I’m pretty darn close to committing to Shingeki no Bahamut after that episode, which certainly supplants the second as the best of the series. It was flat-out one of the best action-adventure episodes of any anime this year, a delirious clusterfuck of confusion and chaos that never took a moment to breathe – and all of it animated and drawn beautifully by MAPPA. It’s easy to see why they outsourced last week’s episode (which DR Movie actually did a very nice job with) – they were clearly saving their big ammo for this one.
Even if I had no other reason, I’d probably watch Bahamut just for Ike Yoshihiro’s marvellous soundtrack, which is for me clearly the best of the season. And even if I still had only minimal interest in the characters and premise, the atmosphere, action and humour might be enough. But there are other reasons, and the characters and premise are starting to gather a little narrative momentum behind them.
Still, make no mistake – so far the main draw here is the execution rather than the content itself. It’s no coincidence that Yoshihiro and director Satou Keiichi are as experienced in big-screen anime as television, because Shingeki no Bahamut has a sense of grand scope that few TV anime can match. MAPPA has assembled a team of stalwart veterans like those two was well as Animation Director/Character Designer Onda Naoyuki, Art Director Nakamura Gouki and writer Hasegawa Keiichi – all of whom have experience in movies too, as well as some very good TV anime. And also not coincidentally I don’t think, most of the key staff are over 50. This show has a very old school quality to it, to the point where it almost feels like an old Hollywood swashbuckler (of the kind that Pirates of the Carribean tries too hard to emulate).
In addition to the all the spectacular action this week – galleons colliding, giant crabs, swordfights and best of all a throwdown between frogmen and zombies (zombies by TKO) – there was a clarity and crispness to the storytelling I haven’t seen in the first three episodes. The shape of the story is coming together nicely now – we know enough about Favaro and Kaisar’s background to care, we learn what happened to both their fathers, and get a sliver of an idea about why Amira might be so important to the likes of Azazel. We also get more great vamping from the likes of Morita Masakazu as Azazel and Kitamura Eri as a very sexy Cerberus (woof!) which is never a bad thing.
If there’s a theme to all these backstories it’s betrayal – which, I suppose, is befitting a premise that focuses on fallen angels. Favaro, it seems, betrayed Kaisar – posing as his best friend and giving information to his “noble” bandit father, who used it to pull off the job that got Kaisar’s father executed. Favaro’s father also died in that incident, and that was thanks to the betrayal of Amon, the bandit turned demon who now turns to betraying Favaro for the bounty on his (and Amira’s) head. Everybody is screwing everybody else except Amira, who seems to have no clue about any of it and is interested only in whether things look delicious or not, and pure-pure boy Kaisar.
What we don’t find out this week is what the deal with Rita is, even though Kaisar comes right out and asks the question the audience were asking after last week’s events. We’ll find out soon enough, though this show does have a habit of teasing things only to interrupt them with random events a little too often. I’m personally hoping we find out that there’s more to the story of Favaro and Kaisar than what Kaisar relayed to Rita – that Favaro was more than a snake who was only pretending to be Kaisar’s friend all along. But time will tell in that respect as well. At this point I think there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be sticking around long enough to find out.