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Anime Review: The Grimm Variations

English Title: The Grimm Variations

Japanese Title: グリム組曲 [lit. Grimm suite]

Director(s): Various

Screenwriter(s): Yokote Michiko

Studio: Wit Studio

Released: 2024

Runtime: 6 episodes, 31m–45m

Starring: Various


The Grimm Variations

The Grimm Variations is an anthology of six episodes. These are not mere retellings as many liberties are taken. The premise is still recognizable but the elements are different.


Each episode begins with Jacob and Wilhelm with their younger sister Charlotte at their family home discussing something that is related to the theme of that episode. The animation style in that segment is deliberately rough like Romanticism paintings, the episodes themselves are “normal”.


Often, the characters’ roles are twisted. It’s not necessarily a simple reversal. For example, Cinderella is not the overt abuser her stepsisters are, nor does she simply plot revenge after years of mistreatment.


The production is solid. The visual style is clean and there is nothing that particularly stands out, good or bad. The voice acting and sound editing are also well done.


There is also nothing particularly special about the storytelling. To be fair, this is difficult to do well. On the one hand, there have been many adaptations and retellings already. On the other hand, one does not want to stray so far from the source material to the point of being unrecognizable and there is the usual problem of potentially “trying too hard”.


Of course, these problems could be avoided if these episodes were based on other fairy tales—after all, there are over two hundred to choose from.


Those who are expecting some decent horror will be disappointed. Whilst these episodes contain elements of horror, it is arguable whether it is even trying to be horror. The fairy tales, after all, are not exactly horror even if they can be dark.


Overall, it is a decent effort and I don’t think it is a waste of time, especially if one is interested in fairy tales, but be advised that there is nothing particularly special.


“Cinderella” – Director: Kanamori Yoko

  • Set in what appears to be postwar Japan, Cinderella is the young daughter of a rich man who remarries. The stepmother has two older daughters, both of them uncouth. Whilst they do mistreat Cinderella, it is not as severe as the fairy tale. As already mentioned, Cinderella does not merely put up with it before exacting revenge. It is more twisted than that.

  • This is probably the best episode of the anthology although given the premise, it could use another twist.


Cinderella
Cinderella

“Little Red Riding Hood” – Director: Akamatsu Yasuhiro

  • Set in a sci-fi world where reality can be augmented using nanotech, Mr Grey (the “wolf”) hungers for real flesh and blood. As an addict of sorts, he wants more and more, eventually targeting a young woman in a red hood.

  • This piece is predictably predictable, which in itself is not a problem, but it does fail to make use of its sci-fi premise. Augmented reality may not be the most original idea but it can be interesting if used right.


“Hansel and Gretel” – Director: Hashiguchi Junichiro

  • Hansel and Gretel live in an orphanage under the care of a couple simply referred to as Mama and Papa. They seem caring enough and yet, children are known to disappear. As punishment for misbehaving, the siblings are sent out to the forest for one night (as a form of detention) where they meet the witch figure who encourages them to question what they have been taught.

  • This piece tries to play around with all aspects of the story: the setting, the roles and the plot. The mystery becomes apparent soon enough, but too much too quickly and somewhat underwhelming.


The witch, Gretel and Hansel
The witch, Gretel and Hansel

“The Elves and the Shoemaker” – Director: Kamamura Yumi

  • N is an award-winning author struggling to write a new novel, his first work in years. One night, whilst drunk, he meets a girl who criticizes his work. N is not happy but goes home and passes out. He wakes up the next morning to a completed short story. The manuscript is in his handwriting and the writing style is somewhat recognizable but he does not remember writing it.

  • Work magically done overnight for the main character is the only aspect taken from the fairy tale. Otherwise, it is a piece about writers. Although not intended to be an intense psychological thriller, it might be better if it aimed for that.


“The Town Musicians of Bremen” – Director: Takeuchi Masato

  • Three women who do not fit into society try to find a place to make their own home. These three represent and are indeed named Dog, Donkey and Cat. They meet Rooster when they arrive at the town of Bremen. The town has been taken over by the Wade brothers and the three women fight to kick them out.

  • The sci-fi western setting is interesting enough. It is not particularly original but it is not that common either. In any case, the plot and action are predictable, which is fine, but the set piece lacks a wow factor. Every viewer knows it’s going to be a shootout anyway, so just give the audience a shootout.


Dog, Donkey and Cat
Dog, Donkey and Cat

“Pied Piper of Hamelin” – Director: Nakazawa Shintarou

  • Maria lives in a village that her grandma rules with an iron fist, focusing purely on long-term survival. She intends Maria to marry the local bully but Maria’s teacher wants better for her. One night, a stranger seeks shelter at the teacher’s cottage. Taking in strangers is forbidden, not to mention that the stranger offers contraband as payment.

  • On the surface, the episode is quite different from the source material although the theme remains and is quite apparent. This episode has the potential to be an intriguingly complex work since the plot is driven by Maria’s teacher’s motiviations, her relationship with him, and her own motivations despite her apparent indifference. However, the different elements don’t truly come together and mature to a satisfying conclusion.

 

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