In a setting straight out of Dungeons & Dragons, an evil, lecherous mage named Dark Schneider (yes, Dark Schneider) tries to destroy the world with his four generals. He doesn't succeed, and he is sealed into the body of a baby named Rushe Renren. Now Rushe is a teenage boy, and all is not well in the kingdom of Meta-Rikana (well, actually Metallicana, but we'll get there in a moment). You see, Dark Schneider's generals now serve the cause of resurrecting the Great Demon Ansla-Sax (well, actually Anthrasax), and, so, to combat the evil demon and save the world, the priests of Meta-Rikana unleash Dark Schneider upon the world again. Really. Fortunately for them, instead of revenging himself upon his captors, DS decides that having a world to be in is better after all, and starts to re-recruit his generals to fight against the demonic forces by using spells named after heavy metal bands and songs. Exodus!!! I *did* mention that DS is an evil, lecherous sorcerer, right?
Once upon a time, back in my role-playing days, my best friend thought the idea of a bastard sword named "Bastard" would be really fun. Unfortunately for him, Hagiwara Kazushi already had made an entire manga series named precisely for that reason. And that manga was made into an anime, rife with references to heavy metal and D&D, which back in the late 80s and early 90s, went together like milk and cookies.
Unfortunately, Pioneer Japan, in a fit of paranoia, decided to change the Anglicized names of the spells and landforms slightly to avoid copyright infringement, so a lot of those heavy metal bands aren't as apparent anymore. (Granted, Metallica's recent rash of litigious behavior has probably vindicated that paranoia.) That's only the start of the problems with this series.
Bastard!! is a title with a lot of potential that doesn't quite get as good as it should. It does have a wonderful, if at times distracting sense of humor (again, those spells!) and a real (dare I say it?) Bastard!! of a main character. Dark Schneider eventually comes off as the strongest personality in the show, and he's one of those guys who can cut loose and have a good time, or sacrifice himself if need be. He's egotistical, perverted, very foul-mouthed (though it's been, unsurprisingly, toned down drastically for US release), and torn between the innocent love for Yoko, the fourteen-year-old virgin priestess in charge of sealing and releasing him from Rushe Renren, or his not-so-innocent love for Arshes Nei, the gorgeous half-elf he adopted as his daughter and lover. (No kidding.) I can't terribly blame him, for Arshes Nei is another very strong character, and a total babe, to boot. And Yoko, well, she knows him to manipulate him, I'll give her that.
The one-liners zoom almost as fast as the spells in this series, but that's about where the coolness ends. Though the art and animation are quite well-done, colorful and smooth, with some awesome fight scenes (usually dealing with those heavy metal spells), the plot is a little too simple to hold up well. The villains - well, since when has there even been a well-developed, charismatic demon personality in an anime? It's just too obvious that it's just a standard plot. Most other characters beside the leads are pretty unmemorable, too. (A hulking dark priest named Abigail? Abigail?)
Of course, as an anime, it's a lot tamer than the original manga, in which Dark Schneider often fights without a stitch of clothing on, and sometimes visibly aroused. That would've been disconcerting to watch, especially considering that the manga artist was a protege of Matsumoto Izumi, creator of Kimagure Orange Road. There's still nekkid Darshu in there, but not so much that it's distracting.
I would've liked to have seen more of this anime made, as I think it could've developed a lot better, and quite frankly, even at six OAVs, it still feels too short. But if you like a lot of mass destruction by way of heavy metal, and not of the mecha kind, Bastard!! fits the bill. It's fun, it's more than a bit mindless, and can appeal to both male and female fans. But it should've been a classic.
Heavy metal havoc that could've been much better. If you can forgive the plot, and the toning-down of the US version, and focus on the rockin' action, add one star. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Another one that really isn't for kids. It's quite violent, and one character (guess who) loses organs and limbs throughout the anime, and graphically, I might add. Also, there's some nudity. The harsh language used in the original Japanese has been toned down in the US release, which actually detracts from the character a bit. Christi also reminded me about the ending song ("Monochrome Trouble"), which is extremely raunchy and definitely not good for the squeamish or prudish, but worth a laugh for the gutter-minded. The song is left untranslated on the R1 DVD, but lyrics can be easily found on the Internet.
Version(s) Viewed: Bilingual DVD
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Bastard!! © 1992 Kazushi Hagiwara / Shueisha
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