The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul
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Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul ?
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Rage of Bahamut, it is so nice to have you back. In spite of its awkward middle act, Rage of Bahamut Genesis is easily one of my favorite action shows of the past few years, and Virgin Soul seems to have a solid grasp on everything that made that show great. If you're looking for a great action-adventure time, it doesn't get much better than this.
Virgin Soul seems to take place ten years after the events of the first season, in a time when the violence of Bahamut's brief eruption has lead to a peace marred by the enslavement of all non-humans. You could likely start the franchise with this entry, but this episode was also full of nods to the original series, and basically every cast member outside of new lead Nina is a familiar face. Frankly, Genesis is a great show either way, so I'd recommend catching up with that one before digging in here.
As far as this actual episode goes, Virgin Soul possesses all the strong animation, exciting fantastical turns, and general understanding of action-adventure storytelling that set Genesis apart. Characters are beautifully designed and wondrously expressive, and both action scenes and comedy are elevated by the show's spirited animation. The episode starts with a human army invading a celestial fortress and doesn't really let up from there - there are quieter moments, but they're still made lively through the show's snappy dialogue and strong expression work.
New heroine Nina is the biggest shift from Genesis, but she already seems to be a fine replacement for the original's Favaro. Perhaps Nina's most distinctive feature so far is her incredible thirst for all the cute boys of the capital, a thirst that goes terribly wrong when it turns out getting too excited turns her into a friggin' dragon. But horniness aside, Nina is lively and self-assured and a natural source of physical comedy, offering enough personal energy to carry the episode through its lighter moments.
My complaints about this episode are very minor - I felt opening with two separate context-free action scenes was a bit much, and the show unfortunately has to rely on some mediocre CG for its larger monsters. But overall, Virgin Soul looks to be just as much of a swashbuckling good time as its predecessor. I Am Here! for these fantasy dorks.
Rage of Bahamut Genesis was one of the top epic fantasy series of the past few years, so its sequel series comes in with enormous shoes to fill. For the most part it fills them. While I didn't find this first episode to be as instantly enrapturing as its predecessor's first episode was, it nonetheless delivers quite well on the style, music, and energy which made the first series a hit.
Ten years have passed, and Kaiser is exactly where you'd expect him to be: at the right hand of the new ruler. This time around, though, it's the human leader who seems to be the potential source of trouble, and Kaiser clearly knows it. He's clearly too bound by duty to do anything about it, though, so since Favaro isn't around that means that someone has to step up and take his place as the troublemaker. While the Rag Demon seems to be the virtuous criminal here, Nina actually looks much more like the unwitting disruptor and indisputably she's both the star of the show and one of its biggest selling points. She's appealingly energetic, scary-strong, and apparently turns into a red dragon when she gets all hot and bothered by a handsome guy? What's up with that? Watching more is practically a compulsion just to find out about that, and even without that I could probably watch the series because of Nina alone.
The visuals are, of course, fabulous, with snappy animation used to highlight dramatic movements and action sequences; the red dragon's actions near the end are the highlight, but the animation shines in many other places, too. The musical score is also every bit as ostentatious as it was for the first season, and that's definitely not meant as a criticism in this case. So what's missing, then? The dynamic camaraderie which drove the first season of the series and a character like Favaro. Nina's great, but her base personality is run-of-the-mill by anime standards, while Favaro was a wholly different creation. He isn't there for Kaiser to bounce off of, either. Nina might eventually partly fill that role, but I can't see that kind of chemistry developing here.
Admittedly, though, these are kind of nitpicky flaws. MAPPA still has its magic going here, so there's nothing about this opening episode which suggests that this season won't be a sizable hit, too.
You'd best brush up on your Bahamut before jumping into Virgin Soul, because this long-awaited second season continues Genesis's story as directly as possible. While the story is inviting and straightforward enough that nothing in this episode will confuse brand-new viewers, the plot under Virgin Soul's swashbuckling surface fully assumes that you remember exactly what happened at the end of Favaro and Amira's adventure, even if they don't appear in this episode themselves.
Well, that's not entirely true. Our star-crossed leads are definitely here in spirit, because the new heroine Nina both looks and behaves uncannily like the perfect combination between Favaro and Amira. She's constantly horny and mischievous like her "father", but also supernaturally strong and carefree like her "mother". Even without her connection to season one's heroes, Nina is a blast to watch as a uniquely sex-obsessed Disney princess wannabe. Of course, our heroes never got the opportunity to have a child because Amira evaporated with naught but a tragic kiss at the end of season one, and Nina should have already been six years old when they first met, so there's something fishy going on here, and that intrigue forms the backbone of an all-around outstanding return to Rage of Bahamut.
While Favaro and Amira are MIA, most of season one's main cast at least makes cameo appearances, seeming somewhat ill-at-ease with the newfound peace of their world. Archdemons may have been the baddies in season one, but there were plenty of good demons on the sidelines as well, so their enslavement and exploitation immediately carries cruel overtones that make us unsure who to trust going forward. Just like the first season, the story is told with the infectious verve and rhythm of a classic Hollywood adventure movie, breezing through clever plot points and endearing character introductions by letting action scenes and motivated conversations carry the story without ever stopping to lore-dump. It's an incredibly fun watch, loaded with great character animation from quirky facial expressions to giant dragons spewing flame, even apart from the promising script. Just like season one's premiere, the episode ends with an amusing twist on expectations, and the lead-up is filled with tiny details that will definitely intrigue fans of the franchise.
I'm a Rage of Bahamut fan myself, but I haven't had the time to revisit season one before watching this premiere. While the important stuff all came rushing back to me pretty quick, I'm already itching to rewatch season one to piece together all the continuity clues I probably missed coming back. If you love basic, well-written action fantasy fun and somehow missed this show's first season back in 2014, now is the perfect time to catch up! In a season already loaded with exciting action adventures, Bahamut somehow came out on top once again, and it's great to have the best mobile game anime ever back on air.
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