Once upon a time, in a far away studio called AIC, Berserk met Dumb & Dumber and they shagged on a bed of Playboy magazines – in a twist completely devoid of irony, the resulting lovechild was christened Bastard!!. It is the stupidest, most cocksure, most compelling anime I have had the misfortune of enjoying, and I recommend it to all Dungeons & Dragons fanatics not so much interested in strategy as masturbating.
All along I was thinking, ‘Why? Why would anyone make this trash?’ I’ll tell you why. Because they knew that you’d read a review similar to this one and be so predictably self-destructive as to want to watch it.
Peel away the gimmicks, the gags, the goofiness, and you might find at the core a worm of a plot feebly wriggling away. Dark Schneider the most powerful wizard, er, alive? undead?... is supposed to stop the Four Lords of Havoc annihilating the world. But these bad guys are also his former comrades, so the plot deviates into a lot of back story and character development instead. Most spectacularly, it sprinkles every scene with spoofy sexual jokes varying from common panty shots to more explicit assaults. Lord of Havoc #1, the ninja Gara, captures Yoko the heroine and threatens to unleash upon her a punishment unlike any other. ‘That’s right!’ he announces, ‘It’s SLIME! It will dissolve your clothes slowly before my eyes!’ Follow scenes of her moaning in orgasmic displeasure while goo glides all over her juicy lumps.
Admittedly, the anime only recreates a segment of the still-running manga – there’s plenty of unexplained history and the ending is of the ‘to be continued’ kind, meaning the script reads as though it came slap-bang out of the middle. Nevertheless, Bastard!! remains miraculously coherent and even delivers on half-decent characters. The result is that, at its best, it offers genuinely emotive personal confrontations such as the rather apocalyptic lover’s tiff between Dark Schneider and Arshes. Most importantly, it’s goddamn funny on many occasions. I pretty much began writing this whilst wiping hot tears of disbelief from my eyes, not that doing so helped me see this show with any more clarity. All I know is it’s terrible and I like it.
Eyebrows like dismembered foxtails, a body chiselled seemingly from granite, and enough hair to make Bon Jovi look like Phil Collins. Dark Schneider clearly possesses great manliness and virility. This is the message being conveyed by having him nakedly parade his assets every other scene, whether in bed with an elf or, yes damnit, in the midst of demonic battle!! Male (hetero) readers should not feel left out, however – the women get frequent turns at the ‘who can undress quicker’ game. From skimpy leotards that ride up smooth butt cracks to the all-time favourite nipple shot.
Luckily, the animation depicting the above scenes is far from terrible (it looks good for a 90s show, actually), if rather inconsistent. As if to highlight the spastic attitude of the plot, the animation switches quality on a regular basis. In early episodes it’s horridly Shadow-Skill-OVA-ish; later, it looks Record-of-the-Lodoss-War beautiful with powerful action sequences. Additionally, the generic background scenery would bore the eye if it weren’t for the shiny, shiny magical battles.
The dub is as pleasant as ear-sex with a fork, as harmonious as all the songs on a Maximum the Hormone album played in unison. But for once, I fear the mediocre and exaggerated American acting actually leads to higher levels of enjoyment. For what else do you expect from a corny fantasy but corny acting? The Japanese performances come across more accomplished, which works for the serious scenes (Dark Schneider and Arshes’ interactions are highly convincing, for example), but poses a problem for anyone appreciating Bastard!! for its irreverent humour. With sober actors, the show appears less like a spoof and more like a typically failed fantasy.
Although the characters remain staunch archetypes, the script handles them well, offering them many opportunities to poke fun at themselves. Moreover, one or two of the personal dynamics are even sympathetic enough to keep viewers caring when the plot itself is drivel.
Dark Schneider, presumably the – ahem – bastard in question, has the ill luck of being locked inside the body of a fourteen-year old. I say ‘ill luck’ because he’s normally a four-hundred-year old letch with a six-pack and magnificent shoulder pads. I expected his characterisation to consist of tiresome scenes of an underage boy toppling into sexual acts with half the women around him. As luck would have it, Dark Schneider remains mostly an adult engaged in sexual acts with all the women around him. What may come as a surprise, however, is that he’s misunderstood. As Yoko follows him from one battle to the next, she also realises that his brain-in-my-crotch attitude masks a heroic spirit. Sure it’s clichéd but the formula works – obnoxious as he is, the character promises the kind of dirty fun everyone secretly wants.
