Text version and links:
Full Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw6UBKuaMyFAxI1scBKFw_KEvKLzh-EaR
#18. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIMZ8PLPxbs&list=PLw6UBKuaMyFAxI1scBKFw_KEvKLzh-EaR&index=4
#17. Parasyte: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RaqAs7DQqE
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Watch Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis on Funimation: http://www.funimation.com/shows/rage-of-bahamut-genesis
Watch Fastening Days (dub): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVjbjEMVkvg
Watch Poulette no Isu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wg9JGIiSSsQ
Around the turn of the decade, studio Madhouse fell on financial hard times after producing too many high-risk original anime, eventually causing the president and legendary anime producer Masao Maruyama to leave the studio and form a new one on his own. With his new studio, MAPPA, Maruyama wasted no time jumping right back into high-quality, high-risk original anime and uniquely experimental adaptations. MAPPA’s 2014 lineup has consisted of a super high-budget show about terrorism, an anime version of the dark tokusatsu show Garo, and an adaptation of the mobile phone card battle game, Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, also known as Rage of the Bahamut.
The first four episodes of Bahamut may well have been the best action anime of 2014. In terms of animation fluidity, personality, fight choreography, directing, and character design, this series soars above everything else I’ve seen all year. Honestly, if you care about animation as a medium, and especially if you’re big into high-quality action sequences, you cannot miss out on the early parts of this show, with episodes two and four sticking out as my personal favorites.
Now, by the time this video comes out, there will still be two episodes left to air of this show, and again, it’s entirely possible that those two episodes will kick so much ass that I regret putting the show this far back on the list. I honestly hope that’s the case, because Shingeki no Bahamut would’ve been a few places higher on this list had it maintained the same quality and atmosphere all the way across its run.
Bahamut starts out as a rollicking episodic adventure, with the atmosphere of a Pirates of the Caribbean film, and the characters of Samurai Champloo. It stars Favaro, a thief whose heart of gold is buried under layers and layers of filth, who finds himself strung along by Amira, an incredibly powerful but stunningly naive pink-haired demon girl, whose gluttonous tendencies and blank-stare attitude are nothing short of heartwarming. Along the way, they’re chased down by Favaro’s childhood friend-turned-enemy Kaiser, the perennial knight in shining armor whose family has fallen to ruin, along with Rita, a three-hundred year-old zombie loli with a deadpan expression voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, who joins the crew in episode three.
All of these characters brim with chemistry and life, as they wondrously navigate an anything-goes fantasy world where demons are converted into stone tablets upon death and turned in for a bounty. There’s a swordfight on a sinking ship, a giant monster slugfest, and drunken tavern dancing, all in the first four episodes, and it couldn’t be more of a fun time.
Then, unfortunately, the show starts to focus a bit more on its overarching plot, and said plot is not nearly as fun as the episodic adventure story, nor is it anything other than thoroughly generic. It starts to emerge in episode five, which is still a pretty rad episode, but has less of the tongue-in-cheek hijinks which made the previous episodes fun. Episode six is where the show really buckles down in one place and starts hashing out its generic fantasy story, and the first question on my mind when it started happening was: why?
Why did this show need to have a storyline, much less one that it was going to play with a straight face? And why is this story, which easily could’ve been told in the span of two or three episodes at the end of the show, taking up so much runtime? Episodes six and seven aren’t so bad, as they at least throw in some emotional twists with regards to Favaro and Kaiser’s relationship, but episodes eight through ten seem to completely forget that this is supposed to be a fun action series, focusing entirely on boring exposition and setup followed by some over-the-top attempts at darker, more emotional scenes.
All this might not have been so bad if the animation quality of the early episodes held up all the way through, but around episode seven there’s a noticeable decline in quality across the board, both in terms of the scenes growing increasingly motionless, and in terms of the art quality taking a hit. The story tries to feel epic in scope, even though we’re only six episodes deep and nothing of much importance has happened, leading me to wonder if this series was planned for a twenty-four episode run, but had to be condensed into twelve. I certainly think that it would’ve benefited from having more time to go on adventures and spread out all the exposition.
This is not to say that Bahamut has totally turned to shit, and I feel compelled to watch the show all the way through because the early parts were so damn good that I’m hoping to see some of that magic again; but even if it ends on a sour note, I still think this show is worth recommending to fans of fantasy and action anime. It might not be the overall best thing you’ll watch all year, but it’s a hell of a good time, and the entire thing is available for free, legal streaming on Crunchyroll.
Anyways, I feel bad about recommending something which might ultimately turn out to be a disappointment, so let’s talk about another fun show which can’t possibly disappoint you because it’s only eleven minutes long. Fastening Days is either a short film, or a very long commercial, sponsored by, of all things, a zipper company called YKK. This film is more inventive with its animation, better designed, and more emotionally engaging than a lot of full-length anime films that I watched this year.
I don’t want to spoil anything since the film is so short, but I was very surprised at not only how much detail went into designing the backgrounds and the city that this short takes place in, but by how it managed to cram a legitimate character arc into the mix without ever losing its snappy pace and jaw-dropping sense of kineticism.
Fastening Days was made by Studio Colorido, and you’ve probably seen their first short film, Fumiko’s Confession, which made the internet rounds pretty heavily a few years back. This studio has exclusively worked on short films up to this point, including another four-minute short in 2014 called Poulette no Isu, about a little girl who’s animate chair teaches her the magic of friendship. I highly recommend all of this studio’s shorts, and will be posting links to both Fastening Days and Poulette no Isu below, though you might have to hunt down a fansub or resort to the weird Australian dub for Fastening Days.
Let me know what you thought of Shingeki no Bahamut and the Studio Colorido shorts in the comments below, and in case you missed them, be sure and check out my videos on #18, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, and #17, Parasyte, and stick around on my channel to find out what my fifteenth-favorite anime of the year is tomorrow.