Gore, nudity and plenty of explosions, this anime reboot starts off mixed, but fully redeems itself by the end of episode 13.
If you read the manga or watched the old OVAs from the early 90s, then you probably have a big set of expectations. Then again, it’s just nice to have something that you never thought would happen, happen. If you’re coming into this anime with no knowledge at all, you’ll probably be surprised(probably in a good way), by what you see. If you are reading this blog post, I’m going to assume you watched all 13 episodes already. So, let’s go ahead and discuss the good & the bad of this show.
Quick Plot Run-down
Laying dormant for 15 years inside a 14 year old boy named Lucien, a 400+ year old supreme wizard becomes resurrected when the Kingdom of Metallicana becomes threatened by a world conquering army named the “Dark Rebel Army.” By the means of a virgin’s kiss or by Lucien being asleep, the most powerful wizard breaks the seal to regain his old form in response to this greater threat. The Dark Rebel Army led by Dark Schneider’s old disciples, the Four Divine Kings, are looking to take over the world in his place. They are trying to break one of the seals that the Kingdom of Metallicana is holding the God, Antrasax, from reawakening.
Dark-Fantasy or Just Fantasy?
The color choices and scenery the creators chooses seems to mimic a real fantasy-like world. Certain moments in the anime, they do take on the darker and dreary aspects of the Bastard!! world. Having seen the original OVAs, that world just seemed a bit more darker and perilous than this Netflix one. Having the backstory be set in present modern times and having 400 years pass to create this dark-fantasy world that sometimes doesn’t look so dark, seems a bit inconsistent with the show’s premise. Luscious bright lake water with the sun shining bright isn’t what I would deem “dark” by any stretch of the imagination.
When you think of blood, gore and evil, there isn’t anything bright and colorful about it. It’s dark, twisted and emits a perilous shadow onto the world. As characters get blown to bits and smashed by legendary monsters, it just doesn’t seem to go the extra mile to show more creative destruction. We should be getting a Berserk dystopian kind of world. Instead, we get Berserk if Guts cracks jokes in a PG-rated JRPG game. Early on too often, I felt a combination of mixed directions that really pull away from the series appeal and Dark Schneider’s true captivation with the audience. It’s not until Dark Schneider fights Kai Harn, that I became more ‘wowed’ by the narration style and fighting animation.
After the fight with Kai Harn, the show takes on more of the darker vibes of the show and stays there. By the time Dark Schneider fights Arshes Nei, you’ll be fully invested in this dark dystopian fantasy world. Add in Arshes Nei’s tragic past and you have the right kind of recipe that accurately fits the premise and setting of the show.
This isn’t suppose to be Jujutsu Kaisen’s Gojo Satoru. This is Dark Schneider. Sure, there are jokes from time to time that really fits within the hubris of the character. The issues I have, especially in the earlier episodes that it tries too hard to make it funny, rather than come naturally. The fact that there is a kid’s soul shared with Dark Schneider, I think the creators wanted to bring more of that child-like element to his character. With the gag panels of the jokes and Dark Schneider whimpering at the whims of Yoko, it just seems a bit too much for my taste.
By the time the show gets to episode 13, the plot is at its most “thick.” Sorry for skirting around saying the plot thickens.. However, the anime is at its peak when it focuses on the plot and carries the audience along that tenseness of the situation. Here and there, the humor fits perfectly to relieve some of the stress of the moment(s). Too much Lucien & Dark Schneider banter between Yoko can be a mistake as it’s not why the audience is here. When the main course being fed to the audience of the titled “Heavy Metal & Dark Fantasy” obliges to the drips of blood, gore and “twisted-ness”—a Lucien doink to the head or a funny snide sexual comment ties in more naturally as a relief to the flow of the story.
Fight Scenes & Animation
The animation studio is Liden Films. One of their most popular and recent work is Tokyo Revengers, which I personally enjoyed. To be absolutely honest, the character designs of the older OVAs just seemed to fit more of my personal preference. These current versions of the characters aren’t terrible, but their animation styles just seem a bit too “cartoonish” rather than the more mature “dark” style quality I was expecting. The best kind of animation style that would have suited this show the best would have been like Mappa’s AoT and Jujutsu Kaisen.
Overall, the animation is still pretty damn enjoyable to watch. At no point did I think the animation quality felt out of place. When cool stuff happens, it generally looked good.
