I like this. After a bombastic fight between a human army and a giant dragon — this epic encounter apparently occurred around two thousand years ago — the story “settles” down as it adopts the perspective of a freewheelin’, swashbuckling rogue by the name of Favaro Leone. So far, our protagonist is hardly much of a hero. A womanizing braggadocio who loves to spin tall tales at the local pub, Favaro is a bounty hunter who lives from paycheck to paycheck: “It’s my policy to spend all of my day’s earnings!” He seems like the selfish sort who would sell his allies up the creek for a bit of coin. He’ll save people from time to time, like how he saved those girls from being kidnapped, but if he doesn’t get paid for it, he’ll do so inadvertently. Think Jack Sparrow but less flamboyant (no one’s going to be as flamboyant as Jack Sparrow). But like a lot of rogues in like-minded tales, Favaro gets more than he bargains for when one of his tall tales catches the attention of a mysterious, pink-haired girl.
Every story needs a mysterious heroine, and this girl here is ours. She appears out of nowhere like those robots from the Terminator movie series, and yes, she’s naked in her entrance to the story. I don’t think we’ve even learned her name yet, but she desperately needs to get to Helheim for one reason or another. So when she heard that Favaro knew a shortcut to this ominous location to the far north, she quickly tries to enlist the rogue for help. Needless to say, Favaro is not a complicated man, so he’s got no clue where Helheim is. Still, what do you expect a person of his sort to do when they come across such a serious-looking young girl in desperate need for help? He automatically assumes that he can take advantage of her naivete, of course. In exchange for help — help that he never intended to give her — Favaro wants a kiss from our mysterious maiden in return. But like I’ve implied above, he’ll come to regret ever getting involved with our mysterious heroine. And in the process, maybe our selfish rogue will learn not to be quite so selfish.
When a bounty shows up to get his revenge on Favaro — just earlier in the episode, our protagonist had captured the bad guy’s brother — the mysterious girl decides to take action. After all, she thinks Favaro can get her to Helheim, so she’s going to protect him for the time being. Favaro quickly realizes, however, that she is, well, a demon and a powerful demon at that. And as he passes out — in the fracas, a barrel lands on his head — he gets the kiss that he had bargained for, but not necessarily the kiss that he wanted. Y’see, he wakes up the next day to find that, well, he’s now got himself a demon tail. Has that magical kiss turned him into one of the mysterious girl’s kind as well? These two are not the primary characters in the story. Every rogue needs his straight man, too. A straight man does his job by setting up the punchline for the rogue to deliver, and that appears to be Kaisar’s job. So far, all we know about Kaisar is that he’s a disgraced former prince who must now become a bounty hunter as well. It’s almost certain that he too will be dragged into the mysterious girl’s quest.
Why do I like this show so far? I mean, isn’t it kind of cliche? Yeah, sure, but there’s something to be said about good, proper execution, and so far, Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis has this part nailed. This probably won’t be a deep show that meditates on the meaning of life. It probably won’t be an overly complicated show about politics. It probably won’t even paint a very poignant psychological picture of our characters. In all likelihood, our swashbuckling rogue will simply escort the mysterious girl to the far north with Kaisar’s help, and when the three of them get there, they’ll battle dragons for the sake of humanity or something. But if the anime can keep this level of energy, action, and even humor — yes, I laughed once or twice during the first episode — it doesn’t need to be anything more than that. Of course, it’s just the first episode, so anything can still happen. This may very well become that deep show I just talked about… or it could also fall flat on its face. But so far, there’s little for me to complain about.
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis is supposedly based on a card game in Japan, but it has the good taste to avoid, well, showing us the existence of any actual cards. So far, this is the closest thing to a card in this anime, and that’s just what bounties turn into when you capture them. Sure, there are still some unnatural card-like idiosyncrasies. For instance, people seem to be able to summon monsters, warriors, and whatnot to do their bidding. But the narrative doesn’t get bogged down by the need to explain the rules of the game. I mean, if you’ve seen other like-minded shows, you know what I’m talking about. Characters would prattle on and on about how to play some dumb game that the show is not-so-subtly trying to push down our throat. Again, this is not what we get here. We just jump right into the action, and there’s a whole lot of action. I don’t expect every episode to have this much action, of course, but this is the kind of opening episode that I want. There’s just enough information to leave me curious for more.
There are plenty of questions to answer in the following episodes. Of course, I want to know what the mysterious girl is after. I want to know what’s so important about Helheim. I want to know how the battle against (presumably) Bahamut in the opening ties in our current story. And if the show drops the ball on these questions, yeah, I’ll call it out. But an opening episode doesn’t need to tell the whole story in one go. It simply needs to lay the foundation for the developments to come. Lately, I feel as though everyone wants to cram as much as they can into the first episode, thinking that this will payoff in the future. But more often than not, that sort of lazy storytelling carries over into the future episodes. People are creatures of habit. If they rely too much on exposition in the first episode, there’s no reason to think they won’t fall back on it as a crutch for future episodes. So far, Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis has avoided that pitfall. And instead of directly telling us what our main characters are like, their characterizations play out in the action itself. That’s how it should be done.
Best opening episode I’ve seen so far. Again, the show doesn’t seem like it’ll be very deep, but the execution is spot-on. Can MAPPA really keep impressing me though? Now, let’s see if someone can sub Garo already. And no, I’m not going to stop mentioning Garo until it gets subbed.