Anime Review: Rage of Bahamut

Rage of Bahamut is one of those anime that is quite obviously based on a game, specifically a card battle game, so it’s just a little more preoccupied with being epic and dramatic than it is with being sensible. And when I say, “a little,” I mean that as an understatement. My judgment of it might not be quite so harsh as that of other critics, but I can definitely see where the criticism is coming from.

There are, thus far, two series in the franchise. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, which ran for a dozen episodes and came out a few years ago, and a sequel, Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, which ran twice that long and concluded a little over a month ago. They left the door wide open for a third, but considering the chilly reception Virgin Soul received, it’s anyone’s guess if it’ll get produced. The two series are pretty similar, with many of the same heroes, villains, conflicts, and settings appearing in both of them, as well as a climactic final clash with the titular monster, which unites everyone still alive at that point in their struggle to survive. Also, each of them features a female character (not the same person), young and naïve about the world, but unusually strong and playing an instrumental role in the course of events.

It’s a fantasy story, featuring humans, demons, gods (angels, really), and dragons, with the fate of the world at stake as they all collide with each other and face the return of an ancient destroyer, Bahamut. It features such famous figures as archangels, demons lords, and none other than Jeanne D’arc, but it mainly follows the exploits of a pair of rival adventurers and their close friends.

Kaisar and Favaro are practically a study in opposites. Where Kaisar is preoccupied with nobility and chivalry, Favaro revels in being a rascal. Where Kaisar takes the weight the world on his shoulders, Favaro loves to scamper away from all form of responsibility. Where Kaisar is self-restrained and dignified, Favaro is willfully reckless in every way. And on it goes, the two men could not be more different, as Kaisar is the son of a former nobleman and Favaro is the son of a bandit chief. Yet, they are kindred spirits, bold and strong and courageous. Both have suffered similar losses as well, and both can show compassion in surprising ways.

By twist of fate, these two adventuring bounty hunters manage to land themselves smack dab in the middle of a nefarious conspiracy, and one which threatens the entire world. The world is shaken, the powers that be in both Heaven and Hell and on Earth all upended in chaos and blood, and that’s before the climax. As the ultimate menace returns, it seems that survival, let alone victory, slips further out of reach. Even if they win, the cost will be tremendous.

And that’s Genesis in a nutshell.

It’s fairly enjoyable, good eye-candy, and the climax is surprisingly tense and heart-breaking in all the right ways. There was a great deal which could have been improved though. The comedic moments felt a bit forced, especially when they were flashing between it and the terrible, bloody, epic battle raging just outside. The conspiracy was pretty simplistic and the lies were easy to see through, though the exact nature of the truth was sometimes elusive. The “shocking betrayal” was not surprising at all. That sort of thing. Basically, it was “good,” but not “great.” And I thought it would be left at that.

Then Virgin Soul came along.

A sequel to Genesis, set about ten years after the apocalyptic events it chronicled, Virgin Soul shifted slightly away from Kaisar and Favaro, focusing all the more on their friends. It began with more meat than Genesis, including a dramatic shift in the relationship between man, demon, and god, but then it practically forgot the whole thing. If Genesis felt a bit rushed, which it did, then Virgin Soul felt prolonged. It stretched out, losing a great deal of tension and the themes it was originally dealing with as it continued plodding on, as well as forcing the characters to do things that made no sense and felt… well, forced. It was actually more difficult to maintain a personal connection with the characters than it was in the first series, which says something since the first one was preoccupied with flashing lights and epic battles.

Basically, while there were some good things, at least in the earliest episodes, it was a huge step down.

Overall, the franchise focuses too much on the fireworks, on how “epic” the situation is, and it loses a great deal as a result. The characters might be entertaining, at times, but they’re not allowed to behave sensibly. The plot might be complicated, but it’s not very intelligent or cohesive. Everything exciting becomes dull, even the supposed end of the world (again).

I will say, to give credit where such is due, the voice actors, the animators, and the musical staff all did their jobs quite well. Even the writers probably did the best they could with the material they were given to work with. There aren’t really that many franchises based on games, or toys of any sort, which can be called masterpieces. In a way, it’s impressive. All they really needed was a better story. But that is a rather significant flaw, ya know?

Rating: 6 stars out of 10, overall.

Grade: C-Minus.

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