Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis [Review]

Anime Info:

  • Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
  • Producer: MAPPA
  • Format: TV
  • Episodes: 12
  • Original Run: October 6 - December 29, 2014

After twelve episodes, the anime based from the card game has now concluded, and here’s where I assess whether it lived up to my first impressions and had jumped the shark along the way. It’s a good thing that it didn’t do so for the most part, although there are a few parts that may induce some head-scratching, especially due to how short it turned out. It’s still pretty sweet though, which made it worth tuning in.

It’s also known as Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, but I opted for the Japanese title because I already used it for the first impressions article and I usually go for the Japanese title anyway unless it’s one of those really long ones. With the “Genesis” part of the title, perhaps there could be a second season or a sequel, which should help develop characters further and introduce new ones that could add to it.

MAPPA was founded by Masao Maruyama, a former producer of Madhouse, and its previous works include Hajime no Ippo: Rising that was co-produced with Madhouse. The studio is set to release a new series called Punchline in April 2015. With how Hajime no Ippo: Rising and Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis turned out, MAPPA could be worth watching out for.

NOTE: As this review serves as analysis of the entire series, it contains A LOT OF SPOILERS. You have been warned.

Story

This is pretty much a buddy cop anime, but with both protagonists being bounty hunters instead of cops. If you really think about it, the formula MAPPA followed was something you’d find in many movies, from exploitation films to nostalgic classics. What we have here is proof of the concept of having two heroes with conflicting personalities being forced to work with each other still working well in this day and age, not to mention in a different genre as well.

Most of what turned out to be wrong in this series is mostly due to its brevity — 12 episodes is not enough to pack this much stuff without compromise. Most of the writing is fine, but it then had to accommodate some devices that hurry the narrative along so that it can end with as few loose ends as possible in the ending. To be fair, they were able to keep that to a minimum, with perhaps only one or two characters who ends up being the emergency plot progression accelerator.

There may be some other interesting elements, but the central focus is the relationship between Favaro and Kaisar; everything else either facilitates the dynamic or are just secondary to it. It’s the only major reason to watch each episode, but it does quite well in retaining interest. Their characters are written so well for each other and the problems ahead that they alone are responsible for the story moving along like the cylinders of an engine.

The point of the story is supposed to be the hoopla around Bahamut, the big bad of the series. Humans, gods, and demons all worked together to seal two thousand years ago because he was that dangerous, and they had the key to that seal split in two for the gods and demons to safeguard each half. It’s a rudimentary backstory that gets things moving, but it’s not entirely necessary to know in order to follow the story.

Characters

screenshot_shingeki-no-bahamut-genesis_03 screenshot_shingeki-no-bahamut-genesis_02 screenshot_shingeki-no-bahamut-genesis_04

The two protagonists are quite interesting. Favaro is a dick-ass rogue who does have courage beneath his selfish tendencies. It’s hard to not like him, even though he may act off-kilter at times. Meanwhile, Kaisar may be noble at heart, but is beset by impulsiveness at the beginning. He’s your typical lawful good paladin who audiences love to hate on and whose chivalry seems to be a source of crippling limitation and short-sightedness, despite his honorable intentions. The first episode established their characters brilliantly, and that really impressed me (which is why I was disappointed at later episodes).

Amira is the main plot device of the story, drawing the two protagonists in and dragging them into the adventure. She looked to be a damsel-in-distress at first, drawing comparisons to Fuu from Samurai Champloo. While she does have the power of a deus ex machina, she still unwillingly fell into the villains’ traps and must have the heroes assist her. She shifts between being a liability and an asset throughout the series, and she then proves to be crucial to the conclusion of the series.

There are a whole lote of other interesting characters as well, most of which are designed well enough for their roles. Bacchus and Hamsa do well enough as supporting characters, while Rita the Necromancer is 50-50 for me as both a supporting character and a major source of exposition in the story. Her introductory episode was actually not bad, but it felt separate from the rest of the series and she would go on to be quite the odd duck in the heroes’ side. She always seems to know what to do and say, sometimes almost too conveniently.

Meanwhile, King Charioce XIII is an addled and vacillating man, despite his regal station as monarch, and deserved every misfortune and then some. He was certainly not fit for his role, especially with all the loyal servants he had and how he would screw them over with his cowardice. He’s really easy to hate, which adds to the question of why Lavalley and Jeanne would serve him other than a deep sense of duty for king and country.

