a.k.a. Bastard!! Ankoku no Hakai-jin
In a medieval, post-apocalyptic future, the Four Lords of Havoc are trying to reawaken an evil god responsible for the destruction of human civilization ages ago. Metalicana, a kingdom ruled by priests, holds a seal restraining the god of darkness. In a desperate attempt to guard this seal they call forth Dark Schneider, an impetuous wizard with a bad attitude, imprisoned inside the body of a young boy. The only problem dealing with this man: is he really an improvement over the Four Lords of Havoc combined? More like consolidating all your problems into one malicious, trash-talking heap.
summary by Kjeldoran
Highs: Striking characters; bold style; action by the truckload
Lows: Radically condensed; most action sequences lack originality
Based on the popular and enduring manga of the same name, here is a fantasy style anime with a twist. That twist is Dark Schneider. This protagonist (if I dare call him so) is a very long way from your typical knight in shining armor. His conflicting personalities will provide him with the widest hotchpotch of traits ever seen, ranging from kindness to downright psychosis. Poor Darsh has very little time to work with, sadly, as Bastard!! pushes the very boundaries of how condensed an anime can get.
Now, I am willing to ignore all the fan service, but it is inexcusable for such a short series to waste time with inner monologues and protracted fight buildups in a Dragonball Z fashion. “My ball of light is bigger than yours” or “I have been holding out my most powerful spell all this time”; if this evokes bad memories, you best brace yourself. The plot is nothing to write home about, either. Aside from the few, welcomed romantic plot twists it mostly consists of how quickly they can get Dark Schneider to fight off a new villain.
Yet, what cool villains; the three-dimensional and greatly designed in both art and emotional complexity kind of baddie you only find in select action anime. Add Dark Schneider to this troupe and you get an awesome cast of original and deep characters. Funny, too; those egocentrically-driven subjugators can really deliver a punch line when the fate of the world is in their hands. Fans of the genre will surely be hooked: spells, creatures, swords, knights, sexy elves… everything is here. Although made subtler in Pioneer’s release due to copyright issues, be sure to catch all the heavy metal band references hither and thither.
Great characters can only take an anime so far. So many loose ends are not something one can easily disregard. Sure, there is action aplenty, yet Dark Schneider alone cannot cement such a feeble foundation. Lots of icing but not enough cake.
Highs: Irresistibly entertaining; eccentric personalities
Lows: Each chapter is too jumpy; irresolute finale; some information feels left out
Now this is rare: instead of being a potentially great anime that went all wrong, Bastard!! is a potentially bad anime that actually is much better than it has any right to be. Sure, the premise itself is plenty ludicrous, but somehow this particular combination of comedy and action form the ingredients of a cultish B-movie.
Speaking of which, I can’t help but conjure up images of both Evil Dead movies and Army of Darkness: an iron-jawed, trash-talking narcissist who delivers both one-liners and death blows with equal aplomb. The fight scenes here are much better, though, with the OVA-level budget going towards some sweet action sequences. Amateurish, stop motion skeleton warriors need not apply.
Each OVA is pretty independent of the other, making overall story flow plenty jagged. A noncommittal ending certainly doesn’t help matters none, either, but keep in mind that this anime is about two things: vivid characters and timely jokes… the two aspects it has in abundance. Dark Schneider might have you crying “bi-polar!”, but the other characters are plenty deep enough to offset his erratic behavior. What Darsh does very well is turning his machismo into comic fodder, having me unexpectedly burst into laughter on several occasions.
On top of (or perhaps due to) the fragmented story, some minor characters that should’ve had more background weren’t afforded the time to tell their stories. That’s too bad, because while the overall gist of this anime is easy to comprehend, a good deal more information would’ve helped.
Bastard!! won’t have you saying “hail to the king, baby”, but somehow I suspect this anime would get the Bruce Campbell Seal of Approval, anyway.
Bastard!! can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.