After a one-week detour via a recap episode (planned from the beginning, says director Satou Keichi) Shingeki no Bahamut returns with another of its blockbuster action episodes. While these are always a pleasure to look at – especially those produced in-house at MAPPA – the really nice thing is that they’re starting to synergize with the plot and characters more and more. That gives all the pomp and circumstance a lot more emotional traction, and makes it a lot easier to like the series rather than just appreciate it.
The fact is, for all that Bahamut seems very much a throwback anime – and most of the key staff is over 50 – to me this feels as much old Hollywood as old Suginami Ward. This kind of swashbuckling spectacle where characters always take the time to make cool speeches no matter how crazy things get is timeless for a reason – when you can pull it off as well as it’s being executed here, it’s great fun. Loveable scoundrels, bromance, damsel-in-distress, an ancient conspiracy and nearly every page of the Monster Manual and Deities and Demigods represented – really, Shingeki no Bahamut doesn’t miss a trick.
This episode specifically had a bit of the “Helm’s Deep” about it, with Azazel and his invading horde descending on the city in search of the God Key while Favaro and Kaisar try desperately to drag Amira kicking and screaming away from the dinner table and into hiding (is her ravenous hunger an important clue? One certainly suspects so). While Azazel sends Pazazu to lead the assault on the city and the Orleans Knights, he goes after Amira himself – which leads to a showdown between he and the Favaro-Kaisar team in the banquet hall.
There’s lots of good action going on all over the place here, and the battle between Jeanne and Pazazu is especially stunning – if ufotable is showing us how to do big set pieces using CGI, MAPPA is doing a pretty credible job of making the case for drawn animation. But the real drama is taking place as Kaisar and Favaro face off with Azazel. As he mugs for the camera, the truth of the knight and the thief’s shared past slowly comes out – Favaro’s attempts to take credit for Kaisar’s family tragedy being entirely unconvincing. The fact is that Azazel is to blame for the death of both their fathers, and with the truth out Favaro tries to take the situation into his own hands and sends Kaisar and Rita to try and bring Amira to safety.
Favaro and Kaisar certainly have their flaws, but they’re both very likeable in starkly different ways. It’s rather touching seeing each of them try and sacrifice themselves for the other in turn here (Favaro even bringing his tail into his arsenal, and quite adroitly) though Azazel is more than a match for either of them. This dynamic of the selfish scoundrel slowly becoming a hero is as old as movies (well, much older), never mind anime, but it’s undeniably effective. Kaisar wears his integrity more openly, but Favaro has a rough nobility to him in his own way – an idea of the kind of life he wants to lead. It’s Kaisar, in fact, who recognizes that the only chance to defeat Azazel lies with Jeanne (who’s already dispatched Pazazu) and tries (again) to sacrifice himself to make it happen – though Favaro will have none of that. I’m assuming Azazel didn’t die as a result of Jeanne’s attack – he seems to have teleported to safety when defeat became certain.
While all this is going on, Lavalley is once again out of sight and out of mind until the very end of the episode. He’s assigned by Jeanne to lead a brigade against the invading demon army and he in fact saves Jeanne at one point, but it seems increasingly certain that he’s working to revive Bahamut. That would almost certainly (though only almost) means he’s lying to Amira about being her “oyaji” – though he’s more guilty of letting her assume that than saying it openly. He pops up at the last moment again, and seemingly abducts Amira from under Rita’s nose (she can even turn the undead into zombies, it seems). Does this mean he’s about to drop his subterfuge and pursue his goals openly?