With the battle for the Magiaconatus now ended. What we get is bittersweet ending full of sadness, but one with hope. So with that, let’s look back on the series highlights and downfalls to this truly great anime.
What do you get when you mix SD gundam with magical girl antics? You get Granbelm – a mystical magical girl mecha anime where female mages compete in Armanoxs to determine who will become the controller of Magiaconatus by becoming ‘The Witch’ or ‘The Princeps Mage.’ So for starters let’s review the synopsis:
“Long ago, the world was rich with magic, until the wizards and witches used magic to wage war on one another, bringing the world to the brink of destruction. To prevent this, a group of wizards sealed all the world’s magic into a device known as the “Magiaconatus” (マギアコナトス Magiakonatosu), and since then, magic has been largely forgotten and wizards have been slowly disappearing, with just a few magical families existing all over the world.
In the modern age, however, magic is making a resurgence thanks to the Granbelm, a tournament involving magical girls that pilot giant robots called “Armanox” (アルマノクス Arumanokusu), with the winner becoming the “Princeps Mage” (プリンセプスの魔術師 Purinsepusu no Majutsushi) and becoming able to wield all the magic inside the Magiaconatus. Mangetsu Kohinata finds her ordinary life forever changed when she discovers she is a mage and earns her own Armanox, the White Lily. As Mangetsu fights in the Granbelm, she meets other girls who fight to have their wishes granted. (Source: Wikipedia)”
So basically this anime revolves around two girls, Mangetsu Kohinata (CV: Miyuri Shimabukuro) and Shingetsu Ernesta Fukami (CV:Atsumi Tanezaki). Mangetsu is described to be average in every way even in her cooking. Like some of us might have felt from time to time, she likes helping out people by making them lunches in order to make herself feel useful and wanted. On the night of the full moon, Mangetsu goes to school to retrieve a lunchbox she forgot and winds up getting transported into the Granbelm tournament. There she encounters Shingetsu, a mysterious black-haired beauty who was blessed with great magic power by the Magiaconatus. As she gets caught up in Shingetsu’s battle with Anna Fugo (CV: Yōko Hikasa), Suishō Hakamada (CV: Aoi Yūki) and Rosa (CV: Chinatsu Akasaki), Mangetsu summons her Armanox, White Lily and defeats Rosa.
The story then continues with Shingetsu and Mangetsu teaming up to win Granbelm and along the way, they discover the deeper 1000 year-old mysteries behind the Granbelm tournament e.g. memory loss and Mangetsu’s real identity. They also gain allies in the form of their fellow competitors, Nene Rin (CV: Yurika Kubo), a Chinese mage who operates Ji Guang Long and Kuon Tsuchimikado (CV: Manaka Iwami) who operates Setsgetsu Baika. They also receive help from Nene’s sisters.
Plot / Themes
Okay, so plot-wise, I thought this was a well written story. The plot really does a great job of exploring Mangetsu and Shingetsu’s relationship as well as their relationships with the other characters. The staff also does a great job at adding depth to the other contenders’ backgrounds and I was surprised by how dark the series got with competitors getting killed, Anna’s mental breakdown and Anna almost murdering her own mother. There is also nothing that I can complain about even if I did find the ending bittersweet. Yes, Shingetsu achieved her goal of erasing magic from the world and it is hinted that Mangetsu was reborn. But Shingetsu also becomes a spirit with no concept of death and becomes unable to interact with anyone which is tragic in a sense. But she is happy for now and there is hope that Mangetsu will be able to see her someday, so there is that.
Additionally, all of the competitors that were killed are not brought back to life which I felt was sad but realistic enough. Its adds meaning to themes of life, beauty and humanity that the show explores and its nice to know that their families are still moving on with their lives. Shisui Tsuchimikado’s sleep curse and Nene’s eternal youth curse were also broken and its nice to know that Nene and Kibō Kohinata (Mangetsu’s younger sister) are still friends after everything that has happened.
