The Grisaia franchise is a series of visual novels. The first game in the series is titled The Fruit of Grisaia. A young man by the name of Kazami Yuuji enrolls in a private academy where there are only five other female students. He wants to lead a normal life, but as he spends more and more time at the academy, he realizes every single person there is dealing with a traumatic past, himself included. A thirteen episode adaptation was produced in 2014 by 8-Bit studios.
The general consensus online is that the anime adaptation is incredibly rushed. Having never played any of the games, I got the feeling that was the case because many times, characters would progress the plot far too quickly and several plot points would be resolved in the span of a couple minutes. The most glaring flaw with the show is the slow start. The visual novel, for the most part, uses the same beginning. Yuuji is being questioned at a police station and the officer questioning him is confused because he has no relatives or friends. Our protagonist appears seemingly out of nowhere. After he leaves the police station, Yuuji travels to Mihama Academy where he meets the girls for the first time. In the first three episodes, he gets accustomed to how they interact with both each other and him in a one-on-one setting. Not all that much happens, but it establishes the atmosphere and the cast for the remainder of the show. However, this show is engrossing to me because of the stories it tells and the depth of the characters. In order to understand its appeal, we need to first look at them.
Our protagonist is Kazami Yuuji. The premise of the show and shows similar to it would lead you to believe that he will not say very much and with little effort of his own, win the affection of the girls. I grew to thoroughly enjoy this adaptation because he breaks the mold. There is no other way to say this. Yuuji is a badass. He cares deeply for the girls, but on the other hand he will do what it takes to save them from themselves with no hesitation whatsoever. Yuuji puts someone wishing to die in a coffin, while that person is still alive, in order to test that person’s resolve. Yuuji infiltrates a secure building as a delivery man and assassinates someone. Yuuji snipes someone from a lighthouse 900 meters away with very little room for error. This young man cares deeply for his classmates and it is his responsibility to help them cope with their trauma. He takes it upon himself to help each girl, no matter the cost. Having conviction in a male anime protagonist is refreshing. He has a spine and a set of skills and never wavers in using them. What makes him even more compelling is that he has his own troubled past, but that past is explored in-depth in the other games and adaptation of those games.
Each girl receives her own arc in the show and the first girl Yuuji helps is Matsushima Michiru. She is clearly the show’s attempt at comedic relief. She puts herself in slapstick situations where she will fall or make herself look like a fool. Yuuji spends time with her and realizes how much of a façade this routine actually is. Michiru has blond pigtails, but her hair is not actually blond. She changed her hair at a younger age and was unable to make friends. She decided to adopt a personality where she is the butt of jokes so she could make friends and not be ostracized. She puts on an act for everyone. There are more elements to her character, but she loses her will to live. Although he may seem ruthless and careless, Yuuji takes it upon himself to help her through these feelings. The show does a nice job of establishing that Yuuji views each of the girls in a different way, and this interaction comes off as more of an older brother caring for his younger sister.
Yumiko Sakaki comes into the spotlight next and is interesting because during the set-up phase of the show, she routinely attacks Yuuji, fulfilling the yandere stereotype. Her weapon of choice is a box cutter and Yuuji routinely avoids her attacks. As was the case with Michiru, he spends time with her and learns about her troubled past. Yumiko was the victim of vicious insults where other girls in her class claimed that she was abandoned by her father and he ran away with his mistress. Yumiko, unable to deal with these attacks on her character, stabs one of the girls. Yuuji tries to help Yumiko deal with her family and the issues they cause for her because she was not born a male. That is the single biggest point of contention for her. When he helps her, this is also the first time we see active participation from Yuuji’s female boss named JB. She works with the faction wanting to cause problems for Yumiko, but as is usually the case in these stories, JB secretly helps Yuuji because their relationship goes a lot deeper than the surface level would have you believe. The best part about the first two stories is that they are similar in that each girl is trying to be comfortable being themselves and solving personal identity issues.
Sachi Komine, in a lot of ways, is the glue that keeps the girls together. She takes it upon herself to be the maid for their living quarters. She has a friendly disposition and wants to help her friends; however she has a tendency of taking circumstances to the absolute extreme. The crux of the interaction between her and Yuuji relates to their past history. When he first arrives at Mihama Academy, Sachi gives him a nickname in a seemingly innocuous interaction. As it turns out, Yuuji and Sachi were friends at a young age. In fact, she was Yuuji’s first friend, but he suddenly stopped showing up to the playground, and they grew apart. Sachi remembers Yuuji from the get-go. Yuuji has to help Sachi deal with her extreme tendencies. There is no gray area for her. She routinely goes too far in one direction. Unlike Michiru and Yumiko, Sachi’s case is more of a problem of being un able to reconcile her personality with her actions. Sachi seems to have the least traumatic past of any of the girls.
More than Michiru, Makina Irisu represents the older brother younger sister dynamic. Soon after they start bonding, Makina’s life becomes endangered. Her family is powerful and influential but that success came at the cost of shady dealings beneath the surface. Far before Yuuji arrives at the school, she is kidnapped because her father uncovered evidence of the corruption. She is then forced to witness his murder. She becomes traumatized as a result, and her family sends her off to Mihama Academy so she can cause no more problems for them. Essentially, she knows too much information and is the target of a large operation to find and detain her. Yuuji takes her under his wing, and he vows to protect her. Unlike his experiences with the other girls, Yuuji’s relationship with Makina is more about physical protection. She is fragile and small and Yuuji can use his very specific toolset to protect her from her pursuers. This arc allows the audience to see just how capable Yuuji is when it comes to not only outsmarting people, but being stronger and more adapt at combat than them. Yuuji lays a lot of his own welfare on the line, and the lengths he goes shows just how much he cares about his makeshift school family. Kazami Yuuji cannot be a man unless he finds something he wants to protect more than himself.
Amane Suou seems to be the main heroine of the anime adaptation. She has arguably the most tragic backstory of any of the girls and soon after Yuuji arrives she expresses romantic interest in him, going so far as to using a lock pick to enter his room and lay in his bed. He rejects her advances, but revisits her feelings near the end of the show. He accepts Amane as his girlfriend, but informs her that he cannot promise to be her boyfriend. She is elated, but she wants to share something with him. She brings out a journal and reveals that she used to know his sister and from there, her tragic past unravels. Amane’s arc is heartbreaking. It deals with so many different themes which include survival, betrayal, learning to love, and dealing with guilt. Amane goes through a lot in order to survive her ordeal. In my opinion, it is the one arc that benefits the most from watching the anime. This backstory sets the stage for uncovering Yuuji’s past and lays the framework for the later visual novels.
Is The Fruit of Grisaia a flawed show? Absolutely. It has severe pacing issues. The opening and ending themes are rather forgettable. The show starts at a sluggish pace. The adaptation itself is far too short given how long the source material is. With all that said, the more I progressed through the different arcs, the more I fell in love with the characters. Everyone is flawed, but they try to come to terms with it with the help of Yuuji. I am admittedly a sucker for darker stories and this show definitely scratches that itch. You could do a lot worse than The Fruit of Grisaia, and I think it is worth a watch if any of the characters interest you.