Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 23

War explodes in, over, and around Anatae, as Lucifer joins the battle in his flagship, and the Onyx Soldiers and Charioce loyalists battle the alliance of demons, gods, and men. While these zoom-outs to the wider fighting certainly make for nice eye candy, what truly interested me was when they zoomed back in on the smaller, more intimate moments between various pairs of characters, be it Jeanne and Azazel, or Dias finding Alessand.

Alessand cries, begs for his life, and then stabs Dias when his guard is down, betraying him again. At that point, Dias is done with Al, except to drive a sword into him, but a little demon boy, who can see through Al’s forced smile, doesn’t fall for it, and kills him with a dagger.

After making the wrong choice to murder El in sight of a grander station, Al ended up slain by a small, frail, hungry child and died bleeding out in a dark alley. No songs will be sung of Alessand. But hey, he did get Nina into the palace, right?

Nina doesn’t understand Charioce one bit…but she sure wants to, and that means going to him once more, even if previous instances of doing so didn’t really turn out so well for her or anyone near her. Charioce waits on the top deck of aboard his flagship, surrounded by the Onyx Soldiers…who aren’t doing too hot.

Their bodies reach their absolute limit at just the wrong time: when their king needs them the most to protect him. But the combined force of Jeanne and Azazel proves too much for them, although not by much…if the Commander had had just a few more moments of life, he might’ve managed to stab Jeanne in the throat with a hidden blade.

Lucifer’s flagship, Bacchus’ wagon, and yes, an elevating bridge made out of zombies amassed by Rita bearing her and Kaisar, all descend on the same spot, where Charioce is about to be charged by Jeanne and Azazel. It’s Kaisar who makes it just in time to protect his king, and gets stabbed and impaled by their snakes and spear. Rita is beside herself, while Jeanne and Azazel are sheepish.

Charioce is shocked, but he shouldn’t be: Kaisar Lidfort is, and always has been, a true knight. If the world survives this latest attack from Bahamut, it will need more Kaisars, not more Charioces. A few Favaros wouldn’t hurt though…

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 22

While Charioce is in Eibos, trying to widen a rift, Jeanne is bringing demon, god, and man together in a grand alliance based upon their mutual hate of the asshole king, and Alessand is now in charge of the Orleans Knights, but a few of his subordinates wonder if they’re on the right side, and when Al tells himself he did nothing wrong, he doesn’t sound very convincing.

Kaisar, hopeless idealist to the end, tries in vain to halt Jeanne’s march by trying to shoulder responsibility for El’s death by giving Al free roam of their hideout. But this simply isn’t about who killed El; it’s about everyone Charioce has killed, hurt, or caused to suffer or despair. Like most things with Jeanne, this has grown into something far bigger than herself and her own desire for revenge…though she does want that revenge.

When Nina and Favaro arrive at Eibos via Bacchus’ wagon, through the obscuring fog they learn what Charioce is up to: awakening Bahamut. Nina rushes into the stronghold and takes down everyone in her path with ease, and even outmaneuvers and overpowers Charioce. But even with his own sword in her hand and the opportunity to cut off his arm and the bracelet attached to it, she can’t close the deal, even when he goads her to “do it”,  and backs down. Which…is a bit disappointing.

Instead, Nina and Favaro listen to Charioce’s advisor explain how this day was always coming; when Bahamut had to be dealt with on a permanent basis to prevent him from awakening anew and destroying the world. Charioce was the king that had been groomed to deal with this mission, and it’s one he’s more than willing to sacrifice his life to achieve. The rift opens further, Nina and Favaro escape, and Charioce comes into possession of a fleet of huge, advanced airships.

This is all very cool, it is…but while it’s now been helpfully explained why Charioce did so many terrible things (to acquire the power to destroy Bahamut) it’s still a classic ends-justify-the-means scenario, and just because he’s puting his life on the line doesn’t automatically make him a martyr.

