I am usually not the biggest fan of horror anime. The overly edgy art style of shows like Death Note and Tokyo Ghoul does not appeal to me, so you can imagine my surprise after watching the first two episodes of Gleipnir. I’m grateful I didn’t miss out on this gem, and I wish I watched it sooner.
Based on the manga by Sun Takeda, Gleipnir follows Shuichi Kagaya, a high school student with the ability to turn into a large monster that looks like a giant dog costume. After saving Clair Aoki from attempting suicide, the two work together to search for Clair’s sister, Elena, who they believe is the one who killed their parents. They soon learn that Shuichi’s transformation was caused by a wish made by him or someone else by giving a golden coin to a mysterious man. Along the way, Shuichi and Clair run into others transformed by the coins. Whether friend or foe, the two appear to be more than able to face even the toughest of opponents no matter their allegiance.
Shuichi and Clair’s dynamic is rather interesting. When transformed, Clair climbs inside of Shuichi, controlling the movements of his monster form. It’s very similar to a relationship between pilots in mech anime, with a gross twist. Clair is outgoing and relentless, often taking charge of situations. She is much more violent than most of the other characters. Clair’s personality contrasts greatly with Shuichi, who acts timid at first, as if he is scared of the monster within him. As the series goes on, Clair breaks him out of his shell, with his personality slowly beginning to match his appearance.
While mostly simple, Pine Jam’s (Gamers!) animation shines greatly in the series’ many fight scenes. The last three episodes, in particular, are amazing and filled with fluid animation. The art style for the human characters is nothing super special. However, it truly shines with the designs for the creatures. My personal favorite is Tadanori Sanbe, who spent his coin to become stronger, wishing to find a worthy opponent. He cares very little for the coin hunt, desiring to fight other monsters instead.
However, my favorite characters are easily Chihiro Yoshioka and Isao Kasuga. Chihiro acts as the opposite of Clair. She cares deeply about all of the members of their group and also has a unique bond with Shuichi. That does not mean she is beyond acting aggressive, but she often hides her true feelings inside of herself, similar to Shuichi. Unlike the rest of the cast, her transformation is minimal and is mostly useless in a fight. Similarly, Isao is a pacifist, preferring to run rather than fight. His transformation allows him to grow plants, one of the most useful abilities in Gleipnir. The rest of the Gatherers are interesting as well and create an interesting group dynamic for Shichi and Clair to work within.
Elena is an interesting antagonist, bringing out the worst qualities of those around her. This is most noticeable during each of Shuichi and Clair’s confrontations with her. She feels emotionless and distant, likely due to her own ghostly transformation. The minor antagonists are really entertaining as well, especially Madoka and Taguchi. The two of them are members of a larger gang of monsters who use their powers to climb out of the hole society made for them. They are just trying to survive, and they believe finding all the coins could eventually lead them to salvation.
The series receiving an English dub over the last couple months is what finally got me to watch, and it was worth it. ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) Director Amber Lee Conners (ACTORS: Songs Connection) and script writer Leah Clark (One Piece) did a fantastic job with the English dub. This was my first time hearing Ry McKeand in an anime, and he did a wonderful job presenting how complicated Shuichi is through his voicework. I am especially impressed with Brittney Karbowski’s portrayal as Clair, particularly because of how different Clair is from any other character she has voiced. Morgan Laure’s quiet and stoic portrayal of Elena originally felt a little stale, but I soon realized that it was primarily due to how emotional the character once was. Outside of the main cast, the stand outs were Michelle Marie (Chihiro), Kieran Flitton (Yota Murakami), Casey Mongillo (Isao Kasuga), Daman Mills (Ikeuchi) and David Wald (Madoka).
Gleipnir was an interesting series that would have heavily benefitted from being two cour instead of one. The ending, while serviceable, left too many questions unanswered. Hopefully the second season will solve my issues with the first, but for now Gleipnir is an entertaining horror-action anime with some deeper themes underneath the surface. You can watch the series subbed and dubbed on Funimation.