Shingeki No Bahamut: Genesis – 10-12 Review
Shingeki no Bahamut really knows how to sell its epic fantasy.
This series was my favorite of the season. It wasn’t quite as good as Mushishi but it was always entertaining to watch. Maybe there will be a second season. Although I have no idea what a sequel to this would even look like. It’s not like this series absolutely needs a sequel. After all, there’s always the danger of the sequel being like Psycho-Pass 2.
Shingeki no Bahamut was a highlight of this season. If you like fantasy, this series has been actually one of the very best you will ever see when it comes to animes. Of course that sounds a little extreme but really… it isn’t. Here’s the thing: Shingeki no Bahamut wants to be a fantasy-series first before being an anime-series. There are barely any anime/Japan-shenanigans going on to distract this series from just doing its thing. And that thing is a really entertaining fantasy-adventure.
The first thing that really helps is that it actually limits itself to do its whole story within one season. That decision has some drawbacks to which I will come later but overall the benefits outweigh the flaws here. This is a series that may seem epic and complicated on the surface but it’s actually very straightforward – and that’s a good thing. If you have some world-type-anime, the series won’t be able to shut up about all the oh-so-important worldbuilding it has to get through in order to set up the finale where that very world gets changed or you have some battle-royale-situation where you can listen to some douchebag serenade about his ideals and problems related to those. The problem with both these scenarios is seriousness. Sure, plenty of animes have their fanservice-y moments and their perverted little jokes to keep things lighthearted but most animes don’t fuck around when it’s storytime. There’s simply no joy in many shounen-series who can go on about dick-measuring-contests for ages while never realizing just how ridiculous that whole thing is. This series, however, does the most important thing when it comes to producing fun: restraint. The series sets out to do some stuff and at the end it has done that stuff, the series is actually able to end. Without the need for some ridiculous pathos the series is able to just do what it has set out to do.
What I really like about the writing of this series is that it actually made use of the whole run. There are no filler-episodes (well, the one recap-episode excluded) in this entire season and each episode contributes something towards the story. One reason why even story-light episodes worked so well was that this series was adventurous. This series just never gave a shit about creating complicated narratives as a fundament for its plot. Stuff simply happened and that’s it! There was an element of discovery and surprise to what would happen next. Instead of creating distractions in the form of some overwrought mythology, the series just indulges in this adventure of that more often than not introduced new exciting elements to the story rather than to agonize over the same recycled story-beats. The characters run into situations bigger than themselves and then they would have to sort it out somehow – that’s the basic formula of this series. Sure, this series deals with the fate of the world as well but in contrast to so many world-type-animes, the whole thing seems incidental. And in this case ‘incidental’ is a good thing.
I hate it when animes portray darkness like that. It being dark is one thing but this kind of visual choice makes it seem like the darkness is made out of these weird blobs of blackness. You can’t really show off your animation when you drown the screen in absolute blackness.
It simply works because there’s an element of spectacle to the whole series as well. Shingeki no Bahamut knows how to create setpieces. This series’ strengths rely less on depth but more on style. In an earlier episode Favaro and Amira are duped into boarding a ship with the hope that it would get them to Helheim and the episode ends with a battle between a ship filled with zombies and a ship filled with merfolk-like demons. The series never pulls its punches and just goes all the way with its fantasy-premises. There’s such a strong sense of self-confidence accompanying those set-pieces. From the very first moment you’re confronted with the spectacle of this series you know that this isn’t just a fluke. Here’s a series that believes in its own concepts and ideas instead of trying to sell itself by how anime-ish it can be.
And the most important virtue is of course this sense that the series is having fun presenting its various adventures. Naturally I’m not talking about the funny kind of fun. This isn’t a satire or a parody. Shingeki no Bahamut is an adventure and it has fun being one. It tries to escape from those problematic limitations you could call anime-stereotypes and for the most part it is successful. Rather than making you sympathize with the help of serious drama, the series really just wants to entertain. And that isn’t a bad thing if you can support it with stylistic storytelling-devices and characterizations which this series has in spades. The characterizations are well-done in a way where you could read a line and immediately know which character probably would say something like that.
