Alternative title: BASTARD!! Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy
Manga Adaptation by Liden Films
Streaming on Netflix
The Kingdom of Meta-licana is under attack by demons, monsters, and sinister warlocks. Only the legendary wizard, Dark Schneider, sealed into the body of mild-mannered Lucien, can save them. However, he can only be unsealed by receiving the kiss of a virgin maiden. Good thing Lucien’s childhood friend, Tia Noto Yoko is up to the task. But will summoning the aggressive and crass Dark Schneider be worth the trouble he brings?
Gee’s verdict: Exactly as Advertised
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about BASTARD!!. It’s a work that makes it abundantly clear of its tone, aesthetic, and overall vibe. The question then remains whether you’re in the market for that vibe or not. BASTARD!! is almost charming in how out of time it feels in 2022. Between the musclebound horndog protagonist, busty women, sneering villains, and the occasional mistimed comedic bit, it’s a true embodiment of the 90s era of manga and anime. And don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of nostalgia for that era! Works like Berserk, Trigun, and Hajime no Ippo sit at the pantheon of foundational Japanese fiction for me. As for BASTARD!!, I’m not as sure. I hesitate to call it a guilty pleasure because that implies one ought to be ashamed of liking what they like, but I think BASTARD!! is going to be one for a very specific kind of anime fan. The best thing I can say about it is that it seems like a totally competent version of the kind of story it’s going for. Give the first episode a watch, and I think you’ll know with 100% certainty by the end if it’s for you or not.
Iro’s verdict: Baby’s First Edge
Watching this show felt like tousling a tween’s hair. Demons! Gore! Big-titted princesses! A kid protagonist nobody listens to, but turns into a mega-strong dark wizard who makes the ladies swoon! It’s the exact stuff that would be in a 13-year-old’s notebook, covered in Metallica stickers. In these dark days, BASTARD!! feels downright quaint in how tame it all is in comparison to the genuinely reprehensible stuff that goes down in your average isekai show. I imagine it does get “worse”, but the first episode is merely crass and crude in a way that we just don’t see anymore. I don’t think I’ll keep watching this show, but I couldn’t help but laugh during it, and I suppose that counts for something.
Artemis’ verdict: It Gets Worse (Or Possibly Better, Depending On Your Preferences)
What can I say other than that BASTARD!! was, and still is, very much of a product of its original time? It has all the things you’d expect of a late 80s/early 90s post-apocalyptic dark fantasy piece, in that grimdark edgelord kind of way that would’ve been all but guaranteed to appeal to teeangers wanting desperately to be cool and adults trying desperately to be young and relevant. There’s nothing here that offended me per se because it was all very predictable, from the unsurprising fanservice to the… well, even more unsurprising fanservice.
A warning, however, that the first couple of episodes are relatively tame compared to some of the later ones in this particular regard – at some points, it really does border on the outright pornographic, and needless to say, none of it is in any way flattering to the show’s female characters in terms of their agency or development. I suspect viewers will know within the first few minutes whether or not this show is for them, and that’s fine. No judgement here, but it’s clearly not designed with my target audience’s tastes in mind – that’s really all I can say about that.