That applies especially if the ends don’t work out; Bahamut is awakened and blows up most of Charioce’s fleet. Was…that supposed to happen? After all this, is Charioce in over his head? Whatever the case, Jeanne is fighting the wrong war; Bahamut has instantly become the Most Important Thing to deal with at the moment. The rebellion will have to wait.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 21

Alessand goes through a lot of emotions as he stalks and kills Mugaro. There’s some excitement and satisfaction he’s proven his “worth” to the Onyx Soldiers, but also a crushing guilt and self-hatred. He is truly a fallen knight. He failed the test.

He also fails to get out undetected; Favaro spots him fleeing the scene of the crime, but rather than give chase, he takes Mugaro to Rita, who tries despretely in vain to save his life as everyone around watches, including Nina, who had been previously so distracted by her own woes.

It wouldn’t be much of a drama if Rita could’ve so easily saved Mugaro, so he dies, and the group is scattered and lost as a result. After grieving, Jeanne returns to the Land of the Gods with Sofiel and purpose.

Azazel—at times a father, brother, and friend to Mugaro—also storms off, after his hunch about one of Kaisar’s subordinates being responsible is proven true by Favaro.

And naturally, Alessand doesn’t get what he bargained for. He has the blood of a holy child on his hands, but when the Onyx commander shows what being an Onyx soldier really means—becoming host to a life-sucking stone that leads to an agonizing half-life—he immediately balks. I must say, Alessand has gone from harmless buffoon to loathsome wretch in shockingly short order.

Up in the LotG, Gabriel rejoices at the return of Sofiel and Jeanne, but also pained by the news of the loss of El. Never mind; the time for mourning is over, as far as Jeanne is concerned. Sofiel transforms her into a holy warrior, and they prepare to return to the surface world in force to exact their revenge.

Azazel has less luck, at least initially, with his superior Lucifer, and Azzy has to take a book to the face, but he eventually convinces him that Jeanne is indeed moving against Charioce, and there will never be a better time to strike. Whether any kind of coordination is in the cards, we’ll have to see.

And then we have Nina. Ever since Mugaro’s death, her demeanor has been muted, and she admits to feeling numb; like Titus Andronicus, she hath not another tear to shed. She cleans and cleans until, while cleaning Bacchus’ wagon, she finds Mugaro’s dress, and the tears begin to pour, as she recalls raw anguish similar to when her dear father died.

After her good long cathartic cry, Favaro visits her in the wagon, but has no certain answers to her questions. When Nina gets up and shows her face, Favaro is surprised to see it’s no longer soaked with tears; instead, she wears a face of stern determination; of focus.

Like Azazel, like Jeanne, she’s done crying. And if Charioce will continue to hurt and kill her friends, she’ll take it upon herself to stop him, no matter what it takes. Not long thereafter, Jeanne speaks to the people from on high: rise up against the mad king who killed her only child and intends to kill many more.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 20

The Demon assassin is eager to fight a dragon, as I assumed he’d killed one or two in his checkered past. However, his true beef is with the fact that Nina is a mongrel and a pathetic abomination for having a human parent. Nina transforms into the Red Dragon, but the assassin transforms into a bigger one. A much, much bigger one.

The resulting fight is one of the cooler, more impressive battle sequences—after all, two dragons are better than one—but Nina is completely outclassed and the assassin’s attacks quickly transform her back into human form.

Naked and beaten up, the Onyx Commander looms over her and tells her the order to kill her came from His Majesty himself, twisting the proverbial knife before killing her with a real one.

Favaro and Kaisar have heard enough, and spring into action, breaking free from their captors—but they’re pretty outmatched themselves, so it’s fortunate the cavalry arrives in a timely fashion, in the form of El, Sofiel, Azazel and Jeanne. The lads are…humbled by the sight of the surpassingly ethereal, angelic Sofiel, but she’s not here to dilly-dally.