Jeanne d’Arc was obviously inspired by the historical figure, and foreshadowing followed her every move with how the king begged for her protection and how the people revered her. I draw comparisons to her and Aribeth de Tylmarande from the game Neverwinter Nights, the half-elf paladin who also fell from grace and fully became a tragic figure even when she was given a chance to repent.

On the other hand, Lavalley was the one character who I thought was out of place. I felt at first that his role was kind of like an oval shape forced through a circular hole — it does work, but not seamlessly. Perhaps it’s because of what Lavalley was revealed as in the final episode, which was mostly explained by Rita. Events throughout the series did suddenly make sense after that revelation, but there’s no good enough reason for exposition dump to be better at clearing things up than the narrative.

Then there are the angels, who are androgynous and looked more like stage set pieces with a cardboard background whenever they appear from the heavens. Same thing goes for the demons who seemed to all have a monotone ‘mwahahaha’ and a universal sneer, including Azazel who had the whole cold-hearted bishounen act going for him. The series does try to convey a more personal take to the whole good-versus-evil theme, but it still ends up looking more like a diorama than a drama. I do know most of their names, but I never felt compelled to care enough. Then there’s Bahamut, the big bad and the other plot device of the story, who is more of a MacGuffin for most of the series than an actual character.

It may seem unfair for me to make these assessments, but they did feel token to me. Only the protagonists seem like they were gloss and everyone else is matte like a Topps card. However, it’s not about the existence of that discrepancy, since that’s present in any story, but the gap seems considerably bigger for a series that does end up being excellent as a whole. The character designs are excellent, but the writing of the supporting characters seemed to have suffered due to the 12-episode constraint.

Direction

The shift between the flashback intro and the present day on the first episode did well in setting the tone for the rest of the series. The intro was an epic battle between Bahamut and the contingent of humans, gods, and demons. It developed to huge avatars trying to contain the big bad dragon while knights and royals in full armor watched helplessly as destiny forcefully shoves the consequences down their throats.

After that, jump cut to thousands of years later with these two guys on horseback in a chase, with their names being shown in a ridiculous font and the music setting the tone. MAPPA had a wild west theme going on here to contrast with the usual pseudo-medieval fantasy theme, and that chase scene worked well in establishing the setting and the people in it. The intro and the sudden shift do present the two different themes involved successfully.

However, I think that while the flashback intro scene looked really cool, it wasn’t that well-placed. First-time viewers are more likely to be lost in all the flashy visuals involving a huge dragon shielding itself from energy blasts with its wings, and finally understanding what the whole display was all about could require some backtracking. It could have been put in a different episode to make more sense or at least segmented to give viewers some room to figure it out.

In terms of visuals, I liked the various camera angles used, especially the bird’s eye view to give a sense of grand scale. There are some Zack Snyder slow-mo sequences here and there to add more “coolness” to some shots, but they’re not overused. Another detail I liked was the costume and armor designs. The armor worn by the Orleans Knights look pretty good, reminding me a bit of Dragon Age. Almost every other character who could fight had some greaves, bracers, and/or pauldrons on, which make them look practical and serious.

Final Score

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
6 out of 10
Pros
  • Interesting character designs
  • Well-written character-driven story
  • Dichotomy and chemistry between the two protagonists
  • Grandiose visuals
  • Pacing succeeds in carrying momentum
  • Fairly satisfying ending
Cons
  • Way too short; character development suffers
  • Some character motivations are not explained properly
  • Plot twists are predictable and not given enough time to fully manifest
  • Rita is an exposition machine
  • Some cop-outs and compromises
  • Sub-par opening music
Summary

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis one of the better anime of 2014, and it could have been the anime of the year if not for its short length and its more prominent rivals like Kill la Kill. Its shortness is its biggest pitfall, and that resulted in most of its other flaws. Despite that, the negative elements didn't spiral out of control, as if its that imperfection that gives it some flavor. To think this series is based off a card game, it did more than just stick a bunch of kids in to fight it out with cards.


Despite all that though, I gave it a score of 6 due to how far it fell flat from the heights of its potential, especially with how impressive it was in the first few episodes. Perhaps it's unfair to give such an assessment to a series that may lead to a sequel, if the subtitle is any indication. However, that's just because it started off so well, only to not end as well as it could have. It's not bad at all, but it does sell itself short.


I couldn't have been harsher to a series that was actually good and likable as a whole, and it's quite unfortunate. I really liked Favaro as a character, so I'm looking forward to a new season. Hopefully, MAPPA produces one after they get done with their upcoming series Punchline.


You may also look up my preferences in anime [here] for reference.