There’s been a recent trend in the realm of anime in portal fantasy, in particular, the “human gets sucked into a video game” trope (Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, .//Hack, etc.) and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is another addition to that long line of sub-genre.
In GoFaA, several adolescents pop up in a traditional MMORPG-esque world with no recollection of their past lives. Of a large group, only six remain because they were visibly weaker, they form a guild/party/whatever name you wanna give them. Of their past lives, they sometimes know words but don’t really know the meaning of it, say, a cellphone. They also have inkling of how their past lives might have gone from their current habits. The big man sporting the ‘big friendly giant’ trope likes to cook. The girl with all the curves is also shy and has self-esteem issues. You can sort of guess at the hints.
All of the characters can easily slot into those standard tropes. There’s a brash, arrogant, perverted member, a pensive, mysterious yet handsome and collected leader, and a clumsy, but bold and talkative flat-chested (only worth a mention because japanese anime writers unfortunately like to emphasize these as characteristics in their female characters) girl. The main character however doesn’t really fit into any as he tends to serve as more of our eyes and ears, a lens by which to see the other characters. He’s noble, duty bound, and simply wants to do good by himself and his friends.
They even pick your standard RPG classes and you can probably guess each of their roles. The big guy’s the tank. The shy girls a mage. The arrogant one’s a warrior (dark knight to be precise). The bold girl is a rogue. The pensive one is a healer. And the main character is a thief (not unlike Sword Art Online own main character).
I don’t think I need to add that the characters weren’t exactly the reason I’ve kept watching. And, to be fair, despite easily slotting into those tropes, they’re not bad, and it’s still kind of fun to see them interact. That isn’t to say I’m not holding out for more development in each of the six members.
The big difference between GoFaA and its competition is that none of the characters are obscenely strong to begin with, or of uncanny intelligence and strength. Each of the six members are of average to above average intelligence. After all, they were left from the more elite group because they weren’t all that impressive looking, and alas, they don’t lend well to the old adage: appearances deceive.
The group of six need to destroy monsters to get loot (coins, and such) and survive (pay for food, clothes, etc.). For the first three episode, that centers around killing goblins. Where other series may take away the moral impact of taking a life, GoFaA puts it front and center (at least the first time) when Ranta (the brash/arrogant one) is traumatized from and adrenaline rushed murder of their first kill. It’s worth noting that by the second kill, they’re all but over that moral dilemma but that might simply be because they’re tired of living rugged lives.
Beyond the survivalist stakes and an unmatched art style (seriously, it might be worth watching just for the serene backgrounds), GoFaA could probably do with standing out a lot more, and it really wouldn’t be that hard to do it. Add layers to your characters, subvert tropes. They’ve already got a leg way over the ‘competition’ by going through the grind of these characters finding their way in the world, but it doesn’t yet have the multi-layered characters that say Log Horizon has.