Long ago in the land of Mistarcia, a magical realm where humans, gods, demons, and all sorts of mythical beasts lived together, a massive dragon-like creature called Bahamut threatened to destroy the world with its great power, until the humans, gods, and demons put aside their differences and fought against the beast. Bahamut was finally sealed when Zeus and Satan sacrificed themselves to form a key to the seal. This key would be split in two with one half given to the gods and the other to the demons. Now two thousand years later, a half-demon, half-angel named Amira steals the gods' half of the key and in doing so puts the world in danger of falling into ruin once again.
After crashing down to Earth Amira tries to find her way to a place called Helheim, where she thinks her mother is at. Overhearing a boisterous and roguish bounty hunter named Favaro Leone talk about being to Helheim as part of his adventures (ie, telling lies to woo women in a pub), Amira forces Favaro into showing her to Helheim by cursing him with a demon's tail. The only problem is, Favaro doesn't have the slightest clue where Helheim is. And to make matters worse, they are being pursued not only by Kaisar Lidfort, Favaro's childhood friend who is constantly trying to kill him, but by the Orleans Knights led by Jeanne d'Arc, under orders to retrieve the gods' half of the key. As an adaptation of the Rage of Bahamut mobile card game, does Rage of Bahamut: Genesis break the curse of anime based on video games, or is it just another cheap tie in?
I've been a fan of MAPPA's animation for awhile now, but never have I seen their work look this damn good. It is as if Cygames, the company behind the Rage of Bahamut game, just gave MAPPA a blank check and told them to write whatever number they needed. If this is what MAPPA can do with a budget actually worth a damn, well I hope they get good budgets more often as Bahamut is one of the season's two best animated shows, strictly speaking in terms of the pure quality of the animation (the other series being Fate/stay night: Unlimited Budget Works). Though, for my tastes, I think Rage of Bahamut is the better animated of two, for one main reason in particular:
Facial Expressions Out of Western Animation
Look, I love anime, really, really, really love anime. But there is one thing time and again that I actually dislike about anime animation, and that is how...static (for lack of a better term) the faces in so many series can be. Sure the mouth may be flapping up and down and the eyes may be moving, but there is something...off most of the time. Bahamut does not have that problem at all. The faces of characters in Bahamut move around with a lot more fluidity. When a character talks, it actually looks like they are talking. The way brows will wrinkle, the cheeks stretch and relax when characters smile or grimace. All in all it looks less like anime and more like something a company like Dreamworks would have done (back when they did traditional animation).
Kaisar and Favaro
Though they may not seem it at first, Kaisar and Favaro are actually really good friends that care about each other. Sure they may act like assholes to each other from time to time, maybe try to kill each other every now and then, but what good pair of friends haven't? The truth is, though, the two of them have a complicated history with one another, but that just makes their friendship even better.
Adapting the Lore, Not the Game
Since the game itself is nothing more than a card battle game, it could have been extremely easy for this to have ended up some kind of card battle series full of the usual cliches of the genre. But instead, the writer and director were allowed to focus on the lore of the game. If it wasn't for the fact that when Favaro and Kaisar capture bounties in this series they turn into stone cards, you'd probably never guess that this anime was based on a mobile card game app. This was a wise decision, because the game itself is filled with a wide mixture of deities and creatures from mythology, allowing for a variety of possibilities when it came to crafting an original tale.
Rita, the Self-Sufficient Zombie Necromancer
Even without Miyuki Sawashiro's great deadpan delivery as Rita, I would probably like this scene stealing undead girl. You see, Rita is a rather powerful necromancer, but since she is also a zombie, she doesn't need to waste time digging up graves for new rotting puppets. She simply has to bite something or someone and once they die and reanimate from her zombie bite, she can take control of them. It is a combination that just works so well that I'm surprised it isn't used all that often, if only because of:
Zombie Rocket Punches/Bitch Slaps
You see, Rita's left arm is literally only held on by thread, so every now and then she'll just flat out chuck her left arm to smack some sense into some people. Rita's undead loli pimp hand is a strong one.
Badass Battles Backed by a Badass Soundtrack
The various fight scenes in Bahamut are a sight to behold. There isn't a dull one in the bunch, not even with some of the random throwaway fights. Not only are they incredibly well animated, but they are further enhanced by the amazing soundtrack by Yoshihiro Ike. Of course it isn't just the fights that are made better by Ike's work. The entire show just feels like an epic series due to the music. There are some very chilling (in a good way) songs in this series.
Amira is Wasted Potential
Early in the series, Amira was one of the most badass characters, especially when she went into her demon form and just wrecked anything that opposed her. Unfortunately as the series goes on, Amira doesn't grow as much as the rest of the main characters, and instead ends up becoming heavily defined by her big apatite. Of course the truth about Amira is eventually revealed and her lack of character growth makes a whole hell of a lot of sense, which is why this is under "Not Bad", rather than "Terrible", because they justify it in the series itself. I still would have liked to seen Amira kick more ass, though.
None of the Presented Villains are Interesting
Despite a whole host of demons put before our heroes, none of them are really any good as villains, besides your typical evil demons. But that is ok, because they were never that important to begin with. The main threat in the show is the return of Bahamut, a creature shown to have been vastly more powerful and a bigger threat than any of these demons could ever hope to be. So I am actually ok with the villains thrown in front of us not being that up to snuff, because they were always just going to be appetizers for the main course.
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis should not have been this good. It had every right to be a bad anime. Not only do anime based on video games in general have a spotty track record (to the point where many people will just flat out avoid an anime if it is based on a non-visual novel game), but Bahamut's source game is a freemium mobile card game. And yet Rage of Bahamut: Genesis defies all the odds. Even with MAPPA as the studio animating it, I was wary for the first few weeks. Worried that the animation budget would run out at some point, that the series would suddenly spiral into a giant pile of crap.
My fears kicked into high gear when they had a recap episode in the middle of the series. But it never happened. The opposite happened in fact. The story and characters kept getting better and the animation kicked into high gear. Plain and simply, saying Rage of Bahamut: Genesis was a surprise no one saw coming is a vast, vast understatement. This was my absolute favorite anime based on a non-visual novel video game. It is my favorite show from this season to end this season (I think Parasyte might be better, but that is still going), and easily one of my favorites of the entire year. You are doing yourself a disservice if you pass on Rage of Bahamut: Genesis.