Summoning a giant avatar to match the assassin dragon’s scale, she launches a devastating ice-based attack that turns the dragon into a solid chunk that shatters under its own weight. And to think: she is of those who have found themselves flummoxed and beaten back by Charioce.

With the dragon eliminated and the Onyx Soldiers tied up with magical binds, all that’s left is to finish saving Nina, who appears down for the count not due to any physical exertion, but because she’s suffering from a broken heart.

Kaisar leaves the Onyx Commander and his men alive, but the Commander makes sure he knows there’s nothing he or his friends can do to stop Charioce, so there’s no point in continuing to oppose him, aside, I supposed, from a death wish. Alessand also takes note of the fact that El is the “holy child.”

Back at base (which is surprisingly still intact and safe after all that) Sofiel insists that it’s time to go: Her, Jeanne…and El. But El is reluctant; he believes he was born for a greater purpose that can only be served on the surface world. Bacchus, for once given some dramatic meat, tells him he’s being foolish; that all he his at the moment is a child, a gift from his father to his mother. It’s enough to convince him to go with them.

Meanwhile, Nina whips herself into a rage and tosses aside the necklace Charioce gave her, trying and likely failing to get over the guy who not only rejected her, but tried to kill her. She neither needs nor wants these feelings, but unless Rita has a spell or potion for it, they’re not going anywhere. El stops by to say goodbye, and can tell Nina isn’t alright, even though she puts her usual cheerful face on in front of him.

The next morning, the Onyx Commander informs Charioce, who is headed to Eidos to finish opening the rift, that the dragon has been eliminated; Charioce, like Nina, may well be hiding his true feelings on the matter from the world. Ready to set off back to the Land of the Gods, Sofiel admits to Bacchus that she left without permission, and furthermore, can why he stayed on this world: there’s never a dull moment, after all.

After El says his final goodbyes to Azazel, he walks back through the caves alone, and is confronted by Alessand, who stabs him in the chest, making his holy blood pour onto the ground and surround his black ocarina. Alessand, who was humiliated and judged as worthless by the Onyx Commander, still wishes to prove the man wrong.

So Al chose to make himself worth something by eliminating a potential weapon of the Gods. Whether he’ll get any acknowledgment—or even get out of the caves with his life—remain to be seen.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 19

Fancy Royal Ball Caper, anyone? Nina and Al’s big arrival is briefly interrupted by a flashback to Rita going over the plan to snatch Charioce’s bracelet. Everyone plays a role, including El, if the Onyx Soldiers get involved (with Azazel watching his back).

Nina realizes that as the ‘getaway vehicle’ her role is crucial to success (just as she trips on the palace steps). She’s been able to transform at will, but Favaro (paired up with Dias and tasked with actually swiping the bracelet) doesn’t think she’ll be able to when the time comes.

That’s not Favaro not having faith in his student; it’s Favaro knowing how Nina feels about Charioce, and how the King isn’t going to give up that bracelet easily. Al doesn’t have to pretend Nina is his fiancee or sister for long, as Nina ditches him the moment Charioce enters.

This is the Charioce who allowed the Onyx Commander to proceed with the plan to assassinate Nina, so with that in mind I couldn’t help but feel, like Favaro, that there was simply no way Nina would transform into a dragon, and thus no way he mission would succeed.

Nina is, however, able to ask the king to dance and draw him to her, and they become the center of attention as they cut a mean rug all over the ballroom. The CGI extras are a bit stiff, but the dancing animation is as crisp and smooth as it was during their first dance at the festival, and just as adorable. It’s almost enough to make you forget that this love story can only end in tragedy and despair.

On a secluded balcony, Nina waits for Charioce to come out and tell her “everything”, as he promised to do the next time they met. But instead, he dumps her like she’s never been dumped before, without even a hint of empathy or compassion. Just “we’re done, don’t come back, go before I have the guards seize you.”

