Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 04

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I will never tire of Amira’s many expressions

Put simply, Shingeki no Bahamut simply kicks ass at telling rousing, impeccably-orchestrated stories of adventure. Last week featured a town of illusion and undead ruled by a powerful, devious, but ultimately bored necromancer. Rita ended up following Kaisar looking for a change of pace and a little excitement…and her decision paid almost immediate dividends.

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“D’you even know how to USE that?”

Entitled “Reunion at Ysmenport”, we’re immediately treated to a beautifully-rendered, well-worn and lived-in city; I could almost smell the fish…and other things such cities have. As street swindler ends up giving both Favaro and Kaisar information how where to get where they want to go. Favaro needs to get to Helheim (and can only keep up the lie about knowing how to get there for so long. Kaisar simply wants to get to Favaro.

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Mmmm…you gotta love crab.

What ensues is perhaps the most complete and exciting episode of the series so far, a journey on the high seas with giant sea monsters of varying tastiness, demon sailors, zombie sailors, demon sailors fighting zombie sailors, demon girls fighting sea monsters, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a lot going on!

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Taking an undead necromancer hostage: Not a good idea

But it’s not just action: after three episodes of Kaisar chasing Favaro across the ends of the earth, we finally learn why: Favaro’s dad was the one who attacked the convoy carrying the king’s tribute, which was overseen by Kaisar’s father. Kaisar and Favaro were childhood friends despite being from different classes, but Kaisar saw what happened as a betrayal, and his desire for revenge has driven him on a continuing quest to nail Favaro to the wall.

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Ruff! Ruff!

Oh, and also…the demons in demonworld finally stop commenting on what’s transpiring in the regular world and spring into action! I’m not the biggest fan of the dog-demon-girl with her puppets Cerberus (!), but at least these guys are consistent. Every time Amira transforms, they’re able to locate her.

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All that work, and it tastes like crap.

Amira does so when that giant crab emerges from the deep and threatens the ship…and Favaro. While there was probably no way Favaro could have dealt with the beast himself, it was still a risky move that ends up giving Favaro’s dad’s old friend and fellow “honorable thief”, Captain Amon, an opportunity to reveal himself as having “gone into business for himself”, just like Favaro. The jewels he and Favaro’s dad stole were filled with magic that brought forth killer demons, and only Amon survived, but he did so by becoming a demon himself…a bounty-hunter demon! And right now, Amira’s price is so high, Amon is fine simply killing Favaro rather than turn him in.

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So boss.

Meanwhile, Kaisar and Rita have not been standing still. They secured passage on another ship, which turns out to be pirates who aim to rob Kaisar and sell the girl. What’s so great is that so many people would find this a relatively alarming situation, but Kaisar knows what he’s doing and easily dispatches several pirates with his superior swordsmanship.

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Also, Rita isn’t really a “girl” anymore; not entirely. What she is is someone who you most definitely want on your side. The pirates numbers are meaningless; she kills them all then reanimates them as a freaking Zombie Pirate Crew under her command. It just keeps getting better!

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She rams her newly-acquired (and much larger) ship into Amon’s and that’s when the previously-mentioned battle between amphibious demon sailors and zombie pirate sailors commences, with Favaro, Amira, Amon, and eventually Kaisar literally above the fray in the rigging. Up here we get some Pirates of the Caribbean-style tightrope combat for good measure.

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Frankly, I really liked Amon as a friend of Favaro’s and as a link to his past, but not all baddies can become allies like Rita. Speaking of baddies, after Amon is vanquished, the head demon dude Azazel sends a giant tentacle to pluck up Amira, inadvertently bringing Kaisar along for the ride, too. He stops Cerberus from killing him instantly, but whatever he has in store for the bonus human can’t be good.

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I…I didn’t see that coming! Who am I kidding, I hardly saw anything coming this week, and that’s why it was so fantastic. I was almost always on the edge of my seat. Now we have quite a predicament on our hands: both Favaro and Rita’s traveling companions have been taken prisoner by powerful but unknown foes. Will these two team up to get their respective partners back? I’m guessing Favaro still wants to get rid of his tail, and Rita wants to turn more things undead, sooo…yeah.

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Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 01

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The nations of the world have been splintered, isolated, and pushed to the brink by the technologically advanced naval “Fleet of Fog”, who go on to rule the seas. Promising military student Chihaya Gunzou is shown a top secret fog submarine I-401 that activates when he touches it. The next day, an ethereal girl Iona confronts Gunzou, telling him she is the embodiment of the I-401, and her only order is to obey him. For the next two years Iona, Gunzou, and a crew of his classmates battle the Fleet of Fog as an independent ship. The Japanese military hires them to transport a new, potentially game-changing weapon to America for mass production.

It’s always been a custom to refer to the vast majority of boats, ships, and naval vessels as female in gender. We don’t know why for sure, but it feels right for some reason, as there’s something maternal about how they bear their crews and cargo and protect them from the harsh seas. This series takes that tradition to its quasi-logical conclusion: giving vessels actual human avatars. Rather than a mother, Iona comes off as more like a highly dutiful little sister to Chihaya Gunzou. In the flashback when they meet, once he realizes the power at his disposal, he wastes no time agreeing to be her captain. The setup is very efficient, quickly establishing their rapport and then showing the product of two years of collaboration.

We can see the cel-shaded CGI being off-putting to many, like Aku no Hana’s rotoscoping. It almost suits the not-really-human Iona, but the problem is everyone moves in pretty much the same mechanical way, and their gazes are a bit dead-eyed. Their movement aside, the character and costume designs are top-notch; the colorful crew reminded us of Eureka Seven, both in their look and the way they roam the seas (mostly) free of government masters. Gunzou is dedicated to shattering the status quo by taking the fight to Fleet of Fog – a gang of haughty ladies in elaborate garb going after Iona the deserter. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but it looks like a solid, professional series.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Gunzou’s dad is believed to have defected to the Fog, which made things rough for Gunzou growing up but also seems to be responsible for Iona defecting from the Fog and going to Gunzou. 
  • It’s not even mentioned, but we like how despite the shadow his father cast over him, there were still some who decided to befriend Gunzou. They became his crew.
  • This show takes itself very seriously most of the time, but we liked the lighter moments in which a freshly-awakened Iona answers everyone’s queries quite literally. We also liked how she admitted to being nervous in her first battle; she’s clearly more than just a machine.
  • We liked the lived-in, personalised nature of the various crew members’ kiosks on the bridge.
  • It goes without saying, but the naval battles and ship models were really well done and expensive-looking.