A review of the Rage of Bahamut: Genesis anime series
After three episodes of Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis (Rage of Bahamut: Genesis), I still wasn’t sure what I was watching. There’s nothing particularly abstract (yes Soultaker I’m talking about you) about the story of two feuding friends going on adventures with a girl from another world. Except, in the first few episodes there are so many different ways the series could have gone - monster of the week, Queen’s Blade journey into fan service, Escaflowne adventures in a fantasy world to name a few - but it seems bullheadedly determined not to go with any of them and instead play the whole series by ear.
Peculiarly, it works. And not just because it throws everything, kitchen sink and all, at you and to see what sticks. After all you have an Arabian deity (Bahamut) mixed in with Christian mythology (heaven, hell, angels and devils) with some added Norse flavouring (the heavenly god is in fact Zeus), some Pagan witchcraft and wizardry and some historical persons of note thrown in for good measure. Like the origin of the dragon personification of Bahamut then, Shingeki no Bahamut is a Dungeons and Dragons campaign in anime form. It has the overeager dungeon master cobbling together a piecemeal mythology with narrative abandon, the rollicking tales of a knight, a rogue and someone who wanted to play a female, and by the end of the campaign the adventurers are riding into battle on the back of a giant duck.
As the opening to Amagi Brilliant Park is keen to point out: this isn’t a fairytale. The series certainly has fairytale elements to it with a princess, a castle, magic and a prince, but as Philip Pullman pointed out in interviews after his reimagining of Grimm’s fairytales:
there is no backstory, no complex motives, no internal life.
And those are things that Amagi has in spades, almost to its detriment. The story of an ailing theme park and the challenges faced by Seiya Kanie in bringing it back to popularity is, at it’s core, an old underdog tale. There’s the time limit to achieving the goal - 50,000 yearly guests by the end of July - the motivation - Seiya knows the owner of the park from his childhood - and the quirky, offbeat cast. To its credit, the series tells that story remarkably well and by the end of the twelfth episode you could leave feeling like you’ve experienced a jolly old yarn. Odd then that the series is in fact thirteen episodes long…
A review of the second Sword Art Online anime series
Some way into this second series of Sword Art Online I found myself thinking that it was quite brave. Taking the clown-shoed silliness of the first series and slowing everything down, focusing on characters and setting, seemed like an odd decision. Like so many other aspects of Sword Art Online II though, I was disappointed. It’s not being brave, just invoking standard shounen-esque time wasting. Meaning if you watched the series as it aired you will have spent several weeks watching wunderkind Kirito and newcomer Sinon sit in a virtual cave in the middle of a virtual desert.
Imagine a character that is part Jesus Christ and part James Dean and you get the idea
I shouldn’t really have expected anything else really. I liked the simplicity of the first series’ bifurcated storyline in a schlocky, intelligence-lite way, but the spark of that first storyline - trapped in a virtual world, die here and you die for real - was gone. Alfheim, the fairy filled fantasy funfair that occupied the second half of that series and is now the staple MMO for the core cast, was bright and cheerful but lacked the tangibility of Aincrad. It’s disheartening then that this second series kicks off by plunging Kirito into the grimy, gunmetal grey world of Gun Gale Online.
A review of the Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! anime series
Wark, wark! That’s the harem alarm, clear and true. If there was ever a set up in anime so overused as the harem, I haven’t seen it yet. That doesn’t stop Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! (Invaders of the Six Tatami Mat Room?!) though which, after a deceptively promising first episode, pulls out all the tropes you’ve come to expect from packing that much oestrogen into a single location.
they don’t spend the entirety of their waking life fawning over the central male
It’s the first episode that convinced me to continue with the series though. Highschool boy moves into a cheap dorm room, finds out it’s haunted. Haven’t heard this one before… But then a princess from outer space claims the room for herself, followed by a magical girl claiming it’s a mystical convergence, followed by an “Earth person” from underground who wants to use it as a bulwark for an invasion. It certainly goes for the “throw everything and see what sticks” premise, but the potential for a series that sees the different invaders squaring off against one another in order to occupy the apartment (spiritual convergence, magical nexus etc.) seemed like a pleasant twist on what usually passes for a story hook.
There’s a point at the end of a series, the final episode receding into memory, when you wonder why you kept watching it. Akame ga Kill is exactly that series. It is staunchly, even startlingly mediocre in just about every regard, but because it hovers just above that baseline of entertainment - not offensively dumb enough to abandon but not good enough to sing its praises - here I find myself twenty four episodes later.
There wasn’t the remotest of hints that it was ever going to be better than average. From the off the story of Tatsumi, a swordsman from the boonies whose compatriots are killed and he falls in with the band of assassins, Night Raid, is about as nuts and bolts as it comes. Chief amongst the group though is Leone with a ferocious blonde mane and a fiery attitude. No wait, maybe it’s Sheele the demure, bespectacled scissors wielder. Or perhaps Bulat…