Being subjected to exactly the opposite treatment from him she expected, Nina is a wreck, but Favaro emerges from the shadows to scold “Mr. King” for hurting his student, and demands he give up the bracelet. When Charioce says it can’t be removed as long as he lives, Favaro says he can fix that, but Nina comes between them, not able to betray the man she loves as he was able to betray her.

The guards arrive, but Favaro tosses some smoke bombs, which are also the signal that the plan has failed. Everyone evacuates without any trouble, but Al tries to go off on his own, only to be intercepted by Azazel and El; the three later encounter Jeanne and Sofiel in the streets.

Nina, Favaro and Kaisar end up at the waterfront, where they are quickly surrounded by Onyx Soldiers. Then the burly assassin arrives, prepared to kill the dragon. The look in Nina’s eyes suggests he’s welcome to try.

This was a fun and often thrilling episode, but its impact was somewhat lessoned by the certainty that the caper would ultimately fail. It’s too early for the good guys to possess the means to rob the bad guy of his power. But (please) let there be no (or very little) remaining doubt: Charioce has made his choice: to let Onyx run free. He is the bad guy, however much Nina may love him.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 18

Baha Soul finally returns to airwaves and breaks from the action and the central romance to focus on all the various relationships characters have developed over the course of the last 17 episodes (and the 12 of Genesis before that).

Nina “gets home” late, worrying/annoying her “parents”: Rita, Bacchus, Hamsa and Rocky. She’s giddy as a schoolgirl, and her master Favaro already knows why; she can deny it all she wants but he knows her.

Things get awkward when Nina and Azazel meet for the first time since she failed to transform in aid of his rebellion, leading to the death and capture of every demon he convinced to fight for him.

Not particularly interested in catching up, Azazel responds to Nina’s apology by saying he never expected anything of her anyway…which we know is a lie. He even gives poor Mugaro the cold shoulder.

The team’s next plan will involve attending the palace ball to be held in three days. Nina quickly volunteers to sneak in and steal Charioce’s bracelet (the one that controls the superweapon) and proves she’s up to the task by spontaneously leaping behind a wall of crates, transforming into a dragon, then transforming right back (without even losing her clothes to boot).

Everyone is impressed…except for Azazel, who is disgusted and enraged beyond belief. That he had to lose so much and so many because the timing of Nina “learning what it feels like to be loved” was just a little too late…I’d be grinding my fallen angel teeth, too.

Continuing Nina’s practice of not staying well-hidden, El goes out the next day to look for Azazel, who stormed off in a right tizzy. El inevitably attracts the attention of guards and runs himself into a dead end, but Azazel swoops in to rescue him.

Afterwards, it takes El apologizing to Azazel for Azzy to snap out of it and stop directing his anger at someone who doesn’t have to apologize for anything. Azzy saved El, but El kinda saved him in the process, by proving there was more in life than…oneself.

Alessand and Dias continue to pop up now and again, with the latter remaining fiercely loyal to Kaisar (even worrying about being in a gentleman’s club would look) while Al resents him more every day for ruining their careers, abandoning them, and becoming a fugitive.

Well, it isn’t until a drunk Al confronts a tall, suspicious-looking “demon” that turns out to be Kaisar in disguise that we see that however else Al feels about Kaisar, his misses him, and misses the Orleans Knights, and how good it felt to be together.

After the Onyx commander dismissed Al’s request to transfer by basically saying he’s worthless, here comes Kaisar to tell him he has a great deal of worth, and if he would find it in his heart to set aside his superior’s transgressions, together they can make a difference.

Nina is still giddily drunk in love by episode’s end, to the point she’s yelling “I LOVE YOU” at the moon. Favaro joins her, though his words aren’t for Charioce, but Amira. He has Nina all but drop the pretense, as he knows Charioce is the object of her affections, whether she “can say” she truly loves him yet or not.

