Watching a tie-in anime for a video game franchise I haven’t played may seem ill-advised, but I am nothing if not stubborn. I found Growlanser IV while browsing for OVAs and its character design was instantly appealing. The crimson outfit that looked part regal attire and part armor, matched with protagonist Diana’s platinum silver hair; it looked cool and made me want to see what this series was about. Just not curious enough to seek out a bunch of console-based J-RPGs.
To Growlanser‘s credit, it does a good job of onboarding newbies like myself because it requires little prior knowledge of the setting. A brief exposition sequence introduces viewers to a world where a number of nations have formed a coalition that is becoming increasingly intertwined. In response, a faction of conservatives initiated a war, hellbent on preserving the sovereignty and independence of these nations.
The story picks up sometime after in the country of Valcaneer. As the confederation between the nations proceeds, Valcaneer finds itself becoming the breadbasket of this new state. Massive quantities of grain are leaving the country, with not much coming back in return. Royal Guard Diana Silverneil is soon dragged into a conspiracy by the country’s nobility and fellow royal guards, who are looking to stage a populist uprising and reclaim control of Valcaneer. Diana is unsure of what course to take and time is running out; she’ll have to deal with this coup one way or another.
Growlanser manages to tell a neat little political drama the span of only 30 minutes. The conflict has good stakes to it and Diana, being a dutiful royal guard, provides a fascinating perspective from which to follow such a story. Those who prefer their fantasy worlds to be filled to the brim with lore may be slightly disappointed though; Growlanser does reference some places and past events, but this OVA makes the series’ universe seem like fairly standard J-RPG fantasy stuff.
The same sadly applies to the cast of characters. Maybe fans of the game series will be hyped to see some of their faves in animated form, but outside of Diana most characters look unimpressive. Screen-time also heavily favors Diana, so these characters don’t get much room to shine anyway.
If you’re in the mood for a political anime, then Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time offers that in a uniquely short format. A quick dose of intrigue. Maybe you’ll watch it and find yourself becoming interested in the video game series, but even on its own this is a fulfilling little story that I quite enjoyed watching.