The fantasy genre is perfect for escaping the stresses of everyday life and is rife with opportunities for storytelling — especially in anime, which is well-known for using the genre to explore countless scenarios where the only limit is the storyteller’s imagination. We at Anime Network are here to recommend three particular fantasy anime titles that wield their premises to great effect and take their stories in unique directions.
“Grimoire of Zero”: What Happens When Two Magic Systems Collide
The problem with magic in some fantasy stories is that it’s used as a poorly defined plot device that either 1) handily gets the characters out of a sticky situation, or 2) shows the viewer how powerful the characters are. But every so often you come across a show like“Grimoire of Zero,” which instead uses the concept of magic as a core plot point.
We’ve been using “magic” as a catch-all term for the arcane arts for the sake of convenience in this article, but the plot of “Grimoire of Zero” revolves around the conflict of two different and specific magic systems: “sorcery,” which has existed in the anime’s setting for a long time, and “magic,” a recently discovered arcane discipline. We use these two terms interchangeably in real life, but in “Grimoire of Zero,” there are significant differences between the two concepts.
Sorcery is the more restrictive of the two disciplines, requiring prerequisites such as the use of a summoning circle among other things, but magic, on the other hand, has no such requirements, making it far easier to learn. Due to the limitations of sorcery, only a select few people had powers. But now? The concept of limits on the arcane turns on its head when people face the reality that now anyone can wield it.
If that weren’t enough, the secret to learning “magic” has been stolen and has fallen into the wrong hands. Now, in exchange for a promise of being turned into a human, the half-beast, Mercenary, must protect the witch, Zero, as they race against time to recover her grimoire containing those secrets before it’s too late!
“Log Horizon”: You’re Trapped in Your Favorite Fantasy World! Now What?
“Log Horizon” takes a different route. This series wants to know what would happen when thousands of gamers find themselves stuck in the game world and realize they need to create an entirely new society. From scratch. Sure, they need to discover a way home, but in the meantime, they all have to live with each other and figure out how to get along.
Plenty of shows pose the question, “What would happen if someone found themselves in another world?” The answer is nearly always, “An escapist power fantasy of epic proportions, that’s what!”
But the old rules don’t apply anymore. Game mechanics are now a daily reality, and all players have access to their in-game skills and abilities, including the most significant one of them all: immortality. Whenever a player dies, they simply come back to life.
So the question now becomes, “What would a society within the confines of a game world actually look like?”“Log Horizon” boldly sets off to provide an answer, which sets it apart from nearly every anime of its genre.
“GATE”: Magic is No Match Against Guided Missiles
“GATE”isn’t the first anime to explore the concept of magic vs. technology, but it is one of the few that strongly argues that nothing can overcome a decisive technological advantage when it comes to warfare — not even the power of raw elemental magic.
When Tokyo is invaded by a fantasy army wielding swords and sorcery, the Japanese Self-Defense Force puts an end to the invasion fairly quickly. Not only that, the SDF then invades the fantasy world to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Shooting lightning from your fingertips evidently doesn’t matter much if your opponent can see you from a mile away through the scope of a sniper rifle. Likewise, a dragon might be one of the most fearsome fantasy monsters out there, but it most likely wouldn’t last long against armor-piercing rounds.
But more than anything else, though, is the reaction of the mighty Empire responsible for the initial attack. What does a former unquestioned superpower do when it suddenly realizes it has awoken a sleeping giant that is technologically superior? And what if that sleeping giant was actually the good guy?
Fantasy Anime Explores the Question of “What If?”
These three different fantasy worlds each explore an intriguingly different “what-if” tale. All three of them take their core premise and expand upon them until they all end up with something truly unique, even for fantasy stories.
From the tale of the disruptive potential of magic to learning how to live in a brave new game world to a fantasy story where technology trumps magic, we at Anime Network simply cannot recommend them enough. If you want something special to go with your sword and sorcery, be sure to add these three titles to your watch list today.
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