Drawing from his experience in helping to quell the threat of Bahamut years ago, Favaro still wonders if the choice he made was the correct one, and urges Nina to think carefully about how she’ll choose, because the way this world works, you can’t gain anything without losing something in the bargain.

Then Favaro gets back to playfully yelling “I love you” at the moon and Nina struggles to stop him, the Onyx commander is paying a mercenary/hitman to eliminate the dragon; an order the commander gave himself more than Charioce gave him. From the looks of this guy, Nina’s toughness is about to be tested.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 16

Action is the name of the game on this week’s Baha Soul, with thrilling chases, an intense arena battle, daring escapes, and high-altitude rescues. It all starts when Bacchus, Hamsa, and Nina start talking about how and why Bacchus left Heaven, mentioning the hippogriff. El waits for his chance.

As Alessand continues to side with Charioce and Dias holds out hope for their old captain, Kaisar is stuffed in a cage and released in the middle of the arena, where he must fight Azazel to the death. Azzy may not be quite clear about why he’s still alive, but he’s not just going to lay down for the fallen knight, who manages to hold his own even though he’s missing a hand. Jaime Lannister, eat your heart out.

Once Bacchus, Hamsa and Nina realize El is missing (with Nina wearing El’s clothes, suggesting El went to the unusual trouble of dressing her after stealing her clothes) and formulate a plan to retrieve him, using lots of wordless hand (and wing) signals but getting the timing all wrong, causing a startled El to take wing and fly off.

Just when Azazel is about to put Kaisar down, Favaro, in the stands all along in a very puffy disguise (and clean-shaven), throws him Rocky, and Kaisar quickly gets the upper hand and “runs Azazel through” (though his precise strike doesn’t really touch Azzy).

As Favaro’s matador-like theme plays, he unleashes his crafty bounty hunter arsenal of crossbow bolts and smoke bombs, giving the three lads cover to escape, as Charioce reclines in his throne, seemingly unconcerned.

Nina catches up to El in a hovering platform in a very pretty chase through Heaven, but when she tries to pounce on him in mid-air she misses and starts to fall down and through the celestial barrier. Naturally, El descends at top speed to catch her, because he’s still, in her words “Mugaro”, despite having changed “a little bit.”

The two of them are then saved by Bacchus and Hamsa, who called Hippogriff and skedaddled just when Heavenly guards surrounded them. Back to Anatae they go, where El intends not to fight, but to bring peace.

At a very picturesque meeting spot, Rita unites with Kaisar, Rocky, Favaro and Azazel. The latter tries to slink off, claiming “this is as far” as he goes; but Kaisar tells him if they all work together, they can save demons as well as humans and gods from Charioce’s havoc. I loved Rita’s smile when Azzy walks by her, Kaisar’s words having worked. And all it takes is a look to bring Favaro along for the ride.

Not long ago all of the main cast was imprisoned in some way. Now, suddenly, they’re all free (for now) and in strong groups (again, for now). Will the two groups stay apart, or combine to create a force even Charioce will have trouble with? Will Nina’s continued Charioce conflict jeopardize the whole enterprise? Can El succeed without using force (which we know is limited in its scope an duration before he collapses)? We shall see.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 15

Another face from Genesis makes his first appearance in Virgin Soul: the fallen angel Lucifer, who holds court with a handful of elite demons. He convinces them to hang tight as they’ve been doing since the fall of Cocytus. He saw what happened to Beelzebub; he has no more confidence the humans will be able to control the power they’ve stolen.

Azazel is also back, in the worst-kept secret in anime. Like Thor in the upcoming Ragnarok, he’s fighting in the arena as a gladiator, but he’s not quite sure why he’s bothering to remain alive. Meanwhile, the elder dragon manages to just get Jeanne and Nina through the barrier into the land of the gods—by throwing Bacchus’ wagon like a baseball.

Speaking of Bacchus, Sofiel has him try to make some headway with El, who has been “pouting” ever since the gods’ defeat at Anatae. When Jeanne and Nina arrive they receive a cool welcome, and are struck by how sparsely inhabited the otherwise gorgeous lands are.

