Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is my answer to this comic book blackhole called February, considering I’ve only seen two quality releases so far and I don’t want to talk about Marvel’s Generations comic book plan for later this year since there’s virtually nothing but a splash page for it. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is a slow-moving fantasy drama story that deconstructs my favorite genre and then rebuilds it as the story goes by. It’s not for people who easily get attached to characters.

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is a novel by Ao Jumonji and illustrated by Eiri Shirai. The story revolves around a group of teens stuck in a fantasy world similar to an RPG with no memory of where they came from. You might dismiss this as another “stuck in another world” story like what I reviewed for more than half of my light novels, but that’s where the similarity ends. Upon their arrival, they experience a myriad of difficulties and experience that real life is not the same as a video game. People die. Monsters will be aggressive and smart. Teamwork does not happen instantly. Being too arrogant or too coy endangers people. Sacrifices happen.

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As a fan of the power fantasy genre, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is a hard story to swallow; it beats down its main characters when they are down, teaching them that the harsh realization that the world is a cruel place, and a fantasy world is crueler and more unforgiving. It deconstructs the fantasy trope and gives it a big punch to the gut in the process.

This is not an indication that I don’t like it, considering that I’m still itching to read all of the remaining three volumes out of eight. What I’m saying is it’s has defied my expectation going into it and that’s good. Any emotion that a light novel can pull out of me that is not utter annoyance and disgust is a win for me, and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash takes the cake. The story felt so organic, with its world described as rustic and endearing, that any fan of the genre would be hard-pressed not to like it. It does not give you the feeling of happiness and satisfaction, and yet it pulls on a deeper well that you may have been hiding behind your personal door.

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is hard to get invested into. I’ve seen the anime and haven’t even finished it. I read these things to entertain me, not make me contemplate the harshness of life. This story is not for me; it’s for somebody else out there. It’s a great story about determination, friendship and struggle but it follows a route that tugs on the heartstrings and I’m not a big reader of heartstrings stuff. What I can say is that the story is worth your time if you choose to sink some to it. It’s a lot of pages to read when the story is as fleshed out and dramatic as this.