Story-Boarding / Narration-Style is Character focused
The point of many of the episodes early on is to get many of the characters introduced and integrated into the overall story. Many events kind of just happen to get to the point of what each character will end up representing to the audience. There is a natural progression of who Dark Schneider faces and it all starts with the low-level Dark Rebel Army underlings.
In any good fighting scenes, there are series of ups and down, misdirection and thrilling revelations that lead to “goosebumpy” climaxes. There are many fights, especially early on, where the action comes quickly. I’d say half of them are from “mediocre to okay” and the other half is “acceptable to pretty well done.”
Once Dark Schneider takes down Arshes’s 3 underling generals and faces Arshes herself, the quality of fighting, spells and interesting back & forth within a battle takes it up a notch. Gara vs Arshes was an example of a really good battle that didn’t need any lewd scenes to make it interesting.
By the conclusion of the “Arshes Nei vs Dark Schneider” battle, the show presents its best crop of episodes yet. Episodes 12 & 13 had the best balance between cool action, plot explanation, backstory and character insight. Because the importance of Arshes Nei to Dark Schneider as a character, the show presented more emotional investment into the characters as the progression of the prophecy of Dark Schneider dying comes to a conclusion. In between each cool action scene, there was great dialogue, great insight by multiple characters and some laughs here and there. Altogether, it came together as well paced and balanced episodes.
Earlier Fights That Could Have Been Better
A lot of the earlier action between “Dark Schneider vs ‘whoever'” was really to showcase different elements of the show.
“Dark Schneider vs Gara” was one of the more disappointing fights. There was a whole dungeon buildup of battles to lead to this grand fight with the Ninja boss man himself. There were a few flashes here and there. What should have been a more memorable battle against one of the “Four Divine Kings” of the Dark Rebel Army, turned out to be one of the weaker animated fights. This fight was more about taunts and the allure of the fight rather than the fight itself. If there was a highlight to this interaction, it was Gara’s humorous taunt on Dark Schneider’s lust for Yoko’s booty.
“Dark Schneider vs Sean Ari” showed Dark Schneider’s wit and seduction in overcoming an obvious trap. This was one of those episodes that kind of blew over very quickly of an enemy turning into an ally.
“Dark Schneider vs Kai Horn” showed more of the spectacular magic animation and fan service. The characters ended up fighting out in a bright grassland area, which leads to my criticism of the “dark fantasy” world not being so dark. Overall, this is the first fight that I think really started to change my thoughts about the show in a very positive direction.
“Dark Schneider vs Count Di-amon” showcased the satirical vampire that is Count Di-amon. This is the first really wacky bad guy that will just make you chuckle. This was the first fight we got to see Dark Schneider be able to overtake Lucien’s conscious body. The fighting animation itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but it presented some humorous moments that ended with a newly presented magical spell called the “Accused”—essentially turning you into a slave, if you disobey you become a toad.
The best shows have characters that face real consequences. At the very least, the viewer should think there are negative consequences and outcomes that the main characters face. For example, characters facing death, losing something very important or facing a negative consequence for a particular action/inaction. My favorite plots involve important characters dying. Recent popular animes like Demon Slayer & Attack on Titan have this very important element for very dark worlds.
Watching Bastard!!, does the plot toy with negative consequences for the main characters? It does. Some characters get kidnapped, get heavily damaged in battle and the very important cliffhanger at the end of 13, as the prophecy of Dark Schneider dying occurs. That is where the tides turn in a very positive and important direction in the show. You can’t have an interesting character that just overpowers every character he faces and get all the chicks “just because.” There are many other situations that brute strength and power can’t overcome alone. That is where this show becomes “mediocre to okay,” to very good.
Example of the Show’s Best Plot Dilemma
When Abigail puts the “Accused” spell on Arshes and she willingly accepts to prove her willingness to kill an old loved one. It added an extra layer of intrigue that the other character interactions with Dark Schneider didn’t have before. Later when the weaves in the prophecy of Dark Schneider dying and that those prophecies are absolute, you knew something significant was going to go down. As we find out more about Dark Schneider and Arshes Nei’s relationship and her tragic backstory, it made for the most appealing subplot yet.
In the midst of the “Arshes Nei Vs Dark Schneider” battle, the story was able to weave in an antagonist that we can all grow to hate as an audience. What the anime lacked early on is a true antagonist that we can all cheer against. Before random enemies that kind of appear out of nowhere like the satirical Count Di-Amon, we can now pinpoint Abigail as that next bad guy that we all want to get his head blown off.
