The Winter 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
How would you rate episode 1 of
Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle ?
Community score: 3.2
What is this?
It's been five years since the kingdom of Arcadia fell to a violent rebellion, and now its former prince, Lux of Arcadia, has just fallen into a whole new batch of trouble himself. After accidentally busting into the bathhouse at an all-female training academy, he is challenged to a duel by the princess of the kingdom that deposed his own, Princess Lisesharte of Atismata. As fellow experienced Drag-Knights, they must use their Sword Devices to summon Drag-Rides (giant mechanical suits) in combat, but the fight goes sour when a dark monster called an Abyss starts attacking the arena. When the hotheaded Lisesharte's fiery abilities combine with Lux's powers of patience as the "weakest undefeated" Drag-Knight, these former enemies may end up becoming friends after all. Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is based on a series of light novels and can be found streaming on Hulu on Mondays.
How was the first episode?
If I just describe Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle as “this season's show that opens with a guy tripping into a women's bath and landing on someone's boob,” I assume many people would be able to fill in the rest. There will always be a stylistic bottom to anime's seasonal barrel, and for the past couple years, the worst genre of anime has consistently been “magical high school harem-ish light novel adaptations.” Last season we had Anti-Magic Academy and the two shows that were essentially impossible to tell apart at first, Chivalry of a Failed Knight and The Asterisk War. This season's first entry in this genre would probably be Myriad Colors Phantom World, which was surprising only in that it was created by Kyoto Animation, who normally stick with somewhat more respectable source material. But Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is Exactly This Show, and it proceeds exactly how you'd expect one of these lukewarm, source material-hawking productions to play out.
Undefeated Bahamut Chronicles opens with, as previously mentioned, a boy falling onto a women's boobs. We later learn that the boy, Lux Arcadia, is a former prince, and furthermore that his two swords make him special (cliche number two). Lux learns that he fell into a school for people who can become Drag-Knights, basically wielders of this universe's mecha-dragon armor (#3), that this school is almost all girls (#4), and that in spite of this, he's being asked to join because of his special abilities (#5). The girl who he groped earlier then busts in and demands to duel with him (#6), and we learn that his nickname is “The Weakest Undefeated” (which isn't exactly the same as “Failed Knight,” but I think still counts as number seven).
This fight plays out in a manner that should qualify for numbers eight through twelve, from the girl's overconfidence (oh, also she's a princess too) to the boy's apparent weak mecha to the fact that he seems to be holding a secret, forbidden weapon in reserve. Their fight is narrated by his sister through a series of “as we both know” exposition-speeches that continue even when the stadium comes under attack from an Abyss monster. And then the prince and princess team up to beat the Abyss, and the princess realizes he's maybe not so bad after all (#13, #14), finishing with a scene of the princess finally acting dere dere to counteract her earlier tsun tsun (#15).
When a show is no more than a sequence of genre cliches fitted into a rough narrative, it comes down entirely to the execution to sell it, and the execution here does not. Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle looks flat from its generic character designs to its uninspired backgrounds, and there's not any interesting music or animation to liven it up. The CG suits used for battle don't look impressive, and there isn't even really any action choreography to speak of. This exact show can be done in a way that offers some hooks or appeal, but Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is not an example of that. It is magical high school harem-ish light novel adaptation gruel.
That nagging feeling of familiarity you sense as you watch this episode? That's probably because this is the latest incarnation of the magic high school fantasy fighting show, complete with the hero accidentally seeing the heroine in the nothing and her taking, shall we say, umbrage. The requisite duel is actually where we see this show start to branch off, although it has the same happy result (at least as last season's Chivalry of a Failed Knight) – an outside force interfering and hero Lux getting to show heroine Lisha that he's not the evil pervert she thinks he is does wonders for changing things up by allowing them to resolve their issues, or rather her issue, not necessarily with an astounding demonstration of his strength, but rather with his good-heartedness. This is a change I can get behind and one that Chivalry taught me not to overlook – little details like this could help to elevate the show above its generic origins.
In most other ways, however, Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle really is incredibly familiar. From the angry princess to the little sister to the primarily female student body, this story borrows liberally from other similar series. The conceit of Lux being the prince of a defeated nation forced into essentially servitude is an interesting one, as it opens the door for Lisha not being on as high a pedestal as she seems to think and certainly prone to being knocked from it. Lux's past is also likely to come into play more as the series goes on, but it does look prone to being one where he was rejected by his family for the vaguest of reasons, as he mentions having been sent away from the imperial family at some point and it doesn't sound like he means because of the war five years prior to the series' start. His sister, it is also important to note, is already enrolled at the academy he literally falls into, which would support the usual “spurned older brother, doted on younger sister” backstory.
Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle makes some odd visual choices, and I'm not talking about the scene where Lisha puts her hand under the towel covering her groin. (She's probably touching her lower belly tattoo, but it's clearly meant to make us think she's masturbating.) There's a lot of reliance on split screens, and the Drag-Knight armor looks nigh on impossible to use in actuality, more like a giant stilt and arm extension set that the rider fits into the middle of, totally exposed and without noticeable controls. There's also the unintentionally humorous name “Drag Knight,” which is bound to conjure up a few incorrect images for viewers with active imaginations.
On the whole, this first episode is pretty firmly in both “genre staples” and “mediocre” territory. If it can rise above the slew of stereotypical events in this episode, the warring kingdoms backstory has potential to make this interesting. If it can't, this is likely to remain something that only genre fans will enjoy.
Review: Based on its first episode, Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle looks like a fantasy cross between Infinite Stratos and Dragonar Academy. In other words, it could not be a more generic light novel adaptation if it tried.
The Infinite Stratos inspiration doesn't come just from protagonist Lux Arcadia winding up at a school that's nearly all girls, either. (At least in this case they give a slightly more plausible reason for it: there are hardly any male Drag-Knights-in-training because most of them got killed off in the coup d'etat five years earlier.) The style of mecha used here – where they're basically exoskeletons which manifest from an invocation, and thus the user is partly exposed rather than fully-encased – is virtually a direct lift from that franchise, too. The Dragonar Academy comparison comes from some similarities in naming conventions and distinct parallels in the first episode's story structure, especially the way Lux ends up on peaceable terms with the tsundere princess after initially crossing her. The one unusual twist here is that the princess wasn't upset about being seen naked when Lux fell through the roof into her bath; that was just a cover for what she was really upset about, which is him seeing a particular (potentially problematic) tattoo that she's been keeping a secret from everyone else. What the symbol means, though, is a secret to be revealed in future episodes.
That's a problem because very little else about the first episode justifies watching more. Studio Lerche has done some interesting visual efforts over the past couple of years (Danganronpa The Animation, Monster Musume, School-Live!) but this isn't one of them. Absolutely nothing impresses or even has a fresh feel about it, whether it be the mecha battles or the bland character designs that include the least flattering female school uniforms to date this season. (Did Bell in DanMachi start a trend of pale-haired male protagonists, or was that going on before him?) The early bath scene is the episode's only real instance of fan service, so the series cannot sustain itself that way, either, and the princess's attitude shift seems a little too abrupt. The worst part, though, is the agonizingly awkward way that the writing info-dumps. This series makes every other series so far this season look good by comparison on that point – and yes, I know that's saying something.
The one thing that the series might have going for it is that the princess seems to realize and accept right away that Lux could be a good complement for her in battle, as his fighting style is conducive to setting up opponents for her limited-use big gun. That and the aforementioned secret are just not enough to keep this off of the season's scrapheap, though.
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