A guardsangel intercepts them, and when she hears Nina comment on how the place isn’t as “bright and sparkly” as she expected, takes them to what amounts to a mass god grave, with each streaking blue light representing a god fallen. They sacrificed themselves to save the surface world from Bahamut, only for Charioce to launch a crusade against them.

It’s good we get some perspective from a rank-and-file angel; it further demonstrates the mission El believes only he can accomplish: righting the evils in the world below to preserve both humanity, god-kind, and demons like Azazel, the one who saved him after he and Jeanne were separated.

That brings us to the most heartwarming/wrenching reunion of Shingeki no Bahamut’s run: the reunion between mother and son. It’s nicely balanced by the comedy of Bacchus and Hamsa thinking Nina is crying about reuniting with them rather than “Mugaro.” (Bacchus and Hamsa are also prove useless yet amusing in trying to get through to El before).

El proudly regails her mother of how he ended up hiding among demon slaves, and was about to be sold to humans who would do gods-know-what to him before Azazel freed him and the others. El followed his mom’s advice to stick with the first person to help him, which was Azazel.

Now, El, believes, it’s his turn to save everyone…but Sofiel (who was also elated to see Jeanne) is doubtful El has enough power to achieve what he’s aiming for, deferring to her superior Gabriel’s judgment. She’s loyal and dutiful to Gabriel, and with good reason, but El thinks Sofiel is wasting her time.

El is supremely confident of his abilities, especially now that his mother is safe and by his side. And with a wry smirk, he makes it clear he intends on making everyone else into a believer.

P.S. Nina is upset that Charioce is doing so many things that make everyone hate him, because she can’t stand the thought of everyone hating him. Sure, fine.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 14

For the record, I am not on board with Nina x Charioce. Simply put, the show hasn’t made Charioce likable or sympathetic enough to overcome the significant evils he has committed against humans, gods, and demons alike.

It makes no further progress in convincing me this week…aside from showing that he won’t allow a Black Knight gut his barber after accidentally cutting his neck with a razor.

Another mark against him is that he has Kaisar imprisoned and seems to be having him tortured for information. Still, Kaisar is a lot tougher than his endless eyelashes suggest, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

His spirits—and those of his visiting lieutenant, Dias—are also surely lifted by the news that Jeanne is free, and the men hold out hope the noble Orleans knights will rise again…one day.

Meanwhile, Nina and Jeanne arrive at Dragon Village, where Nina is swarmed and greeted warmly by her many siblings and friends, and the two ladies can have baths, haircuts, and a new change of clothes, as well as ask the village elder (a very old and tiny lady) how to reach the Land of the Gods.

Nina’s Charioce conundrum inevitably comes up, though obviously she doesn’t refer to him by name; otherwise Jeanne would surely drop the talk of “embracing contradictions” and tell Nina to get over that mass murdering, enslaving, poor-tipping despot.

Being around so many smiling, laughing, happy children also makes Jeanne wistful of the time she still had El; she seeks out Nina’s mother in the night, who is more than willing to provide an understanding ear and a shoulder to cry on.

I loved, well, the love evident in this scene; suffused with maternal instinct and affection. Nina’s mom even brings up her daughter’s tendency to transform and rampage when around “men like her father” as a coping mechanism.

The next morning the elder has agreed to show them the way to the Land of the Gods—her own back. She transforms from tiny old lady to massive, grizzled dragon, with a back more than broad enough for Bacchus’ entire carriage, complete with hippogriff.

I am pleased, at the very least, that the Charioce issue can at least be tabled, as the more pressing issue is reuniting a mother with her son—righting yet another wrong perpetrated by the prettyboy king who imprisoned her. I maintain that if the show wants me to feel anything other than contempt for the dude, it’ll have to make one hell of a pitch.