Magic Animation Looks Good
When the anime does decide to pull out all the stops to show all the cool techniques that wows the audience, it does look pretty fantastic. When you see blood splatter with the reflection in it, that’s such an artistically sadistic and dark way that really represents what kind of world Bastard!! is. You’re not going to get peak Ufotable animation out of this anime. It’s not even as good as Mappa’s, BUT it is still solid.
I may have my concerns regarding how the world of Bastard!! may look, but the action itself when there are long winded fights are enjoyable to watch. Most of the fighting panels and magic are within reason. Some of the earlier fights like “Dark Schneider vs Gara” were more poor storyboard narrations than poor animation.
The Adult “Suggestive” Material
Let’s be real with what this anime is. It follows what people would deem as a womanizing “bad guy” that turns around his greed and lust for domination of the world, into a hero. A man that used to want to conquer the world, wants to save it. So, a character that seduces his way into many of the female character’s hearts or “chest area” is going to be an important theme to the allure of Bastard!!. How Dark Schneider wins over all of these female characters is with his power, wit and will to protect. All attractive traits that most women covets. What do men covet? A woman’s body and that is explicitly shown.
Sometimes the “X-rated” part can be a bit much and slightly forced. Dark Schneider carrying Princess Sheila on his shoulders bumping into her “pleasure” parts could be seen as a bit much. When Dark Schneider comes into battle with Kai Horn, every attack ends in pieces of clothing coming off. Twice, the show used poison as a way to show a sexual innuendo.
Given the sexual nature of the show in its totality, it’s really hard to exactly say what people really think. If you are a fan of the manga or older OVAs, you most likely don’t care and it may even be the reason why you read or are watching Bastard!!. For the broader audience, it can really be a hit or a miss.
Judging Dark Schneider’s Likeability
Let’s get one thing clear, a protagonist and lead of a series should be likeable. This protagonist should display characteristics that by consensus have admirable traits. If you wrote down on a piece of paper of traits and abilities you’d want for yourself, then those traits are projected onto protagonists of make-believe shows. Thus, why we have a genre like ‘shounen’. So, what Traits do Dark Schneider have that guys want and women desire? Respect, power, confidence, humor, caring and being physically blessed. How well do these characteristics actually come off onscreen?
Just because you write down something you believe a character should have, doesn’t mean it comes across as is. It is left for interpretation of the audience. You can have the most well thought out character, but no one will respect it unless a general audience can directly connect to those characteristics. So, does Dark Schneider fit the bill of being a likeable character. My heart wants to say, “yes,” but my brain is telling me “sorta.”
There are just some parts about Dark Schneider that I can see people not liking. Sometimes he acts over the top like a child, which makes sense because he shares his soul with Lucien’s. It doesn’t mean that he should turn straight into a beta-male whenever Yoko berates him, which leads to the questionable humor. Does it land or not? In the first handful of episodes, I’d say no. On the 2nd “skim watch,” I didn’t mind it as much. Dark Schneider’s humor and his seduction abilities with the ladies doesn’t come across as blatantly clear sometimes. For example, when Dark Schneider purposefully fell into Sean Ari’s trap. After defeating her, she quickly becomes head-over-heels for him. It’s quite the character jump, but we can all get it.. I think?
There are points early on that Dark Schneider would be able to win over the “anti-hero” crowd as he just annihilates dudes to bits and laughs about it. There are points where he might be laughing exceedingly too much. Throw in those ‘humorous’ interactions with Yoko, he could come across as annoying and lame. It’s a constant tug of war early on for me to conclude what I really think about the character.
It’s not until the end of episode 13 that I think Dark Schneider displays his best chances as a character to win the audience over. To do something unselfish and thinking about protecting others—those are shonen qualities! This is the point where Dark Schneider and Bastard!! as a whole, wins the viewer over and sees him as a true protagonist as he seemingly gives away his life for another.
What These Characters Present
There are a lot of characters that get introduced that make a lasting impression. You can’t have a really good show or anime without a good crop of characters. Below, I listed most of the important characters and what entertainment value they provided for the show in the first 13 episodes.
Tia Noto Yoko (ティア・ノート・ヨーコ)
Dark Schneider’s main squeeze. At first, she’s kind of annoying and its hard to quantify the appeal of her character as the love interest to the protagonist. Little by little, she shows her courageousness and how much of sweetheart she is to young Lucien. Overtime, she builds an underlying sense of jealousy and gives the show some comic relief. Slowly but surely, her character becomes a little more enjoyable to watch as the story progresses.