Speaking of humanity, there is no better example than Mangetsu herself. Despite appearing to be a simple, average human, I was really shocked by the revelation that she was a doll created by Magiaconatus from Shingetsu’s wish to have a friend. Though I should have gotten the hint from the string controllers and the song. When that revelation broke Mangetsu, it really tore me up inside. But I loved how she pulled herself together to grant Shingetsu’s wish. Her final speech really applied all the lessons she learnt and delivered on what it meant to be human. It most definitely proved that Mangetsu was not a doll, but had become a human in heart and mind.
On the other hand, Shingetsu is a more complex character. Naturally gifted with magic from a young age, she was adopted into Anna’s family where she befriended Anna and her sister. Claire. But as time grew, she and Anna drifted apart due to Anna’s growing jealousy towards her and Anna’s mother doting on her which lead to Shingetsu moving out of the house. The bond between the two of them is so unlike the one she has with Mangetsu. While the bond between Shingetsu and Mangetsu is really touching and sweet, her bond with Anna is a lot more possessive and dominant based. Anna always feels that she must be the dominant one in their relationship and the fact that she becomes so jealous that she sets out to Shingetsu doesn’t really help her case.
Though the revelation of the deception Shingetsu innocently weaved of Anna having talent for magic was one of the better done aspects of the series. While Shingetsu meant well by secretly helping Anna with the spell, this is also what led to Anna’s mental breakdown. So I can’t really support her and Anna’s mother decision to keep on hiding it. Anna’s final battle just proved that Anna just couldn’t accept she didn’t have to be the exceptional mage she always idealized herself to be and I sympathized with her to an extent. I felt bad that she just vanished with no one remembering her and being replaced with Rosa who wasn’t fully explored well enough.
Kuon and her older sister, Shisui also had a lot of decent coverage. Their past was decently explored and even Shisui’s relationship with Suishou was fully explored. While I’m not a fan of yuri, I did like that subtle side-plot of Shisui potentially having a lesbian relationship with Suishou. It really brought out Suishou’s vindictiveness and how she tormented Kuon with that knowledge was also excellent. Though I do wonder why they were under such heavy armed protection when Kuon was young.
Animation-wise, I loved all of the imaginative battlefields that Magiacontus invented. All of the battlefields and environments were so well-designed. The town was pretty good, but my favorite landscape was the scene of the full moon on the lake.
Even the Armanox’s came out great with Setsgetsu Baika and Viola Katze being my personal favorites. Character design-wise, there were some hits and misses. While I generally liked all of the character designs, there were some that I liked less than others like Anna and Rosa.
Animation pacing and scene transition was a bit off depending on the episode because the battles were held every month on the full moon. Since, there were like 7 or 8 full moons, I think the anime was set over a period of eight months, so the writers had to add more stuff than necessary to fit it into a 12 episode show.
As for voice acting, Granbelm had an all-star cast. I will not deny that. All of the cast were great at voicing their characters and they came off as believable. One small warning though, Yoko Hikasa’s Anna does get grating with the way she screams, “ERNNNNEEEEESSSSTTTTAAAA!” all the time.
Yurika Kubo plays a great tsundere character and Manaka really brought out Kuon’s inner sweetness.I can’t complain about the casting at all. One thing that I will mention, however, is how Aoi Yūki does a fantastic job as Suisho Hakamada. She sounds so delightfully evil and really pulls of that seductive vixen act well. It wasn’t that much of a surprise that she turned out to be a doll/homunculus created the referee of the Granbelm tournament. But you can really feel all of the pain and sadness she accumulated over the past 1000 years, so props to her.
“Tsuki o Ou Mayonaka” (月を追う真夜中 Following the Moon in the Middle of the Night) by Aoi Eir was an incredible opening song. The harmonies flowed right and you can really feel the heart-pumping action and intense nature of the Granbelm battles in them. Though the melody did sound kind of similar to her other works. In contrast to “Negai” (願い Desire) by Uru, this definitely came off as the better song. While Negai was sweet and romantic, it was a bit drab and didn’t really tug on my heart strings as other songs have so it might be hit or miss to some viewers.
The instrumental soundtracks were also alright and did a great job at pulling out the action vibes of the series. But it was pretty standard and I can’t say much more than that.
So overall, Granbelm was a pretty great show. It’s something that I may rewatch in the future if I have time. Viewers are guaranteed to enjoy all of the wonderful mecha action sequences and heartwarming scenes, so please give this a watch!