Grand Blue Dreaming (ぐらんぶる) was originally a seinen, comedy manga series written by Kenji Inoue and illustrated by Kimitake Yoshioka. It’s being adapted into an anime for the Summer season by the studio Zero-G and will be directed by Shinji Takamatsu. When I originally added it to my seasonal watchlist, I did so because I love anything to do with the ocean. Yet, after watching the first episode, all I can say is… what the ungodly fuck did I just watch?
Grand Blue Dreaming follows a dude named Kitahara Iori as he arrives to a small oceanside city called Izu, where he will be attending college at the local university. He will be moving into his uncle’s diving store, Grand Blue, which just so happens to be where the members of the college’s diving club like to meet and hang out. Iori is excited for a life of friendships and living the dreamy college life, however, after arriving and getting settled in, the kid starts to realise that his life is about to take a very different turn.
I am someone who normally doesn’t like mindless comedies, whether in anime or other types of media. Most comedies that I enjoy tends to have some semblance of a plot to them. Grand Blue Dreaming on the surface comes off as a ridiculously rambunctious comedy that was crafted solely for idiotic shits and giggles. But the more that I watched of the pilot, the more that I could sense there is a paper-thin plot underneath all of the immature insanity… I think.
The journey of Iori joining a club and building friendships with an expected group of people is appealing to me, and I think it will be interesting to see his growth as an individual, particularly with regards to how these people will help him on this path. For example, the kid is interested in diving but doesn’t know how to swim. Conquering that obstacle so he can partake in a specific hobby would be neat to watch. Little things like this have a sort of charm to them. Nevertheless…
The group of people that he encounters, the ones that will be his flock of friends, are far less appealing to me. One of them enjoys being butt-naked more often than not, and for no real reason. They all love to drink tons of alcohol, similarly to young fraternity people. I can enjoy a cup of saké or a beer once in a limited while, but I’m not a heavy drinker at all, so this was off-putting to me. I also didn’t care for the fact that they are forceful in their alcoholic theatrics. I understand it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not my cup o’chai, I suppose. Another character is an over-the-top otaku, and his persona and ludicrous nature were things that actually managed to make me laugh. That and Iori’s sensationally disturbing facial expressions.
Iori makes facial expressions like Eikichi Onizuka from GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, and that familiarity of a beloved anime/manga character was something that I—surprisingly—found hilarious. He understands the situation he’s gotten himself into, as well as the bunch of people he’s encountered, is utterly preposterous, so his reactions to their wildness is pretty on point. Most of his countenances are contortionist level and sort of makes you ponder how the bloody hell they’re done.
The animation quality is beautiful, especially in HD. The colours are vibrant, the details wonderfully ironed out, the motions and movements of the people and surroundings remarkably fluid. The scenery of the ocean and the cherry blossoms are so lovely and aesthetically pleasant. The narrative, premise, and characters may all be rather unexceptional, but the animation is decidedly not.
Overall, I’m on the fence about whether or not I want to continue with Grand Blue Dreaming. If you enjoy mindless comedies, then you will more than likely want to check this out. If you prefer more story-based anime, then you may want to pass. The laughter I experienced and Iori’s facial resemblances to Onizuka do make me want to keep watching, nonetheless, everything else has me feeling like I should probably drop it. The best solution is that I’ll watch the second episode to see how I feel; hopefully that will cement it for me.
Grand Blue Dreaming can be seen on Fridays over on Amazon Prime.