ANIME REVIEW: RAGE OF BAHAMUT - VIRGIN SOUL
Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy
Original year of broadcast: 2017
Director: Keichi Satou
Writer: Shizuka Ooishi
Number of episodes: 24
Runtime per episode: 23 minutes
STORY AND CHARACTERS
Rage of Bahamut – Virgin Soul is the direct successor to Rage of Bahamut – Genesis and shares many of the same staff. Director Keichi Satou (Tiger and Bunny, Karas) returned to the director’s chair, Nayuki Onda (Witch Hunter Robin, Ergo Proxy, Blassreiter) once again designed the characters and the music was once again done by the amazing Yoshihiro Ike (Ergo Proxy, The Great Passage, the Project Itoh film trilogy and many others). The only new addition to the staff was the screenwriter Shizuka Ooishi whose previous works include…nothing…
This season once again starts off with our intrepid main duo Favarro and Kaisar going off on yet another adventure. ... Or rather that’s what I’d like to say because really it wouldn’t be Rage of Bahamut without them. Unfortunately, Favarro is held back until almost to the halfway point of the show and even then he barely gets any screentime. Instead, the story focusses on a young king called Charioce, who’s decided to wipe all demons out of existence because…reasons I guess. This puts him in direct opposition to Azazel, the overly handsome demon lord from the first season who’s mounted a resistance force ready to fight the king and his army on his own turf and take back their kingdom. So this leads us to a central conflict between two opposing forces, neither of which can claim any moral high ground and since this is still Rage of Bahamut, that conflict also involves things like dragons, giant airships, mechs in shining armor and supernatural weapons that can level an entire city. Sounds epic right?
Yeah…it’s not. It really isn’t.
The first season of Rage of Bahamut is one of my favorite anime of all time. I started watching it, not really knowing what to expect and I was swept away by it and finished the entire series in one day because I simply couldn’t stop watching. So when this second season was announced I was beyond excited! Months in advance I was already looking forward to the day that I could finally get back into the amazing world of Mistarcia and get re-acquainted with all these characters I’d come to know and love. But what I got was a sequel that had a solid start, albeit not as strong as the first. But from there it went very quickly down the drain to reach an absolute low with episode 10, even before the midpoint of the season. Thankfully it did recover from that and improved somewhat - though given how low the bar had been set by this point that's not really saying anything.
Besides the two characters I already mentioned there’s also a girl who can transform into a dragon but only when she’s sexually aroused by a handsome young man. This sounds like a somewhat funny gimmick and it is actually rather funny the first few times it happens. But this gimmick is used so often with no variety to the joke at all that after a while, it becomes really annoying. This is made even worse when in later episodes this girl bumps into all sorts of good looking menfolk at the most unlikely moments just so they can make that joke a few more times.
Kaisar is more or less the only character whose presence serves a real purpose for the story. He’s not just there because the plot demands him to be there or because he has a cheap gimmick they can play for a laugh. He has an extensive character arc that ties into the main plot of the show. As far as this show actually has a plot that is.
However, the biggest issue I had with the writing wasn’t even the directionless plot or the paper thin characterization. It was the complete lack of tension. Very early on in the show the central conflict is clearly established and each character is given an objective that he or she is trying to achieve. Yet throughout most of the series I never felt like there was ever any real danger. I never found myself at the edge of my seat or even slightly worried about a character’s fate. The pacing of this series is very pedestrian with characters just moving from one plot point to the next without ever seeming all that affected by the events unfolding around them.
Finally I have to address the elephant in the room. Or rather the elephant not in the room (for the most part). Ask anyone who their favorite character was in Rage of Bahamut – Genesis and chances are the vast majority will say Favarro Leone. When the first season came out nobody knew what to expect from this character and he quickly conquered all our hearts with his roguish charm. He was introduced as a man with a real penchant for violence but who would always make that violence look whimsical and fun. He was also a very selfish man with an exceedingly cynical attitude towards life. Yet from the first scene on, the show constantly hinted that there was much more to this guy than what could be glanced at first sight. This side of him was heavily explored in the show’s second half that turned an already charmimg anti-hero into one of the most human and likeable characters in anime. It was a magnificently crafted arc for a wonderfully well-developed, multi-layered character. However, none of that complex characterization is present in this show. Like most characters, Favarro is very one note. He’s the charming comic relief character and not much else. There’s really only one scene in which his humanity shines through and we get a brief glimpse into the Favarro of this season and how the events at the end of season 1 have shaped him as a person. It feels like a real missed opportunity to continue the story of one of anime’s greatest heroes. In fact, most of the screentime he gets is filled with yet again endless repeats of the same unfunny jokes.
