Has any anime ever improved more from its first to second season than Shingeki no Bahamut?
It’s pretty rare for me to use “pleasant surprise” and “sequel” in reference to the same series. But then, Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul is in unusual territory for an anime already – you almost never see a show improve this much in a sequel. I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy the first season, because I absolutely did – my point isn’t that the original wasn’t a good show, but that “Virgin Soul” is pretty darn close to a great one. It’s upped the ante from the first season in every aspect – production and premise, most importantly. And it seems as if MAPPA is stepping into the realm of elite studios now, a development by no means unconnected with that.
Any show that can make me like a character like Nina – who seems as big a pandering risk as you can get in a 2017 anime – is testament to how well that show is written. But Nina really does work – she’s cute in a good way, and her awkwardness is essential to the plot in a manner that’s both endearing and quite ingenious. Nina is a successful character both in concept and execution, and no small measure of the credit for that should certainly go to young Morohoshi Sumire, who’s been kicking around as a seiyuu since she was a little kid (she’s still just 18) but certainly never did anything to suggest she had this kind of high-energy, zany and vulnerable performance in her.
I think in order to transcend the original, a sequel of an original series has to think outside the box, and this one has certainly done that. In building the story around Azazel and a new character it’s taken a total left turn from the first season, and in doing so freed itself from the baggage of having to be too faithful to a successful predecessor. Nina and Azazel have a lot of good scenes together, starting with the one where she finds him wounded in an alley after he’s taken on Charioce and his many minions. She asks him to hug her, knowing full well what will happen. It’s a funny moment, especially in Azazel’s reaction, but it’s an important one for Nina’s character – she’s putting herself through something she hates to try and save the demons hostages (and in doing so, save Azazel – which is clearly more important to her).
Kaisar, meanwhile, remains tragically true to himself as ever. He comes to Charioce’s aid when Nina attacks, not because he has any sympathy for the man but because his honor demands he not let his king be killed, and because Kaisar always wants to try and find a peaceful solution. He’s bought himself a bit of time here, perhaps, but the king is not naive – he knows Kaisar’s loyalties are to ideals, not to him.
Meanwhile, Bacchus has scooped up both the injured Nina and Azazel and they have a fascinating conversation when they wake up. Nina is roundly amusing here, especially when Azazel suggests he “control” her by making love to her as she turns into a dragon. I’m not sure how that would work exactly, but it’s enough to send Nina off the deep end (loved the bit where she rushes past Rita, Mugaro and Rocky – who somehow manages to be quite a good character itself). Azazel takes off to lay low (very low, it appears) for a while – leaving the reluctant Mugaro in the reluctant Rita’s care.
Mugaro’s emotional connection to Azazel is obvious (and obviously mutual, for all the latter’s “tsundere parent” protestations), but a crucial new connection is revealed. Turns out he’s Jeanne d’Arc’s son, and it turns out that Charioce is well aware of that fact. Jeanne is imprisoned in his dungeons, as he pushes her to support his demon holocaust – so far unsuccessfully. Mugaro, clearly, is a link between the world of angels and demons – and it seems inevitable that they will unite against the humans, as Kaisar predicted. We’re really just Favaro’s return away from having all the major pieces in place, I would think, and if the first four episodes are anything to go on “Virgin Soul” is going to be one hell of a barnburner when that happens.