Geo Noto Soto (ジオ・ノート・ソート)
He is the father of Tia Noto Yoko, serving as the show’s “elder statesmen.” Being the guy with tons of knowledge and wisdom, he serves as the character that gives the audience greater insight into the plot. I mean he is the guy that helped seal Dark Schneider into Lucien.
Princess Sheila (シーラ 姫)
She serves as the first girl in the series to fall head-over-heels for Dark Schneider. All the naughty lewd scenes really begin with her and Dark Schneider. For the most part, her character comes off as smart and courageous. She does make some pretty dumb face palming mistakes like grabbing an obvious “Efreet sword trap.” After Dark Schneider meets other girls, she quickly takes a backseat and reverts back to her role as being the “Princess of the Kingdom of Metallicana.” Although, it does get a little spicy between her and Dark Schneider again.
Gara, the ninja master that commands a small ninja army, sounds a bit cliche. To the show’s defense, this story was conjured up during the late 1980s. Ninja cliches aside, Gara provides the show with plenty of action, admirable ninja pride and humor that meshes well with many of the other characters. He provides the audience with insight to the greatness of other characters and has maybe the 2nd best fight scene in the first 13 episodes of the show.
While I did not enjoy the fight between Dark Schneider and Gara as much, Gara as a character has plenty of staying power that deserves the screen time he gets. He serves as a gauge of many of the characters’ strengths, mentioning many important facts and analysis that informs the audience.
Arshes Nei (アーシェス・ネイ)
She might go down as the best character in all of season 1 once all episodes are released. Having the most fleshed out and relatable backstories to the show, she provides the heaviest and tensest moments of the first 13 episodes. Not only does her subplot with Dark Schneider have a deep interesting meaning, the epic battles she has with Gara and Dark Schneider one after the other is peak quality of the show.
Sean Ari (シーン・ハリ)
Sean Ari becomes the 2nd example of Dark Schneider putting on a show to woo another attractive character. She is one of the three generals that works under Arshes Nei. One of my biggest gripes of the show is just how fast Sean Ari was able to just fall in love with Dark Schneider.
What comes about from overcoming and dominating a woman’s expectations? A woman giving her body up for a man that is more cunning, powerful and attractive isn’t quite a stretch. Boobs, butts, take a sip of water and move on.
Kai Harn (カイ・ハーン)
Let’s be real, she provides that girl-on-girl tomboy vibe to the show. You could say her bout against Dark Schneider was the first really solid fighting episode. Eventually, she does get won over by Dark Schneider and throw in some more lewd scenes and this character has carved out a similar role to Sean Ari.
Out of all the characters, this one might be the funniest. Drawn like a vampiric E-Honda off of Street Fighter, he has some pretty funny quotables. After being embedded by Dark Schneider’s “Accused” spell, he flies away. This character has tons of potential to cause havoc to the plot in a good or bad way for Dark Schneider. He’ll likely make his return in future episodes. For the 2 episodes he’s in, you’ll legitimately have some good laughs.
Reduced to being used for comedic effect, this cute little creature is actually the brother of Princess Sheila. Once upon a time he fought Dark Schneider and ended up turning into a baby dragon. There’s a ton of questions that arise for this character that will probably be answered in the future. For right now, he fits in as Dark Schneider’s funny pet pal that gets clobbered every now and then. Like Gara, he brings a lot of the story and lore to the audience as important actions takes place.
Abigail provides the first true sadistically and messed up subplot in the anime. By putting the “Accused” curse on Arshes Nei, it provides the audience someone to hate and cheer against. Any good show needs a really good antagonist. Abigail is shaping up to be the first really good one that the main characters will soon have to face.
Seeing as the anime has hyped up Kall-Su as being the top disciple of Dark Schneider, it makes sense that he ends up being one of the last teased fights; in this progression of bouts that started in episode one against the Dark Rebel Army.
Overall, this anime grows on you episode by episode. As you get familiar with the characters and the plot, you’ll eventually get wrapped up into the character’s dilemmas. Any little issue I had from each episode, continually improved. It all eventually makes its way to a really good climatic end as the fighting between Dark Schneider and Arshes Nei concludes.
Sticking with my grade of the Should You Watch? blog post, I’d give episodes 1-13 a 6.8/10 for an enjoyable watch.