Everything goes bad. Favaro gets a sweet goatee. Kaisar is a big Star Wars fan. Bahamut is a dragon.
Our top ten list of anime from 2014 is fresh out of the oven, and hey, I’ll let you in on a little secret. We placed our votes just a few weeks ago, but I already regret not placing Rage of Bahamut on my list. My reasoning for this is that at the time, we were two episodes away from the conclusion, and having been burnt by anime endings in the past, I couldn’t feel good about throwing an unfinished show my vote.
So I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Rage of Bahamut doesn’t fall apart at the end, and that it might have found itself higher up in our top ten had it already ended when we voted. This show is pretty darn good.
The confrontation with Bahamut turns out to be very entertaining for the most part, and somehow managed not to sink into a hole given the short time in which it had to wrap itself up. Bringing in Bachus in a somewhat major role was quite nice to see, as he added the silly dynamic that is lost when Favaro is being all evil. He’s a stark contrast against the serious scenario we find him in, and I think the slight comic relief was necessary in the finale as it just wouldn’t be Bahamut without it. It was also good to see Rita in an important role as far as the plot is concerned, because before this she was finding herself somewhat behind the lead trio. Don’t get me wrong, her presence in this show is much appreciated, but the little things she did do, such as confronting Martinet in the castle, ultimately didn’t mean much. On the other hand, her ability to cure those turned into demons is a bit deus ex necromancer, but whatever, I’ll take it.
I’m going to sound like an evil Internet villain here, but a large part of why I like the ending so much is that it wasn’t afraid to let people die. Nearly all of the named angels were killed off in one way or another, including one to Jean in a not-so-great trope death. The death of Amira’s mother was absolutely cruel, but provided the story reason we need to get Bahamut living, as well as providing some stakes in the upcoming battle. While Bahamut’s existence meant the world was at risk, we weren’t so much invested in that issue. Most of the show was spent showing angels versus demons with occasional side shenanigans from two humans and a zombie, so it’s not surprising that something significant had to happen to make us care about the big bad dragon. The brief introduction of the green dragon was also important, not because of the little he really did, but because of what he said to Favaro. Knowing that it could all be avoided with Amira’s death was a great way to carry us to the moment that Bahamut was indeed awakened.
The deaths didn’t end there, as we also have the apparent death of Amira to round up a pretty sorry collection. I mean, sure, she
might be probably is still alive somewhere, ready to be brought back in the somewhat expected second season, but there’s the thin hope that actually she did die to dispatch Bahamut and save the worlds. On the subject of Amira, I’m not convinced the parting kiss with Favaro was wholly necessary given there was zero romance between the two, and the fact that she’s a child in an adult’s body. Another complaint I have is that Beelzebub was an absolutely terrible character, with Martinet and his dual personas becoming/being revealed as the ‘main boss’, and while that’s largely the point given Martinet’s manipulative nature, it would have been interesting to see Beelzebub actually do something. He even dies in the most recycled fashion! Summon terrible monster, get killed by terrible monster after trying to become its master. At least Babidi was annoying enough that you celebrated Buu’s revolt against him. Who the hell even was Beelzebub?
Coolest part? Kaisar cutting his hand off to capture Martinet, hands down (ba dum tish). Even when faced with the end of the world, I can’t see cutting your own hand off being up there on the list of things you’d do because you don’t care about the consequences any more. It was also a great shout back to the start of the show, and the time it took to explain the mechanics of that ring suddenly becomes apparent. We also get to see Kaisar getting a replacement metal hand, which trumps Favaro’s goatee if only slightly. Hopefully it also means that Rita was able to get a replacement if she didn’t find the arm she rocket punched into oblivion for the sake of saving Jean.
So yeah, I’ll take a second season. That ten second introduction to Lucifer has got to be for a reason, right?
Looking at Bahamut‘s individual characteristics, it doesn’t seem like it would be as good as it is. It’s an adaptation of a mobile card game, following a snarky bounty hunter as he gets dragged into saving the world, blah blah blah. It all sounds so boilerplate, so uninteresting, but Bahamut is so much more than that. It’s full of twists and turns that follow the formulas but aren’t slaves to them, like watching a tabletop RPG campaign played by those who truly love and celebrate the fantasy genre. Stuff happens in Bahamut because it’s awesome, and no matter how crazy it got, it never went so overboard that it lost itself. This show somehow moves from horseback rooftop swordfights to fighting zombies to a giant enemy crab to defending the capital from an army of demons, and it does it with style,
None of it would work without the show’s cast. It’s nigh impossible to not smile when Favaro pulls out a new scheme to get out of a sticky situation or denies his own sketchiness right in front of Amira, whose overblown naiveté grounds his antics. Kaisar’s dogged pursuit of his rival is used as a punchline right up until the show’s final moments. Rita’s snarky attitude and undead unflappability makes her a standout character, despite following the tiresome anime trope of the 200-year-old-loli. Emblematic of the show itself, they all follow well-worn archetypes enough to seem familiar, while putting enough twists to feel fresh and fun.
It’s almost unbelievable how much content MAPPA crammed into this show, covering more ground in only twelve episodes than some long-running shounen do in thirty. Jeanne d’Arc in particular goes from warrior of God to demonic avenger and back in something like five episodes. That’s about the only complaint I could have about Rage of Bahamut: Genesis: it perhaps does too much, partying too hard for its own good. But after we all pick ourselves up off the floor and get rid of our hangovers, we can all agree that it was definitely one hell of a party.
While I don’t think Bahamut’s ending would have changed my thoughts about my best picks of the year, it definitely cemented its place in it. The swashbuckling fun that enamored us from the very beginning remained in full swing all the way to the final credits. Everything culminating together made the whole adventure feel so complete. Watching the titular rage of Bahamut was quite impressive. We’re really privileged to have a show given such artistic freedom to create this wonderfully shot sequence. From the aerial fight between Bacchus and Jeanne to the kinetic fistfight between Kaisar and Favaro, the animation team at Mappa brought their A game and it paid off immensely.
While I was expecting this show to hit us with some great action, I wasn’t expecting so much genuine emotion to come out of it as well. If we assume that the demon masquerading as Lavalley was just feeding them lies, it starts to make the Amira/Favaro relationship a bit less weird. He has been there for him this whole time in his own goofy way. That’s why I absolutely loved the final conversation between the two, as they said some final farewells. This scene encapsulated the back and forth between them perfectly with a cute kiss to top it all off. While Bahamut’s death makes the moment bittersweet, it made that empathy towards them that much stronger.
If there’s anything that felt a bit unsatisfying, it would be where Jeanne ends up by the conclusion. While everyone else gets pretty satisfying plot arcs, Jeanne has her faith shaken, kills her beloved angel, and then simply returns to being an Orleans knight. Obviously she was always a secondary character in the plot, but it seemed she got quite the rough treatment for a character who’d done nothing wrong. Granted, Risa doesn’t get much development by the end, but she was always the rock of the group rather than anyone in need of development. It was enough to see her trying her hardest in the final battle. I also like that we got to see a parting gift from Bacchus in the form of Kaisar and Favaro’s new limbs. The last image of the two of them riding off into tomorrow while Spanish trumpets blare in the background was a great way of bringing everything back to the beginning, and cement the fun and exciting feeling I’d had from watching this show since day one.