Kudos to Bastard!! for combining sympathetic characterisation and self-deprecating humour then spraying it all over with macho junk (haha!) in a way that not only disarmed me, but made me want to slide it to the top of my guilty pleasures list. Clearly someone had a lot of fun writing this script (I imagine a small bespectacled loon in a shady studio giggling away at his own scribbles) and no doubt their audience will enjoy just as much dark delight watching the final product. As far as high-octane, trashy entertainment goes, this misbegotten smear of nonsense is the shit.
This is by far the best OVA title studio AIC ever made. It is also directed by Akiyama Katsuhito, who also has other famous oldies such as Gall Force and Bubblegum Crisis under his wing. This baby smells retro magic from miles away.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10 [EXODUS !!!]
- If there is something anime lack, that would be good epic fantasy series. The best there is, is still Record of Lodoss War, which is boring at best. Series like Berserk and Claymore don’t count because they are « dark » fantasy and not « epic ». Series like Slayers also don’t count, as they are basically slapstick comedies with a loose story in a medieval setting.
- And then there is Bastard !!, which is still not pure epic fantasy. Still, it happens to be an extremely enjoyable series, which keeps jumping from comedy, to ecchi, to epic, to Dragon Ball Z level of fighting, to drama, to mystery, to post-apocalyptic, to even a mind game of looking for references to famous Heavy Metal Band names, songs and singers. All of which are offered in a balanced amount, so you won’t feel like there are six scriptwriters taking turns in the story. (oh, how I hate it when the DM changes in the middle of a D&D campaign !)
- Few series are able to remain interesting throughout their entire duration. Bastard !! is a not compete success, as some scenes seem to take it too far into Lalaland (minus one point) and the ending remains unsatisfactory open (minus another point).
ART & SOUND SECTION: 8/10 [ Sex, drugs and Roc’n’roll! ]
- Lots of naked chicks, lots of muscular guys, magic spells, horrid monsters, explosions that level mountains, girls hitting hapless men and a weird mix of medieval castles and ruined high-teck cities. How can you not like it? Fan service expands from the typical nude, to the orgasm that comes from seeing things blow up and hearing references of your favorite music bands (no hardcore sex scenes; so take it easy). The feeling of watching an RPG will also attract those who play such games, especially of the western origin.
- The level of quality is obviously aged; although being of OVA format they surpass most series of their time, both in clear details and vivid colors.
- Voice acting is overdone with all the yelling and laughing over peanuts but is very on par with the whole shallowness deal of the series, so it is generally appealing.
- Music themes and sound effects are the epitome of epicness! Powerful, strong, imposing and blood-boiling, all of them. They even turn to calm elegies when the scene gets sad or romantic. Truly good; they pay attention to what is going on in the plot.
STORY SECTION: 5/10 [Soda cliché with a lot of lemon twists.]
The story begins in a more than typical way. Evil monster army marches to conquer the world and find four artifacts in order to resurrect an archdevil, good people summon a powerful wizard/warrior in order to save them. Boy, have I been fed up with this fairy tale shit … The Lord of the Rings was the last straw. No more! I want a twist to the formula! … And it turns out there is more than one in this one. The twists have the form of parody to the most part, but are great nonetheless.
The twist is that the “savior” is trapped within a hapless boy…
-Big deal; Naruto has the same idea. So what?
… And gets freed and trapped again with a kiss by a virgin.
…And he is not good-willing at all. He wants to have sex with every female he encounters and doesn’t give a shit about justice and goodness.
- Now we’re getting somewhere!
…It also turns out he was the original leader of the monster army and a friend of the main villains.
-OMG! He can’t just kill them, like nothing happened!
