Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul Episode 21
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul ?
So I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the best character in the show is dead for no good reason. But the good news is that our heroes are finally starting to do something. It took our precious baby dying to get them to that point, but it'll all be worth it in the end? Maybe? I know that last week I said Mugaro couldn't possibly be for real dead, but I really need to stop making those types of predictions. His death flags seem way more serious in this episode, and while I'm not discounting the possibility of a last minute revival (I'm actually hoping for that), I don't think we can count on our angel son making it out of the show in breathing condition. It's now up to Nina to stop Azazel and Jeanne's rage-fueled vengeance assault on the capital and—you know what, actually? I'm with them on this one. Nina, your rubbernecking at Charioce hasn't done anyone any good, and now one of your friends has actually died because of it. By Alessand's hand, no less. Just let them kill the Genocide King, stab Alessand in the face a few dozen times, and be done with it. It's what everyone wants.
Well, I guess Alessand is a vitally important character now. I have to say that I didn't see that coming. This is a weird and bad narrative decision, turning your waste-of-space unlikable stooge character into a major player in the eleventh hour, through perhaps the most despicable action possible. To add insult to (mortal) injury, Alessand doesn't even end up taking the very thing he killed Mugaro for. This POS takes one look at the actually self-sacrificial stuff the Onyx Knights go through and nopes the hell on out of there. What an asshole. He's given charge of the Orleans Knights at least – a position that's sure to put him in the line of fire for some revenge murder. It's the little things to treasure this week.
In addition to this, Nina's tolerance for King Genocide indirectly resulting in Mugaro's death (by extending the conflict long enough to get Alessand involved) drags her a few notches down on the likability scale for me. My affection for her was already starting to strain, but it was preserved by how her attachment to Charioce could still be somewhat separated from the rest of the story in terms of its consequences. But now we've passed a point of no return. Our baby has died, and I'm not sure that I, or Azazel, or much less Jeanne can forgive her. At least she seems to have realized how much she messed up this time. I was starting to think that nothing could get through this girl's romantic ideations and commitment to a façade of happiness.
The silver lining to all this is that Nina has finally realized Charioce isn't freaking worth it. It's too little too late, but I wasn't seeing any lower limit to Nina's romantic naivety before this point, so I'll begrudgingly take it. I just hope that she doesn't take the fact that Mugaro wasn't directly murdered by the king as some reason to forgive him. The guy has been trying to kill the kid, his mom, and all of his friends since before the beginning of the show. Sure, some random scrub ended up stumbling into the deed, but it was still done for Charioce's express benefit, with the expectation of favor from his side. It was honestly kind of jarring to see the ending sequence - which features Mugaro alive and Nina and Charioce as a happy couple – at the conclusion of this episode.
I don't know what else to say. The narrative has been wobbling back and forth for a while now, but now it's pretty definitively gone off the rails. The biggest issue isn't even Mugaro's death itself (although that's still nigh unforgivable to me). Rather, it's the story's structure around it, which feels almost random at this point. With only three episodes left, the show should be pumping us up for a long built-up final confrontation. Instead, it's introducing new character dynamics (Jeanne and Azazel revenge tag-team) built on unforeshadowed twists. While the show's first eight episodes did a lot to earn my affection for these characters, they've been forced to compensate for a lot recently, and I think I'm just about tapped out by this point.
The show assumes that we'll be on Nina's side in this case, even though Jeanne and Azazel's motivation is much more understandable and even morally justifiable. The characters who are still around Nina (Favaro, Kaisar, Rita, Bacchus) will suspend their established characterizations to go along with her in weird ways. Nina has spent most of the story reacting to other people, and she's still doing that by the end. I won't even get into all of the possible character arcs that have been dropped. We still don't even know what the hell Charioce really wants. These problems aren't even rooted in Nina as a character – the show has just decided on a plot that doesn't make sense in terms of anything that these characters as established would actually do, so it bends them over backwards to compensate for this. Nina has to fall in love with Charioce, even though they barely know one another and he's trying to kill all of her friends. She repeatedly threatens their safety (and even the safety of the world) over him, but nobody ever calls her out on this.
I get the feeling that a few episodes ago, the writers started freaking out upon realizing that there was so little room left to finish their story. The first 2/3rds were so lackadaisically paced that I can imagine them having to cram the rest in at the end. It certainly feels like that's what happened. Now I'm not sure whether these events would have worked much better in a properly paced show, but there at least might have been character arcs to somewhat contextualize this stuff. For example, this episode pays some lip service to what I think Azazel's arc was supposed to be. He goes to see Lucifer and Lucifer is like “you sure you're ready to be a leader after that time you messed up real bad?” Azazel is like “yeah I'll do better this time” and Lucifer is like “okay then let's go.” I guess he's supposed to have had an arc about turning into a real leader? Maybe? And I don't know what the hell Lucifer has been doing throughout this whole thing. Sitting on his sparkly ass, apparently. Mugaro's death might have worked at some point in an arc about Azazel accepting the burden of responsibility, but the show as written just comes off as cruel to these characters. I have even less to say about Jeanne's trajectory, other than that she bears the emotional brunt of this turn of events even harder than Azazel.
At this point, I'm really just hoping for some spectacle out of Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul. For as much nonsense went down in this episode, it still looked great. There was some strong animation and color work. The close-up shots in particular were especially gorgeous, detailed, crisp, and dynamic. It was a great episode for GIFs of impassioned bishonen boys shoving their faces together. I want this whole thing to end in an action free-for-all to rival the first season's bombastic conclusion. Also, I want Charioce to get dumped, then for Alessand's life for to be wrenched from his body and used to resurrect Mugaro. Also, more of that duck. I still love that duck.
Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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