Monday, February 2, 2015

Anime Review: Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

This is another title that wasn't on my to-watch list for the fall initially but good buzz, and some persistent friends, convinced me to try it out. Hmm, it seems as if I've been saying that about quite a few shows that aired this past fall....

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

In a fantasy world, Favaro is a roguish bounty hunter and so is his self-proclaimed rival Kaiser, although Kaiser wants to kill Favaro more than he wants to one-up him. Favaro is going through life the way he wants to when he suddenly runs into a mysterious woman and, in a moment of boasting, promises to guide her on her quest to find her mother and ends up with a demon's tail as incentive to not abandon her once the going gets tough.  

This show almost feels like a throwback to the 90s since it's an action-adventure show pure and simple. Not "action, adventure and such-and-such", there's barely even any romance in it and it never undergoes a sudden tonal shift to throw the viewers off. If you enjoy the first episode, which features moments like Favaro and Kaiser sword-fighting each other on top of what I believe is a giant water wheel, untethered, rolling down a city hill, then you will enjoy the rest of the show. I've seen it compared to Pirates of the Caribbean and I believe it's not only because of the aforementioned crazy stunts it pulls but because of it's general mood, it feels like a simple, fun show that you might re-watch with friends a year or two later but it's never elevated beyond popcorn entertainment. And that's perfectly fine, especially since the show consistently looks really great both animation and cinematography-wise. From what I've heard, the original ip owners (it's based off of a phone app card game with no plot) gave Studio MAPPA quite a bit of money and creative freedom with the project and there is a relaxed feeling to the show, as if MAPPA was completely comfortable with what they were doing with it. While not as visually striking and distinctive as their summer show, Terror in Resonance, there is something movie-like in many of their scenes, from how the show loves it's wide, establishing shots and seems to stretch the frame to take it all in, to how it carefully plots out the action cuts of the many many fights. Each of Studio MAPPA's shows have looked very different but I wonder if they are trying to establish a "house style" which is very cinematic, it certainly does stand out. 

As readers may have already guessed, this show does have a plot but it's nothing to write home about. Favaro accidentally gets wrapped into Rita's quest and it progresses more or less as you would expect, they meet new people, old enemies become allies, and it turns out that the fate of the world rests on their actions. It does fumble around the halfway point however, the story is ready to go to the climax but still needs to fill a few more episodes and does so unsuccessfully. There's an entire episode involving a dragon which feels like a very strange kind of filler but then it produces a very important plot nugget in the very last moments which made me wonder if the writer was trying to go for tonal dissonance or if the script was hastily put together. Joan of Arc also goes through a bit of messy character development, the show wanted her to be a cool, strong woman but still get burned at the stake BUT not actually die from it and simply tied itself in knots trying to accomplish all three of these ideas. Amira's character also doesn't feel fully fleshed out which is a bit odd, her background was stranger than it needed to be and it really stands out compared to how solidly written necromancer Rita and Joan of Arc are. She has neither a strong background like those two characters nor the development that Favaro and Kaiser go through. And, in a moment that felt out of place tonally, the final reveal for the true villain of the show felt overly convoluted, I had to actually pause and think about it for a moment to put all of the pieces together which was completely at odds with the rest of the show.

Despite the show's mid-season fumble (and it does pull itself back together, just not as strongly as it once was) I still recommend it to anyone who wants to watch a fun, action-adventure show and not be overly concerned by it's details. I doubt I will buy it since I simply don't see myself re-watching the show, however for those who do it's licensed by Funimation and is also streaming on their website and hulu.