite a few prominent Draph females, the show isn't really that fanserviceish. You could probably make an argument that some of their costumes don't really hide how well endowed they are, it never really becomes a topic of conversation at any point in the game. As far as I recall, it never even was in season 1's special beach episode. Not that there's anything wrong with a show doing this -- I still love how unflinchingly raunchy shows like Monster Musume or High School DxD could get -- but I can still respect a show's consistency about not necessarily feeling like it has to, even when it arguably could.
Sadly, this is not to say that everything is alright with Granblue Fantasy season 2. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but it has a few facepalm moments you're just going to have to contend with. Season 1 had that moment when Lyria got kidnapped because people stupidly left her to her own accord, and not only does this happen again in this season, the show signals it so hard that it all but had me (and Tim, since we synchroed it) literally shouting at the screen. You know, the whole "fool me twice" thing. On a more objective side, season 2 is what it is: the second part of a much larger story. It doesn't feel inconsequential per sé, but unlike how introductory and new the first season felt, season 2 is more of an admission that this... this all is nice, but if it's also all we get..... that just feels so very likely, doesn't it?
And that the thing, isn't it? Granblue Fantasy does its story beats very well, but much like even newer shows that kinda serve as live services, are we ever going to see an end to this? Some games, be that gacha RPGs or huge MMOs that gets all of its content released over a span of many, many years, well... they're not easy content to make anime out of, are they? I don't want to be too hard on Granblue Fantasy's second season despite it feeling more like side stories featuring characters that do not become a part of Gran's party. I do not want to be too hard on this show despite the high likelihood that we won't ever be getting the whole story here. What we get is... good. It's entertaining, if somewhat infuriating, and I can only hope that more will come.
Granblue Fantasy does collapse some under its own weight, but it's still a pretty nifty show to watch if you just want to go on an adventure. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Like most heavily political shows -- it's fantasy politics, granted, but still politics -- it doesn't shy away from portraying the price people often pay for ambition, be that their own or someone else's. It's not very graphic, but it has its share of redshirt deaths.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Wakanime, Japanese with English subtitles.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Granblue Fantasy: season 2 © 2019 MAPPA, CyGames, Aniplex.
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