Long ago, magic was abundant and enriched the lives of all people until its usage in war. To end the chaos, seven of the most powerful mages gave up their lives in order to seal all magic. Now, almost one thousand years later, their magic seal Magiaconatus hosts Granbelm, a monthly series of battles meant to determine who among its participants is worthy of the title of Princeps, the one true mage. On the night of a full moon, high school student Mangetsu Kohinata is suddenly transported to an illusionary world where six mages are participating in Granbelm. Mistaken for an enemy mage, Mangetsu is attacked by two mages until she is rescued by Shingetsu Ernesta Fukami and her Armanox Viola Katze. However, when Shingetsu is ambushed for protecting her, Magiaconatus grants Mangetsu the Armanox White Lily, allowing her to fight off Shingetsu's assailant. Overwhelmed by the revelations presented to her, Mangetsu decides to help her new friend fight in Granbelm and make her wish come true. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
If there’s anything that doesn’t quite work for me in Granbelm’s premiere, it’s the emphasis on spectacle and setting up its (admittedly cool) premise, instead of taking just a little more time to get us invested in the characters we’ll presumably be following all season. Mangetsu is about as stock a heroine as they come, at least at first: Ditzy, eager, and fundamentally well-meaning, her pink color coding makes it difficult for me to not look at her as a well-executed but still obvious Madoka-type. When Mangetsu is abruptly transported to an alternate dimension of broken down castles and magical floating island-orbs, she encounters the girls that pilot the stocky ARMANOX mechs, nearly all of whom are borderline psychotic warmongers bent on defeating each other, save for the stoic one that comes to Mangetsu’s aid: Shingetsu Ernesta Fukami. The girls are apparently all fighting in this battle royale to become the Princeps, which is a Supreme Mage, though I wouldn’t be shocked at all to find out this entailed getting your greatest wish granted by a deceptively cute little mascot character.
Point being, the script of the episode didn’t impress me – it relies too much on familiar tropes and hooks, and not with the same confident style that I got from, say, Fire Force’s first episode. Whatever confidence the script might have been lacking, though, Granbelm is able to make up for it with absolutely stellar execution, and any misgivings I might have about the show’s story have at least temporarily been quelled by its absolutely killer direction and production. The stout, almost chibi looking ARMANOX might not make everyone’s list of favorite mecha designs – I’m still unsure as to whether or not I like them, myself – but Granbelm makes its action sequences sing by paying extra attention to all of the scenes that take place inside the cockpit. All of the girls that Mangetsu encounters are ferocious and very clearly not here to mess around, and each menacing twitch of the eye and gravely roar from the pilots sells the danger of the situation even better than the muted color palettes ever could.
Even better, when Mangetsu gets ahold of her own ARMANOX to join Shingetsu in battle, our heroine manages to set herself apart from any Madoka comparisons by getting just as fierce as her opponents. Actress Miyrui Shimabukuro is young star who is still pretty new to the business, but she made quite the impression on me in her performance as Mangetsu, and I could see her skills going a long way in selling Granbelm’s story. The jury is still out on whether rock-solid aesthetics will be enough to carry this premise across the finish line, but anyone with even a passing curiosity in mecha anime or Madoka-inspired battle shows ought to give Granbelm a shot. You can also free Granbelm anime watch online and free anime download.