For example, when Favaro and Jeanne get corrupted by the evil guy, a lot of anime-series would’ve spent a couple episodes letting everything go into angst-mode just for the sake of deepening the drama. Sometimes animes build up angst like a currency to buy themselves some sort of glorious reversal where the hero somehow still saves the day. Just look at the ending of the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series and how the misery of Shinji builds towards a big redemption (together with a reset of the world). A fun series like Shingeki no Bahamut doesn’t drag the audience along towards some sort of resolution, it wants to push the audience into these various setpieces and let them be amazed. The series is kinda pushy in that regard and you can really see that by how few moments of this show can be described as quiet. There’s always something new happening right after the last event has been resolved. But that’s where the fun comes from! You let yourself be directed into these scenes that are a fun to watch. You’re not supposed to ponder the meaning of what’s going on and you’re not supposed to understand some complicated individual that gets himself involved with complicated situations – you’re just supposed to have fun. It’s something a series gives to you instead of it being something you have to look for like for example a deeper meaning that is hidden behind allegories and metaphors. And this series manages to strike that great balance of being fun without seeming shallow.
All this stuff is great but the series starts to falter towards the end. I’ve already said how this series managed to be fun in part to how it doesn’t go for depth. Instead, this series has a lot of characters that actually do get their own little character-arcs. And that’s where the series starts to stumble. After all, around episode 10 this series has to juggle something like 12 characters that are all well-enough characterized to not feel like throwaway-side-characters. So the problems start when the series tries to give all those characters a satisfying ending. There just isn’t enough room for all that while also dealing with the finale. That’s where the series starts to compromise its efforts in showing of character-depth as it rushes character-developments and plot-related events in order to just get to the end.
It is a 1-cours-series and this series at least avoided having a completely disappointing ending. But like with all series that don’t go for depth but are fun you’re left wanting more after the end. The ending is neither poignant nor dramatic enough to be called conclusive. Things just stumble to a halt and resolve itself but after the ending you’re left wondering “So… now what?”. The very thing that made it so much fun also kept it from building up enough drama to make this finale really poignant. This series was always concerned with what happened on its surface-level and rarely explored the depths of its story. There was rarely any tension beneath the surface and when it did the series quickly resolved the whole thing in some way. It’s not wrong to call this series fast-paced but at the same time it never felt rushed either. You just end up in this weird situation where everything’s fine until the moment the series ends and you’re left wanting to see a little more. The series did do what it set out to do but at the same time it didn’t really have a lot of space to explore the minutiae of its plot. Things were kept moving which was great while you’re watching the series but you’re simply left a bit unsatisfied after everything’s over.
It’s this sense of self-aware humor that also keeps most of the more dramatic scenes from becoming too stiff and self-aggrandising.
By concentrating more on the surface-level of the whole thing this series managed to create some rather entertaining characters in the forms of Kaisar, Favaro, Amira and Jeanne. But those are compelling characters who lack depth to varying degrees. A normal series would milk such premises and try to create whole arcs around it but this series really just rushed through the motions and concentrated on the most essential elements of it. For example, the corruption of Jeanne, the fall of the kingdom she served and how Favaro was similar to that legendary knight: the series just rushed through the whole thing while never exploring the intricacies of the whole thing. And it didn’t try to assign some sort of allegorical significance to it either. So what happened beneath the surface in this series ended up feeling a bit predictable because of how straightforward the whole thing was.
What makes this series so great, though, is that even its weaknesses don’t really detract from the experience. This series never hides its intentions to just be this epic adventure. And there’s a great sense of fun present in this series as it doesn’t take its own world and its characters too serious. Here and there the series could’ve needed an episode or two more to explore its characters and what’s going on a bit more but overall the series’ fast pacing never becomes rushed enough to hurt the plot. And if you consider that this is actually one of those videogame-adaptations where the videogame barely offered any sort of story-material, the creators of this show did a splendid job of coming up with a story that’s loosely tied to the cardgame it’s based on.
- The animation was great in the beginning but later on you could see that it wasn’t as great anymore as it was in the beginning. It was still pretty good, don’t get me wrong but you did notice that the quality got a little worse in comparison.
- Another thing that’s amazing about this show is the voice-acting-talent. Nearly every character was voiced by a rather well-known voice-actor.