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The Grimm Variations

The Grimm Variations

Written by Ross Locksley on 24 Apr 2024


Distributor Netflix • Certificate NA • Price NA


Having appraised the first episode of Studio WIT's Grimm Variations (Cinderella) over on The Anime Independent, time now to look at the series as a whole. Does the anthology series live up to the initial promise of the opener, or do we have a mixed bag?

So to recap, The Grimm Variations takes inspiration from classic fairy tales, mixed in some anime goodness, a different well-known director and creative team for each episode and ties them all together thematically. This sort of approach is bound to create some favourites among the series, and this was certainly the case for me. 

Let's start with the highlights - Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, or the first and second episode respectively. Part of the reason for singling these out is the way in which the two take completely different approaches, the first a period fantasy drama with a creepy child, the second a dark sci-fi noir story that deals with a lust for blood. I do smile at the idea of the Grimm Brothers writing Sci-Fi, but both showings are sharply written, disturbing (in completely different ways) and a lot of fun. They really do bring out the best in the series, with excellent animation, tight direction and wonderful character design. 

The Grimm Variations
The Grimm's younger sister Charlotte appears as a redheaded, green-eyed antagonist in each story

That's not to say that the remainder are necessarily lesser than the opening episodes, just that the opening is so strong that the rest have to do more to stick out. Hansel and Gretel contained some of my favourite designs (especially Gretel) and has a great twist. It's almost a mix of the two previous episodes in some respects, and therefore makes a good bridge to the slightly more straightforward stories that follow.

The Elves and the Shoemaker is a decent premise but wobbles a bit on execution, mainly due to the slightly rushed and incoherent finish. It's certainly the weakest for my money, though I do love the way in which the Grimm Brother's precocious younger sister inserts herself into the stories to appear as an antagonist. It's a terrific framing device and I really enjoyed her appearance here, even if the rest of the story didn't do a huge amount for me personally.

The Town Musicians of Bremen was probably the most disappointing of the series, not for any technical reasons, but more for how straightforward and unsurprising it is. Taking on the role of wandering misfits, the characters (based on animals - a cat, a dog and a donkey) take out a violent local gang. It's enjoyable but lacks the depth and menace of the other stories, though I admit I was quite moved by the weeping hostage whose parents wouldn't pay her ransom. Having a daughter myself I found that quite heartbreaking.

Finally we have the most Ghibli-esque tale, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, set inside a town that divorces itself from the outside world under the strict control of a matriarch. Her granddaughter is due to finish school at the age of 17, a fact that deeply wounds her loverlorn teacher who knows he isn't destined for her, but whose fortunes may change with the arrival of a stranger who holds a forbidden treasure. This episode contained some genuine surprise moments and the sort of Crucible-esque elements one might expect from such a restrictive society. 

The Grimm Variations
The series often shoots for the fantastical in unexpected ways

Taken together, it's a bravura showcase of how different talents can take inspiration from the classics and truly make them new again. Production values are absolutely stellar, the English voice cast turn in a fine performance and the show remains unique and special due to the patchwork nature of what lies within. Familiar and yet strange, The Grimm Variations is a must-see for fans of fairy tales presented in the grim and dark manner they were originally intended.

9
Overall it's a strong showing with great moments woven into artistic and imaginative takes on the classic Grimm tales.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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