The break for Shingeki no Bahamut (and Shoukoku no Altair) was only two weeks, but for a serial anime that seems like an eternity. Contrary to what some rumor-mongers were spewing about the cause being production woes at MAPPA, the hiatus was actually due to the World Track & Field Championships hijacking several anime time slots on Japanese television. It’s great to have “Virgin Soul” back, but of course the return of a full schedule means the return of weekends from blogging hell, since over half of the shows I’m covering this season fall on Friday and Saturday.
I did miss Shingeki no Bahamut, because it’s an easy show to enjoy even if not always easy to write about. This series delivers straight-ahead cinematic storytelling beautifully, and this episode actually had a fairly heavy weight to carry – not just because of the extra load of anticipation, but because it promised to deliver the formal return of a major character (Azazel) to the main cast, and a very important character reunion as well. And I think it met expectations more than admirably on all fronts.
Azazel, being the tsuntsun he is, won’t accept the idea that he’s joining (or re-joining) the “group”, but the fact is, this is the first time in “Virgin Soul” that all of the major good guys – human, God, and zombie – have been together. The most important of them from Azazel’s perspective is of course Mugaro, and the converse is equally true – seeing Azazel again is a watershed event in Mugaro’s young life. The reunion with Jeanne was certainly a milestone, but that relationship has almost no history from a viewer standpoint – the quasi-father/son bond between Azazel and Mugaro is quite the opposite.
It was very important that Shingeki no Bahamut get this just right, and I think it did. Of course Azazel couldn’t immediately show his emotional cards with Mugro – that’s not who he is anyway, but he’s dealing with heavy emotional scars from his tragic failure in liberating the youkai. He’s especially angry with Nina for her failure to transform when he needed her (all the more when she shows she can do so now), but he holds Mugaro blameless. And when he saves Mugaru from the King’s agents, the two finally have their formal reconciliation. And it’s spot-on – Mugaro apologizes but Azazel shoots that down immediately. There are no sweeping embraces or anything, but Azazel (who’a already shed a tear over the comrades he failed) is as openly emotional with Mugaro as we’ve ever seen him (how adorable was that hat thing?). Mugaro clearly views Azazel as a surrogate parent and loves him, and he just needed to see that Azazel still cared for him as he once did. And now he knows that Azazel does, both of them can move forward.
The other major character threads here involve Favaro and Nina and Kaisar with his Orleans Knights. Favaro of course knows the truth of what’s going on between Nina and Charioce, and he’s surprisingly clever about not rejecting it outright – that would certainly be counter-productive with a rebellious adolescent like Nina. But he does make clear to her that there are going to be consequences from whatever choices she makes, so she better consider them carefully – and this is a man who knows from choices and consequences. I like that Favaro has clearly changed as a result of the hard choices he’s made – he’s a far more serious and sanguine man than he was. As well he should be.
As for Kaisar, he remains this series’ true hero in that he’s noble in the best sense of the word – a fool for justice and right. He’s determined to stop Charioce from using his WMD again no matter the cost (and indeed expects to pay the ultimate personal cost in trying to stop him). He needs the help of his old unit to do that, especially Allesand – who as a noble will be attending a ball with the king in a few days. Allesand resents Kaisar for the impact his choices (there’s that consequence thing again) have had on the Orleans Knights and his own dreams of glory among them, but in the end Kaisar’s sheer idealism is persuasive. I still sense that Charioce is going to escape the tag of true villain, but I’m going to require some convincing myself…