ANIMATION AND MUSIC
One of the show’s few saving graces is that it is actually a very solid looking series. The animation is fluid, making a lot of the show’s action scenes very entertaining to watch. The character designs are also uniformly excellent and I particularly loved the design for Charioce which I thought was really cool and made him into far more of a badass then he actually was.
On the other hand, as fun as the action scenes in this show can be, they’re nowhere near as exciting and entertaining as they were in the first season. Again, this has everything to do with the pacing. A lot of the action sequences either end on an anti-climax just so they can cram in another joke or are broken up by long winded and pointless comedic hijinks that really aren’t all that funny.
At this point I admit I have been very harsh towards the writer of this show. At the very least the season started off confidently and entertaining enough and there are even some episodes in the latter half which I actually thought were pretty decent. However it’s very easy to see the massive flaws this show has in terms of writing. Directing wise it’s a little harder to spot. As I said, overall Virgin Soul is a good looking show. However that’s also all it is. Keichi Satou is a very talented director with a very clear and unique style of direction. This was clearly apparent in the first season where even the least visually impressive scenes still stood out due to the unique sense of direction that’s apparent in all of his work. The season though, simply looks like a generic action adventure anime no different from the other action adventure anime out there.
The only genuinely great thing about this show is the music. Yoshihiro Ike is, in my opinion, the king of anime music and his soundtrack does not disappoint, once again allowing us to feast on his signature style of transcendent and highly memorable music.
Personally I felt this series was completely awful and left me with a very sour taste in my mouth. Adding insult to injury, by episode 21 the show finally got its act together and started heading towards a climax that was actually pretty epic. But by that point the show was already almost over and it was far too late to really get invested in the story. So if I personally had to rate this series based on my own feelings it would be a two or even a one.
However I suppose if you’re not as big a fan of the first season as I am, some of its flaws wont be as infuriating. Going one step further even, I think if you’ve never seen the first season, this sequel would even be somewhat enjoyable. On the other hand if you’ve never seen the first season my recommendation would be to watch that instead of this one. After all why watch a mediocre fantasy series if you can watch a great one instead? So, as much as it pains me to say about a series with Rage of Bahamut in the title I simply cannot think of a single good reason why anyone would want to watch this series. Here’s hoping a third season will eventually come to pass with a different writer on board and that, that series can perhaps erase the very painful and unpleasant memory that this show has left me with.
NOT WORTH YOUR TIME
Rage of Bahamut – Virgin Soul has been licensed by Amazon and can be streamed legally on Anime Strike in the US and Amazon Prime everywhere else.
So what do I recommend instead of watching this show? I'm glad you asked. First of all Rokka - Braves of the Six Flowers. This is one of the most original and entertaining fantasy shows I've seen in the last couple of years and a perfect accompaniment to the first season of Rage of Bahamut. The only gripe I had with it was its cliffhanger finale that will probably never be resolved due to poor blu-ray sales. But now that the original light novels have been licensed and are available in English with volume 2 (that continues on from the end of the series) having been released just two days ago this seems as good a time as any to recommend this show once again.
Second recommendation goes to another recent Mappa show and one that's actually still airing: Altair - A Record of Battles. Where Virgin Soul tried to infuse it's fantasy adventure with a good deal of political intrigue and utterly ruined what it had by doing so, Altair succeeds wonderfully well and provides the viewer with a riveting fantasy adventure that's both highly entertaining and surpsingly intelligent. Making for a fantastic show which, given it has the same amount of episodes and can be streamed on the same site as Virgin Soul, makes for a perfect alternative to check out.
See you Space Cowboys...
Anime Review: Rage of Bahamut - Virgin Soul
Kerberos reviews the sequel season to one of his favourite fantasy shows: Rage of Bahamut - Genesis. But can it live up to its predecessor? Find...
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