…And that the world is not really medieval but a second Dark Age that befell mankind when they created the archdemon in times past (ruined skyscrapers all over the place), who in the context of the series is a doomsday artificial intelligence device.
-GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!
The great thing is that the main villains are not cardboards you won’t give a shit if they die. They all have a dark secret that makes them humane and sympathetic. They even have a close relation to the so-called savior, who practically is 10 times more evil than them. Every battle progresses the story through human drama and passionate ambitions. Not manihaistic Walt Disney clear-cut bullshit of good versus evil. The bad thing is that, although not entirely predictable, the story is linear and ends in a very open way that will drive you nuts for more.
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10 [ What?! He screwed more than 150 women ?!!! ]
As the title implies, every major character is a bastard with a double exclamation point. ,ales are all brawn and no brains, selfish and arrogant. Women are fragile bishojos that can’t stay dressed for more than 5 minutes without being sexually attacked. Yet, unlike most heavy-dudes and useless damsels-in-distress in fighting series, they also have a drama behind them that gives a sensitive side to them. You almost feel they are just little immature kids with super powers, which go haywire every five minutes under the pressure of their ambition and sexual tension.
I tell you, I had my share of ridiculous characters over the years.
-I despise spineless male characters that get beaten by girls all the time (i.e. Keitarou from Love Hina).
-I mock ideal-driven characters that all they want are to become the best in the world (i.e. Ash from Pokemon).
-I spit at muscular idiots that just use raw force to solve all their problems (i.e. Goku from Dragon Ball).
-I even loath amoral anti-heroes that play it hard to get (i.e. Dante from Devil May Cry).
The cast in this series is not any different than the above examples. Yet, they seem to be an interesting mix of the best parts of the established clichés.
- Dark Schneider is practically an immortal that loves to blast people to bits, like Alucard from Hellsing (I hate that guy!). Yet, he cares about his women and even allows them to hit him when they get angry. That is a lot funnier than what you can tell by simply reading it here.
-They play jokes to each other and yet don’t forget to mention the cruel events in their pasts that led them to this mess.
-They talk like they are gods and yet they also cry and complain a few minutes later.
In all, although they are not original or realistic in any way, they have a wonderful mix of comedy and drama that overshadows almost all similar characters in other shows. The trio of Shneider, Nel and Gara strongly reminded me of Berserk’s Griffith, Caska and Guts; yet these guys were funny half the time and developed a lot faster.
The characters lose points for being rather-one-of-the-same and didn’t fully develop throughout the series. Especially the last of the evil army generals is completely left out from the story. The open ending means there is more to them but was simply not continued being animated.
VALUE SECTION: 7/10
With such a lack of interesting fantasy anime titles and with such a high amount of Heavy Metal references, the series clearly has high historical value and memorability. Rewatchability on the other hand is low, as the story feels too simple not to bother with it any time soon.
Read the manga version, as it continues the story further.
Watch Berserk (very good dark fantasy), Slayers (very good comical fantasy), Claymore (good dark fantasy) and Detroit Metal City (very good death metal comedy).
How do i describ this anime?
Poorly drawn character, that seem to be reading a script of cheesy lines. The main character is total douche... and well let face it the story line is unoriginial and pretty lame.
Also the character in this anime are extremly dumb and naive. I guess it done to add humor to the story but they realy miss the ball on this one.
All and all a very disapointing anime.
All of the typical shounen tropes including tsundere female lead, pervert male lead, naming of attacks, yelling to power-up, monster of the week, each stronger than the one before of course, and all of this in six of the worst written cheasiest episodes you can find anywhere. Add to that that the sound and animation quality is as poor as you'd expect from an '95 anime and you have a show that was difficult to watch at best.
With a name like Bastard!!, you know it's at least looking into, right? I mean come on, you can't tell me you're not a little bit curious; or else why would you be reading this review? Well, Tea's here to give you the skinny on this 6 episode muscle-fest. If you like a lot of action-packed muscle magic fights, comedy, and don't mind some boob-ige popping up from time to time(get it? "Popping up" boobs? *cough* anyway...) Bastard!! is a good show for you. With only six episodes, it's worth looking into, right? ~Tea